Managing Project Overwhelm

Some days I have lots of time to work on projects, but I get completely overwhelmed by choices. I have a lot of different interests, after all — I could write (but on which project?), I could work on an app (but which one is closest to being ready?), I could read (but which book?), I could crochet, I could draw, I could get outside with my camera. And this is after I have already let go of several things that weren’t holding my attention anymore.

Then there is the fact that some of my projects are BIG. They feel daunting, and I know that they will take prolonged effort over many days or months. Just thinking about working on those can cause my brain to fuzz out, so I can’t even think of the next step for any of them.

I happened to run across this article on Twitter today, though, and it helped me come back to earth a little: Approaches for breaking down big tasks. It reminded me of some of the things I learned in previous jobs, and from reading David Allen’s Getting Things Done. So I picked one of my app projects and started making a checklist of what else needs to be done on it. This helped me not only decide on next steps, it helped me identify what information I needed to learn first, and find a resource that would help me do that.

I’ve learned that trouble making decisions is an aspect of autism related to executive functioning, as is difficulty with organizing one’s thoughts. I have always relied on lists and notes to keep myself on track — and it worked so well that at first I thought I was really good at those things, instead of struggling with them! But as I’ve gotten older, some of these issues have gotten more pronounced, so it is good to have reminders now and then that I have tools and techniques for managing them.

Of Errands and Kingfishers

Today was a weird mix. I had to go out and run errands in the middle of the day, and that was draining — and a bit frustrating, as one of the stores I wanted to go to was closed because of the holiday. (I had known that was a possibility, but even so, I do not like having The Plan change.) Those errands did include picking up some new notebooks and a whiteboard that I am hoping will help me organize my various creative projects, so that made the outing a great success in the grand scheme of things.

Then I also had a lot of time today for some of that creative work itself, including some writing on a novel that is still in the formative stages, and some practice drawing. I’ve been wanting to get better at drawing, as it’s something I’ve always found difficult (and therefore always thought I sucked at). I started sitting outside and drawing things in nature back in November, but as the weather has gotten colder that is a lot less appealing. So today I decided to draw something based on a photograph of a belted kingfisher (a type of bird) that I took back in June.

My biggest problem with drawing is perfectionism. If I’m looking at the thing I’m drawing, then looking at my sketch, I’m disappointed. I’m not capturing every detail perfectly, I’m clumsy with the pencil, I’m inadvertently smudging things with my hand. But when I go back and look at my drawings later, I think they’re not half bad.

I’ve also always drawn with too heavy a hand; elementary school art teachers tried to teach me how to sketch the initial lines lightly, but I never got it. Maybe it’s because I often find that my fingers don’t do exactly what I want them to do unless I am pressing down a little harder.  Since learning I’m Autistic, I have wondered if this and my related difficulty with handwriting (I still have to concentrate in order to make Bs and 3s correctly) have to do with the fine motor skill issues that often go along with autism. This is something I’m trying to stay aware of now.

So here is my kingfisher. I thought about including the original photo for comparison, but given that comparison with reality is exactly where my insecurity and perfectionism about my drawing lies, I’m not going to. 🙂Pencil drawing of a belted kingfisher (bird) on a branch.

New Year’s Template

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. I do set goals for things I want to accomplish, but that goal-setting isn’t always tied to the turning of a calendar page. (I also don’t have any particular affinity with January 1st as the beginning of the new year. I note it for the sake of writing the correct date on things, but otherwise I kind of already marked the turning of  a new year back on the Winter Solstice.)

But what I decided to do today was to spend the day doing some of the things related to my current goals and projects. So I started a new crochet project this morning (which, with luck, will be a hunter-green vest, my first real clothing project other than hats and scarves). I also spent some time outdoors with my camera on this gorgeous winter day, in a combination of body movement and spiritual contemplation. And I finally got back to an iOS app I’ve been working on, and got it working again after some of the code had gotten broken in the changeover to Swift 3 last fall.

I still have a number of other pursuits I wasn’t able to incorporate into my day — I’ve got some writing projects in the works, for example, and I’m trying to learn how to draw — but I do hope to find a little time for some reading this evening. Plus there’s still another day of my weekend, so there should be room to work a few more things in. The nice thing is, the day still felt relaxed and unhurried, and getting back into programming felt good (although finding those last few bugs definitely left me fried). And I got to spend the day with my husband and dog, which was especially nice.

So instead of making resolutions, I’ve been reflecting on my goals for projects like these. And I guess what I’m hoping is that this weekend will set a template for the calendar year to come. Have a great 2017. 🙂

Snowy brook in the woods