Overwhelm happens to the best of us. In this hyper-connected world these days, there's so much going on. There's so much information coming in and we know, to the second, what every single person we know is doing, what they're buying and where they are going. It's hard not to get competitive with all these perfect "Facebook Lives" we see and push to attain all those things ourselves. That leads to one conclusion: overwhelm.We try to do everything. We try to please everyone. We try to be perfect like those "Facebook Lives" and wonder why it's not the same. Every way I look at it, it just leads to trying to do too much and getting frustrated.Many times, it's how we're thinking that needs to change so we can get a handle on doing too much and feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes those feelings will only go away when all of the work is done. If you've already committed to the work then it just needs to get done. So what do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed but still have work to do?Chunk it.Huh? What is chunking? Chunking is just breaking things down into smaller tasks. When you've got a large task ahead of you you can always break it down into smaller parts or milestones that you can do in a shorter amount of time. If you are doing a project with 10 sections, then it's easy to split that up into 10 chunks. You do one, take a break, and then move on to the next.You can chunk your email. Next time you're overwhelmed by your email, chunk it down by date or person. Search for a specific date, complete all the email from that date and then move on to the next date. Gmail is great for this, you can filter your inbox for specific dates using filters like "in:inbox before:14/01/01 after: 13/01/01". This would search only your inbox for any email before January 1st 2014 and after January 1st 2013. Only show email from 2013. You can put in any dates there if you want. Chunk down small enough so it's doable or until you have 5 or 6 emails there, then attack. Finish those 5 and then widen the filter and let in a few more. Complete those and repeat.You can chunk running too. If you're trying to finish a big run it might be hard to imagine what each of those kilometres will feel like so don't think about them until you get there. Focus on doing each kilometre, then move on to the next. I ran the 47 km Juan de Fuca trail a few years ago and all I could think about the next kilometre. Thinking 20 kilometres ahead was too much to handle.Why use it?Reduce the overwhelm. When you're working on a part of a project or run or task, you don't need to think about the whole thing. You need to think about a small part of it to work on, just enough to get you moving and working. That's rarely a lot. Running a marathon, take it on kilometre at a time. You don't need to think about the whole thing when that's just going to overwhelm and discourage you. Just think about the one next kilometre you're doing. That's it.Minimize the time required. When working on large projects, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need a large amount of time to get anything done. "I'll need 2 hours to do anything with this." It makes it hard to fit that task into your day because it's a solid chunk of 2 hours. If you can break that up into 4 or 6 pieces though, then it's much more manageable. A 30 minute block of working is far easier to tuck into your day around other tasks than 2 hours is. Or chunk again to 15 minutes. Everyone has 15 minutes somewhere in there day to work on something.Chunk your next projectBig projects or tasks can be hard to work on when you're looking at the whole thing. When getting to work, it's far easier to start when you have a very small amount to start with and work on. Chunk it down and start on something smaller and far easier.
I was running through a beautiful marsh area near my house on another marathon training run. My mind was wandering like crazy as it tends to do when I run. Things were slowly connecting like they usually do when I let my mind wander. Running tends to do that for me. I let it go and it will find interesting things and put them together. Sometimes they're useful, sometimes they're totally random. The challenge is remembering them by the time I get home.A lot of my thinking these days is about my projects on PureOutside, my outdoors websites or some other outdoor activity. Today I was thinking a lot about my first marathon coming up in just over a week. The questions were flowing freely. Was I ready yet? What did my legs feel like? What were the water and first aid stations going to be like on the run? Do I need new shoes? (I just blew out the side of my current shoes. Do I get a new pair with a week left or possibly repair the current ones with some creative engineering?)I got stuck thinking about running. I was thinking about how I currently felt running and comparing that to how I thought running the marathon was going to feel. There was a big difference. Today my legs felt sluggish, I had just ate dinner and it was near the end of the day. Not ideal conditions for a great run. But I was out there. When it comes to a marathon, just getting out there only counts for so much.I don't have a big problem with my training so far. It could have gone better but with a marathon in a week, I'm going to get what I get. There's not much I can change now. I just need to stay healthy and uninjured and I'll be able to finish my first marathon. But I didn't really have an issue with how the training was going.What I kept getting stuck on was actually how I was thinking. I was in short-term action mode and yet I was worried about the big goal of the marathon. I shouldn't be thinking about the big long-term goal when I'm in action mode. I need to be thinking about the details, the short-term, the action. Thinking about the long-term goal when you're in action mode causes 2 problems.Action mode is for doing small tasks. It's for doing all the small bits you lined up in the long-term planning mode. You should think big, and long-term in planning mode. You should think detailed and short-term in action mode. When they get mixed up and you start thinking big and long-term in action mode bad things happen. Thinking about a huge goal when you're doing a small task is discouraging. All you see is the huge number of tasks left to do. Yes, you are currently completing one of those tasks but it doesn't feel that great. It feels small and insignificant compared to the large number left to do. That's not a good feeling.To avoid that discouragement focus on the current small task. Do that task as good as you can do it. Put all your effort into it and keep your sights only on that one task for the time being. Look at the beginning of the task and the end of the task and focus on those points instead of the end of the huge goal looming ahead of you. Keep your sights small when you're in action mode, you'll feel better and your work will be higher quality.The second problem with thinking long-term in action mode is that you're not focused on what you should be focused on. Focusing on the big goal instead of the current task is focusing on the result and not the pieces of the equation. It's like focusing on having a "Book" to your name instead of focusing on writing the best damn thing you can write. If all you can think about is the end result of a book you're not going to write very well. The end result is a terrible book. If you instead spent the time you are in action mode highly focused on writing the best paragraphs and chapters you could possible write, the book that pops out at the end is going to be quite good.You don't have any control over the output or result of the process. You only have control over the inputs. Make those inputs incredible and, guess what, the output is going to be pretty amazing too. Use junk for your inputs and that's what you'll get out. There's a saying in the programming space, "garbage in, garbage out," about testing data. If you don't put proper data into your software to test, your test results are going to be shoddy.The next time you're in action mode and getting down on yourself because there's so much left to do, pause and check out those thoughts. Are you thinking long-term or short? Long-term thoughts in planning mode. Short-term thoughts in action mode.Can you work think long-term in action mode? Does it work for you or does it sabotage your work?***Project UpdateThese are quick updates on my current projects. They tend to be goals from The List. These last couple weeks have been excitingFirst Marathon: I did my first Marathon a couple weeks ago! I'll have an update on that in the next couple weeks.Sailing: I did my first large sailing race last weekend. It was just over 100 miles and took us about 26 hours to get through. I'll be putting up a trip report on PureOutside soon.PureOutside Trail Guide: My first product on PureOutside is almost complete. I've filtered through the bewildering array of modules for the Drupal Content Management System (like Wordpress but more powerful and complicated) and have things set up for the final leg. All that's left now is a bit of smoothing out and I'll be ready to put it up for sale.
Following Chris Guillebeau's footsteps, I'll be sitting down in a couple weeks for a few days and going over what I accomplished this year and plan out what I want to do next year. I sort of did this without really thinking about it last year and it worked wonders. Actually formalizing the process and focusing even more on a plan of attack for my goals will help me achieve them even faster.One of my goals for this year and next is to write as much as possible. It is a long and arduous journey to become an accomplished writer, one that I've only just begun, and one of the best pieces of advice I've gotten so far is to write every day. I was having trouble doing this but someone recommended 750words (I think Jonathan Fields). Now I'm writing almost every day in that sweet little app.To top things off for the year I found mention of Reverb10 while I was perusing RowdyKittens.
Reverb10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.
I never really liked to be told what to do but a little nudge in the right direction never hurt. Now I'm writing every day in December with a ton of other writers also doing Reverb. I had to play catch-up today so this is my first blog post about the prompts. I'm still not sure I will post about every one. You'll just have to wait and see!Reverb is all about getting a prompt every day and writing about how it relates to you over the last year. Todays was, "Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors)." Ali Edwards put this one together.I did a lot of new things this year and most of them were incredibly fun but the one that brought out the most life was running the 47 kilometer long Juan De Fuca trail in August.My running buddy and I decided last year that it would be fun to run it. We had done a few half marathons and decided it was time to up our game. The half marathons we had been doing were not your average flat half marathons in the city. Nope. They were grueling trail runs through the mountains that made you want to puke. Even still, the longest one we had done up to that point was 23 kilometers. Funny, now that I think of it, that distance doesn't register any more as a long run even though most people will never run it in their lives. I highly recommend doing it!After doing some reading and talking to friends I was aiming for a total time of about 10 hours for this run. The short version that we were up at 2:30 in the morning. We were driving at 3 am. By 5:30 am we were running down the trail towards the beach with our headlamps on.The run was not without incident. Just entering the woods off the beach we were packing back some electrolyte candies and all of a sudden strings of curses fill the air. We had slowed down right next to a wasps nest and one was testing out it's stinger on my buddy. Later on down the trail, just as I was thinking about how good the run was going, I got stung. Infernal little creatures. I would be happy if they went extinct. Aside from those minor mishaps the run went well.Apparently we were faster than I had anticipated. 7 and a half hours later, after 47 kilometers of running and almost 3000 meters in elevation gain and loss, we ran (ahem, stumbled) around the sign at the end and onto the beach where our support crew was waiting with sweet, delicious refreshments. The first few sips were salted with the sweat that still dripped from my soaked skin. The harder you work, the better the beer tastes. This one tasted pretty damn good.The surf was lapping on the beach. The smell of salt in the air from the sea and my soaked clothes. The dirt on my shoes was already drying and falling off. We had run through a few puddles but thankfully the trail was mostly clear and dry. We had made it. It was time to relax.I've done a lot of hikes and runs over the past few years. I've played lots soccer, rugby, ultimate and volleyball. But never have I been so excited, satisfied, relieved and happy all at once after doing any of them compared to what I felt after finishing this run.My first thought was just that we were done. We had finished what we had set out to do and I was happy with that. I was relieved to not have to climb another blasted hill with my legs that, by the end of it, were hardly working. Letting it sink in though, I came to realize that we had just done something that few people on earth ever get to do. Something that few people can do. Some people run a marathon but few ever go past that distance, but we had just run something longer than a marathon plus about 1500 meters in elevation gain. That's like running a marathon over a mountain.I realized something so important that day. It became crystal clear that even though that was probably the hardest thing I've done yet in my life, it was also one of the most amazing and something I'm not likely to forget any time soon. It showed me that by being patient and taking a lot of small steps, you will eventually cover a huge distance and reach whatever goal you set for yourself.The only problem is the next challenge has to be bigger. We're already training up to run the 75 kilometer long West Coast Trail next summer.(P.S. You can grab a few more details about the Juan De Fuca run on Island Adventurer)***I've been writing with the Reverb10 Crew since the beginning of December. I haven't published everything I've written but there are a few good ones. See my Reverb10 posts.These last few weeks of 2010 will be dedicated to reviewing what I did in 2010 and what's next in 2011. See all the review posts here.***
I've been trying to come up with a format for personal development posts that works for me. I've plenty experience learning new things and doing as much as I can to better myself but I've never really written about the experience. I wish I could remember in detail the first times I wakeboarded, snowboarded or rode a dirtbike. Joy comes to my heart when I think of doing those activities now but all I can remember from when I started was disappointment and frustration.I consider myself a fairly quick learner with most things but that's not to say I can do anything in no time. I can't even count the number of times I had to relax and tell myself to try again when I caught an edge snowboarding or face-planted wakeboarding. Eventually they became easier and easier and now I don't even have to think about the details when I strap on a board to go for a ride.I've always enjoyed learning new things. The excitement that comes with doing something I've never done before, the satisfaction that comes with attaining the first milestone, the thrill of polishing a skill that many people don't have. It's never easy though. The hardest part isn't starting. The excitement and novelty keep me going for a bit but it's when those initial feelings start to fade away that the hard part begins. Sticking to it, practicing till a new habit is formed and ingraining that skill into your mind is where most people, including myself, fall apart. Most of the time these exciting new skills fade away to old frustrating memories.Part of a new series, I'll be looking at skills that I've either got already and hope to sharpen up or would love to have. Regular posts will update you on what I'm doing to improve my skills, where I'm succeeded and where I'm failing. Hopefully you can learn a thing or two about the things I'm learning and help me on my quest to learn everything I can.For the next 2 months I'll be working on the following things:
I've always been into sports and dabbled in racing here and there but never pushed into it whole hog. Next year is going to be the start of that. A bit of an experiment in itself. I'm signing up for what will be the most races in one year I've ever done. I'm currently planning to do 5 Gutbuster trail runs, 2 Momar Adventure races, 2 Yeti Snowshoe races and 6 road races. I'm sure there will be many more added to the list by the time I'm through with it. If you're on Vancouver Island, make sure you check out the 2010 Vancouver Island Awesome Event Calender on Pureoutside. It's a solid start to the list of all the awesome events outdoor events on Vancouver Island next year. I'll be recounting tales of my adventures running and riding there as well.
I've definitely been off writing lately and am having trouble pinning down my problem. I'm obviously lacking motivation but not sure why. I have been quite busy lately but I hate to use that as an excuse. After travelling for four months and having a constant flow of interesting topics to write about, sitting around at home seeing the same things and the same people every day seems very bland and hardly worthy of my writing time. I'm starting to realize though that while it may not seem interesting at first, I can make it as interesting as I want. I'm setting out to do that while working on my writing.
I've wanted to learn guitar for as long as I can remember. I used to think it could never happen. Only certain types of people could learn a musical instrument and I was not one of them. I was doomed to live a life out of sync with anyone that could hold a beat. Then a friend said he was teaching guitar. Something tweaked in my brain. Maybe I could learn to play. Maybe I could actually hold those strings and strum those chords and make it sound better than some dying animal.I learned half of a Staind song and got bored. Maybe it was the song I was learning. Maybe it was the guitar that made it sound like crap. I didn't touch a guitar for another 6 years. There is one sitting in the chair next to me and I've picked it up a few times. It's a frustrating start because: A. I'm not musically inclined. I played the recorder in grade 4 and even that was pushin' it. and B: It hurts my fingers. I'll cope, I know. I now have incredible respect for anyone that can blow through any number of songs, one after the other without as much as slight wince. Somehow I can run up mountains but can't hold strings down on a piece of wood. Go figure.
Getting Up Early
I've always thought that getting up early is a good idea. Every hour of the day I think, Yes, getting up early, is a great idea. I will start things off right. I'll get lots of work done. I'll run and get really fit. Until I have to get up early.Sometimes it works fine. I'm able to get up and start my day. But sometimes, there's a part of me that wants to wait until the last possible minute to get out of bed and then run around like a headless chicken before work. I'm not a big fan of the latter style. There's always that 1 second that the decision to get up takes and if it happens while I'm still half asleep, sleep wins. I'm still working the kinks out of my method for reeling my sleeping mind out of the depths but it's slowly getting easier.I've found if I can get myself excited for doing something that day, if I can get myself really stoked about one of my projects I'm about to work on, the morning goes much quicker and I actually want to get out of bed.
I can almost guarantee that saving money is high up on everyone's list but there is a reason for it to be on mine. The second I got back from Australia and New Zealand, heck, before I even left for Australia and New Zealand, I knew I wanted to travel again. I've had trouble deciding but finally narrowed it down to a few places. Next October I'll be heading over to France. I'd like to spend as much time as possible there but I think it might be limited because of work and money. I'm going to try hard to get to Germany, Italy and Greece as well.Having a good time while travelling and, well, travelling itself is expensive and I know I need to start this second to save up for the trip. Having this goal at the end of all the saving makes it so much more worth my while than just "saving money". I had no problem saving up enough for my last trip to go because I had such a concrete goal and a well-defined plan for saving. That leads to my next goal.Learning FrenchI've always wanted to go to Europe and after travelling for 4 months the desire to see another continent has become even stronger. Being in Australia and New Zealand was easy because everything was english and very similar to North America. Europe will be different. I'm worried about how much everyone will speak english and how well we'll get on with only knowing one language. Before we leave next October, I'm hoping to learn as much French as possible. If I can get conversational in French, I'd like to move on to Spanish or German as well. It's going to be tough but I know it's going to be worth it.
I've always been an anxious person. I worry about everything all the time.I'm learning to get a handle on it but it still gets a little out of control on occasion when I'm tired and have a lot to do. I've found it helps to relax and focus on what I'm worrying about it and why it worries me. If it's something I can deal with myself, I get on it, ASAP. If it isn't, then I put it in the "who cares" bin. Tossing something aside and not caring about it is hard when it could affect your life but sometimes there just isn't anything you can do.In trying to worry less, I've concluded that my next item is a really good idea.
Drinking Less Coffee
I love the stuff, who doesn't. Even when it tastes like an old boot fell into the pot at work, I'll still grab a mug and sing my way to my desk. Well... it doesn't usually happen that way because I'm tired from staying up too late the night before because I had too much coffee. So aside from giving me a nice shot of wake-me-up in the morning, coffee is nothing but bad news for me. Despite all the advantages of NOT drinking coffee. I still do it. It's a tough one to get rid of.I hope you can join me on my adventure to learn everything I possibly can and cross some items off your Life List. Let me know what you're learning right now and I'll join you on yours.* photo courtesy of Windrock Media
By that I mean Wellington. Because of it's position and the weather in the area, Wellington is an incredibly windy city. I got to experience first hand what the wind was like on my last run there.I was only going to spend one night in Wellington because I wanted to get moving North and have a few extra days in Rotorua. I ended up washing everything in my backpack because of my own stupidity and needed an extra day for things to dry out.I haven't run much in New Zealand. Being on the bus almost every day and being sick for a week has taken it's toll and I feel like I've been on a tour, sleeping or on the bus the entire time. I was excited to get out and stretch my legs.I took to the seawall heading south from the harbour in Wellington and did ran about 4 kilometers down the path. The wind was howling out of the bay and was pushing sea spray up and over the bank and across the path. I missed most of the big waves but I was still almost covered in salt by the time I turned around.Running with the wind is easy. It wasn't actually that easy because the wind was pushing hard enough that I had to lean back into it and I battled to keep some sort of pace.Running against the wind is not easy. The wind was incredibly gusty and I'd be leaning into it for 30 seconds pushing as hard as I could to continue at the same pace and then it would drop off to nothing and I'd nearly fall on my face. Some of the gusts were strong enough to push my feet together, tripping me up, and I almost hit the pavement a few times.I laughed out loud a few times on the run as I felt ridiculous trying to remain upright and run in the wind. I was happy to be back at the hostel and get out of the gusts afterwards and into a nice hot shower.[gmap]
Looking through some of the interesting things to do in Sydney on the web last week, something caught my eye. A running race. Here in Sydney. August 9th. 70,000 people. Wow.When I was planning the trip, I had done a quick look through some of the races that are in Australia to see if I was going to be able to attend but didn't see much. I'm not sure how I missed this one. It's only the biggest road race in the world.The City 2 Surf starts at Hyde Park in Sydney CBD and winds it's way through 14km of streets to end at one of Australia's most famous sandy playgrounds, Bondi Beach. Many times it's been ranked as the worlds biggest race and this year is no exception. With 75,000 registered participants it makes the Boston and New York Marathons look tiny. While the runners here aren't quite the same international calibre as some other races, people jet from all over the world to join in.I have been running a fair amount lately to be somewhat prepared for the Royal Victoria Half Marathon in October but I know I will be no where near the finish line when the first few cross. Aside from not being able to do 14km in 40 minutes, I will be starting in the Back of the Pack group due to my late registration.The event is timed using chips on everyones laces so it doesn't matter where you start, you will still get an accurate time of when you cross the start line till when you cross the finished line. Part of the reason I'm so excited about this race is the number of people that are running it and the start is going to be the most interesting.The first 20,000 bibs were reserved for those that had a time from the last 2 years. They will be starting at the beginning of the pack. The next 25,000 bibs were for whoever signed up first on the website. The last 30,000 people are lumped into one group and will start nearly 30 minutes after the first group goes. Each group has a particular area they start from so not to interfere with the other groups.So far all the races I've participated in have had around 100-200 people in them. This is going to be a little bit different. I've heard the ground shakes when the race starts. Talk about an adrenaline rush!Wish me luck![gmap]
Newcastle was much like Port Macquarie in that I didn't spend much time there but had a fantastic run. The drive wasn't long to get here so I had most of the day to wander and see what the place was like. The hostel was fantastic. A restored heritage building, it had high ceilings, big open fireplaces and lots of plush leather furniture. Although the fireplaces were gas it gave a nice cozy feel. The rooms were spacious and ours had an opening onto a deck with a fabulous view into the other side of the building through the courtyard. The only strange thing was the kitchen in the basement had an underground feel to it.After a little orientation and parking the car where it wouldn't get towed, I got out the running gear and hit the pavement. I'm not a huge fan of running around in cities but sometimes a few blocks are required to get to the pretty spots. At last I hit the seawall and cruised along to the point of the harbour in front of Fort Scratchley. I continued around the coast to the ocean baths and another old war bunker. In that same park I could help but laugh at the kids as they tumbled down the hill when their cardboard sleds stopped dead in it's tracks.The day was warm and being the genius I am was around running during the hottest time. There were a few fountains along the paths I found but not nearly enough. By the time I got back to the hostel I could drink a lake but could only find the smallest cup in existence. I threw back numerous glasses of that so I could breathe properly and hit the showers.Not really wanting to cook and curious about the local bars, I signed up for a free sausage dinner through the hostel. Free doesn't get you much these days. We had to play Bingo for a bit before we got into our 5 course meal of sausages and pieces of white bread. I won an hour of free internet! Everyone did though.[gmap]
I wasn't in Port Macquarie for long but I had a good time there, mainly because of the run I did soon after I rolled in. I always like to see what's around the corner on a run, walk or hike and being in a brand new city makes it even more interesting. I headed down to the beach aiming to do an 8 or 10k run but there were just so many interesting corners and little paths to take. I landed back at the hostel after pounding the pavement for 16 kilometers and spent the rest of the evening reading and recovering. Although interrupted by the odd strange comment from an annoying Aussie fellow, the night was relaxing and uneventful.The morning I left I overheard the Aussie guy commenting on how loud one of the girls snored. I couldn't believe he said that straight to her face and expected some sort of decent conversation to follow. She just gave him a withering glare and left the room. The owner of the hostel explained to me afterwards that there had been trouble with the guy at another hostel and she put me into his room to make sure nothing went wrong. Thanks for letting me know.
Lennox head is a little surf town 10 meters away from the water 20 minutes south of Byron Bay. I stayed at a friends here, which is the only reason I had heard of the place. It's known for little else than the good surf and another place to stay that's close to Byron.It sits right on 7 mile beach which is a gorgeous pile of sand. At the south end is a headland which frequently launches hang-gliders over the water, floating around for 25 minutes or more in the warm air. Gromfest was on while I was there so we watched a bit of the surfing. Groms or Grommets are little surfers so the competition was all kids under 18.I had the pleasure of running a few kilometers across the wet sand while the sun was going down and there is no better place to relax and catch your breath.[gmap]
Initially I went past Brisbane and Surfers to get down to Lennox Head for a friends birthday but I made it back up to spend a couple days there and wander around. I had been told that it's the least interesting of the big cities in Australia sorely lacking in things to do and see. I didn't see much while I was there but there was certainly enough to fill a few days of sightseeing and running around.I have a fascination for cities that are on rivers. The paths and tracks along the rivers are beautiful places to run and walk and also give a good reference point to find your way around. The lights of the city reflecting off the water at night makes for nice photos as well. Brisbane is no exception. Running along the paths and bridges that criss cross the river, I got to take in some good sights and get a solid run in as well. I've been doing more running lately and I've been having a great time cruising down the streets and paths, gps in one hand and camera in the other. I do get some odd looks but I must say I've never seen anyone running around the outdoor malls whilst taking pictures. Sometimes I feel like the group from the movie Yes Man.I have to admit I was more interested in the hostel in Brisbane than any of the sights in particular. Reading about the Brisbane City YHA and all it's new hightech features got me excited to go there. After staying a few days I'd have to say it's just a new hostel. It doesn't different too much from all the other decent hostels out there. I did get free parking because the gate was broken!During my run I crossed underneath the story bridge which is apparently Brisbane's reply to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have yet to spend much time in Sydney but I'd have to say the Story Bridge wasn't that impressive. Perhaps it's much more interesting when you're standing on top of one of the towers.Most river paths I've been on are beside the river and have some sort of grassy bank that separates the path from the river. Brisbane seems to pack everything in a little tighter and some of the pathways were actually over the river. Some of the roadways were propped up over the river as well.[gmap]