I spent some time over the weekend trying to break down why I feel so tense all the time and have this low-level stress. Basically I think it comes down to the two old and obvious doubts of (a) not being able to do what I’ve set out to do in the time I have available and (b) not being able to do what I’ve set out to do because I just don’t have the ability, energy or determination. Both of these things are definitely a problem. Time and confidence are ALWAYS problems, though they waver – sometimes I feel like I’m doing OK and other times I will be thrown into doubt and anxiety.
So first off I started by trying to break down the time-related concerns I had in each area. With all of these things, I started out with a big ball of stress just thinking about the headlines and ended up feeling much more in control, so maybe this is an exercise I need to repeat any time I’m feeling that persistent fundamental stressy feeling. The one thing I can do to avoid feeling stressed is to take ACTION – and to schedule action into any day that I’m going to feel stressed about a particular thing.
F9 Financial Management exam – this has been my big concern because if I’m going to do it in June rather than December, I need to get into a more consistent routine with learning. I know I don’t need to be perfect to pass, and I definitely don’t need to do more than pass, so under-preparing is actually a necessary part of my plan! Otherwise this will eclipse a load of things unnecessarily. But I hate feeling under-prepared and there are things I can do to make myself feel better about it:
1) Finish the textbook – this is possible before Easter if I do 31 pages a day! (not possible, especially not given how busy we are at work!) BUT I can try to get more done than I have been, keep the book open on my desk and put any spare time towards it. Organise myself more efficiently so that if I’m doing work tasks, I do them until they’re done and move on, or if I’m blogging, I focus and do it and it’s done. At least I can get try and get close to finishing, especially with a couple of longer days in the office – then I can just tie it up in April. The most important thing is to be thorough and work through each thing so that I understand it and am not leaving things un-understood to come back to.
2) Make a revision plan. If I start working on revision questions I will have enough days to (just about) get through all the questions at a rate of 2 questions per work-day, starting after Easter. The only problem is, each question in an exam would take 45 minutes! SO it’s also very unlikely to be possible to complete this but then I don’t NEED to do all the questions to be able to pass the exam, so anything I can get done will help. Also I don’t expect to have finished the textbook by Easter so I’ll either be doubling up or a bit delayed starting but still – incremental progress.
3) A new strategy: Identify ONE crucial thing to learn each day, make a special note of it, and allocate 5 minutes out of my travel time to go over it and actually internalise it. There are a lot of silly equations and bitty things to learn but I can definitely improve my chances if I break these down and learn them one by one in a concrete way. I have started this and it’s working a treat – sometimes that 5 minutes a day deliberately placed in a different time-slot from usual can really work!
Russian – I am concerned about getting behind because one page a work-day won’t get me even half-way through the book this year, but given the F9 stuff above I decided to keep it at the 1page/day rate through 2Q and then see about catching up later in the year – I’ll at least get to 100 pages or so and I’ll get faster at it as I go – at the moment I can manage about 1½ pages in a single train journey (after 3 months) so if that goes up to 3 or 4 pages after 6 months I’ll stand a much better chance. Plus, if I don’t have F9 to do at work and we’re no longer busy like we have been, I might be able to go back to doing some during the day so you never know what might be possible!
Japanese – I’ve been just about staying on top of testing through the kanji I’m already supposed to know – I definitely don’t want to lose these so this is a priority! But on a 2-week rotation this is only about 20 minutes or so a day on the train. The thing I’ve been struggling to find time for is learning the new kanji for this year or revising the ones I did start learning in January. I’m going to hope (as with Russian) that I’ll have a chance to catch up in the second half of the year, and try (as with F9) to fit in at least 5 minutes a day on this, or more if possible. Just remembering to chip away at it will definitely help.
Work – is just really busy at the moment! I am having to keep track of quite a lot of complicated things at once and it easily takes up the whole day. This will improve in April and then there are a couple of extra other things that will come up over the following couple of months – after that I can’t really tell how busy it will be or what might change. I definitely don’t want to end up doing loads of over-time even during the busy period, as that’ll take time away from Music and make me less willing to exercise, and unforeseen stresses at work make me more likely to eat erratically. So even though I can’t control the bulk of what I have to do, I can manage things by prioritising, making lists of what needs to be done each day/week and working methodically without procrastinating on things. It’s also harder to fit in the blogging entries (which really help to keep me sane and focused) but I am going to try and focus for long enough to get two done a day (one here and one on the weightloss blog) as the benefits of these have shown themselves over time.
Music – I’ve done really well so far at making my target hours each week, only missing the target the one week I was sick, and that track record definitely makes me feel more confident about my ability to fulfil this commitment. That said, each week it’s a stress trying to work out where the hours will fit in in between work and tiredness and exercise and socialising – it always seems very touch-and-go unless I have a completely free weekend, although when it comes down to it I usually manage to get finished early and add some extra hours in too. It’s just stressful at the planning stage! The other thing is there is much more I want to do, I’m not moving along as fast as I would like to and that suggests that not only do I need to fit in more hours, somehow, but also take a more strategic approach to how I’m using the time and focus on the things I want to move forward the quickest. I have done this to some extent, and identified some must-work-on commitment areas each week. I’ve also gotten some clarity on my social schedule and identified times during the week that seem to work particularly well without making me feel stressed about the music hours I’m missing. More to be done here but at least I am well-motivated and doing much more than ever before!
Funnily enough the area I was least stressed about was exercise – this seems to have settled into quite a nice schedule. If I’m working I swim in the morning, and the pool is so close to the station, so directly on my route to work, and so convenient, that it only adds half an hour to my morning schedule. I wrote a bit last week about the nitty gritty details of prepping for swimming but provided those are done it’s simple. At the weekends I try to go out jogging twice and again, this is a really simple schedule – 20 minutes or so out the front door and back again, or a nice wander to the park, or a jog to the shops and then shopping and home again. And there’s always cycling and rowing if I get stuck indoors any day, or long walks with HH.
Those were my main thoughts – with a few logical tweaks here and there I should be able to stop stressing so much about all of these things!