Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sponky's not here right now.

Goodness, workshops are boring. Week 4 of workshop hell and sometimes you just drift off. I need a preprinted card to hang around my neck, so I can tick all that apply.

Sponky's body is here right now, but her mind is not: She is:
  • Wrestling aliens over a pit of alligators, Shatner-style
  • Shopping in SE Asia for interesting fabrics for use in Bebe-Sponky designs
  • Feeding Husband-person flaky chocolate crossiants
  • Helping the Doctor get over the loss of Rose
  • Buying a beach house in Nambucca Heads
  • Upgrading to a red mini with a white roof and black leather interior
  • Being Joss Whedon's costume director
  • Drinking a cup of takeaway coffee and waiting for the Tate to open
  • Building up a fabric stockpile of mass distruction
  • Making a really good sandwich
  • Sleeping
  • Working out a way to legitimately write herself into the cast of Firefly

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sponky's end of year plan to becoming a better person

To get the jump on the new year, this is my current list of ambitions for self improvement:
  1. Stop biting nails. I am 30, goddammit, I should be able to do this by now. 'Stop and Grow' and nail file purchased, haven't bitten nails for a week.
  2. Lose some weight. Ok, so pretending it's going to go away next week is obviously not working. So, have joined Curves as it's only 30 minutes at a time, and heck, even I can do that.
  3. Break cycle of internet addition and get back many productive hours in my week. Step 1. Start leaving laptop at work. Step 2 . Not sure yet, will let you know.
  4. Do stuff now, don't leave it for 'Future-Sponky'. Mostly working well, current ambitions are putting washing away on the day it comes in from the line, putting dishes in dishwasher NOT on shelf, and doing non-dishwasher dishes directly after the meal they were involved in. Laundry is going well, dish-related activities are a bit patchy.

Evil Genius in Training

To those in the know in Sponky-world, you will realize that I have recently had a reasonably significant promotion. One, that in all honestly, I expected, and I can tell you, I definitely deserved. But, I had never really intended to work for my current company for long enough to get to this career level, and this promotion has actually caused me to think quite a bit about what I am doing with my time and why I am still working where I am.

I work on project-based IT jobs through a consulting firm. And the things that I did and enjoyed on a day to day basis when I started 8 or 9 years ago are very different to what I do know. I started out being a programmer, and loved nothing more than a day with a development tool, some CD's to listen to and no human contact. Over the years, I have had to get over my desire to not talk to people (why would I need to talk to people, I obviously know EVERYTHING) – really, a big part of my job is actually communication and management of perceptions. Now, my job is more ensuring the work gets done (by people on my team) rather than doing the work myself. And while I did enjoy programming, and fiddling with computers, I am starting to think I enjoy my roles at this level more - lots of talking to people, issue resolution, chasing people up and generally ensuring things get done to the quality they need to.

Who would have thought that persistent, antagonistic and organized are things you can build a career on? Apparently in this industry you can. Having said that, being permanently argumentative and 'continuously proactive' can be pretty wearing at times, and there are definitely days I don't like my job. You aren't really a consultant until you have made someone cry, and I can definitely call myself a consultant (should I be worried that you can actually get use to people crying on you?). And as you move up in experience, the type of role can vary widely between projects, and I have recently found myself going from a role where I was my own boss, to where I am one of many people at my level, reporting to a more senior person. The luxuries of setting your own standards can be difficult to give up, and as I get older, I am finding it more and more difficult to suppress my own ego and opinion in face of yet another project manager.

But in my own self-check, I am finding there is one major thing about my job at this level that I really enjoy, and enjoy much more than I would have anticipated. I do a lot of mentoring, both formal and informal - in a young workforce, it is possible to be an expert at age 30, and I like that my experiences (read: stuff-ups) can help these fantastic people who I work. I wish that more people would do this – I had a few people mentor me over the years who were great, but a lot who sucked. And most of the time, all you need is a bit of perspective and belief in yourself – everyone DOES feel this way, and you may feel way out of control, but you are a smart person and when it gets down to it, you will work it out (this is actually one of my mantras: You are smart, you will work it out – STOP STRESSING)

Unfortunately for me, the only way to remain relevant to the people I mentor, to ensure they are getting value out of me - is to keep doing the crap I don't particularly enjoy - so when they have to something similar, I can tell them what I have learnt, and they can do it better.

The other thing I am getting out of doing these sometimes crappy, stressful and generally overwhelming jobs, is I am starting to work out what I am REALLY capable of - not just what I feel like doing, but what I can do if I need to. I don't enjoy it at the time, but I think it might be useful knowledge to understand what I really can do. For when I want to take over the world.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Is it just me, or is my blog broken?

Hi, is it my monitor, or is everyone seeing my side bar waaaay down the page?


How I get things done

I received a comment the other day from Kat about my prodigious crafty output. Not tooting my own horn, but I definitely feel that I have improved the consistency of volume of output I have been producing at late (the month off work helped as well). Alot of this is due to actually being at home near my sewing machine, rather than off and about for work. Having said that, I have had actually needed to be disciplined in my approach to my sewing as I seem to be addicted to the internet. I also get a bit stuck after I start a project - I get a big whack of inspiration that gets me through the initial purchase of material and the cutting out, but then all the fun goes out of it for me and things tend to languish in a state of partial completion for weeks.

So, I have developed a new philosophy of crafty output - the 30 minute window. Rather than getting depressed about the need to spend 3 hours finishing off a quilt binding or doing some shirts, I only commit myself to 30 minutes of work at any given time (having a small attention span is the other reason for the 30 minute window). After the 30 minutes, I plan to have another activity - checking my bloglines, making tea or doing some chores. This approach works for me for a number of reasons:

1. You can fit 2 or 3 30 minute sessions in a day, even a week day. I can get 30 minutes in before work, and then another couple after dinner. So you can make progress even when you don't have a big block of time to spare (which seems to be most work days to me). The only big aspect of discipline here is you have to make the effort to DO the 30 minute session. Cheating here is useful - pining or tacking in front of the TV still counts ;)

2. You can actually get ALOT done in 30 minutes if you force yourself to time box it as a deadline... it's a little challenge to yourself to get stuff done.

3. Following on from point 2, the crappy bit of any given project I often get stuck on and procrastinate about can generally be sorted out in 1 or 2 30 minute sessions - and then the bit you imagined was painful is all over and done with

4. Even when I am tired and cranky, I can usually force myself to spend 30 minutes doing something if I have something specific planned with a specific end point - and most of the time, I do feel less cranky (if no less tired) for doing something I actually enjoy during the week rather than just working :)

5. 30 minutes at a time on one job or in one position means my back stays happy!

And on the weekends, the 30 minute window means I still get laundry etc done.

I have been advocating this approach to Kathryn, who is suffering from lack of creative expression due to a big bit of creation on her part, 10 week old Hailey (please correct me if I have her age wrong, Kat) It may be a bit early to commit to that big project, but hopefully life will settle down long enough to try out the 30 minute (or 15 minute, or 10 minute) model!

P.S. This post is a perfect example of time boxed creativity. Thanks to dragging my laptop to and from for work each day, I had it on the train home and could write this post in the 20 minutes or so to get home. And, this filled up the trip nicely!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Conversations they don't prepare you for at Core Consultant School

I was at a workshop today, and in a break, one of the guys comes out with ‘yeah, so when we do this workshop in Nambia (BTW, Sponky is going to Nambia and London for a week each in January. Bribes for post of luggage carrier will be accepted, but you will not be allocated a seat in business like me (finally, my dream of flying business overseas will come true , shallow as it is)) I am going out on safari, and I am going to kill an antelope, an eland, and a….’. I missed the third thing, I was too busy being incredulous that a grown man (ok, so he was from the US, this might go a ways to explaining it) would want to go kill things for fun. When asked what he planned to do with the dead animals, explained about freight and taxidermy and mounting them on his wall. Urk. Not cool, people, not cool at all.

Monday, November 06, 2006

How the voices in your head make you a better person

While in no way advocating the work of quasi-punk teen rockers Blink 182, I have always liked this lyric from their song "I Miss you":

Don't waste your time on me; You're already the voice inside my head.

I very much like this sentiment - when people become important to you, they become the voices you hear when your conscience is kicking in. Some examples:

  • If I am planning on going out the house with some kind of daggy outfit and unbrushed hair, the voice I hear is my mother's going 'You can't leave the house like THAT!'. At which point I will brush my hair. But not change the outfit :) Nice to see I am still rebelling against my mother even when it's actually me.
  • When being lazy about some kind of sewing project, and debating whether I should unpick and reattempt some annoying little detail that no-one else will know about but me - it's my Grandma Esme who provides the motivation to unpick the bloody thing and do it again. The funny thing is here, I will almost ALWAYS be happier when I do redo it.
  • Until recently, it was my mother's voice again that appeared when I was about to do something stupid (e.g lick a sharp knife, resulting in my tongue being sliced off). But I realised only recently that this has actually changed to Husband-person rather than my mother... And his voice is more an unbelieving 'you have got to be kidding, are you really going to do that???' rather than a rather strident 'Don't do that!' that I would hear in my mother's version

Having given this some thought, it's also interesting to note what aspects of my conscience don't have any dubbing - for example, when it comes to work matters, I have my own standards and I know when I haven't met them (althought lately, I have decided that sometimes, you can let these slip and other people never know the difference) so I am happy to critise myself in this matter.

Who do you hear when you know you could (and should) do better?

A softer world

I commend to you - weekly cartoons that are an inituitive's brain candy... short little glimpses into other people's world's of oddness, pain and suffering, and it's up to you to make up the back story.

Last week's - tragedy, suffering, coping and family acceptance in 33 words.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sponky says NO to climate change

Walk Against Warming
Originally uploaded by Sponky's Modern Life.
Just like BettySue, Kris and Janet, Sponky and Husband-person + Dr Jigsaw and the BIG J trotted off to the Walk Against Warming to express general displeasure at hot days, drought, rising sea levels, and all kinds of warming related badness. What was to be a pleasant city stroll there and back was slightly hampered by the 35mm of rain - Dr Jigsaw and the BIG J had encased their bodies (quite sensibly) in full body rain gear but we were in rain jackets and shorts, and let me tell you, we got WET! I don't think I have ever been that wet with my clothes on.

But a good time was had by all, unfortunately rained too hard to hear the speeches, but we chatted to people and had a good afternoon.

Due to the rain, Brisbane only had about 1500 people turn out. But the upshot of this was - due to the lack of ready volunteers, I got to help carry one of the banners that was all soggy with rain AND I got on the news. Channel 7 and Channel 2 for about 2 and a half seconds EACH. YEAH! I am now random wet chick at the climate march. Oh, and Husband-person and Big J were also visible for about 1/2 second on Channel 2!