Last Week of Summer Vacation

What am I going to do with my last week before inservice begins?

  • Practice piano (I have a lesson on Thursday)
  • Rehearsals for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (click the link to get tickets!)
  • Meet with other organizers of The Woodlands Chamber Music Project to discuss our future.
  • Clean up my apartment one last time
  • See a new show or art experience
  • Return library books
  • Try to consciously Sharpen the Saw

I guess it's going to be a busy one. Anyone have exciting plans for this week?

What I'm Reading

  • Still working my way through Drew McManus's blog archives over at Adaptistration. I'm in March of 2012 as I write this. Fortunately it seems he's taken a short hiatus until next Monday so maybe I'll catch up by then!
  • The Nantucket Diary of Ned Rorem. I haven't spent much time listening to Rorem's music (I will be checking out some scores when I go to the library tomorrow), but his writing is a pleasure to read. This particular book is more tinged with melancholy than previous ones, as it chronicles his advancing age.

Paying My Dues

One thing that regularly gnaws at me is envy. I'm sure this is not unusual, but it's the topic of what I want to write today.

I know I'm not the only person who sees other people's lives or accomplishments or celebrations on Facebook (weddings, awards, graduations, etc.) and feels a little inadequate. "Why don't I have anything like that going on?"

It's all well and good to be reminded that social media isn't real life but it is a kind of real life. Most people don't completely make stuff up on social media. What we do on social media is selectively reveal what we want to. For example, I've had a policy for years of only posting when I had something positive to say.

But I wanted to take a moment to complain to remind myself of common sense.

The thing that all of my successful friends have in common is that they put in work. When someone builds a successful business, it's because she put in hours behind the scenes. Someone who receives a great professional honor has worked hard to achieve that. We don't see the time and hours behind the scenes, unless we're looking carefully. But I know enough about these people to know that they deserve their success.

Me? Well, I'm sitting on my couch typing this up instead. I spent more time playing with Google Drawings yesterday morning than I did practicing piano all last week.

No lasting success comes without work. I realize this in some parts of my life. I get that if my choir is going to be successful in April, we have to start working toward it in August. I get that if The Woodlands Chamber Music Project is going to grow, it will take work to reach out to the audience and to maintain correct records, etc. I know the singing on a musical I'm working on will take teaching and reteaching to be solid.

Where I can't seem to get it through my head is in the realm of personal development. I have lots of things I'd like to improve about myself, whether it's developing positive habits, learning new skills, or improving existing ones. I'd love to be a highly accomplished pianist, a master conductor, in shape, and with a consistent social life and professional reputation.

But when the time comes to work on those things, I balk. Rather than stepping forward into the challenge, I back off. Not from fear, but from lack of discipline. I want to be good, but I don't want to put in the work to get there. I'd rather skim Facebook for the dozenth time today than read a real book. I'd rather watch TV than go to the gym. I'd rather wander into my bedroom and read until I pass out at night than prepare myself for the next day. I'd rather sit on my couch and text friends than go out and try to meet new people.

If I want success, it's a matter of actually doing the thing. Regardless of whether I pick the best place to start, something is better than nothing, and that's where I am right now.

So now that I've talked myself into this, it's time to get some work done. I don't want to go to bed tonight with nothing to show for the day. And that should be true of every day.

Sharpen the Saw

This post started out as a complaint that I didn't have much of note to write about today. I don't have any projects in a state worth sharing right now. I didn't have any deep topics I'd been pondering recently. I felt somehow both bored and overwhelmed. I didn't want to do anything useful, despite having a few looming deadlines (plus the end of summer approaches!)

It wasn't until I shared these thoughts with a friend this afternoon that I started to catch on to what might be the issue. I was distracted, dissipated. There was too much going on at once in my brain. I was trying to read and write with the TV on. I didn't have a clear plan or specific tasks to work on. I was trying to ignore important urges because I was too lazy to get off the couch.

So I did something about it.

I turned off the TV. I left the house for a few minutes and got dinner (yes, this took me most of the day to get around to sorting it out).

Over dinner I refused to pull out my phone, focusing instead on a book. Since getting home, I have consciously avoided multitasking. Up until I started writing this post, I have been sitting on the couch reading with no background music and no TV. I took a break after the first draft and came back after reading something else with intense focus.

Most importantly of all, I am fighting the urge to multitask. I'm keeping my focus on one activity at a time.

Somehow, focus is actually proving more relaxing than floating through the day. Having some structure to latch on to is helping me feel more rejuvenated and more relaxed.  It's a kind of meditation.

In the past, I've known this about myself. I do well with a little bit of structure. I work well when I have a plan, or at least a to-do list to check off. Not having any kind of point of focus is painful to the point of frustration for me.

I need something to hang on to. I can no longer keep my tasks in mind without a physical reminder. When I have a written to-do list that I reference throughout the week, it helps me feel more in control. I've gotten away from that in the summer. It's not that I am incapable of remembering, it's that it causes me stress to hold all of that information inside.

As the school year starts back up, I need to keep this in mind. I'll be pulling back out my notebook and plans. I will write down all tasks. I will focus on single, specific things I can do that move toward a goal.

The title of this post refers to the last of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The point of this habit is to find ways to renew and recover energy so that you can maintain your effectiveness at other times.

For me, that means I can't drift for long. Even if what I'm working toward isn't significant, it's something to do. Drifting through the day won't work for me--I end up feeling worse. I can't let the saw get rusty through disuse any more than I can let it get dull through overuse.