#582 – A Decision Has Been Made

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I’ve been wrestling with this for some time now, and I’ve hinted at it once or twice in the past, but I think the time is right to actually make a few changes in things around here.

I haven’t mentioned my checklist system in quite some time beyond a passing mention here and there, and so for those that are reading my blog for the first time or have just joined recently, let me take a moment to explain. Three years ago, when I was in the middle of a serious bout of agoraphobia while on disability, I was diagnosed with diabetes and my lifestyle changed. I needed some way of tracking my vitals – I have high blood pressure as well, and check it three times daily – as well as whether I’d taken a dose of medication, whether I’d eaten, whether I’d gotten some exercise. I added a few other things to give my day some small semblance of structure and started logging these daily activities in a graph paper notebook. In addition, I started using a lined notebook – the two are a matched set – to record a master to-do list of all the things that I need to do during the day but that aren’t otherwise accounted for in the checklist. Keeping up with everything became a real challenge, and for over two years it was a rare thing for me to complete every check mark for a day. Starting in mid-January this year, however, I started putting together long strings of what I call full marks days. Right now I’m on a string that’s over six months long. My condition has improved, to the point that I’m out of the house more days than I spend all day at home, and with that I’ve added some new activities, the biggest of which is a return to school to get my degree.

Being a student has been a bit of a logistical challenge to complete the day’s check marks. There are often times that things are pushed off until the last possible minute, and I’m honestly not sure how much longer I can keep the checklists up in their current configuration, especially since next semester will be 14 credit hours as opposed to the six that I’m carrying this semester. I’m just not going to have time to do everything that I wanted to do, so I’ve reached a decision that will effect this blog.

Starting Sunday, I’m only going to post sporadically, maybe twice a week, so the check mark item for writing will be going away. Reading, too, will be cut. (Reading has been defined up to this point as a section in a self-help book a day, so I’m not eliminating reading for pleasure here – just the self-improvement aspect of my daily reading. Besides, getting my degree is plenty of self-improvement for right now.) I’m also going to remove the line item for socialization. That was established at a time when I was avoiding people altogether in person and mostly online as well. Now, though, I’m social every day as a function of being a student, and I don’t need to make that such a priority anymore.

I’m keeping my learning on the checklist, however, despite my formal education taking over my life for the next few years. Elevate is a nice brain game that I enjoy doing and Duolingo will continue to give me rudimentary language skills, something that will translate well to the job market once I’m done with school. Exercise needs to stay because that’s important for my health. All the other things on there will be staying as well – they’re all vital to my health and as such can’t be eliminated.

It will be a little bit of a change, and the first major change I’ll have made to that list in almost a year, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. As far as where you’ll see a difference, I will likely have longer posts detailing more of my life, but those posts will be fewer in number, and they won’t be every day anymore.

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#577 – Lazy Day and Long Streaks

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Woke up this morning at around 9:00 – unsurprising since I was still awake at 2:00 am – and headed to a friend’s house to visit with her for a while, and to play with her new foster kittens. I spent a couple hours at her place, then headed back home. The kittens are adorable and it was good to spend time with my friend.

My wife has been dealing with a headache all day, so there were some naps interspersed with working on the playlist for tonight’s show. Eventually I headed to the pharmacy to pick up a couple prescriptions and to the store to grab something for dinner tonight, came home, made dinner, and did the show. Tonight was Cards Against Humanity night but because of server errors we were only able to get one game in during our three hour long show.

Tomorrow is going to be hectic. I have a quiz to finish up for algebra by Monday morning, so I’ll be working on that, in addition to doing laundry and the weekly grocery shopping.

Eventually my wife lost her headache but I found it, so I apologize today’s post isn’t any longer than it is.

Oh, one last thing. Know those checklists that I try to accomplish every day? Yesterday I hit 180 days straight of completing my checklist. Kinda proud of that, considering how different things are now that I’m in school. So that happened.

Ramping Up the Difficulty

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Here at the end of the day, I find myself questioning what I did all day. I’ve gotten most things on my checklist done, and I’ve finished a take-home quiz that’s due tomorrow morning, but that’s about all that I remember. I dislike days where things are a blur like this. It makes me feel like I’ve wasted the whole day doing nothing important.

This is going to be a hectic couple of weeks. Tomorrow I have to turn in that algebra quiz in the morning, then come home and study for a biology quiz tomorrow night. I’m spending Tuesday completing the next take-home algebra quiz and my next biology homework assignment to turn in on Wednesday during class. After class on Wednesday I come home and start packing for a 7:00 am flight to San Jose (for my first honest-to-God vacation as an adult!), and then spend the rest of the trip splitting my time between socializing with friends, doing the tourist thing, and keeping up with my schoolwork. We fly in the following Tuesday afternoon, then I’m back in class on Wednesday and then back to campus on Thursday for my first algebra test. And during all that time, I need to try and keep up with my checklists as best as I can – and remember to have fun while in California.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Maybe Not

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The plan today was to sit down and conquer at least part of my algebra homework (there are at least 50 questions, easily) in the attempt to get ahead of things over there. Instead, I started my work day by going through the ten review questions that were expected knowledge on day one of the class. I’d scanned then previously and knew that I didn’t know how to do some of them on there, and I wrote about that yesterday. When I took a few minutes to really read everything, I found that the first two questions were fairly simple. And everything after that was beyond me.

I started to seriously rethink my resolve from yesterday about doing well in this class. I started considering whether it would be wiser to withdraw and take another class to prepare me for college algebra. And while I started reviewing my options, I decided to do a little college-related housekeeping.

I started by grabbing my two syllabuses and plugging known dates for homework, quizzes, test, and exams into my Google Calendar. (The calendar on the school’s webpage will import over to iCalendar, but I’m on Android and not iOS.) While I was at it, I reorganized my algebra syllabus somewhat – because of the day missed on Monday thanks to Harvey all the instructors carefully organized calendars and schedules were incorrect, and so he had gone back and scratched out almost two full pages of the syllabus and added a corrected sheet to the back, out of order. To make things easier for me, I went back and copied the two-sided syllabus and inserted the new calendar and test schedule in their correct place.

Thanks to a late start and some problems with getting my school laptop and my printer to talk to one another, by the time I’d finished this it was about half past eleven, and I decided to take the rest of the morning off to continue to process the situation with the algebra class.

In the end, I made the decision to go to the learning lab on campus to try and get myself up to speed as much as possible. I figured that because of that, my initial plan to work on algebra homework was shot, and so I decided to instead work on the rest of my biology homework that’s now due next Wednesday and salvage something useful out of the day.

It took me until around 5:00, but I managed to read the second chapter in the biology textbook and do the related homework. My first homework assignment is complete!

I’ve taken the rest of the evening off to relax and do whatever comes to mind, although my checklists are still a priority.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading into the learning lab to get started on the algebra work that’s ahead of me.

 

The Homework Begins

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… well, kind of.

Last night was my first class for biology fundamentals, a class designed to prepare me for the entrance assessment for anatomy & physiology I, which is a pre-requisite for my actual degree, diagnostic cardiovascular sonography. Even though we spent the whole session reviewing the syllabus and getting tips and tricks on studying and campus life, we were assigned homework, that being to watch the four and a half minute long video on Texas’s new campus carry law.

My instructor said that we would have around eight homework assignments for the semester, and was very clear what that first assignment would be covering. However, he didn’t state that anything was due yet, and there hasn’t been anything posted to our class Blackboard stating that homework would be due soon.

So I started it anyway.

My first assignment is to read chapters one and two in the textbook, define all the words in the chapter’s glossary, and complete the multiple choice questions at the end of the chapter. Today I finished chapter one before calling it a day.

It actually felt really good to have something to take up part of my day. Since I’ve been on disability for a few years, there’s not that much that I’m required to do, and so my days are largely unstructured. That’s one of the reasons that I started my daily checklists back in October 2014. The items on that checklist only cover so much of my day, and that leaves me with the rest of the day to fill doing whatever I can. As much as I enjoy computer gaming, reading, watching movies, and napping, there’s only so much of it you can do before it starts becoming a little tedious.

Homework took me about three and a half hours to complete, at least to the point that I did, and that’s running right along with the estimates that they give for giving a six credit hour schedule enough study time. So I feel rather accomplished for the day.

The other great part is that I have completed all of my non-time dependent checklist items but one – that being leisure. I now have the rest of the evening to do whatever I want to do.

And knowing just how productive I’ve been today is going to make that goofing off time that much sweeter.

Musings About Life and College

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This morning I slept until 8:15, when my alarm to feed the cats went off. So far this morning, it’s been a productive day. I’ve done all the items on my to-do list, and this blog post wraps up the rest of the floating items on my daily checklist. (For those new to the blog: I keep two Moleskine notebooks by my side, one with a floating list of to-do items that are only done on occasion or only once, and one with a checklist of items that needs to be done every day. Most of the items on the checklist are healthcare related, as I’m managing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure along with my mental illness, but some of them are things like reading a portion of a self-help book, completing the day’s allotment of exercises on Elevate and Duolingo, my learning apps, and writing in this blog.) I’ve also gotten a decent amount of leisure in so far today, and the rest of the day is pretty much free to do with as I wish.

This newfound early productivity is a good sign with college classes starting next week. It shows that I’m capable of prioritizing things in my life well and that I’ll be able to be a success with the two classes I’m taking this semester.

But I need to be careful not to overdo it, because I tend to be prone to extremes at times and foresee a day when I finish my daily tasks, including studying, and then go out of my way to continue to be productive in some way rather than taking it easy like I’m going to need to do every day.

The estimates that I received from my area of study information session last week indicated that a six credit hour course load should be spending approximately 18 hours a week studying outside of class – which works out to three hours a day, six days a week. Given how I tend to retain information, I doubt I’m going to need quite that long, but I’m prepared to give it however long it needs for the information to stick and the work to get done.

Next week starts the first step on what will be a long journey, but it’s one that I’m prepared to see through to the end.

Streaks V: Not This Again

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Regular readers of this blog know about me and my streaks, so I thought I would give an update, since it’s been a while. This whole thing probably only interests me, but it helps motivate me to see all this data in one place every now and again. Anyway, here we go.

Every night before I go to bed, I have a mood tracker called Daylio that I use to give a quick rundown of the day’s activities and swings in my mood over time. Not counting tonight’s entry, which of course hasn’t happened yet, I’m up to 424 straight days of tracking my mood.

I also track my daily caloric intake as best as I can through an app called MyFitnessPal. It has an extensive database of items and allows you to input recipes so that even the most complicated foods can be accurately tracked, along with their nutritional information. As of today, I’ve logged 464 straight days’ worth of food.

To help keep my mind limber, I’ve been using two apps, one called Elevate which gives quick exercises in reading, listening, math, and more, and the other called Duolingo, through which I’ve learned the rudimentary basics of Spanish and am now doing the same with Italian. Each of them has an identical streak in place – 344 days now.

The one I came to talk about, however, is my checklist streak. I have a checklist of 21 items that I have to do every day, things that include taking my meds four times a day and checking my blood pressure three times a day as prescribed, eating at proper times (I’m diabetic, so regular food is important, and I’ve been known to skip meals without the checklist), exercise, but also things like leisure time and socialization, and even my daily entry into this blog. Before the middle of January of this year, I’d only every gotten full marks for a day just a handful of times – less than 20 since I started my checklist back in October 2014. But something happened in January that made everything click, and now I’m completing that checklist almost every day. I had a streak of 84 straight days that was ended when I forgot my evening blood pressure one night. There were a few days that I took off shortly after that – I had a trip out of town that I didn’t want the pressure of trying to hit everything on that list every day for, but once I got back in town, I started back up again, and I haven’t stopped since. The new streak hits 85 days tonight, which makes it now the longest uninterrupted streak I’ve ever recorded of achieving full marks.

I’m really proud of that mark, but there’s a part of me that would really, really like another day or two off. I might do that once I hit 90 days; I might decide to keep going until I actually forget to do something – I haven’t decided yet. But for now, I’m going to take a moment to recognize this achievement, and remind myself that the changes that I’m making are good and significant. Sometimes I don’t think it’s any big deal. The more days that I have where my mood stays good and stable throughout the day, the harder it is for me to put my accomplishments in perspective. “Well, this is something that’s expected of you now, isn’t it? So it’s no big deal,” I find myself telling myself. I write these blog posts to remind myself that it is a lot of work and that it’s nothing to minimize, but I find myself doing it from time to time. I write in my blog as much for those following my journey back to “normalcy” as I do for myself, but these posts are mostly for me.

The next big achievement is going to be in five days, when I extend this full marks streak out to three straight months. After that, I’m closing in on a solid year that I’ve been challenging my brain every day. That will be a big deal when it happens.

I haven’t really given much though to how my checklist will change once I’m back in school. Certainly there will be some things that will fall by the wayside, and some new things added. I haven’t changed the items on that checklist in over a year now, because I’ve found a list that works for me. But that list also isn’t taking twelve credit hours a semester into account. Whatever changes happen, I expect the streak to end soon after, because it’ll be a change from what I’ve been doing. But hopefully I can keep it up.

Right now, though, I’m content to wrap things up for the night.