Challenge Yourself

Do you ever get bored with what you’re doing? Maybe it’s time to push yourself a bit further. Take on a challenge.

This challenge can be physical, mental, or spiritual, depending on what you need at the moment.

Here is my Challenge:

I just switched majors, from Accounting to Art Studio. (Yes, I know this is a bit of a jump, but it’s a change from something that will pay well to something that I actually enjoy.) In order to complete my degree in 4 years, including a Business Minor, I have to take a rather hefty course load. This semester I am signed up for 22 hours. (15 seems to be a common number, though I have not taken less than 16 thus far.)

I had an advisor tell me that you can’t take that many hours. Her response might have been similar if I had told her that I was going to the moon. “You CAN’T do that.” Which I found rather odd, since I have been signed up for the classes for about 6 months now, and she was the one who ok’d my schedule in the first place. 😀

I know this semester is going to be challenging, but I also know that I can do it if I manage my time well. If it turns out that for some reason I can’t, I still have a grace period of a couple weeks where I can drop some classes to a “normal” level with no repercussions.

So what about you?

What challenge are you going to take on? Push yourself (but leave an out if you need it).

Creating a Clutter Free Desktop

I’ve got a lot going on right now, so I need to be able to focus. If you’ve spent any time around me, you know that I don’t do fixed focus and single-tasking very well. Indeed, as I write this I am sitting outside watching traffic go by, listening to the iPod and writing (all while avoiding studying for tomorrow’s exam). This is not my ideal productive state, though I do manage to get some quality work done in similar environments.

Every so often I head over to Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits and see what lifestyle goodness has been posted recently. The latest excursion resulted in a number of posts that I had to catch up on, including one on how to Create a Minimalist Computer Experience. Again, if you have ever seen me on a computer, I am anything but a minimalist. Right now I have three text documents open (one in notepad and two in Open Office’s Writer), one folder open (all 4 of those are for the studying I’m supposed to be doing), as well as three different instances of the Chrome web browser, with a total of 36 tabs open between them.

Up until about 10 minutes ago, my computer’s desktop was cluttered with icons, notes written to myself, todo lists, etc. I followed some of the directions in Leo’s post and immediately felt better. I took a few minutes to sort through the stuff that I had on my desktop; all but 4 of them were either combined, moved, or deleted. Of these 5, one will remain (the recycle bin) and the other 3 are the task lists for projects that I am currently working on.

While I loved my background photo (you can see it here under the “something feathery” category), not only was it quite busy but I’ve also had it for awhile now and was in the mood to change. (I have a small collection of potential background photos, just for when I want to switch it up a bit.) My new background is much more simple and relaxing.

I prefer to leave my start bar legible, because of the clock in the bottom right corner. I like a minimal number of programs running, and consider widgets to be programs. I already had some short cuts implemented, and have been using them for years now, so that advice was nothing new to me.

I haven’t taken the leap of letting Google Desktop index my computer. While I’m sure it would be handy, I just haven’t seen the need. I guess it’s just not my style.

That’s where I’m at thus far. I spent about 10 minutes making my desktop less cluttered, which immediately helped me relax a little. Because of that I can now focus on the tasks at hand and get some important things taken care of. Now I need to make myself study, and then I can spend focus on knocking out some of those tabs… cause I really do have too many open. 😀

Take a Break

Sometimes you just need to take a break. Stop. Recharge.

Our hectic exam schedule (mentioned here) is nearly done, and we are going to celebrate tonight. No studying, no books, no work. We’re just going to relax, enjoy each others’ company and do nothing.

Do you need to take a break? Perhaps your fuse is getting a bit short, you find yourself disgruntled with part of your life, or everything just seems to be going by too fast. If so, you might be in need of a break.

Your break does not have to be a weekend road trip. It simply needs to be some time taken just for you, doing something that relaxes you. You might want to take a few hours to focus on your hobby, go for a hike, or simply take a nice hot bath with a good book. Whatever you choose, don’t worry about upcoming tasks. They will be waiting when you return, renewed and with more energy.

Take a break. Stop. Recharge!

Upgrade Your Daily Tasks

Quill Pen Do you have tasks that you have to complete on a daily basis? Do you see them as boring, mundane tasks? You can make them more exciting.

This isn’t a post telling you to change your mindset, or your attitude. I’ll leave that to those who are better qualified. This post outlines a simple method to upgrade your daily tasks from mundane to interesting, if not flat-out exciting.

Let’s take writing as an example. We all have to write, even if it is just to make out a grocery list or jot down a phone number. This oft-done chore can be seen as nothing more than that. However, with a simple upgrade in my materials, I have turned writing down any mundane piece of information into a pleasure.

-que lights & music- Enter the fountain pen. No, I’m not using a quill as seen in the above photo (though once I find a suitable feather, I do plan on making one). I purchased a $5.99 Pilot Plumix from Target (you can see it below). It was a cheap and quick upgrade for my everyday writing requirements. Exactly what I needed.

Quill Pen

This little pen has injected some excitement into my writing. It doesn’t matter if I am making out a todo list (of which I have many), taking inventory at work or writing a note for my wife, I enjoy the writing process. I try not to write as fast so that I can enjoy what I am doing, which has also pleasing side-effect of improving the legibility of my handwriting.

While doing research into the various pens that are out there, I have stumbled across various examples of others’ handwriting. Some of these are absolutely gorgeous! They have inspired me to work on consciously improving my script as well. I have long wanted to do so, but never wanted to sit down and do the necessary work. Now that I look forward to writing, spending time doing drills will not be so bad, and will ultimately help me enjoy the process even further.

What can you upgrade in your daily life to make it seem like less of a chore? Maybe fountain pens aren’t your thing (I tried a rollerball pen the other day and loved it!). Perhaps a new kitchen knife that better fits your hand would help you enjoy prepping food when cooking, or a more comfortable seat would make you more inclined to ride your bicycle. Pay attention as you go about your tasks today and see what you don’t like to do. Whatever it is, determine why you don’t like it and see how you can upgrade your tasks!

The Mini Door – Photo

How do you get into St. Patrick’s? You enter through this door. Not the big door, silly! The small one.
These cut-out doors captured my attention for some reason. I find them quite amazing. We have actually only seen the big doors open once, and I think that was a matter of chance.

(Click on photo to view full sized)


Secret Garden – Photo

Looking out our window while staying in St. Patrick’s provided a fabulous view of the secret garden. This photo is from late January, with everything in bloom it is even better now.

The bell tower is off to the right.

(Click on photo to view full sized)


St. Patrick’s – Photo

Upon first arriving in Ireland, this is where we stayed until finding a flat for the semester. St. Patrick’s College shares a campus with National University of Ireland, Maynooth (where we are attending.) St. Patrick’s is the oldest Catholic college in Ireland. This building, also named St. Patrick’s, is the home of the monks who live here, and the seminary students. It is also the temporary accommodation for visitors and new students.

(Click on photo to view full sized)