Monthly Archives

November 2016

Books

Deep Work by Cal Newport

29th November 2016

Photo of the book Deep Work by Cal Newport

 

People often refer to ‘game-changers’ and this book, has definitely been that for me. I heard about this title on the James Altucher podcast and after listening to the pod I watched Cal Newport’s TED talk ‘How to quit social media’.

Having long suspected that the constant attention switching in my day to day was messing with the way my brain actually functioned it was refreshing, albeit frightening to learn that Clifford Nass, Stanford professor had concluded that those of us that ‘multi-task’ in this way, online and using social media are “chronically distracted” and unable to “filter out irrelevancy”. My own ability to resist distracting stimuli with platforms like instagram and Facebook was dire, my need to check them reflexive as opposed to intentional. I obviously post on my instagram a fair amount sharing work, moments and books. I’ve been swept up along with the digital generation that stakes out our little section of the internet and I suppose aims to show our originality and relevancy via little square photos. I have to tell you, I enjoy it too! The feedback and the connection to other people with children, dogs and family and the ability to connect with other people who love to make with yarn or read is FUN, but it was also draining me. I was more than aware I was spending too much time there and not getting as much as I wanted done.

So, I left Facebook, with no fanfare, no ridiculous virtuous status update. I just left. I’ve been gone a few months now. I’ve had one phone call from a good friend I used to live with hoping that I am ok and then the other two people who have mentioned it to me in a text are both my neighbours who I see pretty much everyday anyway. Was I a little worried about FOMO (fear of missing out)? A little bit, but on balance I knew that there was little going on there and I was reclaiming my time from updates and an interface I genuinely sometimes felt irritated by. I was fed up of clickbait and bored rigid with my feed. All I’ve noticed as a consequence is that I’ve made more phone calls and made more of an effort to meet people. Texting/whatsapp-ing has inevitably increased but that’s understandable and I’m ok with it. At the moment, not being on Facebook is working.

The other thing I’ve done is switch off my notifications for whatsapp – this way I’m not getting constantly disturbed by interruptions throughout the day or getting involved in long and time consuming exchanges. This feels like more time back to me, a drawback is missing out on impulsive ‘are you free to Skype?’ chats with my sister and my friend abroad, but again, I’ve not missed out on anything that I absolutely needed to be aware of immediately.

The crux of “Deep work” is that to be relevant in the new economy we need to be able to focus undistracted on cognitively demanding tasks. This will make us better at what we do, more attractive as an employee, let us achieve more in less time and provide the sense of true fulfilment that comes from the mastery of a skill.

So what else has changed since I read this book?

I generally get up earlier, at 5.45, to be up before the rest of the family and have some uninterrupted time to start my day. I have found this so much easier since the clocks changed and I love sitting in the kitchen with my cup of coffee getting things done quietly.

I’ve been learning a new cognitively demanding skill, computer coding. The last few months have seen me switch up my routine to code directly after walking the dog. Before, I was running as a non negotiable in my day, primarily so I couldn’t wriggle out of it, however running comes under a “more automatic” task, as does crochet which I don’t need to concentrate on as much anymore, so coding and writing fills up the morning as much as possible. I don’t enjoy running in the afternoon, it means I have to be more self disciplined which is more tiring but it’s possible. There are no podcasts playing, no music, the phone is in airplane mode and I just get on with the task at hand. It will be a slow burn but I’ve mastered some basic html, css and bootstrap, I can navigate github and pull code, all things that were unknown to me before. I get a real kick out of it. The only thing I’ve struggled with is how much time I can spend doing this but I will blog on that another time.

Every other week I try to stay off instagram entirely. I don’t want to be consuming images, I don’t want any inputs and I don’t want to organise what to post or spend time replying to comments. I just stay off. That week inevitably makes me realise how much time and how often I go to check. One thing that has helped is putting the app on the 5th screen I tab to on my phone so I am more aware when I’m going to check. I’ll be writing more on how to be more of a master with your phone because I’ve learnt a few things over the last few months, some of which really aren’t pretty!

I thoroughly recommend this book, all my reads are here on my goodreads profile.

Crochet

Ella Rae Seasons Hat

28th November 2016

A photo of a hat

 

This hat had a bit of a moment last week on instagram. I created it from Ella Rae Seasons Autumn mix by Black sheep wools. I think the gradation of autumnal colours got everyone in a bit of a flutter and it’s been the piece of work that’s received the most amount of engagement for some time.

It’s made with the same Hook Nook Pattern that I used to make another hat a few months ago. The pattern is easy to follow and since then I have made a few more and been experimenting with different yarns.

 

A photo of a collection of hats

This is the first time I’ve successfully made hats I would actually wear! They are definitely not an exact science as you will start to find if you ever get to crocheting them. Everyone likes a different fit and look so at the moment I am trying to get to grips with making these hats and others in different sizes and other patterns as I have quite the list of people asking me to make them one.

Last week I found myself sitting down to dinner completely defeated. I have so much I want to make, so much on the list and so very many other things I do and am interested in that I needed to unpick exactly how I would get to everything (on top of EVERYTHING else to do with EVERYONE else in the family) I’m still to definitively write down the very long list of everything that MUST get done over the next few weeks in the run up to Christmas (present buying, party organising, all the additional social stuff, the household stuff, the paperwork stuff, ALL THE STUFF) but I’ve worked out my crochet one. It seems as always like there is a huge amount to squeeze into very limited time and so I’ve been thinking a lot about time and how to organise it lately, what I squander my attention on and what I need to focus on. That’s another blog post entirely.

Photo of a hat being crocheted

In the meantime, I’ll be single tasking, trying to get as much made as possible, stitch by stitch and step by step. I plan to be here alot more too, it’s as much my accountability as my instagram for making but here there will probably be a bit more of a backstory that explains why I don’t make as much as I’d like to!

Crochet

Retro baby blanket

9th November 2016

Picture of my retro baby blanket

I got asked to make this blanket quite a few weeks ago now. Ellie picked out the colours and gave me free rein to pick a block to make with them.

 

Corner of the retro baby blanket

As I knew it was for a girl, flower shapes felt good so I picked out the Pretty in Pink pattern from “100 Bright and Colourful Granny Squares to mix and match” by Leonie Morgan. I absolutely love this book, it has charts for all the squares which I find SO much easier to follow. I soon learnt the stitches for the block and I was soon away, although there are a lot of ends which took f.o.r.e.v.e.r to sew in.

The blanket is made from style craft special dk in shades:

1256 Jaffa

1263 Citron

1422 Aspen

1001 White

I made 25 squares using a 5mm hook, blocked them all and then attached them using a slip stitch before bordering the whole piece in a citron and aspen moss stitch. I’ve never used this very easy but effective stitch as a border before but I really recommend it and will definitely try it out for my next granny square blanket. As always it was just so satisfying to actually complete a project. Sometimes I feel I am making so slowly and with too many things on the go I seem to take forever before I get that feeling I can send something out!

 

 

Crochet Running

November

1st November 2016

The West Pier

November. It feels like it’s come around too quick, September and October were just a big blur of running and school and back to the rhythms that come with the children. Now it’s almost the end of autumn, some days there doesn’t feel as if there is any natural light, the rain keeps pouring and everything feels completely drab and other days, like today, it’s cool and clear and calm.

As it’s almost the end of the year I’m starting to think about how well I’ve managed to get anywhere close to the two things I set out to achieve for myself at the start of 2016. The first was the running: I wanted to run 1000km in 2016 and I’ve just checked in to see that I’m on 959km. So close! I have made big efforts to make the whole running thing a non negotiable, one of the ‘big rocks’ of my life and I’m really pleased I kept going. Apart from the fact I’m able to run longer distances whenever I feel like it and I feel stronger and fitter, everything else falls into place a bit more on the days I do it. I think better, sleep better and focus better. I thought at the beginning of the year that committing to 14 miles a week was do-able, but I knew I couldn’t let myself slip too much to be able to do it. Some weeks I’ve had to write off, last week during half term was one of those. I’ve had one of those total wipeout scenarios where it feels like all the energy has been drained from you when there are no discernible symptoms except a sore throat. There have been a few weeks like that this year, I don’t know what it is, do I just burn out every few months? Or is it all the bugs you inevitably get when you have a family?

The other thing I had hoped to achieve but which is looking unlikely is reading 50 books in the year. I’ve read 25, but with just 8 weeks left of the Goodreads reading challenge I think I’ll be happy to get to 30, which is more than last year. I think 50 books in my spare time along with all the making I do was a bit of a stretch. Next year I will try again!

A picture of sunrise this morning

Today was the first day I felt totally myself in about a week. Despite all the craziness of halloween last night I was up before sunrise and as soon as it was daylight I was able to go out with Rocco on his walk before taking the children to school and going on my run. It was a good friendly walk, with nice people up early as well, it really set me up for the day.

Crochet granny squares

The intention for November then is to reach the 1000km mark and finish a bunch of makes, including a new granny square blanket I started a few weeks ago. I think I’m also going to be hooking up with the mins game again. This is the third time I’ve done this process over the years, in between I have been constantly decluttering but I still feel that there are a lot of books and bits and pieces lying around the house with no purpose that I want to let go of. I might even crochet a few baubles to relive this time last year when I was furiously stitching for a Christmas Fair.