Not Just Fifteen Minutes

I got bored yesterday and did something impossibly geeky.  I timed myself doing every single task on my Flylady routine.  Including cooking and making bento, it came to about ten minutes under two hours.  (Take away the cooking and bento and you’re looking at 1:16:10)

Now, in Real Life, I don’t do every chore myself.   That fifteen minutes it takes to do the evening routine is generally cut in half because the whole household helps clean up after dinner, set up the coffee pot for the next day and all that.  Call eight minutes at the outside.  I don’t clean every bathroom in the house, nor do I generally fold the laundry or take out the trash.

So the idea that you can keep your house clean in fifteen minutes a day is a little inaccurate.   It’d be fair to say I spend about an hour and a half, if I include meal preparation.

But it’s not like I spend that whole hour at once.  The routines really do average out to just under fifteen minutes for each of them.

What I don’t do:

Make the bed perfectly.  Good lord, what a waste of time.  Spread it up, toss the pillow shams at the head, you’re good.

Spend hours cleaning the bathroom.   Swish-n-swipe daily.  Hit it once a month with some serious detail cleaning over a week.  Good enough.

Let things pile up.  This is the biggie.  I hate to do things right away, I really do.  The problem is, if things do pile up, I’m less likely to touch them.  It gets overwhelming.  But dusting around piles, or trying to vacuum around stacks?  Who does that?  That’s too much to deal with!

Let the dishes sit overnight.  If I do that, the kitchen will look like a bomb went off in it inside of a week.

I try to obey the thirty second rule.  Basically, if it takes less than thirty seconds, do it right away.  The thing I’m worst about for this is coming home from a long day teaching, and I’m tired.  I often don’t put my materials away right away.  If I have more than one class in the week, this means by the end of the week I’ll have a pile of materials that have become part of the background.  They don’t jump out at me any more, so it may be another week before they’re put away.  This includes things like letting mail I need to deal with piled up “for later”, dropping my gym bag in the corner when I come back tired from a workout, instead of emptying the damn thing and throwing stinky towels in the wash and hanging up a wet bathing suit.  If I do it right away, the house stays clean.  If I don’t, oh my word, the clutter plies.

Is my house “perfect”?  God no!  There’s cat hair on the sofa, the shelves in the kitchen cabinets could do with a good wash,  I can see dust on the piano, there’s a catnip mousie in the middle of the living room floor, the entryway could use a mopping, and the floor of my bedroom closet,would cause me my mother to use the express “rat’s nest”.   Since I do Flylady, I have routines to take care of all those things in the proper time.  She breaks the house into zones for detailed cleaning.  I’ll get to the cathair when we’re in the living room zone, I’ll spend some times on the shelves when we get to the kitchen, I’ll dust tomorrow (I dust on Mondays), I’ll pick up the mousie the next time I get up to go to the bathroom (and drop my coffee cup into the dishwasher along the way), the entryway floor will get mopped when we’re in the zone to do that, and I’ll be spending fifteen minutes a day decluttering the bottom of my closet when we’re in the zone to work on that.

I’ll feel free to follow the maintenance schedule because clutter’s picked up and I don’t feel all stressed about it.  I don’t feel guilty that these things are dirty, either.  Things need to be attended to and a maintenance schedule works just fine.

But, keeping the house clean isn’t about going for that perfect look.  When you keep the house orderly, you rarely get that “OMG, I’ve worked so hard and now the house is all clean and shiny” feeling.   What I do have is a house that doesn’t embarrass me if someone drops by.

And yes, my sink is shiny.

The Power of Fifteen Minutes

One of my favorite working tools is actually an iPod.  No, it’s not that I like to listen to music or an audiobook while I’m doing something (thought I do), but that it has a sleep timer.  It has intervals from fifteen to one hundred twenty minutes, though I only use the fifteen minute option.

I love that thing.  I love it because I’m a busy woman.  I have a lot going on – I’m self-employed, have a part-time job, have a household with people going in and out, and a schedule that’s always changing.

There are times when I look at a task and I feel overwhelmed with it.  At those times, it’s really hard to get myself going.  I am a champion procrastinator.  Remember that self-employed bit?  I can only procrastinate so much before I’m procrastinating my son out of food[1].

That’s when the timer comes in.  You’d be amazed at how much you can get done in fifteen minutes of focus.  Now while I got the idea from Flylady[2], I don’t only use it for housework.  I use the idea to work.  When I’m feeling daunted, I just set my timer for fifteen minutes and work.  That sounds goofy, trivial and dumb, but there’s many a project I’ve gotten done fifteen minutes at a time.  The time sounds like such a small amount, I know.  That’s the beauty of it.  You can force yourself to do almost anything for fifteen mintues.  If you do that a few times a day, you’re actually accomplishing a great deal.   Things often don’t take as much time as we think they will when we focu—

Ah, music stopped.  Break’s over and I have to get back to work.  For those of you writers who go for word count, I’d written 320 words before the music went off.  Now imagine four or five sessions of fifteen minutes while writing.  That’s an adequate word count for a day’s work, innit?

[1] And I have a teenaged boy with a teenaged appetite.  Oy!


[2] To be honest, except for cooking dinner, no one task ever takes a whole fifteen minutes.

Afternoon Tea

Because the man of the house teaches at a local college once a week, so really doesn’t have time for a real meal, I serve afternoon tea those nights.  I’ll do up some sandwiches, slice up some fruit and/or veggies, and maybe add a little cheese.  That’s just so we can sit down for a few minutes and he can talk to the boy.  I could make dinner early, but he doesn’t like teaching on a full stomach, so this is what I do.

The cucumber bits are actually cumber slices with some turkey salad between them.  I got the idea from Barb, who came up with them for bento.  Well, her idea was chicken salad, but we had a turkey Monday night, so I figured a poultry salad of some sort would work out.

It did.  Tasty.   I pass the idea on to anyone who might want to have fingerfood ideas that don’t rely on bread.

I Have Come to a Decision

I’ve been reviewing my work Screw Skinny, Get Fit and I realize that I’ve been messing around on this project for too long.  I need a big, huge deadline that’ll embarrass me if I don’t meet it to get my lazy butt in gear about this thing.

So, here’s the deal.

I’m going to be offering ScrewSkinny for sale in PDF or PRC (that means you can read it on a Kindle, or in Mobipocket) starting April 1, 2010.   I  haven’t set a price yet, but it’s going to be under $10.  If I get another big contract, I’m just gonna have to give up some knitting time.  This is gonna happen no matter who else wants my literary excellence.

This book is not for the athlete.  It’s for someone who is sedentary who wants to build or maintain health and fitness.  If you have an active, outdoor lifestyle, you’re all good and don’t need this.  It’s for someone who’d rather knit or play WoW.  Yes, there is a strong geek focus.

I discuss levels of ability, including handicaps of various sorts, and explain why The Perfect Workout is nonsense.

Impulse Purchase

Actually the purchase wasn’t as impulsive as all that.  I’ve been wanting an electric kettle for a couple of years, but just haven’t gotten off my lazy butt to get one.

The people I’ve known who have had them have typically been US military who’ve been stationed in the UK and fallen in love with the things.  I can see why.   They boil the water fast, then turn off.  It’s simple.  It’s so obvious and useful, I’m surprised they aren’t standard household equipment in the US.

Now, you Brits who read my blog can laugh, but up until a couple of years ago, electric kettles were difficult to find in the US.  Now, they’re more common. You can find them even in rural areas like mine in the grocery store.

I like this over a kettle on the burner.  Why?  It boils the water fast, then shuts off.  I love that.  I know it sounds goofy, but I can’t think of how often I’ve grumbled at the kettle on the stove whistling away while I’m trying to get one more sentence written.

Yes, I’m a big-time coffee drinker, but not only do I enjoy my tea, it’s not unusual for me to make coffee a cup at a time with the cup-top brewer, especially on days when I’m the only one at home and don’t really want a whole pot of coffee.  I’m enough of a spazz, thanks.

I’m curious.  How many of my American readers have one of these, and what kind of UK influence have you been exposed to?

Back to Normal…sort of

I’m coming down from a really serious six week project.  I was asked if I could teach a class in social networking, said yes, then had to develop the course.

So now, I need to cast around for more work.  Part of the work I’m going to create is going to be teaching versions of this class — bits and pieces as seminars and continuing education classes for teachers who might find themselves a bit overwhelmed by the new ways their students communicate and want to keep up.  (Hey, I live in an area that has an old Ivy League institution.  Keeping up with what Those Crazy Young People are doing is important).

I’m also reeling from the idea that I taught something I developed myself.  You old hands at teaching can feel free to laugh.  You guys do it all the time.  I had never gotten up in front of a classroom without the backup of a course someone else had developed before.

Now, as intimidating as it was (and yes, I was scared), I love to learn stuff, and I love to teach stuff.  I could happily spend the rest of my life making a living going and learning something and then teaching it.  It’s just fun.

“Learn stuff?” I hear you ask. “You’ve gotta be kidding me!  You’ve been doing online social networking for nearly fifteen years! What’s this nonsense about learning stuff?”

Well, there’s a big difference between doing something for years, and organizing the concepts clearly enough to teach that same material in a finite amount of time.  Not only that, you tend to fall into a routine, so it’s a good idea to find out what other people are saying on the subject.  When you do that, you will learn something new.

So, today I’m back to bidding on projects and working hard on breaking down the one-day seminar to smaller time units for potential classes.

Simlish and Language

If you’ve ever played any of the Sims games, you know that the characters “speak” in a series of sounds including pitch, cadence and vocal tone to indicate emotion.

muscle_boy just asked me if I speak Simlish[1].  I thought about it and commented I didn’t think Simlish was really a language as we generally define it.  While it does convey a rather interesting nuance of emotion, there are neither nouns nor verbs, so one cannot describe objects nor one’s relationship to them in Simlish.

Language wonks?  I’m curious about your opinion of this.  Can a language be a language if it only conveys emotional state, but cannot describe the physical world?

[1] He knows I pick up languages pretty easily, even invented languages from movies.  Yes, I understand Huttese, Elvish and Klingon.  By the Return of the King, I did not have to read the subtitles to understand the Elvish.

Making Bento and having fun

I’ve gotten back into making bento after letting the hobby drop for awhile.   I tell myself it’s because I’m worried my guys won’t eat healthy lunches unless I make them.  But when it’s just grabbing a little package out of the fridge, they’ll eat what I make fairly happily.

Partially, it’s selfish.   When I’m busy during the day, if I have a bento made for myself, I’ll eat a proper lunch.  If I don’t, I snack and munch and don’t get a really good nutritional balance.

However, the preference for actually having a bento has gotten pretty strong. When I was ill with a cold earlier in the week, the man of the house actually made a bento for himself and our son for the next day.

I was reading a comment on a bento blog where someone was asking why in the world there was this hype about bento.  Packed lunches aren’t new!  (For that matter, neither are bento, but the person making the comment didn’t mention that).

I responded that it’s a hobby.  Maybe you love knitting.  You can buy a sweater in a store for a lot less trouble than knitting one.  Maybe you like sport fishing.  You can get fish much cheaper in the market. (My brother often jokes about the $100/lb tuna you get from deep sea fishing).   Knitting and fishing are even older practices than bento!

It’s just a hobby.  You put food in a box and make it pretty.  It’s fun.  I’ve noticed a tendency, when one has an obsessive hobby, to talk about how good for you said hobby is.  Being out on the water lowers your blood pressure when you’re fishing.  Knitting is supposed to be as calming as yoga.  A well-designed bento is a healthy meal.  All these things are true, but lets be honest.  These things might have positive benefits, but I think that “because it’s fun” might play a serious part in why we do them.

Think Like a Geisha

In Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, one character scolds a young woman for bowing clumsily and then blowing on her tea to cool it rather than to wait for it to cool before drinking it.  The scolding involved a caution that a geisha had to be conscious at all times of the image she presented.

We live in a far more transparent age than Kyoto of the 1930s and if we are going to have an Internet presence, we need to be conscious of what we put out there.

If you have a presence on the web, especially if it’s linked to a legal name <cough>Facebook</cough> you might want to consider what you put out there.  Can employers see it?  Can colleagues?  Can employees, clients or potential clients?  Are you a teacher?  If so, are you careful that you only put publicly online Facebook things you’d want your students to see?

I’m not saying that you have to be totally stiffnecked, or that you shouldn’t have any personality to what you’ve got online.  My own online image is quirky as hell.  It’s also quirky on purpose, as that’s what differentiates my work from others and makes my classes and talking interesting.  So for me, being kind of weird is actually a business asset.  If you think I’m don’t consider carefully what sort of weirdness I make public, you’re fooling yourself.

That’s really the point in the long run.  Have a clear idea about what sort of public image you want to have, then be very careful that anything you let appear online sticks to that.

Why the HELL should I have to press 1 for English??

Ah yes, what an adorable Facebook group.

I’ve almost no sympathy for this one.  We often get all high and mighty about people learning another language for our convenience.  Coming out of an American’s mouth, it’s appalling.   Chances are good anyone joining the aforesaid group is fluent in exactly one language –English.  Chances are equally as good that they’ve not traveled enough to know what it’s like to try to get by in a day to day situation in one’s non-native language.

Unless and until you’ve followed complex instructions in a language that is not your native language, you don’t get to have an opinion on this.

I’m saying this as someone who does speak more than one language by the way.  My French is good enough to do minor tech support[1], I can follow a Karate class taught in an Okinawan dialect[2] and can understand Spanish well enough to follow a movie without reading subtitles.

Those are easy languages/situations, I have a talent for languages and it’s still rough.  My bank account, credit rating or legal future are not involved in a fine understanding of any of those languages.  To expect someone to “just pick up” English well enough to handle this is absurd and self-righteous.  Especially out of people I expect don’t have any talent for languages themselves.

Show a little imagination and empathy people!

[1] try it sometime on four years of high school French learned at a time before most computer terminology was even invented

[2] Ya, body language and visual cues to help!