Sunday, September 18, 2016

How to Take Restful Breaks #outofthepagesiread

For #outofthepagesiread this time, I'm reviewing an online article I read from This article was about how to take truly restful breaks from work that would truly energize you instead of making you more tired.

The headline appealed to me at once because I'm reaching a kind of peak point at work. At this time of the year, the marking peaks and I end up having to bring more work home to finish. This on top of the admin stuff as well. 

So what the article advocates is pretty surprising. Most people would think that in such a scenario, faced with looming piles of paper, one just has to buckle up and get everything done in one sitting in order to enjoy later. However, research found that this method would wreck the most psychological damage on you. A quote from the article reads:

"The psychological reality is that your mental and physical reserves are limited and it is only by taking frequent short breaks of a truly restful nature that you will fulfil your true potential."

Thinking back on how I handled large piles of marking, I find that this could be true in several ways. One, stress accumulates from sitting down for long periods marking or doing work, especially with the number of mistakes found. -_-!!! Two, after a long period of work, I find myself too tired to do other activities that would otherwise enrich me. Who has not felt too tired to go to the gym after a long day at work? Or ended up sitting on the couch potato-ing in front of the television? In the end, even after getting the work done (or in worse cases, the work may not even be finished yet!) you find that you have not really accomplished anything you wanted in life. 

The article recommends several ways to get around this:

1. Fully switch off
2. Take frequent short breaks from work
3. Get out of the office

I tried no.2 when I was marking at home and it does help. After marking around 10 or so worksheets, I would get up from my desk to go to the toilet, get a glass of juice, talk to husband. Sometimes, I worked on my diary project. I found that after I finished marking, I was less tired and lethargic. (Could have been the effect of the juice...) 

I have also tried no.3 on some occasions when I brought papers out of school to mark at my favourite cafe. The change of environment works too and I was less stressed by the mistakes I marked. Not only that but being in a different environment also meant that I could look forward to walking around or shopping after I was done, a good motivation to finish the work! 

Funny thing about work is that our society always seems to give the message that to be crazily busy is an honourable thing. It is a badge of honour to be able to tell people you are busy. If you don't believe me, next time you are around people, try telling them about taking breaks and long weekends doing nothing. You will probably be met with replies like "Oh, but I'm so busy..." 

But in the end, where does it lead? Long lists of unfulfilled dreams, places to go, things to try. I always think, would I really regret on my dying bed that I didn't spend more time at work? (If I got fired, maybe I would...) Or would I regret that I didn't travel, didn't learn new instruments, languages, new skills...?

It is an interesting article with points to make one think. I highly recommend it for those who feel they come home too tired from work every day.

You can read the full article here.

Want to read other similar articles? I recommend this writer's website. She also has a mailing list that I subscribe to:

Jocelyn K Glei

Friday, September 09, 2016

Wanting more for others #outofthepagesiread

This month's Psychology Today magazine has a striking quote, not in its articles ironically, but in the editor's note. The editor describes a quote that one of the columnists made which never made it to print:

"You cannot want more for others than they want for themselves."

I found this striking because for one, I felt this was what I did every day at work... hahaha... Pushing kids to do their work whether they wanted to or not. But then the editor makes a broader observation from this:

"To want something "more" or different for people is potentially to misunderstand them... it fails to acknowledge an essential otherness."

We do this all the time to varying degrees. We get it at an early age, when our parents start telling us which course of study we should take because it gives a better paycheck and then it comes in varying degrees from the people around you, like your friends or your colleagues or your superiors. I personally experienced this when I was suggested a career path that so widely dovetailed with my character and my personal goals that yes, I realised my superior had completely failed to 'acknowledge my essential otherness'. 

How do we know we are doing this? I think one way to tell is by how much we listen as opposed to how much we speak. In order to know how different other people are from us, we have to really listen to them with empathy and truly understand the shoes they stand in before we are qualified to give them advice. 

We also have to leave them to make their own decisions in life. The world is wide enough to sustain a variety of paths and it's not just your own that is necessarily the best for everyone. True concern doesn't always mean that you dictate the path of others but that you support them on the decision they make. Even if you feel they are heading towards disaster. (However, I will make exceptions for decisions that involve suicide or the death and destruction of others for obvious reasons)

The editor's last quote is one that should stay with us:

"Better to focus on the person who is most difficult to see - the only one over whom it is possible to exert control."

Rather than focus on others, focus on oneself instead. We are the one who is most able to control our own fate but yet we are the least capable of seeing ourselves as we really are, with our strengths and our failings. Yet what right do we have to want more for others if we are unable to develop ourselves towards our own goals? Imagine a teacher trying to convince her students of the importance of studying, yet failing to complete her own assignments for her post-graduate course because she watches TV! (No, this does not apply to me...)

A striking quote indeed, and one that reminds me to focus on my own goals for self-development and to hold myself accountable to myself. 

But yet, at the same time, yes, I will still force the kids to do the work in school. :p  

Reflections on August

One word: BUSY

Even now when I think back about August, all I can think about is busy, busy, busy. It was definitely one of those peak periods where I was just frantically trying to finish everything before the Sept break. Even on days when I didn't bring work home, I was too knackered to do anything except watch TV. 

As I type this, it is now the last day of the Sept holiday and next week, I'm back at work for another round of Busy. *shudder*

At one point, I did pause to think, though, why do I fall off the wagon so badly all the time after June? The reason that comes foremost to mind is of course, work. As times get busier, work gets brought back home, time at home becomes work time and then other things like cooking and general self-care goes out the window. 

I also felt I forgot some of the habits of self-care I took in the first half of the year. Eg, by making time for myself to do the things I love. So this is one habit I want to reinstate: To write down my weekly plans for the things I love to do on my calendar so as to commit to it. In this way, I want to be able to plan my time better without letting work overtake me. I also have to make sure that at work, I religiously keep a to-do list with the deadlines clearly written so that I don't forget what I'm supposed to do. 

Another habit I want to reinstate is that of journalling: To journal one sentence a day and express gratitude for even the smallest thing. These are simple yet powerful tools to balance one's state of mind and I want to continue this. One way is to bring the journal out one days I go out. 

Most importantly, I need to practise self-love. To be able to forgive myself for the things I didn't do so well and to compare me, to me, instead of others. I keep looking at how far others are ahead of me, instead of looking back at how far I've come. This is like wishing you had a Birkin but forgetting you already had a Chanel. While of course I should push myself to go as far as I can, my progress shouldn't be measured by others who follow different trajectories from me. I am responsible for my own path and that is the one I should follow. 

That being said, even if I didn't do as much as I wanted, I still managed to read a great deal, so I'm glad of that. Thankfully, reading is one of the habits firmly entrenched in me. 

This holiday has also given me some space to pursue some craft, so I'm glad for that. (tutorials coming up soon) 

I have a few more months before December and a couple more before March next year, when I get really busy, so wish me luck and here goes!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Reflections on July

It's with a mild sense of panic that I realize that we are officially in the 2nd half of the year. What have I done?? What have I accomplished? How am I going to do all the other stuff I wanted to do????

Last month onto this, I got hit off the tracks when I went off on holiday and I came back to a flurry of work. This has happened many times before, when I went overseas or took a long break and not just on my personal goals, but at work as well. Suddenly I forgot how to write my to-do lists, how to remember my deadlines, how to set goals for myself and then everything rushes in together.

So mid-August is a good time to take a quick stock check. Where am I with my goals? What did I accomplish? How did I do it? What did I fail in? Why did I fail? How can I set myself up to pass next time?

My goals for July were: 

Photography: To read up on Daido Moriyama
I found this hard at first because books on Daido Moriyama were crazily hard to find. I thought I would be able to buy a good book on him and read it at my leisure, but then I couldn't find any good (or affordable) photo book or biography anywhere in the major bookstores! A photobook seller in Peninsula finally told me that was the case with his books and that the same situation existed in Japan, where his books are primarily sold. -_-!!! 

Finally though, I hit paydirt at the National Library - I found Tales of Tono, Stray Dog and Memories of a Dog.

Stray Dog and Memories of a Dog were only available in the reference section, so I couldn't borrow them out. I had to make special trips to Victoria Street to read them, which made them more troublesome and at the same time, more fascinating. (Why some books end up in the reference section, I don't know) The more I read about him, the more fascinated I became with him as a photographer since I identified with certain parts of his philosophy towards photography.

But... that's a subject for another blog post. Let me write up my notes into something coherent first. :p

So I would say in this goal I was fairly successful. I managed to find the books though reading them was quite troublesome. I also learned quite a bit as well.

Next step to levelling up? Getting my essay done... (sigh)

Violin: To practise at least twice a week - COMPLETE FAIL

This goal is one I continuously set for myself and continuously fail at. Every month that I tell myself to practise, to practise, the violin stays neglected in its case and next thing I know, it's time for lesson/practice time again. -_-!!! 

So let's take a good hard look at meself: Why am I failing at this?

I'm restricting myself to practising in the afternoon. I keep telling myself to practise in the afternoon because I'm worried about neighbours complaining if I practise at 8-9pm. Which means, if I'm stuck at work till late, I end up not practising at all if I return home after dinner. Would my neighbours really raise their pitchforks if I practised at 8, after dinner and yet when people are not going to bed yet? I don't know because I never tried, having spent most of that time watching TV while eating dinner. -_-!!! 

And then at night, there's always other stuff to do...... Easier stuff like reading or painting that doesn't require the same amount of effort as the violin. So I always take the easy way out for myself.

Terrible. It's like wanting to lose weight but eating another chicken burger. I keep telling myself I want to be a good violin player but I fail to put in the practice needed.

The solution for this is easy in principle, yet another matter in practice. I need to set practice days and times (which I have been doing) and actually set about to doing it, never mind fatigue or complaints (which I have NOT been doing).

Watercolour: To paint at least 2 pieces in watercolour.

This goal I managed because I was so lousy with keeping the one about the violin practice. :D I did a few pieces and here are the 3 better ones:


The one I'm most proud of is of course, the 3rd one, and this is one goal I felt I showed the most progress in the least amount of time and the one I enjoyed the most. 

There were several things that made this goal easier to accomplish. One, paint and brush were always within easy reach on my table. All I really had to do was plonk my butt on my chair and open them up to start. This also made them a good destresser from work as well. Compare this to having to heft my violin up and stand for the entire time I practise......

Also, having a reference book helped. That way, I didn't have to think of what to practise. I just opened to the last page I stopped at and did whatever was on that page. Again, a good remedy for a hard day at work.

Lastly, I also think that the artwork was a strong visible motivator. Once the painting was done, it was an obvious indicator of my effort and progress and one that could be looked at again and again for inspiration. Whereas with violin playing, I couldn't tell whether my pitch really was improving or not.

All in all, no wonder I found more fun in reaching the art goal.......

Still, they are things to consider if I want to become a good violin player. So with those in mind, my goals in August are:

French - To refresh what I learned and complete at least 2 more chapters
Writing - To work on the text for my book idea
Violin - Once again.........

Wish me luck!