Batching up the Work

The next step in getting reducing time spent doing things I don’t want to do.. or at least are just not productive!  (Read the last two blogs about this topic, I am shooting for a “4 Hour Work Week” as applied to retired people like me…)

OK, so this next step is BATCHING.  It just mean that if there is something that you NEED to do, and can’t easily be eliminated or delegated to someone else, the best thing to do is to do it the LEAST AMOUNT OF TIMES.  Which means, sometimes, batching it up.

For example, sorting through mail that arrives 6 days a week.  Let’s face it, most of it is either junk mail or catalogues.  Mostly catalogues you don’t want.

So I am going to batch up my mail.  I will only go through it ONCE A WEEK, I think I will plan on Monday mornings.  In between, I pile it on my desk, not even looked at.

You may think, well, that won’t save a whole lot of time!!  It may only take you 2 minutes to go through mail.

But it does save SOME time, and furthermore it eliminates one daily chore that gets in the way of doing what I really want to be doing. Called an unnecessary distraction.

All kinds of chores can be batched, and I figure if I take advantage of all of those opportunities, the time saved will add up to something significant… and my sense of dashing from one task to another – without accomplishing much — will go away.

Here are other things I’ve thought might be batchable (it will take some experimenting)

  • Laundry
  • Grocery shopping (ie survive on what’s in your house except for the weekly trip to the store)
  • And related to Grocery Shopping: When I need something at the store that “keeps” well, I’m going to get two at one time, which doubles the time until I’ll need it again. (I’ll have to figure out storage for these extras though)
  • Dishes (do once a day rather than everytime a few dirty dishes appear.  Heck, I’d be glad to do them once a week, but the Health Department might not like that, and the ants would love it.)
  • “Putting things away”.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but you’d be surprised how much time I spend walking to and from the bedrooms and studies and bathrooms, just putting things back.  So here’s my plan: LARGE basket somewhere where I won’t trip over it and anything “out of place” gets dumped in there and once a week I walk around the house with the basket putting things back. (Like I said… an experiment)
  • Paying bills. Actually I already pay them just once a month, and most are already automatically paid electronically.. but if you are not doing that, please start! There is nothing less fun than sitting down to pay bills.

I considered putting “Clean House” on this list.. but I don’t clean very much and I certainly don’t want to commit to a schedule. LOL.  Unless I schedule cleaning once a month, would that be enough?  Maybe a housecleaner is in order, if I can justify the expense.

In the next post, I’ll tell you what to do about those catalogues.

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Slaying the “Junk” Email Dragon

Step #1 in attaining the Four Hour Work Week – for retired folks:

I decided to slay the Email Dragon which was slowly but surely eating up my life!

Surely, someone who is retired does not get a whole lot of email, right?  WRONG, OH SO WRONG.

It’s my own fault.  With a bit more time to kill while sitting at the computer, I’d start investigating areas of interest to me, and before I knew it, my inbox was filled with all kinds of e-newsletters, solicitations for charitable donations, updates on topics I had a passing interest in…

I was reading enews about:

  • Healthy eating
  • Training women to run for political office
  • Immigrant rights
  • LImiting corporate donations to political campaigns
  • Protecting against cancer with nutrition
  • How to train your horse the natural gentle way
  • Saving farmland around Lexington
  • Land conservation across the U.S.
  • Endangered species and the effect of global warming
  • Promotions and sales at the local grocery and drug stores, as well as the internet sites I occasionally purchase from.
  • Yada Yada Yada…

Oh yes, I was well-informed!  But it was beginning to feel like a JOB keeping up with all that information.  And it was cutting into my fun time.

As my #1 Step in achieving a 4 hour work week: Viciously unsubscribe to all of those newsletters.

It took me 2 hours!  Not only did I unsubscribe but I also deleted all of the unread newsletters which were clogging up my inbox.

Part of Slaying the Email Dragon is also vowing to only read email once a day.  That will be the harder goal to achieve, since I am used to sitting down and browsing it at least three times a day.  Some discipline required for this one.

I’ll let you know how it goes on changing that habit.

(Don’t even get me started on Facebook… there’s another severe time killer. I haven’t figured out a good approach to that yet.)

Onward day by day to cut down on useless, wasteful use of time… and on to more fun things.  OK, now I’m going out to ride one of my horses. Whee!

Four Hour Work Week

Now why, you might ask, would a retired person be talking about a four hour work week?  I’m reading a book by Timothy Ferris, which was written 8 years ago, about supporting yourself on 4 hours of work a week.

When you’re retired, if you have any kind of life and volunteer for any organization at all, you quickly find that you ARE working 40+ hours a week, it’s just that you aren’t getting a paycheck.   But WAIT… there is a paycheck which is not paid in money, it’s paid in enjoyment and satisfaction.

So anything I am doing which DOESN’T bring enjoyment or satisfaction, is my WORK.

Example:  I hate to weed gardens.  Yet every year I put in a small vegetable garden, not to mention the flowerbeds which dot our whole yard.  “WHY???”, I ask myself.  I know that both flower gardens and vegetable gardens will produce weeds, which make me spend precious time pulling out.

There are two solutions: Eliminate the gardens or pay someone else to weed for me.  How to decide?  It’s a balance of financial considerations and enjoyment considerations (I DO enjoy looking at the flowers and eating the vegetables!)

Oh, there are so many other examples I could give you of my “work”!  Paying bills, sorting through junk mail, cleaning out useless emails, doing laundry, getting things fixed around the house… just plain WORK to me, and with no monetary compensation!

But AH HA! you say: This is life, NOBODY gets to ignore these types of tasks.  Just accept it.

NO! I say.  There must be a better way.  I think we all just get used to thinking that life HAS to be full of these chores, and we spend our one lifetime wasting time taking care of them.

Every single thing ANYONE does (whether retired or not) falls into either WORK (you don’t enjoy it but you do it for some kind of paycheck – money or some sense of guilt or responsibility) and ENJOYMENT (you DO enjoy it and are happy to spend the time doing it.)

So I am experimenting with some of the techniques that Mr. Ferris suggests in “The 4-Hour Work Week” to rid myself of the “work” part of my life so I have more time for the “enjoyment” part of my life.

I’ll let you know how it’s going over the next few weeks.  Or maybe months, since there is so much work to do on this topic.

Letting Go

I am learning to let go.

In this culture, that concept goes against everything we are taught.

SET YOUR GOALS!  

STRIVE AT ALL COSTS!

HANG ONTO THAT DREAM!

PERSEVERE!

It is shouted from every rooftop and every business book, chat rooms, LinkedIn, self-help manuals, and on and on….

goals

THIS MAKES ME TIRED JUST TO THINK ABOUT IT!

But I am finding out that HANGING ON is easy, it’s LETTING GO that is the difficult work.

stubbornBecause we wrap ourselves up in our dreams, and they begin to determine if we are happy or constantly angry, resentful and sometimes hateful to those people or circemstances that get in our way of our dream.

“DAMMIT”, I have often said. “I WILL DO THIS AND NOTHING WILL STOP ME!”

And then I would fight any person, any event, anything at all that got in my way,  I would be miserable to other people, and I would be miserable myself if I wasn’t changing something that I needed to change. I’d stay awake nights worrying about how I would get it done.  I’d concoct behind the scenes manipulations, or feel guilty and overwhelmed because I wasn’t achieving what I set out to do. I’d work harder and longer until I was so mentally exhausted that I couldn’t see straight.

Why?

Because I had learned to be totally attached to the idea that I can control everything, if I just try hard enough.  And that MY IDEA of what needed to be done is DOGGONE IT the only right idea. And if everyone else wasn’t buying into the idea, well then – they are all just idiots.

Did you ever run into someone you thought was overbearing, thoughtless, and stubborn?  Then you have run into someone who bought into the idea that they can control the world if they just try hard enough. (Note, that’s generally how we get dictators…)

go with the flowI’m finally learning and practicing not to be too attached to any idea I have.  Let it go.  Change it up. Smile regardless of whether it’s “working out”. Make a “bad situation” into a good one. Go with the flow.  Find my karma. Every day should be great even if I don’t get my way. “My way or the highway” has gone down the highway now. (OK — THAT was circular logic!)

It sure is an easier life to live. I still have my dreams and my ideas…. but if I have to change it or exchange it for another idea… that’s OK.  It doesn’t make me a wimpy person or an aimless wanderer. I set down the road for a goal, but if there’s a fork in the raod, I can sit and think about it… and change direction.  It’s OK.

Solar Power All Over

horse see breathWAHOO!  I rode Stormy on the trail yesterday with my friend Mindy.  It has been a month since I have been in the saddle.

The cold reality is…. it’s COLD out there. It topped out at 37 degrees.  Yet I went, bundled up from head to toe. And still despite the bundling… my fingertips got numb and my toes were cold.  My legs felt chilled although they warmed up once I was mounted and Stormy’s body heat emanated up through the saddle.

Stormy wasn’t all that thrilled when I slipped the cold bit into his mouth.  He chewed and chewed …and chewed… on it.

OK, so these solar pants aren't so beautiful...

OK, so these solar pants aren’t so beautiful…

Will someone please invent a solar-powered bit?  One that stores a charge when you put it in the sun or bright light, and then you push a tiny button right before you put on the bridle and VOILA!  A warm bit and a happy horse.

Next I want a solar powered pair of pants.  Solar panels on the thighs which store energy until you need it… push a button in the waistband and VOILA!  A warm and happy rider.

These hiking boots have solar panels in them.

These hiking boots have solar panels in them.

Next the boots. Sewn-in solar panels on the tops of your boots..you get the point…. VOILA! Warm toes.

And what about a solar-paneled horse blanket?  Lots of surface on those blankets for the solar panels.

Hey, “electronic wearables” are all the rage now.  The computer in a watch, Google glasses… Tech industry — don’t forget the equestrians.

power-purse-solarI just found a purse (available online) with built-in solar panels, and a USB charger inside, so I can charge my phone or tablet while walking around with the purse.  Is that cool or what?

But cool is not what i want when riding in the winter.  I want WARM.  The good news is, my horse is naturally solar powered.  Give him sun (and hay) and he warms up without pushing a button. Low tech but still cute as a button, that’s my Stormy.

Horse gains weight, I gain weight

There it is. Winter’s reality.  If my horse is getting fatter, so am I.  He’s an Easy Keeper, and so am I.  Does that mean I can blame it all on him?  NO???  Darn.

(This picture was taken when I was much thinner.)

(This picture was taken when I was much thinner.)

My only real exercise regimen is to ride Stormy, my horse.  But something happens (I say this as if I am purely a victim of course; surely it is not MY fault!)… the weather turns nasty, cold, and rainy.  Looking down at the barn sitting under a low cloud of dull grey, a spit of rain and a ground cover of mud, I lose my motivation to ride.

And so I stay in the house, all warm and toasty, but burning ZERO calories.

Stormy watches me from his muddy paddock, hoping at least to see a human face for something to eat.  Of course, I go down to feed him breakfast, or dinner… but in between, I am a self-imposed prisoner of the house.

The good stuff must be at the bottom.

The good stuff must be at the bottom. the house. I am a face in a window to him, not an attachment to his back.

So he gets no exercise, but keeps eating anyway.  I get no exercise but keep eating anyway.

The guilt sets in. (Well, it sets in for me; I don’t think horses know what guilt is, those lucky creatures.)

Actually, when I bundle up, it is not too bad to be outside. The hardest part, just like the first step of a 1,000 mile journey, is the first step outside.

Starting the long journey.

Starting the long journey.

But isn’t that so true in so much we do?  It’s not the work that is the problem, it’s the STARTING of the work that is the problem.  I’m trying to solve that problem for myself, by tackling those tasks which I’ve procrastinated on,  for “just 15 minutes”.  I figure I can do just about anything for 15 minutes. Then, once I get “into” it, I keep going and often finish the whole thing without thinking much about it.  So the 15-minute approach seems to work for me.

But the 15 minute psychology doesn’t work for riding horses.  Heck, it takes you 15 minutes just to put on all your winter clothes, walk down to the barn, bring the horse in and start grooming the mud off of him.  I need a completely different approach to this winter laziness.

Sometimes I think, “OK, I’ll just go down and clean him off, or muck out the stall.” That’s at least a 45 minute commitment.

I can get mud just about anywhere on my body with no effort at all.

I can get mud just about anywhere on my body with no effort at all.

And I do it.  But getting the saddle and bridle out, and actually mounting…. not so much progress there!

If anyone knows of something, I can try, PLEASE let me know.  The added weight on both of us (me AND the horse) might get ugly by the end of January.  ARRRGHHHH!

Went hiking, missed my horse

Last week, my husband and I ventured into the Great Smoky National Park to hike.   It was a beautiful clear fall day, cool but not cold, crunchy leaves underfoot, a crystal blue sky and on the mountaintop, a view of 75 miles to distant peaks.

But while hiking…. I missed my horse.

Those of you who don’t ride horses probably think that this is because I didn’t want to work that hard to hike on my own two legs.  But it wasn’t that — I am pretty fit and my legs are in good shape from riding, so I was able to cover some distance without getting tired.

I still missed my horse.  It is hard to explain.

When I am riding my horse, the partnership between us creates a different experience than walking.  Underneath me is this 1,000 lb. animal, whose rhythm of the four footed walk creates a gentle lullaby.  I hear the footfalls through the dry leaves, 1-2-3-4, a gentle music of movement. The heat of the horse’s body comes up through my seat and legs. If I close my eyes, I feel like we are one being.  My body sways to the movement of his feet.

The views of the forest from 8 feet off the ground provide a panoramic sight. I can see further and higher than when on foot.

The horse experiences the ride differently than I do, and his perspective adds to my human outlook. His ears are pricked forward, looking left and right.  He is alert to possible dangers, or searches for others of his kind. His sense of smell and sight are much more acute than mine, so when he looks intently in one direction, I also look that way, trying to see what he sees.  Sometimes I do, but most often I don’t.

If he gets tense and skitters a bit, with nothing obvious to skitter about, I know it is a smell he is reacting to.  There is something close by which is “not-horse, not-human”. He doesn’t skitter for deer, but he does for cows and pigs. And I suppose bears, but we have not encountered them.

His experience joins with my experience of the forest, and together it is greater than either of the two.  I depend on him, and he on me. He warns me of possible danger, and I reassure him when it is  something we do not need to be concerned with. He strides boldly through creeks and gullies, keeping me safe and dry on his back. We go further than I could go on my own two legs, but it does not tire him.

Hiking is enjoyable, but riding in the forest is so much more so. When friends ask about my riding, I say “I just trail ride” as if it were an apology.  But if they knew what I knew, and experienced what I experience while on the trail, there would be no apology.

Myself as an Idiot

Just recently, a condensed version of one of my blogs (about riding my first endurance ride) was published in the national Endurance Ride magazine.  At first, it is an honor to see yourself in print in a national magazine.  But as I read over the article again, which was written to be a humourous piece, I realized I sounded like a total idiot.

Village_Idiot3I’ve been an idiot many times.  I’ve been treated like an idiot times when I am not, and at times treated seriously when I was behaving like an idiot.  So I am very much used to feeling like an idiot.  It seems to be a frequent way of life for me.

But what I got to thinking about this time was:  Should it bother me that I’m an idiot?

In any moment, you take all of your experiences, emotions, past memories and a bit of logic… mix them together in a mush, and then ACT.  (or in most cases TALK).  Then why, why, why, assuming you have a reasonable amount of intelligence, does the mush still come out as if it came from an idiot?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  If I did, I’d stop doing it…and get a bumper sticker  that says “IDIOT NO MORE”.

idiot2Since I can’t seem to stop it, I’ll use some Buddhism training to accept it.  Buddhism says to accept reality as it is, rather than live in a dream of what could (or should) be.  So rather than dreaming as if I will do and say all kinds of WISE things, I will accept that most likely I will continue to do and say IDIOT things… and stop beating myself up about it.

And I will practice saying, “Boy, I was being such an idiot when I said (or did) that.”

I’ll practice my humanity, idiocy and all.

Now if I can just get all these OTHER IDIOTS in my world to go away, I’d be much happier.

village-idiot-2

Lettuce Give Thanks

Whoever coined the term “Let us give thanks for our daily bread” hasn’t been to my house lately.

A. I don’t eat much bread (since I learned about the effects on your body of the new genetically modified wheat…!  If you haven’t read up on it… please do!)

B. They haven’t seen my lettuce patch.

Real picture of my garden: One HALF of lettuce section

Real picture of my garden

I am AWASH in lettuce. Every day I can pick a big “Kroger bag” full of leaves.

When I planted the seeds in February, nothing sounded better than fresh lettuce.  So as usual I went overboard.  I nursed those babies all through this frigid winter; the nursery was on a large table in the corner of our living room.

What better decor than seedlings in your living room?  Ask Martha Stewart, she’ll agree.  Well, no — Martha would have you build (by hand) a greenhouse where you could grow all your herbs, veggies and flowers….  MAYBE next year a small greenhouse…?

But the good side is:  Lettuce is a great ice-breaker.

“Here, take my lettuce.  No, PLEASE, take my lettuce!”

On the other hand, the chickens are on strike so I am NOT awash in eggs.  From four hens we get one measly egg a day!  They must have formed a union. “Anything over one egg a day, and we demand overtime pay!”  HA!   This is Kentucky, chickens.  We don’t need no stinkin’ unions. (especially in the coal mines…)

LG&E Seeks to Dump Coal Waste into Ohio River

LG&E Seeks to Dump Coal Waste into Ohio River

Speaking of coal mines, how about that “War on Coal” EPA stuff, huh? Yes, we’d rather keep some jobs (read: Coal Companies profit) here in Kentucky rather than try to help the planet from collapsing into a ball of heat.  We’d rather breathe the noxious gas rather than re-train coal miners.  We’d rather pollute mountain town water rather than even THINK about solar or hydro.

Which is why I plant lettuce (NOTE: THIS IS THE SEGUE BETWEEN COAL AND LETTUCE.  DID YOU SEE IT COMING?  NEITHER DID I.).  I figure when California runs out of water  (OH,  you say it already has?)  and Mexico can’t ship veggies across the border since fuel prices will skyrocket (OH, you say they already have??)  and migrant workers can’t come pick the Florida produce due to the Great Wall of China the US will build on the U.S.-Mexican border (OH, we started that wall but ran out of money).. then I will need lettuce.

AWWWW... Could  you eat this little one?  Bring me another plate of lettuce.

AWWWW… Could you eat this little one? Bring me another plate of lettuce.

 

Anyone have an extra heifer I can buy?

Homeboy Food

coopersburgI live 500 miles from the town where I grew up.  The hamlet of Coopersburg (and our house was 4 miles from the hamlet!) is in Southeast Pennsylvania, just 10 miles from the Delaware River which separates Pennsylvania from New Jersey.  Yes, Kentuckians, I am a Damn Yankee!

There are two things I return to PA for:  visits with family and the FOOD.

This is Pennsylvania Dutch country, and I am  descended from Pennsylvania Dutch people.  Dutch does not mean from Holland (they are Dutch) but from Germany (they are Deutsch).  As Americans often do, the “Deutsche” was Americanized to Dutch, and so all my ancestors were German. (which accounts for my introverted stoic nature, but that’s another story)

There are three German foods that I ALWAYS have when returning to PA – if at all possible:

SCRAPPLE — SHOOFLY PIE — FUNNY CAKE PIE

scrappleScrapple is top on my list.  If you don’t know what Scrapple is, think a poor man’s sausage.  You take all the parts of a pig that no one would normally eat, cook it and grind it up real fine, add cornmeal to stretch it, and spices (mostly pepper). Pour it into a square mold and let it congeal. It is one of those foods that you don’t want to see made, or you would never eat it.

But slice it thin, fry it til crispy in a little oil, smother with ketchup and VOILA!  A taste treat that only Pennsylvania Dutch people would appreciate. (My sister reminded me that true Penna. Dutch style is to smother it in Applebutter… she’s right, but I AM more a fan of the ketchup approach.)

So I ate half a pound myself in two meals (well, I think my Mom had one piece). My annual quota for Scrapple has been fulfilled.

shoofly pieMom also made a Shoofly Pie while I was visiting. Without going into the details, it is a wet-bottom cake-like pastry in a pie shell that uses lots of molasses for the wet bottom, plus crumbs on top.  If you don’t like molasses, you won’t like Shoofly Pie.  But all Pennsylvania Dutchers were raised with molasses, and so we love it.

Girl climbing a tree

When I close my eyes and eat Scrapple and Shoofly Pie, it brings back memories of being ten years old, wearing Keds and ankle socks, and having the whole summer free to play outside all day.  Mud pies, treehouses and forts, climbing trees, and running through the orchard. Ah, give me Scrapple every day just to conjure up those memories.