Work+Concentration+Internet+Goals!

Look at who can FOCUS ON ONE TOPIC!!!!!!!

Hahaha just kidding. I’ll break this down.

This is basically a ‘ahhh… surviving WORK’ post and a ‘I spent too much time on the internet yesterday!’ post in one. But also a Life List Club and ROW 80 -related post. I was going to have links here to each different part of this post but am having trouble with the HTML… =/ Feel free to skip or skim!

Work + Concentration

Today I had a reaaaaalllly hard time concentrating at work. This is my eleventh and last week of my internship, in which I’ve organized this Metro bus wash monitoring project – largely independently, doing research and visiting sites on my own without too much orientation (except for one very helpful mentor who knows all about controllers!). Sometimes I had reports or a presentation to do, oftentimes I was on the phone asking salespeople for specifications or quotes, and at one point I was even doing water testing – in our three-foot square temporary kitchen in the office… =)

However this week I just have two deliverables – a last project report with instructions on how the project should be continued when I’m gone, and a Powerpoint presentation with that same information. I was planning to have that report done by today… but I. could. not. focus. It was really strange. I usually work with my headphones on, my email accounts open, and maybe before 9 or around lunch check out a fun site for a few minutes or chat (we have an hour for ‘lunch’ and we can adjust our hours… well, by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ as I’m now the only intern in the office, with just two project managers…). But I have goals for the day in mind, write them down, break them down, and get them done. Each day.

Maybe the ‘finishing up’ part is the hard part for me. If I was going to continue to be involved in the project, I think I would be getting this out-of-the-way faster so that I could… DO STUFF! Like PROGRAM! INSTALL THINGS! Find INTERESTING data and ANALYZE IT! But this isn’t really a ‘final report’ as much as a ‘progress report,’ but it’s my own ‘final report’ – I guess I find it hard to finish something that doesn’t seem finished to me. Even though what would count as ‘finished’ (or at least result-worthy) to me will need even more weeks of time and installation – weeks after I leave. And if I finished that report today, and that presentation Tuesday, what would I do for the rest of the week? (Edit them. Add to them. Discuss them with my supervisor and mentor. Duhhh. Tell that to my subconscious or whoever calls the shots around here.)

Finishing things has ALWAYS been difficult for me, though. I kind of wonder why. Whether it’s taking a social research project past the research level, planning an environmental club at MIT, designing posters for the UA Sustainability Committee at MIT, getting exercise groups at my living group organized – I’ve entered each with enthusiasm and found my feet stuck in cement when it came to pulling them through. If there’s a ‘Just FINISH IT Group’ in the blogger-sphere… take me THERE.

Well, I am finishing my report TOMORROW (Tuesday – leaving early to FINALLY get my visa to China as well!), and the presentation by Wednesday/Thursday. Despite my short time here, it will feel AMAZING when I am finished with my part of the project!

Internet + Goals (update!) This weekend I somehow had too much time on my hands, and wandered all around the internet. Around blogs, in particular. This is how I discovered the “Life List Club” and “ROW 80” – two groups that encourage people to make goals and give support in the forms of posts and comments. And that’s why I went a little crazy yesterday and started my own “Life List Club” page and “ROW 80” page (the latter is a writing challenge). And I don’t regret it one single bit. That statement will probably have more weight when I say it on say September 22nd (the end of ROW 80) or July 31st, 2012 (the end of the first 12 months of my “Life List” – and my first set of goals). I encourage everyone to check out both clubs – Life List Club and ROW 80 – and try them out!

I thought I’d just give an update for my first day for both, not that I’ll be updating these lists daily:

Life List Club – I’m planning to add ‘drink 8 glasses of water a day’ and ‘sleep 8 hours a day.’ I think in junior (or senior?) year in one class, when my English (or government?) teacher asked what the most valuable lesson we had learned over the summer was, one girl said “Drink water. Trust me. It is SO important. It CHANGES YOUR LIFE.” Did I listen? Of course not. But I remembered. Water has helped me soooooo much here – every day is better with enough water.

And the same goes for sleep. When I was trying out rugby last spring at school, even though I wasn’t quite in shape, with ten hours of sleep I had enough energy to be involved for my whole B-side game (and awkwardly block the forwards while I was at it because I was a n00b and didn’t know where to go… ANYWAY…)

Got to work half an hour late (one of my goals is to be on time) – we technically do not have strict hours so it did not realllly matter – the reason was that I packed my food and left it and had to buy food on the way >.< New goal: ‘REMEMBER YO STUFF?’

ROW 80 – I planned for 500 words a day and have 287 from yesterday. Plus (not including) this snippet I wrote while trying to get started:

Hello world…

Today be the first day this girl woman specimen thing here err-writes for this here err-challenge-err when she’ll be writing 500 words a day. 500 words a day folks? That right there is almost as frightenin’ as that ol’ Jack Sparrow thinger come to life agi’n man. But she insists she c’ do it, ’tis only a paaai~ge (or two paiges double spaced methinks laddie?). So what can I tell ya. Notin’ I can do ‘ere ‘cept sit ‘n watch ‘n wince ‘n chew me tabacco or bark cause they’re cheap ’round these isles an’… “SHUT UP I’M ACTUALLY DOING THIS!!!”

So anyway… I got work done, but I still need to get in the habit of creating SCENES. And writing all the back-story. Without just barfing out exposition. How does 723 words tonight sound? Possible? Feasible? Maybe not really… since I have an oovoo call with friends, and am getting out of work early tomorrow, I’ll do some tonight and catch up tomorrow. WooHOO!

(Just started using this wordpress spell-check thing and it doesn’t like me much at all, especially my talking to myself and my WooHOO’s, oops…)

All right, end of updates! MUSIC TIMEEEEEEE

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A Break from Rules + A “How to Stay Motivated” Thing

This will start off with daily personal rambling and eventually try to give advice/insights. No guarantees on the utility or specificity of any such advice, but we at Aril-where-does-this-name-come-from & Co. will always promise a dose of insanity.

Totally relevant song of the day (you have to listen to the whole thing! =D):

Yes, this weekend I went and watched this korean drama called City Hunter. Up to episode 14. Starting Friday night. With a break for Saturday morning + afternoon sleeping/going out. And then ending Sunday… at 8 in the morning.

Yo this is the FIRST TIME I’ve watched anything this summer, or stayed up anytime past 12:30 (most often) to 2. Cut me a break? Maybe? At least this isn’t the ‘normal’ here, as opposed to at MIT (still didn’t stay up quite THAT late… usually… only till 5 or 6 =P)

I had also made Saturday my ‘off day’ for exercise (after 4-5 miles and 12 striders OUTSIDE on Friday). Mostly to enjoy my new music and City Hunter. And while I was walking around, listening to “Reinventing Robert Cohn” and “I Fell Through” on repeat, I wondered where that drive was to… you know… do more productive stuff. I mean, I had all day and had decided to sleep in and then go to Barnes and Noble again. (But I did install Drupal! And write novel stuff, for two – and soon to be THREE nights in a row!)

That’s probably the way it should be, right? Taking time off regularly to chill out, do nothing, and not feeling guilty about it. (Especially now that it’s… summer, and work for me started the Monday after finals ended, no weeks off.)

I tried to do that a lot last semester. But I wouldn’t feel guilty about it while I was doing it. When procrastination and guilt coincided, it was like looking down and realizing I was walking on air. And when procrastination left, the guilt remained for a bit, but was part of what kept me on track.

Just as a note, or clarification – I don’t write these types of ‘personal’ posts just to rant and resolve or reveal my own feelings for my own sake. But I think maybe others that have similar stories, whether at a college, another school, or a job, could feel some comfort in not being ‘the only ones’ that feel that way, as cliched as that sounds. I know that perhaps only family members or friends read these posts occasionally. But just in case, I’m sharing some of my stories.

I feel like the most effective – and least personal – way to help people in school would be guides, like ‘How to Overcome Procrastination from Someone Who’s Not Writing for Fortune 500 Company Heads.’ Like ‘How to Stay Motivated to Exercise,’ ‘How to Get Enough Sleep when You’ve Been a 5-AM-er for a Year,’ ‘How to Finally Put the Advice Everyone’s Been Giving You – at least the helpful stuff – Into Action.’ Because sometimes someone saying ‘Just DO IT!’ doesn’t make you immediately spur into action.

But everyone’s different. Some people are more motivated by one of the following more than the others: financial goals, ideals and morals, or out of a love of what they’re doing (there are people that love being in labs, love designing things, love photography, etc…). In school, there is also that genuine insatiable curiosity students have to learn about how the world works, how physics works, how governments work and interact, etc. And there’s competitiveness as a further motivator, and people have different comfort zones for it.

So what motivates you? A lot of people want to change the world, make a difference – but how exactly would you want to do that? Do you like organizing things and dealing with numbers, writing code, teaching kids new things, putting things together in a wood shop? If you want to be a doctor, say, but can’t stand those organic chemistry classes and find the other classes hard, and are kind of hating life, how do you manage your classes and stay happy – or figure out if you need a change?

I feel like I’ve been trying to do some self-discovery for a grand total of two months. Despite my efforts that’s probably not enough time to claim to be a master of… motivational coaching, or something. Even that thought is pretty funny. (But it sounds like a REALLY fun job!)

I think one of the keys to overcoming school and work-destroying procrastination is to keep your goals in mind, and make a plan – formal or informal, depending on your style – to reach them. In making your goals, don’t ignore your hobbies. What you do to procrastinate. I mean, you procrastinate by doing things you LIKE to do, right?

Why not consider a procrastination tool as a career, or part of one? If you draw things or write in your spare time, maybe you could be a graphic designer, architect, or journalist for a magazine or newspaper? Or an editor? Maybe you want to have time to explore your hobbies, so what type of job would give you that flexibility (while still satisfying your other needs, like alleviating poverty, facing a challenge, discovering new scientific knowledge, etc.)? What do you need to do now to get there?

As for me, I go to work on time each day, happy to have an internship where I’m basically working on my own project. I relish the tasks – getting to figure out the company’s needs, finding the best ways to meet them by communicating information to the manufacturers that might sell us the needed equipment, learning new technical skills such as how a controller works and how it is programmed, and trying to think of new ideas of what to do within the scope of the project. At the same time I pay attention to the actual internship experience, considering factors such as the work environment, the nature of the work, and the tasks I have – and how well they match my own preferences and interests. At the end of work each day I feel accomplished and responsible. Those feelings – these needs – keep my self-expectations high, just as receiving this internship opportunity had – and it is sooooooooo much easier to do things when, at a subconscious level, you believe you CAN do it.

And then I have time each night to get exercise done, listen to music, read or write, and try to teach myself some web design or GIMP/Photoshop. Or walk around Georgetown/Dupont Circle/Eastern Market looking for Indian food. So I get to satisfy my ‘get me exploring the city or art’ needs.

So maybe the key is planning out your days with just enough structure to make sure you satisfy your own ‘needs,’ both financial and personal, every day?

That’s my working theory!

And this is what your world sounds like when you’ve had an awesome day, like the above:

(ahhhhhhhhhhh GHOST IN THE SHELL I STILL HAVE TO WATCH YOU… cough I meant go to sleep…)