I love lists. I’ve used so many systems: daily checklists on my tear-off-a-day desk calendar from the ’80s, Franklin Covey and Success Management Institute in the ’90s, FlyLady’s Control Journal in the 2000’s. Post-it notes to be rearranged and updated daily on my wall. Folders/binders front and center for each duty or project, with immediate next steps clipped on top. Calendar time reserved for a couple of weeks ahead when I need to devote my attention and dissuade distractions and ding reminders.
And I gotta say I’ve accomplished a lot: master’s degree, happy career, healthy family, some spiritual development along the way, and forays into wide-spread interests. Not perfect by any means; always room for improvement.
Now I’m an iPhone app hound :P, especially for recurring tasks so I don’t have to write them down again.
My two current faves:
At home, I use [url=http://www.homeroutines.com/]HomeRoutines [/url]for its program inspired by [url=http://FlyLady.net]FlyLady.net[/url] to encourage good household and decluttering habits. I am motivated to fill up those stars!
For both home AND WORK, I use [url=http://www.epicwinapp.com/]EpicWin [/url]for its chores to-do lists inspired by role-playing games (RPGs). I build (“level up”) character in real life for quests, and feats of strength, stamina, intellect, social, and spirit. I use mine for work and various project to-dos.
I also get virtual loot, and can update Twitter and/or Facebook as follows: “I’ve been doing my chores and just scored a Undercover Shrubber – Epic Win! http://bit.ly/ao6xRS”. I’ve got several work to-dos slated there.
One site I have liked for fitness and diet is [url=http://www.sparkpeople.com/]Sparkpeople[/url]. But it is so rich in content, tools (menus, calorie counters, tracking databases, reports) and community (login point spinner, groups, blogs, forums, gifts, statuses) that it can be overkill. Eventually it becomes a time-sucking distraction from actually getting out and burning calories.
I keep falling off the wagon there. I tried to simplify – merely log in to note that yes I’ve exercised for 20 minutes today, and I’ve drunk 8 glasses of water, and eaten 5 fruits & veggies. The SparkPeople iPhone app is more about logging calorie intake and burnoff, which is not my program.
Now I can do my three simple daily health to-dos on my iPhone in HomeRoutines and/or EpicWin.
How do you get things done?
What do you do to build your own real-life character? I look forward to hearing from you!
Hi, my name is Tere, and I’m a workaholic. The projects I do and the communications I draft make me feel productive, needed, adept.
But I am extremely averse to housework. I have tried to reframe it in terms of blessing my home, blessing my family and pets, blessing the neighborhood, blessing the friends and family who visit. That works sometimes. But more often I just downright hate pulling the same weeds that cropped up last year and picking up the same clutter as yesterday.
“the real value is in creating new knowledge, rather than simply ‘managing’ existing knowledge. …That’s why we’re not keen to spend time entering our latest document into a knowledge management system. …
We’ve found in our research into environments like World of Warcraft (WoW) that new knowledge comes into being when people who share passions for a given endeavor interact and collaborate around difficult performance challenges.
The HBR article touted how WoW player Gullerbone completed The Burning Crusade expansion pack within an impressive 28 hours after its release in 2007. How did he do it? By using his guild, and related videos, blogs, wikis that make up the social media “knowledge economy.”
Jim Lee’s response: “I’ve said for some time if ‘KM systems’ could mimic the behaviors of WOW players, that we would see immediate impact and improvment [sic] of collaboration and outcomes.”
I sometimes feel the same way about updating old documentation as I do about cleaning the toilet. It’s gotta be done, but it makes me feel all grungy, and I’ll just have to do it again soon enough.
In World of Warcraft, that kind of chore is akin to fishing. If you want to level up your skills enough to make some great coin and get the ingredients for the meals that will elicit extraordinary buffs for your guildies in raids and dungeons, you gotta pay your dues in the water. Many dedicated players are so addicted to getting that next level, they don’t mind putting in a few hours at the shore. Of course, it’s not as physically messy as it would be away from keyboard.
And so I’m trying to find a new way to reframe some of work’s less glamorous chores.
I wish that someday we may bring the addictiveness of gameplay into the world of work, and even (ugh!) housework. Can you imagine being able to track in reality:
how much coin you’re earning or wasting on your current task,
the buffs you gain by eating well/working out/working well with certain people, and
the upgrades/badges/titles you can win along the way?
Wish, wish, wish…
Meanwhile, here are the ways I’m making my chores more attractive:
Breaking them down into bite-sized chunks. For example, I made a long outline of what I need to do, and categorized it, counting the documents and estimating how much will fill a half hour or an hour.
Scheduling the bite-sized chunks across several days.
Rewarding myself for completing a bunch of chunks with a fresh cup of Joe and a break where I do something more creative like the next newsletter draft.
Testing it like my target audience would, and putting myself in their shoes when I find it easy to learn how to do what I want.
I’m glad I work in a place where the coffee is free, even the flavored kind, and the cleanup is minimal. 🙂
The next challenge is even more social: making technical edits fun for my wonderful developers, product managers, project managers, and technicians. There’s gotta be more than bringing cake and asking pointed questions. Any other thoughts?
Isn’t the point of blogging to offer insight, value, and entertainment?
But I abandoned blogging for several months, partially because it became inauthentic. It didn’t feel like me. And I have precious little time to be anyone else.
My new profile pic.
Here is reality. For proprietary reasons of course, I don’t reveal much if anything about what I’m working on for my paycheck company or even my freelance work. I have also been escaping from housekeeping, procrastinating administrative tasks, spoiling my kids and then struggling with their behavior, stuck behind boxes of un-scrap-booked photos and memorabilia, losing and gaining the same five pounds, and wallowing in unfulfilled yearnings in my spiritual journey.
There: transparency. 🙂 Sounds just like hundreds of thousands of other working moms slash writers out there.
But I love writing, and I love having a blog. I would like to publish an blog entry weekly. I could even schedule a poll/survey or book review for when I’m in crunch time elsewhere.
Maybe I can spend time with an editorial calendar, leaving a bit of leeway every month. My interests are so broad, and something new is always happening!
Maybe I can narrow it down to a niche of topics I actually care about, that can help mentor other people. Something that makes me shiny and happy.
Better, I like to use and polish my wordsmith skills to make life and work easier for people.
My own niche is in there somewhere. I can spend some time formulating my direction and exploring the passions where I will invest the next 10 years or so of my life’s work. I can’t even think about moving to my own hosted URL until I’ve got this down.
I tried an elevator speech:
“I translate experts from various industries into plain, compelling English (and sometimes images), making them look even better on paper and online.”
But elevator speeches and mission statements may not be enough.
Here’s the big question:
Does contentgrrl need to split into two or more niche blogs, or disintegrate?
“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.‘ – E.L. Doctorow, author of World’s Fair (1985), Billy Bathgate (1989), and others.
The prospect of completely creating a fictional universe — around a protagonist, his allies, his family, his challenges, his antagonists, and all the little twists and turns of fate — frankly frightens me.
I do well enough to make a living as a technical communicator and content developer, and leave myself a little time to make healthy little forays into escapist fiction, television, games, and dreams.
Yay! According to Wii Sports, my fitness level improved 27 “years” since yesterday, based on my performance in boxing, tennis, and bowling. I think yesterday the level was based on boxing, tennis, and baseball. It does factor in strength, agility, and balance. But I think I’m just better at bowling than I am at baseball, even in real life. And I’ve got to give my dear husband some credit for his attempts to coach stubborn ol’ me. But the boyz and I are having a lot of fun together, cheering each other on.
We also started using Wii Points to buy a Web browser. My boys can now play Starfall in our TV room to learn to read, as well as other games (see my related series on free preschool games). But since the hunt-and-peck game is getting a little old while we enter Web addresses, we’re ransacking our closets looking for a USB wireless keyboard. Unfortunately some sites like NBC and SciFi have Flash applications that don’t support the Wii browser.
We also used some points to get some classic games from other systems, including Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time (originally Nintendo64). Sonic3 works fine, but the Ocarina wants the classic game controller instead of the Wii remote. Aargh for the delay.
But I’m just happy that after Lego Star Wars the Complete Saga, when we play with Legos in real life, my boys are suddenly building walls on their own, and a house for Yoda to sleep in, and a Star Destroyers to go flying through the house. Before, they could only watch as I helped them build cars, planes, and houses. They were never so creative; they never really knew what worlds and stories they could build.
And so I gush, we are so thrilled with our Wii. Thanks, dear Granny, Grandpa, and Uncle!
For Christmas, the grandparents on my side got the kids a Wii, with much thanks to my dear brother, who pulled favors with his connections in the local Wal-Mart.
So we’ve had the console, Wii Sports, an extra set of controllers, and Lego Star Wars the complete saga, for a week now. My husband played the Wii Sports with the boys and his nephew for five hours on Christmas Day. He started out with a fitness age of 63, and is now at age 28 after seven days and a sore shoulder from boxing, baseball, golf, tennis, and bowling. I just tried the fitness test today, and I wanted to record my age of 59 with a similar goal.
I feel we’re in pretty good company. After all, if frugal guru Trent of The Simple Dollar can justify it, then so can I.
I should say that my sons love playing golf, especially when they hit the ball into the water hazard. They do the same with Tiger Woods on the PC. But this way they actually stand up and swing instead of hitting keys. It does indeed get us off our collective buns.
Not to say there aren’t more sedentary alternatives. Lego Star Wars, for which we mostly sit, has been both fun and frustrating, partially because of the required fine motor skills that my boys just don’t have yet, and partially because my boys don’t want to destroy all the things that will score you enough points to get to the next level or build a minikit.
But my preschoolers now know this epic very well. They can name all the characters, creatures, and machines like the geeks their parents are. And it’s fun playing out scenes like Luke on a tauntaun on icy Hoth, being attacked by that Wampa monster, hanging upside down, grabbing the light saber with the Force’s telekinesis, and cutting off the monster’s arm (one of the brothers works very hard to take his arm out of his sleeve, and then falls dramatically to the floor).
One of the reasons I started this blog was to honor my heroes and heroines in life and literature. I’ve got a long list of names in my drafts, but I’m having trouble feeling like I can do any of them justice.
I have had the privilege this year to scan a photo album that belongs to my dad, the perpetual boy scout. His father was a scout cadet and leader as well. So my dad’s been in uniform all his life. And considering what happened during WWII, I don’t blame him for wanting to become a U.S. soldier and therefore a U.S. citizen.
It’s been interesting to see all the photos of old classmates and girlfriends, but the thing that really chokes me up is all the notes written affectionately from my grandfather to “Pepito” on the backs of these photos. I’ve scanned these notes as well, and will display in the photo albums I make for family.
After my dad came to New York for his medical residency, there’s a set of photos showing the house that was built with the money he sent back, with a note about the penthouse reserved for him when he comes back home. And there are several pictures of a young lady, apparently friendly with my grandmother, who writes with great affection for my dad. And then, abruptly, there’s a message “To Pepito and Judy” right around the time that dad married my mother, who was just out of nursing school near the hospital where Dad was a resident. And then there are pictures of my uncle and godfather, who also emigrated to New York around the time I was born.
I denied my heritage for a long time. By the time I was a teenager, Dad had settled in a small country town that is the complete opposite of cosmopolitan. I strived not to look too different. And, studious introvert that he was, he never spoke to me of our heritage or his story. And so, studious introvert that I was, I never thought to ask.
In college I dated a guy who had been stationed in my family’s country; what he knew of my heritage was gained from what a soldier might know, the underbelly.
I married a man who guessed my heritage; he thinks women from my family’s country are the most beautiful in the world. It’s a nice sentiment, but certain stereotypes haunt me. My dh’s grandfather had been stationed there in WWII, and also recollected that country’s horrifying underbelly.
Dad left the islands and went back only for funerals, to bring back pearls for his daughters. I suspect there is an unspoken pain he would rather not burden the present with. But when I asked him why he didn’t go back to live, he simply said he felt that there was better opportunity for him here in the States.
I have followed his example even while I was unaware of it; as much as I want him to be a part of my sons’ lives, I definitely don’t want to move back to that small town, or even the larger town nearby. I chose the town where we live now, within easy driving distance but not so close that we see each other every month. And it’s hard to let go of a steady job that I like so much, even when I remain isolated from family and friends.
I would love to go back to the islands when I have a good opportunity; there was another funeral for an uncle I never met recently, but with all the terrorists it has become very dangerous for an American citizen abroad there. My sons need a mother more than I need to visit that hornet’s nest.
But I will take the opportunity to ask what I can while I can, and make sure my children know their grandfather and great uncle. And I resolve to chip away at the walls of isolation that I have built up around us.
I’m going to show a lot of grrly geekiness here. My family just watched the old Empire Strikes Back again the other night. And it occurs to me that this trilogy is not just about the transformation of Luke Skywalker as a hero. It’s about Leia Organa, his sister.
Sure, with Luke’s story arc, you see elements of the Hero’s Journey. I’ll pull from Joseph Campbell as well as Tarot Journey of the Hero here. There’s the calls to adventure (Leia’s “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” and Obi-wan’s “You must go to the Dagobah system and find Yoda to begin your training.” and “I am your father.”), meeting allies (the droids, Ben & Han, Leia, Yoda), the perilous rescues (Leia on the Death Star, and again in Cloud City, and Daddy Anakin on the new Death Star), the catharsis/toppling of the tower (Death Star, Cloud City, Death Star again).
But with Leia, it’s not so much a coming of age story. It’s a heroine’s journey. Is it coming into matriarchy? I dunno. But I do notice her hairstyles. At first, her style is very regal yet severe: a very straight part down the middle, and huge “cinnamon buns” over her ears. She’s very alone, very closed, and very uptight. OK, that serves her well during capture and torture, right? Once she’s in the position to reward her rescuers, the braids cascade. And when she’s getting a rebel outpost ready to evacuate icy Hoth, her braids are a crown. But did you notice? Nobody among the rebels salutes her, or anyone else for that matter; it’s like, as my husband chimed in, “We’re all equals here, and we’ve all got our jobs to do.” And she becomes more receptive to Han, until she can’t let him freeze without him knowing that she loves him. And then SHE works to rescue HIM, taking down Jabba the Hut just about by herself in a long braid, a gold bikini, and a chain. When they’re all celebrating with ewoks after the last Death Star explodes, Leia’s hair is completely down, with a new hope dawning that she and Han are on their way to a true union beyond limiting dualities, and generations to come who are strong in the Force.
I do wish George Lucas would get on with the final trilogy (it looks like Episode 7 is the Hidden Circle, and here’s the plot). As soon as he can find a screenwriter who can do dialogue well. He’s got the special effects down, and the music, but I’d love for him to finish with a script that’s truly worthy of the epic.
Why can’t I stop writing about games? Well, I saw another great post from a gamergrrl, Kat@ttack, Female vs Male MMORPGs.
It turns my stomach to see some of the stereotypical marketing to girls for toys, games, and TV. But I’m glad to see more strong heroines popping up all the time: Handy Manny’s Kelly, Dora the Explorer, (you can tell how old my kids are, can’t ya?) Lara Croft, Diablo II’s amazons/sorceresses/assassins, the reinvented BSG’s Starbuck/Roslin/Boomer/Six/Cain, the reinvented Bionic Woman, The Closer’s Brenda Johnson, and anything from Joss Whedon’s body of work (Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Zoe, Inara, River, Kaylee).
It’s too bad none of these strong heroines are moms. It seems you have to be single to explore your options and save the world. Moms in epics and games are always the lesser characters who sob loudly, protest against their sons being taken away, or roll their eyes and get back to mothering. OK, there’s an interesting exception in BSG’s Sharon “Athena” Valerii (not Boomer, who tried to snap the child’s neck), and I look forward to more there.
I’m a gamer mom myself, and so is my neighbor, who looks and talks conspicuously like Morgan on G4TV. I don’t have girls to raise; between dear hubby, dear sons, and dear dog and cat, I’m surrounded by testosterone.
But I’ll thankfully stand on the shoulders of the feminists from former generations who made a difference. Because now, all we really have to do is confidently, quietly do what we do best and it will earn the respect of our fellow gamers and colleagues, or at least those who matter. We can confidently, quietly widen our circle of influence. Will that change the tide of the stereotypical marketing machine? Maybe not immediately, but there’s hope.
If I’m too Pollyanna about this, or missing some heroic moms in entertainment, feel free to squawk back at me.
I ran links to a gamergrrl’s manifestos in my post about misguided gift shopping lists of games. But what appeals to gamergrrls about actual gameplay? Developers and fellow gamers, I can offer my own likes:
I love customizing my avatar. Oblivion has some great tools to customize facial features and other characteristics that make up the personality. Even the Tiger Woods game did a fair job with avatars, and gives you the option to buy new clothes. The faces, hair, and physical proportions still need work, and the wardrobe is definitely appropriate for the golf course (not in a good way). My dear husband recreated himself, me, and our young sons in his game. I kick total butt on all courses onscreen, even if I refuse to pick up a putter in real life.
I love building a well-rounded character. In Baldur’s Gate, I hated when my husband focused on one characteristic like strength to the detriment of charisma and agility. That may be the influence of my time management training, between Franklin-Covey and the Paul J. Meyer system. Even though Diablo II had a rather limited set of characters, I loved building up points so I could use some of the treasures. Lara Croft seemed fairly well-rounded already (;^), but I would have liked to build more than just quest stats, and build skills. A well-rounded character should be rewarded; I think Oblivion did this well, as did Torment.
I love an intuitive interface. I keep seeing these getting better and better: navigation through movement and physical skills, interaction with the environment, talking with other players and non-player characters, selecting spells and weapons, and shopping for stuff. Oh, and thanks for letting me customize the keys I use. Now if only I could use those Lara Croft or basketball moves in real life.
I like beautiful gamescapes, but not to the detriment of gameplay. It’s another thing that makes a game immersive. I won’t say I love beauty and art and graphics, because lately a lot of engines favor looks over substance.
I love clever music. Portal’s closing credits are a hoot (see it on YouTube). Diablo’s themes for various levels haunted me all the time.
I love allies. In Planescape Torment, they gave me much more than your standard fighter/wizard/archer mix of allies. I could actually have conversations with these allies, learn more about the world, discuss the pros and cons about what our troop was doing and could do next. I could even learn new skills (like thievery, weaponry, magic, eloquence, and so on).
I love a story with a good plot. I want to immerse myself in a story. Again, I’ll use Elder Scrolls Oblivion,Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and the Myst series as good examples. Actually, Star Wars Academy was another. You move the plot forward by the choices and actions you make.
I love both laughing and crying. This may be an extension of plot, but it comes up with dialog as well. Planescape Torment actually moved me to both laughter and tears, and not just because I’d been awake for far too long. (BTW, laughing and crying are my litmus tests for a good movie, and extremely rare in a game).
I love dialog that moves the plot. Not the “Wait, I’m a Medic” or “Thanks” and “You’re Welcome” of the new Crysis that Morgan reviewed last night on G4TV. I have to admit that I like the multiple-choice dialog from Baldur’s Gate II, where you made friends and enemies and affected your charisma points by the dialog choices you made. And I’ll say again about Oblivion, while I love using humor, flattery, boasting, or coercion to win over non-player characters, I’d much rather have a good Whedonesque screenwriter write the actual banter, which would give me some better examples that I might want to try out in real life. Oh, and the voice acting has to be good. Sure Lynda Carter (of the original WonderWoman) can do well as an Orc in Oblivion. But some sound bytes are downright annoying.
I gotta touch everything. I want to explore every square yard/meter of a level or landscape for treasure, and clean it up by killing all the Big Bads and their minions. In that, I differ markedly from my husband (and young sons). Have you seen that comedian, Defending the Caveman? It’s the difference between Hunters and Gatherers, and I am the latter.
I love puzzles that make me think and apply what I already know in new ways. Go Portal. Go Myst. And, to some extent, go Tomb Raider, in terms of using Lara’s skills to get to where she needs to go. But most games are still limited when it comes to what you can pick up and use in the environment; a recent exception is Half-Life, where you could break all sorts of things, lift them, push and pull, with a very user-friendly interface.
I love when the game’s karma rewards or punishes moral choices. Baldur’s Gate punished you for selfish choices by dropping your Charisma so low you couldn’t get anybody to give you information or sell you stuff. Oblivion lets you explore being a thief, an assassin, a soldier, a mage, and so on, all in the same game, but completing each faction’s quests definitely has its rewards, and I’m not sure I want immorality rewarded so much; I’d like to see something decremented like your ability to restore life force or mana when you disrespect property, life, or earth. As much as I like Grand Theft Auto as entertainment, it puts a knot in my stomach for how rude Tommy & CJ are, the foul language they and their NPCs use, the disrespect for women, and oh, yeah, the stealing, killing, and outright destruction. There are games where you get to play the cop, but he’s usually an anti-hero, one who’s out to get speeders or break all the rules. Are there any good detective or FBI profiler or spy games? I haven’t really looked.
I love learning something that reflects real life. I’ll say again, my absolute favorite RPG is Planescape Torment (1999) for its exploration of philosophies (such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on) through gameplay, dialogue, and plot. I also learned about biology and ecology in an old Gaia simulation. I actually learned a thing or two about using golf clubs from Tiger Woods. I’ve even learned a few things about combination shots and English from the old Virtual Pool. It’s too bad that Guitar Hero is only a dumbed-down version of the Dance steps. It doesn’t actually teach you how to play chords. If it did, I’d be all over that. I could really get into a sim for learning how to sail or fly a small plane. I was even lucky enough to be involved in developing simulation training for telecom field network troubleshooting for SBC, now at&t.