Magpie Mind

I am a magpie when it comes to projects.

Today, I would have to admit that I am in the middle of:

  • Reorganizing my kitchen, so that the pantry is more easily accessible (hoping to minimize food waste)
  • Considering making a Halloween Costume for myself, so that I can be a mommy octopus to my baby octopus (which I also made, but it is finished!)
  • I’m in the middle of the Mondo Beyondo e-course
  • Planning to turn our front closet into a mini-mudroom with benches and hooks so that we have a better place to put our stuff
  • Grad School (I always discount this as a project)
  • A tradition book, so that we don’t have to reinvent the holidays every year

And actually, I am probably in the middle of more, but I would have to REMEMBER them at the moment.

This is something that actually always bothered me about myself. I thought myself a failure because I couldn’t concentrate on something for an extended period of time. Did I have no commitment? No follow through?

Here are some things that have helped me:

  • Work for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes (from UfyH). These are referred to in short hand as 20-10s. It makes it easier for me to resist checking tumblr or twitter during the work period, if I know I have a time scheduled for it later.
  • Having a list of the most important projects, so I can pick and choose what is most important at any given moment, and maybe even get ahead with some of them.
  • Having permission to dream and collect ideas. Pinterest is perfect for this for me — I’m gathering inspiration for the mini mudroom as well as all the holidays for the tradition book as well as for potty training, which I know will have to begin soonish.
  • Having all the supplies for the project all in one place, so I could pick it up, work on it, then put it down and away for a few days in a nice, safe spot. This worked for Rocketship’s Halloween costume, and it’s working for the tradition book too.

Something that I used to think of as a weakness — having lots of things going on at once, seemingly without focus — is turning out to be a strength for me. I’m really enjoying doing things, and having an interesting variety.

What do you guys do to make sure that you get what you want done?

 

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That One Piece of Paper: Step 6

 

Step five is all about where I would want to live and work. That particular question is one that needs to be answered as a family, and in order to give us more time to do the exercise, I decided to skip ahead to something that was easy to finish.

Step six is all about your place in the world. It’s about why you’re here. It’s everything existential boiled down into a simple ranking exercise. The question posed says, “What goals or purposes would you most enjoy setting your energies to?”

The book makes an interesting point that we all have our own talents, gifts, and skills. However, it’s a different question as to what we want to accomplish with those skills. Do you use your powers for good? Or evil? (Of course, that’s a matter of perspective.) The book says, “[Your Skills] can be made to serve any goal or value you choose.”

What values do you have in your life? What do you want “the broad outcome of your life” to be? “What kind of footprint do you want to leave on this Earth, after your journey is done?”

The author lists nine, which I think is a pretty complete list:

  • Mind. When you are gone, do you want there to be more knowledge, truth, or clarity in the world, because you were here? If so, knowledge, truth, or clarity concerning what, in particular?
  • Body. Do you want there to be more fitness? Less physical suffering (i.e. more feeding of the hungry, more clothing of the poor, etc.)? What particular issue concerning the human body do you want to work on?
  • Eyes and other senses. Do you want there to be more beauty in the world? What kind of beauty?
  • Heart. Do you want there to be more love and compassion in the world?
  • The Will or Conscience. When you are gone, do you want there to be more morality, more justice, more righteousness, more honesty in the world, because you were here?
  • The Human Spirit. Do you want there to be more spirituality in the world, more love for the human family in all its diversity?
  • Entertainment. Do you want to be part of lightening people’s loads, giving perspective, more laughter, and joy? What kind of entertainment?
  • Possessions. Is the often false love of possessions your  major concern?
  • The Earth. Is the planet on which we stand your major concern? When you are gone, do you want there to be more protection of this fragile planet?

The process to sort them is the same that was used in the working conditions exercise — again, since the chart CLEARLY says copyrighted on it, I’m not going to show the chart or explain the process. But this is how my list turned out:

  1. Will/Conscience. I want there to be more justice. More righting of wrongs — there is no reason why someone should be hungry when there is enough.
  2. Heart. I want there to be more love, compassion, and acceptance. I think this really goes hand-in-hand with justice above.
  3. The Earth. I am convinced that climate change has already occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur. I think that we are definitely past peak oil. We need to learn to adapt, and pull back. This is important.
  4. Mind. I want there to be more truth, knowledge, and clarity. This goes with my analytical side.
  5. Spirit. I want there to be more love for the human family. I care less about people worshiping God, and more about people doing the first two things on the list.
  6. Entertainment. I want there to be laughter and joy.
  7. Eyes/Senses. Beauty is important, sure.
  8. Possessions. I want people to be simpler (it’s one of my style statement words), and content with enough, but I dont’ think it’s a major concern.
  9. Body. While I care for suffering to end, I think the real task is justice. And while I think caring for our bodies is important, it’s not the broad goal of my life.

The instructions say to put your top three, in your own words, in a way that makes sense to you on your flower. Here’s mine.

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step 4

Step 4 is called, “What Level (Of Responsibility) do you Most enjoy working at, and at what salary?”

The instructions say:

Salary is something you must think out ahead of time, when you’re contemplating your ideal job or career. Level goes hand in hand with salary, of course.

1. The first question here is at what level you would like to work, in your ideal job? Level is a matter of how much responsibility you want, in an organization:

  • Boss or CEO (This may mean you’ll have to form your own business)
  • Manager or someone under the boss who carries out orders
  • The head of a team
  • A member of a team of equal
  • One who works in tandem with one other partner
  • One who works alone, either as an employee or as a consultant to an organization, or as a one-person business

Enter a two- or three-word summary of your answer, on the Level of Responsibility and Salary petal of your Flower Diagram.

This is easy. Having already noted that working by myself or with one other (occasionally) was miserable enough to end up on my working conditions list, the bottom two options are out. My summary on my flower will be: Manager, team leader, and/or a member of a team of equals.

However, salary is harder.

2. The second question here is what salary would you like to be aiming for?

Here you have to think in terms of minimum or maximum. Minimum is what you would need to make, if you were just barely “getting by.” And you need to know this before you go in for a job interview with anyone (or before you form your own business, and need to know how much profit you must make, just to survive).

Maximum could be any astronomical figure you can think of, but it is more useful here to put down the salary you realistically think you could make, with your present competency and experience, were you working for a real, but generous boss. (If this maximum figure is still depressingly low, then put down the salary you would like to be making five years from now.)

Make out a detailed outline of your estimated expenses now, listing what you need monthly […].

I could type you the list from the book, but that seems a little boring to me, and in my opinion, it wasn’t very complete. I like the list I found here after a little Google digging: Free Sample Monthly Budget Template. I wouldn’t download anything from that site, but I like the list.

I pulled out our YNAB4 budget, I asked Tim to pull out his pay stub, and I opened up our electronic bill pay and accounts to figure out how much we’ve been spending in each category, and filled out my spread sheet.

(Apologies with not sharing the numbers, but I am sensitive to potential comparisons.)

 

Next steps:

Multiply the total amount you need each month by 12, to get the yearly figure. Divide the yearly figure by 2000, and you will be reasonably near the minimum hourly wage that you need. […]

Parenthetically, you may want to prepare two different versions of the above budget: one with the expense you’d ideally like to make, and the other a minimum budget, which will give you what you are looking for, here: the floor, below which you simply cannot go.

My income from this career will be the second income in my family. We live comfortably on my partner’s income, and don’t have any interest in having more stuff, or “increasing” our standard of living (though, my knowledge of economics says that is inevitable). Having a small child, we’re going to incur the expense of child care when I work, which is my major concern with salary. And, it would be nice to lower our debt load, and save for emergencies, vacations, and retirement.

I need to work for personal security reasons — Working now will make sure that I have a good retirement income, either from savings or social security. Working is important, in case of the contingency that my husband dies, because entering the job market is difficult, especially after a long break. Also, knowing these numbers is critically important to valuing my own work. I deserve a salary for skilled, educated and qualified workers.

I decided, using math, and considering above, that my contribution salary would need to be approximately $40,000 per year at the low end. Using a little bit of research (on salary.com and cbsalary.com), I found that the upper quartile of people with “Program Assistant” jobs (which is a title I could have) is probably about $75,000.

[Aside: This is so privileged! I’m talking about making four to seven times the poverty level for one person ON TOP of the salary of my partner. Not only is it a privilege to know how much money you’re going to make in a year (i.e. not have to fight for hours), this is before/including benefits like paid vacation and insurance. We so need to put policies in place for the women who cannot make this choice between staying home and working, because working is an economic necessity.]

Finally, the book talks about an optional exercise in which you think about other rewards, besides money, that you hope for — nontangibles that can’t be converted to cash. These include: Adventure, popularity, intellectual stimulations from the other workers there, a chance to be creative, etc.

Adventure is one of my family values, so I’m going to add that to my flower. Intellectual stimulation from the other workers sounds like a nice benefit. And a chance to help others is important to me.
Now my flower looks like this:image

That One Piece of Paper: Step 3

 

Look, my one piece of paper is filling out! Step 3 is entitled, “What working conditions do you like best, because they enable you to do your best work?”

Just an observation before we get into the nitty-gritty. Most of my concerns about the working environment have to do with relationships — both between managers and employees, and also between coworkers. I think this has a lot to do with my work history. But a few physical considerations did appear, like needing to eat whenever I need to, and also ergonomics generally.

The book suggests a chart with four columns. In the first column, you list all the jobs you’ve ever had. In the second column, you list all the distasteful working conditions in those jobs. Here is my list:

 

I decided to eliminate the things I couldn’t control (like rude customers), and tried to come up with broad themes for others (like the idea of a distrusting and disrespectful boss instead of each smaller idea), and listed ten broad distasteful working conditions to prioritize. What Color is Your Parachute has a great way to help you prioritize those ten items, but it very clearly says “copyrighted” on it, so I’m going to skip showing you that step.

After prioritizing, I now have this list:

The last step to identifying the working conditions that allow you to do your best work is to come up with opposites for the distasteful list. Mine looked like this:

Which I further simplified on my “That One Piece of Paper” flower:

I’m actually really excited about this list, because it is going to help me with part of interviewing that I always struggled with. I never know what questions to ask about the company/organization, but now I have some idea. I’m going to ask, “Tell me about the opportunities that your employees have to enrich themselves,” and “What kind of time do your supervisors invest in management and leadership?” Or, “How accessible is your supervisor in this organization?” It also gives me some idea of what to ask during informational interviews at companies or organizations I’m interested in working at. “Please be as honest as you can, I won’t repeat this. Can you trust your coworkers?”

Yay! I am becoming an expert in my own best work, which was one of my goals for the summer.

(Reward time! Uh. Maybe a work blouse? I need to get shopping! Even better, I have PERMISSION to shop for things. :D)

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step 2

 

Step 2 for creating That One Piece of Paper is called “What are your preferred People-Environments that you are most like to work with, or serve and help?” The basic idea is to figure out what kind of people you want to be surrounded by.

What Color is Your Parachute? suggests a scientific categorization and quiz developed by Dr. John L. Holland to describe six different people-environments. These environments are:

Realistic: People who have an athletic or mechanical ability, prefer to work with machines, objects, tools, plants or animals and prefer to be outdoors.
Investigative: People who like to observe, learn, investigate, analyze, evaluate, or solve problems.
Artistic: People who have artistic, innovative, or intuitional abilities and like to work in unstructured settings, using their imagination and creativity.
Social: People who like to work with people — to inform, enlighten, help, train, develop or cure them, or are skilled with words.
Enterprising: People who like to work with people — influencing, persuading, or performing or leading or managing for organizational goals or economic gain.
Conventional: People who like to work with data, have clerical or numerical ability, carrying things out in detail, or following through on others’ instructions.

The author of What Color is Your Parachute put together an exercise that helps people decide what group of people they would like to be with. The book reads:

Below is an aerial view of a room in which a party is taking place. At this party, people with the same or similar interest have (for some reason) all gathered in the same corner of the room.

I redrew it here:

1) Which corner of the room would you instinctively be drawn to, as the group of people you would most enjoy being with for the longest time? (Leave aside any question of shyness, or whether you would have to talk to them.) Write down the letter for that corner.
2) After fifteen minutes, everyone in the corner you have chosen leaves for another party crosstown, except you. Of the groups that still remain now, which corner or group would you be drawn to the most, as the people you would most enjoy being with for the longest time? Write down the letter for that corner.
3) After fifteen minutes, this group too leaves for another party, except you. Of the corners and groups which remain now, which one would you most enjoy being with for the longest time? Write down the letter for that corner.
The three letters you just chose, in the three steps, are called your “Holland Code.”

I have a tendency to cheat on activities like these, and put how I would LIKE to be instead of how I actually am. So, I skipped to using what the internet has to offer based on the suggestions in the book. I took two tests. One was at http://www.self-directed-search.com/, which cost $4.95 and one was at http://careerkey.org/asp/your_personality/take_test.asp, which cost $9.95.

My results for Self-Directed Search looked like this:
R = 10, I = 25, A = 21, S = 37, E = 26, C = 26

My results for the Career Key test looked like this:
Artistic = 9
Conventional = 6
Enterprising = 3
Investigative = 5
Realistic = 5
Social = 16

It was clear, by far and away, that my first letter is “S” for social. But after that, all the scores bunch up. In fact, one of the explanation of scores for SDS said that a difference of less than 8 was negligible. (An aside: Barbara Sher says that her Scanners tend to have high scores in most categories on most aptitude tests. Confirmation bias?)

So I thought about it. And I ended up deciding that at the party, I would definitely like to hang out with the Social crowd. I like helping people. And then, I decided that I would probably like to hang out with the Investigative crowd. I like learning new things and solving problems. And finally, to be honest, I probably would like to hang out with the conventional crowd. I like things that are clear cut and having specific instructions. I put that Artistic is probably a close fourth, considering that one was one I WANTED to put in, perhaps as the second one, and that I do think of myself as a creative.

Now my party looked like this:

Which resulted in writing the following “temporary statement” on my flower: I would like a job or career best if I were surrounded by people who like to work with people and help them (S), like to investigate and analyze things (I), and who work with data and details and instructions (C). (And sometimes people who use imagination and creativity (A).)

Now my flower, my “One Piece of Paper” looks like this:

(I haven’t picked out my reward yet. But I will soon! I’m thinking a shirt for more casual wear.)

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step 1

 

All five sheets of paper laid out on the counter. Step 1 is called “What knowledges that you already have in your head, do you most want to use in your life and work?”

The idea is to figure out what you already know so you can see what kind of jobs align with them. I had a lot of fun figuring out what I already knew.

The suggested categories to think about what you already know are this:

Studied in High School or College or Graduate School
Learned on the Job
Learned from Conferences, Workshops, Trainings, and Seminars
Learned at Home: Reading, TV, tape programs, study courses
Learned in my Leisure Time: Volunteer Work, Hobbies, etc.

I like to collect information, so I didn’t want to tackle these lists just off the top of my head. I knew I had most of this written down, but the question was where. Here’s the list of where I knew I could find things, basically lined up with the above list:

High school, college, and grad school transcripts
My “master” resume that lists all the jobs I’ve ever had
My Evernote account, where I keep notes on all the things that interest me
My list of e-courses I’ve taken
My Goodreads account, which lists all the books I’ve read in the last five years
My home, which has all my hobbies and projects strewn around

What Color Is Your Parachute? says, “this chart is asking you what subjects you know anything about, not whether you like the subject or not. […] Put down something you’ve only read a few articles about (if it interests you) side by side with a subject you studied for three semesters in school.”

So I did.

And I came up with a chart that is too long to share with you easily. I tried taking a picture, but I used a separate price if printer paper for each category. I ended up making a page for this, which you can find at this link and on a tab at the top of the page.

Take a look, it’s long and ungainly. But no matter, there’s still work to be done.

The next step is to make a matrix, which will help to identify what I’m enthusiastic about, and what I have expertise in. This is what that chart looks like, for me: It isn’t supposed to be used like an axis, but I kind of did it that way. Of course, administrative tasks aren’t really my most enthusiastic and expert knowledge, but I am pretty serious about canvassing being something I am an expert at but one of my least favorite knowledges.

As you can see, I have a lot of things that I am enthusiastic about, but do not consider myself an expert in.  I am actually probably something of a “scanner,” which is what Barbara Sher calls people who like to learn lots of things, and feel stiffled when they’re asked to choose. Which made the next part difficult.

The next part was to choose my three favorite knowledges, and begin thinking about where they might intersect. You’ll see from the picture that I didn’t choose three. I chose three categories of favorite knowledges.

I think that some of my favorite knowledges are: peer coaching/tutoring, adult learning, research, and communication. I also think that social policy, family and marriage, pregnancy and parenting, and self-compassion are also things that I really enjoy knowing about and using. And finally, in the third circle, I put that I know a lot about seeing the big picture and pulling out meaning, and that is something I want to do in my grown up job.

I think these are all subjects that are related. I think that I could perhaps boil the first circle down to communication, the second circle down to policies that effect people’s personal lives and the third one is pretty boiled down.

And actually, this relates well to the things I discovered in step zero. These all seem to be about the creation of meaning, forging connections with others, making the world a better place, and the creation and collection of knowledge. Pretty cool.

This is what my “One Piece of Paper” Looks like right now:

What are some things that you know about? What are the favorite things that you know about?

(As a reward, I bought myself another dress. It’s this one, also from Target. I should get it tomorrow in the mail!)

 

That One Piece of Paper: Step Zero

I’ll have to admit that before I wrote up the SMARTER goals for this, I had already done most of Step 0 and some of Step 1. I find that I often start projects with the best of intentions, but without putting a SMARTER list together and holding myself accountable, I rarely follow through. But blogging about this is definitely helping me to make sure I will finish all these steps.

I think that putting these exercises onto my blog from What Color is Your Parachute? is permissible because of the concept of “Each One, Teach One” that the book ends on — it says that because not everyone has these skills, it’s important that we who know about them pass them on. If I get a cease and desist letter, I’ll take down the exercises but I think my answers are mine to share.

The first activity is “Who Are You?”

1. Take ten sheets of blank paper. Write, at the top of each one, just these three words: Who Am I?
2. Then write, on each sheet in turn, just one answer to that question. And only one.
3. When you’re done, go back over all ten sheets and expand now upon what you have written on each sheet. Looking at each answer, write it below, why you said that, and what turns you on about that answer.
4. When finished with all ten sheets, go back over them and arrange them in order of priority. That is, which identity is the most important to you? That page goes on top. Then, which is next? That goes immediately underneath the top one. Continue arranging the rest of the sheets in order, until what you think is your least important identity is at the bottom of the pile.
5. Finally, go back over the ten sheets, in order, and look particularly at your answer on each sheet to What turns me on about this? See if there are any common denominators, or themes, among the ten answer you gave. If so, jot them down on a separate piece of paper. Viola! You have begun to put your finger on some things that your dream job or career, vocation, mission, or whatever, needs to give you if you are to feel truly excited, fulfilled, useful, effective, and operating at the height of your powers.

I modified slightly. I used old, out-of-date business cards that I had laying around my internship. This kept the project much more tactile for me, and helped me think I wasn’t wasting paper. But that was about the extent of the modifying.

Who am I? Here’s my top ten list & what turns me on about them:

1. A woman. I am a person! My body is amazing. The cycles, the way I can be active, the ability to gestate and breastfeed and give birth. My nurturing side, my vulnerable side; my dark, my light; my “feminine genius.”

2. An intimate partner. The safety, the companionship. Working as a team. Backing each other up. Friendship. Enjoying the same things. Having someone accept me for who I am.

3. A mother. A chance to teach her. To learn how to be positive and encouraging. To re-do things for the first time. Seeing beauty and wonder in her eyes. Knowing I am important to her.

4. A writer. A chance to create meaning. To create connection. To know about humanity more deeply. It is part of my connection talent.

5. A fangirl/critic (I couldn’t come up with a good one word for this.) I find joy in the creation of others, and also think about what meaning that creation puts forward. The dialogue of culture, the way it is an area of both protest and oppression.

6. A student. Formal studenthood has a goal, a deadline, an arbiter of right and wrong. But more broadly, this is an acknowledgement that there is much to learn from other human beings, my daughter, my partner. I like to reflect and assess and improve. I like to fail and try again.

7. A researcher. There is knowledge out there that needs to be found, understood and interpreted. Finding out the unknown. The joy of discovery, of putting together the puzzle pieces.

8. A Christian. The social justice. The movement towards a kingdom on earth, thy will as in Heaven.

9. An activist seeking justice. Because making the world a better place, through influence and policy and enforcement/administration is the key to meaningful work for me. Because we NEED change.

10. A healer. Tikkam Olam — I am doing the work of repairing the world.

The common denominators seem to be this:

  • the creation of meaning (writer, fangirl/critic, researcher, healer)
  • the want of or forging of connections with others (partner, mother, writing, fangirl/critic, Christian, healer)
  • wanting to be present and mindful and joyful where I am (woman, partner, mother)
  • wanting to make the world a better place (writer, fangirl/critic, researcher, christian, activist, healer)
  • being willing to fail and try again (mother, writer, student activist, healer)
  • creation and collection of knowledge (writer, student, researcher)
  • want of structure (student, Christian)

This is the page that’s going in my “permanent” file that will become my One Piece of Paper:

This doesn’t help me figure out how to network or search for the right job for me. It only has broad principles. Time to keep going!

What does your top ten list look like?

( PS: I’m rewarding myself with a new dress for my internship. It’s going to be this wrap dress in purple!)