Jan 31, 2013

January: Unprocrastination Month

It's the end of January, and it's also the end of my first month at the Sea Change Program, offered by Leo Babauta. This first month was dedicated to the Unprocrastination Course, and I thought it might be interesting to share some of the benefits I've gained from it.

When it comes to habits, Leo believes that small and simple is better. From what I've experienced previously and, particularly, this month, I can say that Leo's philosophy is pretty smart ;)

In the Unprocrastination Course we developed 3 very simple habits - one per week. The fourth week served to consolidate the 3 habits. Now, of course I don't want to (and can't) share Leo's whole program. Instead I just want to share the one habit that, to me, made the most difference. It's the habit of defining a Most Important Task (MIT) at the beginning of each day, and then working on it (even if for just 5 minutes) prior everything else. Yep, even before checking e-mail.

It's a very simple habit, really. So why was developing this habit so useful to me? Because even though I say working on my thesis is my current priority, in practice I wasn't always treating it as such. For example, December was a very unproductive month... I had several other important things going on: an abnormal workload in my Etsy shop; and everything else related with holidays (including holidays). Conclusion: I only worked 16.5 hours on my thesis last December. Yep... :/

The first two weeks of January would not have been much more productive if I hadn't engaged in the Sea Change Program, because right at the beginning of the month my professor requested me to review in detail a (very...) long chapter of a book our research group has been working on. So defining writing on my thesis as my MIT forced me to actually write on my thesis everyday, before everything else. This made a huge difference and I was able to progress significantly in my writing.

The other great thing about Leo's program is that we're assigned to a support team (mine has 4 elements), that meets regularly. Last Sunday we held a Skype meeting, and it was pretty amazing to share experiences with my 3 lovely team mates, who were speaking from the UK and Israel! Of course, my spoken English was quite rusty... :$

Seriously, I highly recommend Leo's program, for anyone who needs a little of structure and active support in changing habits.

February is the month of eating healthier, and I'm already paying more attention to what I put on my mouth (a.k.a. too much sugar) ;)

Have you tried Leo's program? What works best for you, when it comes to developing new healthy habits?

P.S. In this first month Leo also gave a live webinar and answered some of the participants questions. I was lucky to be quick enough writing my question, and he actually read it out load and answered! (Yes, in case you haven't noticed yet, I'm a big Leo's fan.)

Jan 27, 2013

The impermanence of emotions and thoughts

In my struggle with anxiety and depression there was an exercise that helped a lot.

While reading 'The mindful way through depression', I came across the advice to look at my body as a map/thermometer of my emotions. When I'm anxious, for example, I feel a kind of fidgety hot ball in the center of my stomach. When I'm feeling peaceful I feel a different kind of warmth, one that is pleasant and embracing. The exercise consisted in regularly checking my 'emotions thermometer' throughout the day, just to see what was there - in a curious, non-judging kind of way.

Before doing this exercise I didn't have a clear idea of how I felt during the day. I thought I was more or less always anxious and depressed. Even if the anxiety and depression were only working at the background of my mind. In fact, I was frequently depressed/anxious, but I also found out that I didn't always feel like this. To my surprise, I had moments of peacefulness, enthusiasm and joy. I also found out that the moments in the 'dark well of desperation' weren't as frequent as I thought they were. By being attentive to my emotional map I further began to link my emotional states to certain triggers. In a way, it all began to look much simpler. By linking the emotions to triggers, I could also think of strategies to not feed these emotions, to not let them grow into an ungovernable big monster - like they used to.

Another important thing I learned is that emotional states are like colored glasses. They taint the way you see the world. So I learned not to trust my thoughts very much when I'm in a dark mood. In a dark mood my mind bombards me with negative thoughts that can say all kinds of destructive things...

But I think that the most important lesson was the lesson of the impermanence of emotions and thoughts. They are always changing, always moving, like clouds in the sky of our mind (and body). I love this metaphor: our awareness is the sky, our thoughts and emotions are the clouds - sometimes these clouds are dark, rainy and stormy, other times they're just like thin white shreds, letting the sun pass right through them. They always change, but the sky above them never changes - always still, always blue, always receptive and kind...

This is something so simple, really. But I guess I only learned it very recently - and it's always a work in progress...

How do you deal with strong negative emotions and thoughts? I'd love to hear about your experience.

See you soon! :)

Jan 24, 2013

Forced to unplug for 3 days - what did I learn?

In case of a Zombie Apocalypse (or any Apocalypse, for that matter) Portugal, I'm afraid, would go down pretty fast.

This Saturday dawn a great part of the country was in Red Alert. Violent winds swept everything on their way. Still, I would call it a mini-storm, compared to what has been happening around the globe. But still, and as a result, my village had no electricity for 3 consecutive days! My grandparents, who are over 80, can't recall having ever been without electricity for so long. Even today (5 days later) there are still parts of the country without electricity.

The positive thing, is that I had the opportunity to experience life without all the commodities that electricity brings, and reflect a little bit about it.

What have I learned?

1 - Humans invented all kinds of things to feel less lonely and frightened. Electricity is one of them. Something as simple as artificial light creates a great sense of company and security. TV, computers, cell phones, even more. At night and without light, my house seemed bigger and scary. I'm generally a lone wolf but in the last few evenings all I wanted was to be in the main room with everybody else!

2 - When all these created things fail, we have other humans to make us feel less lonely and frightened. That's why in the last evenings my family wasn't all scattered around the house and was, instead, gathered in the kitchen around the Petromax light. Even after dinner, I brought my Math books to study at the kitchen table. No one would consider the possibility to take a candle to a room, and be there, alone, without a laptop/tv/cellphone for company!

3 - Humans also invented all kind of things to be easily entertained. Without these things, humans have to creatively entertain themselves. In these 3 days my sister read, drew and went through old picture albums. I studied a lot of Math and prepared the tutoring lessons. I also read much more than I usually do and played Dicciopinta with my sister. It's supposed to be a 3 or more players game, but we managed to have a lot of fun just the two of us!

4 - Without electricity we are much more aware of the day lighting. It becomes precious. And because I generally go to bed late, and wake up late, days felt too short. If I had to continue living without electricity, I would have to change my sleeping habits!

Summing it all up... I was forced to experience "total-unplug", and I found out that we rely a lot on 'artificial' strategies to feel less lonely and frightened and to be entertained. Not that I wish to continue living without electricity - but it was important for me to realize that true and meaningful company comes from the presence of other human beings and that entertainment has perhaps become too easily accessible - which tends to atrophy creativity.

Now I'll be sure to unplug regularly - even if for just a few hours. And you, have you been forced to unplug lately? Do you willingly do it regularly?

See you soon :)

Jan 17, 2013

Project 333 - I'm in!

I've decided to try Project 333 (created by Courtney Carver) for the following 2 and a half months, after being inspired by the examples given by other lovely bloggers.

I started by making a quick inventory of all the clothes that I'm using this season (including the ones that I rarely use). Then I marked the items that I like the most and that I use frequently. I was very surprised to see that the number of these frequently used items is way below 33. Great! So (hopefully) this won't be difficult.

I then composed a list of 33 items, carefully selected and including the ones I had previously marked. Afterwards I put all the other clothes out of sight. Phew! My wardrobe immediately looked simpler and, more important, easier to deal with.

And now I'm sharing my 33 items:

Some notes about my choices:

- As you can see, I'm really spared when it comes to dressing up my legs: 3 jeans, only. In winter I just can't make myself wear skirts and/or leggings - I'm too cold!
- As may also be evident, I like scarves. They manage to keep me warm and, simultaneously, to brighten up my outfit.
- I also like bags! But 3 bags seems fair enough. The first black one is smaller and is only for special occasions. The other two I'll rotate as I please.
- I only included one pair of simple earrings - because, honestly, and even thought I like the idea of beautiful jewelry, I rarely use it.
- With this exercise I realized that my winter wardrobe is perhaps darker than I would like to be. Which means that in future purchases (which won't happen soon) I'll be looking for additions with happier colors!

And finally, some possible combinations:

Have you tried Project 333? How has it worked for you?

As for me... Project 333, here I go! ;)

Jan 14, 2013

A very simple paperwork filing system

Today I want to share my very simple paperwork filing system.

I must begin by confessing that until a few years ago I was quite messy with my paperwork. Then I learned Mark Forster's filing system.

Here's how it works:

1: First of all you'll need:

- One (or more, if needed) ring binder;
- Many plastic sleeves (optional);
- One hole puncher.

2: Whenever you have something new to file, just punch holes in it, or put it inside one of the plastic sleeves (these plastic sleeves work well for small items, like receipts, or for documents that you don't wish to punch holes in), and then file it on top of all the documents already filed.

3: After you consult a filed document,  return it to the binder by filing it on top of all the other filed documents.

And that's it.

What happens is that the most used documents will always be at the front, easily accessible. And you'll have a good idea of where each file is, based on the time that has passed since you last consulted it.

I used this system for about 4-5 years for my general documents like bank statements, warranties, university letters, etc. I never lost anything, and could always find the important documents. Since this system is so simple, I always used it.

Eventually I had 3 binders with accumulated documents, which made the task of finding important documents a bit more difficult. So recently I decided to purge these 3 binders. I got rid of all the no longer needed documents, until everything could easily fit in just one binder. I then created the rule of never having more than one binder of filed paperwork!

I also created 5 categories: "Purchases and sales", "Health and identification", "University", "Finances and car", and "Others". I use the "filing on top rule" within each one of these categories so that I can continue to rapidly file and access the most used documents.

Easy and simple! Ideal for people who, like me, tend to procrastinate when using complex filing systems ;)

Jan 9, 2013

Liebster Award

"The Liebster Award is for bloggers with under 300 followers and the rules of the award is that the nominee must link back to whoever awarded them, write 11 random facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions from the award giver, and then nominate another 11 bloggers and make up 11 questions for them to answer. It's a great way for new and undiscovered bloggers to meet new people, get more followers and find some blogs that they want to follow."

This Sunday, while reading through Just a Little Less, I was happily surprised to see my blog's name on Claire's list of Liebster awards. Thank you Claire!

Ok, let's start with 11 random facts about myself (this shouldn't be difficult)...

1 - I'm a very tall woman (at least considering the Portuguese standard). I'm 1.78m high.
2 - Sometimes I get urges to delete my blog, due to insecurity (but luckily these urges don't last long).
3 - I like Globo Brazilian soap operas ('telenovelas'). I don't indulge in them, but once in a while I find myself gazing at the TV screen, absorbed in the characters drama.
4 - I love to sing. From 10 to 12 I was even part of a choir, but I dreaded the stage. Nowadays you can find me singing in the house when I'm feeling happy/peaceful. My mother likes it, my sister not so much!
5 - I (very frequently) cry at movies. I try my best to be discrete though.
6 - I'm very interested in the thematic/possibility of reincarnation.
7 - My current favorite TV Series include 'True Blood' and 'The Walking Dead'. Yeah, I'm that original :P But they're great! At least for anyone who enjoys fantasy/apocalyptic genres.
8 - I lived all my life without cable TV (my parents finally adhered to it a few months ago, but I ignore it - I mostly watch everything on my laptop).
9 - I was 'raised' in a Baptist church. In my early twenties I even taught children there, but then I left.
10 - I pray (almost) every night, even though I'm in a somewhat confused spiritual place right now.
11 - I want to write a book, one day.

Now let me answer Claire's 11 questions (this should be more difficult)...

1. If you could live in another decade which would it be?
Perhaps the 20s. I like the aesthetics.

2. Who is your style icon?
Honestly, I don't think I have one. But I admire, for example, Sandra Juto's style.

3. What's your favourite city?
This one is simple. Aveiro! No better city than home. Some publicity: you can easily walk or cycle; it's near the ocean; it's trimmed by the numerous Ria canals; it has many Art Nouveau buildings; it has the most beautiful University campus of Portugal; etc. ;)

4. Kindle or real book?
I know I should say 'real book', without hesitation. But my answer is Kindle! My sister says I treat my Kindle as if it were my baby. "Be careful with my Kindle!" - I shout.

5. What are you scared of?
My greatest fear is that human existence is a fruit of chance, and that, ultimately, there's no meaning, and our souls die when our bodies die. 

6. What's your favourite item of clothing?
Presently, my favorite item of clothing is a violet scarf. I'm sad because it is wearing out, due to so much use.

7. What's your musical guilty pleasure?
Kizomba. One or two specific songs!

8. Lennon or McCartney?

9. If you could be an animal which one would it be?

10. What's your favourite mode of transport?

11. Do you text with one hand or two?

Now it's my turn to pass the award to 11 blogs. Here they are:

These are blogs with varied themes (simplicity, minimalism, tiny housing, art, mental health - and life, in general). I read them all eagerly! For more great blogs, please check my sidebar.

By the way, I'm not sure if all these blogs are under 300 followers... Please forgive me if I made any mistake.

And now... My 11 questions (quite randomly organized):

1- Are you a morning person or an evening person?
2- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
3- What is your greatest fear?
4- If you could go back in time and change just one thing, what would it be?
5- What was the last book you read?
6- What was the last movie you watched?
7- What is your most important project in the near future? 
8- What are you thankful for today?
9- What is your ideal work situation: self-employed or working for someone else?
10- Do you cry easily?
11- What is your first memory from childhood?

Thanks in advance to all the nominated bloggers. And thanks again, Claire!

Jan 3, 2013

Porto getaway

I and B. traveled to Porto to spend the New Year's Eve. Well, actually the New Year's Eve was just an excuse for a quick getaway. It had been a while since we spent a couple of days away together.

While driving north it rained heavily and I was afraid our getaway would turn out a 'get-inside'. But eventually the weather improved and we ended up enjoying a splendid time together :)

Bellow I share some pictures I took. Come walk with us!




See you soon! :)