Monthly Archives: July 2024

Writing Organization: Early Days with Reminders

One of the drawbacks of how my brain functions is that complex organizational schemes only last for a short period of time, generally. Some things remain relatively intact—my use of the 8 ½” x 11” Moleskine weekly planner, for one, which is just an extension of the complicated DayRunner scheme I used in the ‘90s—but others end up working for about six months.

I’ve tried both electronic and paper organizing methods and where things usually fall down is in the complexity of the system I devise. Last year’s attempt to do weekly/monthly assessments of the writing week, then blogging about it, just about wrecked me. Yes, it was supposed to be providing accountability.

No, it didn’t work.

What that method did was load about an hour’s worth of time-dependent extra work on me, more if you count the blogging piece. At the end, before I dropped doing it, I struggled with rising sensations of feeling overwhelmed and behind, racing along trying to keep up with my organizing structures rather than the organizing structures making things easier. Fewer things got done on my daily to-do list. I still needed to keep day and time-dependent reminders in my working memory. Not the best method for someone with ADHD issues.

Besides, the old method was too dependent upon paper tracking. Which is great if you can break down the tasks when first planning or scheduling, but if you need to add or subtract a task as your work on the primary task unfolds, then it becomes a time suck because you have to recreate the outlines on paper, juggle more 3×5 cards, or whatever to document the expansion. Not to speak of “where on earth is the outline for the more detailed breakdown of this task, damn it, I can’t find it now!”

It also seemed that I had more and more tasks coming my way where I had to go through “if this happens, then I need to take this step next.” But I didn’t always know what that next step would be until the task unfolded—deadlines, a step that needed to happen before I took the next action, etc, etc. An optimal organizing system required the ability to add subtask breakdown steps as part of my planning.

Having some sort of organization also became crucial because I’m juggling multiple volunteer responsibilities as well as preparing for a trilogy book launch this fall. Promotion has changed a lot over the past year and I needed to have some sort of organized strategy that worked for me. I looked at a book-oriented organizing program, but right off the bat it started giving me deadlines based on a slightly different sales model than the one I use. The promotion organizing program assumed I was using Kindle Unlimited and…I don’t sell well on KU, never have been able to get it to work for me. Examining things further it became clear that the program just wasn’t gonna work for me. Oh, I learned a little bit from it, but…it wasn’t the electronic organization I required for the book launch process.

More than that, I needed something to help coordinate my volunteer work.

An electronic planner seemed to be the answer—but was it?

Previous attempts to use electronic planners had failed because at the time I was trying to use them, the ability to nest those subtasks easily didn’t exist, much less being able to network my planner across devices. Oh, I could organize subtasks by date and time, but…arrrgh, it was simply frustrating because I couldn’t sort by specific organizations and major tasks. I got a taste of possibilities with Evernote, but alas, that ended up with issues in the long run. I forget what they were but they were enough for me to stop using the program.

I took a look at what came with my iPhone. One thing I wanted was the ability to go beyond simple calendar tracking. I already had that. I needed the ability to break up my assorted multistep tasks into separate lists. Ideally, it would show up not just on my phone but on my computer. Was there something?

Yes.

On the iPhone it’s called Reminders. I started poking at it and playing with it—aha. Works across devices. I could organize my to-dos by specific groups or tasks, into individual lists. But the program also brought together ALL of my lists that I could check with one screen on my phone. I could break individual to-dos into assorted subtasks so that step-by-step planning, complete with the date and time, could happen WITHOUT having to do a lot of workarounds and cobbling up strategies. It just…happened. Built into the app.

Even better, instead of being tied into extensive data entry on my phone, I could organize and do data entry on my computer. I’m not a heavy user of my phone for anything but the basics—don’t do email or social media on it, so I needed something that crossed devices.

Is it a perfect solution?

Not entirely. There are times when Reminders is a bit wonky.

However, I love being able to set up subtasks, add a date and time, then set times for when specific steps need to be completed. The lists work visually for me.

Plus there’s the satisfaction of tapping that little round button, and seeing the task go away.

Even more satisfying is the reduction of stress on my cognitive load. I don’t have all of my to-dos loaded on the app. Not all of them require that degree of complex tracking. But for the tasks that require that sort of tracking—I’m hopeful that this will make things easier, especially as my responsibilities pick up again during the fall, along with entering the drafting stage of a new book while promoting the new release.

We shall see how things go in the long run.

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State of the Horses, July 2024

 

There’s been a lot of quiet progress on the equine front. Mocha and Marker moved to summer pasture in May. Mocha immediately began establishing her rule not just over Marker but the neighboring gelding, Blue. In past years, when it’s been just Mocha, Blue could get away with wandering off to his shed and ignoring Mocha when she called for him. She would come quickly when he called, but he didn’t necessarily respond when she called, which led to a lot of fretting and frustration on her part.

Things changed now that she has Her Own Gelding. I shut them in a smaller corner pasture because I wanted it to get grazed down first. Didn’t want to do it when Mocha was alone because she’d fret and fuss at not being near other horses. Marker hangs out with Mocha. She doesn’t need Blue for company, except when Marker leaves to go for a ride. She’s very attached to Marker now and calls both when he leaves and when he returns. In return, he hangs out with her and, while being pushy by nature, has become less so the longer he stays with her. If she’s pulled out, he fusses. There hasn’t been a lot of pinned ears, squealing, or popped-up hind end kicking threats from her, either. From past experience I know that if she’s unhappy with field partners I’d be seeing a lot of that behavior. Now, she moves into his space when I’m booting him up and saddling, anticipating shared cookies before I put her back in the field.

The pairing and the weather this year meant that I could rotate them between pasture sections, too, something we used to do with our horses when I was a kid. Unfortunately I think this week’s hot spell probably finished that management for the summer. They still have plenty to graze in that upper field for another week or two. But we shall see—depending on when the fall rains come, I might do it again.

She is having more issues with the steeper upper field, and some of the rocky paths she used to choose. However, Marker keeps her moving, more than she would if she was alone or with the mare herd. She is a stay in one place and graze type where he likes to move around while grazing. But she still trots and canters quite a bit. It’s good to see, and she’s putting weight on while still maintaining muscle.

Marker’s come quite a ways this summer. I took him to our first big event together at the end of June, the Ranch Rodeo trail ride that winds its way through Joseph and up to the top of the moraine. He had to handle being around 40-50 horses and mules; being in the front, middle, and end of the line; having a lot of horses moving in and out of his space; having stock dogs trotting behind him; and negotiating both town obstacles and rocky hillsides with a rider. Plus a big, wide ditch with water, about two feet deep.

He got a little worried when we were crowded going on our way out of town, but didn’t squeal, kick, or even pin his ears. Whenever he got nervous, I talked to him, then eventually circled back to put him in a less-crowded space. He did get worried about road markings (that bicycle path marker was eeevvvill, I tell you, EEEEVVILL) and cement retaining walls, but that was really the worst of it. We had a couple of slippery moments with his boots going downhill, but he cooperated with me and we did fine. Boy horse has that invisible fifth leg to catch himself that Mocha didn’t. She opted for precision and slow placement in those situations, while he marches through. But he’s a bigger horse so that makes a difference.

By the time we rode down Joseph’s Main Street, he was DONE, however. Not being a jerk or spooky, just letting me know by the speed of his pace and his overall behavior that he had gone through enough. He was a good boy as we rode near the head of the line through town, and whinnied at his trailer when we came within sight of it. I don’t know if he expected Mocha to be in it or if he was just happy to see the trailer.

Another thing that’s happening is that he is apparently gaited. I don’t know if this is natural or something I’ve done—I got Mocha to do much the same thing on the road, except that it didn’t feel as natural for her as it does him. Don’t ask me what gait it is that he’s doing—it covers ground nicely on the roads, is very comfortable and smooth, and eats up the miles. Might be singlefoot; might be running walk. Or even an amble. That points to a likely Morgan background in addition to the Arabian because while Quarter Horses do have some gaiting in them, it’s not as common as it is in Morgans. It’s easy enough to feel why horses with that sort of gait were prized back in the day when horseback riding was a dominant transportation mode.

Or it could be me—my first horse mentor, Carol Suit, got just about every horse that passed through her hands to gait. I was too young to realize that was a good skill to develop but I must have picked it up somewhere.

In any case, we’re making progress in horse world. I can direct Marker somewhat with hand signals and the use of the lunge whip as a guide. I can open the wire gate, tell him back and whoa, and he stays there until I halter him. He still gets anxious and pushy after I’ve been gone a day or two, but even that is improving.

Progress in small steps.

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