I am self-aware that a lot of my recent newsletters have been a lot of words that honestly don't say much. They'd fully qualify as navel-gazing. It's a time in my life for navel-gazing. The orientation is still toward bringing myself toward full participation in liberation, so I hope it's still fascinating to read, if in a different way than my newsletters used to be. I’ve been getting more subscribers recently, so that’s reassuring. If you’ve been enjoying these letters, consider recommending them.
I'm trying to get better at being me: doing what I need so I can do what I want. A part of moving toward better is looking at what I feel is inhibiting me. As I've done that, I've seen a fear that's kept me disorganized: reactive, instead of responsive.
"Don't mourn. Organize." - Joe Hill, militant unionist, instructing those who cared about the state executing him.
I can't dismiss the legitimate causes of my fear, but I'm trying to accept that they don't help me live - and the fear itself keeps me from being able to better heal from its causes: a disorganized reactivity is not a good space for healing.
As I try and re-orient toward more active living, I'm looking into my own past for times when I've felt more capable of it.
(These next few paragraphs get especially rambly, but I found no satisfactory way to cut them.)
There were times when I was better at doing what I wanted. I had the will to tell enough people no, that my situation was mostly of my own making, and I made explicit choices about what I was going to do with my time. Literally - I kept a detailed itinerary that provided a road to walk down each day, that kept that situation going. (The situation, as best I can summarize it, was freedom, though obviously of the exceptional, limited sort, that is no substitute for the total freedom of liberation, but I've believed and believe to be its prerequisite.)
Well, externalities happened, and happen, and it's been quite some time since I've kept an agenda that meant much of anything. In part, that's because I was hit by a minivan about a decade ago, and when you're recovering from something like that, an agenda is largely unnecessary. The day's plan was always heal, or cope, to the best of my capacity at that time.
I'd gotten pretty good at that, by now - to the point where the little projects I tried to do when I was feeling good enough have become the center of not just my life, but the life of my two partners. And that's good, because those "little projects" all have a shared goal: liberation.
But, the creep from incapacity, to aspiration, to indulgence on an exceptionally capable day, to Way of Life, has meant that I haven't appreciated just how much care needs to be put into creating the situation that enables that way of life, especially since I moved from right-downtown Chapel Hill to the part of Durham derisively called "northwest Cary." (That's a jab at us being very suburban, even though we aren't that far from the city.)
This has put me and my family in a rather odd spot, where we have done a lot of work that we would consider good, but without many of the relationships we know would help the work be better. Sure, we brought tree frogs back to the creek near us, but barely anyone knows. And perhaps worse, we don't really know what other folk are doing! Doing good land stewardship is hard when your body is full of pain and nausea, as mine is, and backyard gardens or digital spaces isn't where people congregate to do material liberation work, unfortunately. Even in COVID-times, it's often indoors, in-person.
But I recognize there's elements of an excuse to that. There's also a truth that I have not been organized enough in my own efforts to have much to bring to others, even if I'd've had the gumption to reach out.
(Alright, the weird rambling seems to have passed.)
It's with this perspective: letting go of fear to pursue liberation while respecting my body's pains, and fighting the isolation that social norms encourage I experience because of those pains, that I'm re-approaching getting better (organized).
And with a framing of applying something like a Beginner's Mindset to my computer use (that's another Letter, that I might develop later), I'm looking at how to what I should do to accomplish that.
Past the paywall, I'll be talking about how I've been doing that, specifically - which apps & how I've been using them.
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I've used a lot of different methods to keep myself organized, and I've been the operations manager for quite a few groups, some with quite a few participants. I even briefly spent some time being a professional operations consultant for small businesses. But all that was years ago, ending when I was in that accident. Which is to say, I've had a fair bit of experience trying, using, and failing to use different "productivity methods." And while I expect this attempt to organize myself and my life to be mostly a very educational failure, I have some notions about how to approach the problem.
The technical system that looks most suited toward the problem is Todoist. It's one of probably thousands of Web-based todo lists, that won me over for a few reasons:
Its data is accessible, either from other Web services via an API, or through a downloadable backup file it generates each day.
Its information modeling is pretty simple. There's tasks and projects. Subtasks are just tasks with a parent.
It has basic parsing of task subjects, to automatically label & schedule them, i.e.
Sweep the porch every day at 8:30am for 5 minutes @chores @not-when-rainautomatically gets scheduled to repeat at 8:30 each morning, lasting until 8:35 and having the two labels
not-when-rain(the latter I imagine using to postpone tasks to tomorrow, or whenever the rain stops.)
It lets you create and save complex filters, so I can look for every task assigned to me that's due today and tagged
physicaland reschedule it, cause maybe I'm feeling too poorly for that, and then look for every task due in the next week that's tagged
writingto fill in the open chunks.
Essentially, my big project right now is to establish myself as an online content brand. Sounds scummy, I know, but it's just an economized framing on being an autonomous storyteller in this world. Being a brand the way I want means making certain commitments - not just to producing content, but maintaining my values, and living my life at large: it has to be holistic.
So I'll be starting by doing what's called a "Commitment Inventory," followed up by setting "S.M.A.R.T goals" matched with "Key Results," and finally implementing a weekly review for monitoring "key performance indicators" and a daily debrief for practicing "timeblocking."
(Can you believe this letter started with a Joe Hill quote, and now we're talking like those bosses that had him killed? We live in interesting times.)
Here's what doing that looks like, in Todoist:
As you may be able to see from when this Letter sent, and when tasks are settled, that I don't have more to say on this process, yet!
And I won’t, unless I hustle my butt off to bed. Hopefully that’s where y’all who share this or a nearby timezeone already are, and this email finds you well in the morning!