“Life in Balance” time management application

One of my brothers and I may be developing an application that will help people to not only organize the “getting and spending” and maintenance aspects of their lives, but also help people to work toward a “life in balance,” where they will be able to do more of what they WANT to do and less of what they believe they HAVE to do. Also important: a goal of this is to help creative and ADHD types translate more of their brilliant ideas into actual accomplishments. AND at the same time fulfill more of their spiritual and relationship needs. (Ok, so I am imagining something close to heaven…that’s just my crazy, highly imaginative brain at work.)

This is a very exciting project, and perhaps I am too eager (my brain imagines a world in which it has all already come to fruition, without any thought to the very real obstacles we will likely encounter along the way) to announce this. But I can hardly contain myself!

Please let me know if you would be interested in participating in testing the product as it is developed (oh I am SO “jumping the gun” on this! — I don’t even know if my brother can translate my ideas into code!).

I can’t give more details as this is a public page. But if you are a person who finds existing time/work/project management software (and the paper versions that preceded them) extremely frustrating and generally useless, this could be the very thing you need.

I can’t make any promises that this will actually come about. But knowing that there are lots of people interested can keep the incentive to work on this high at the top of my own “to do” lists.

If you are interested, please complete this survey. All questions are optional, including contact information. However, if you are interested in participating in beta tests of this application, you will need to supply your contact information and answer all questions.

You may also post general thoughts  about this idea below.

“Throwback Thursday: Back-to-School Beatitudes–10 Academic Survival Tips” (Crunk Feminist Collective)

Here is a terrific collection of academic survival tips for the “target audience” of my business and this blog from The Crunk Feminist Collective

Samples (QUOTED):

  • Be confident in your abilities.
    • If you feel like a fraud, you very likely are suffering from impostor syndrome, a chronic feeling of intellectual or personal inadequacy born of grandiose expectations about what it means to be competent. Women in particular suffer with this issue, but I argue that it is worse for women-of-color (particularly Blacks and Latinas) who labor under stereotypes of both racial and gender incompetence. The academy itself also creates grandiose expectations, given the general perception of academicians as hypercompetent people. Secret: Everybody that’s actin like they know, doesn’t really know. So ask your question. It’s probably not as stupid as you think. Now say this with me: “I’m smart enough, my work is important, and damn it, I’m gonna make it.”
  • Be patient with yourself.
    • Be patient with your own process of intellectual growth. You will get there and it will all come together. You aren’t supposed to know everything at the beginning. And you still won’t know everything at the end (of coursework, exams, the dissertation, life…).
    • Getting the actual degree isn’t about intellect. It is about sheer strength of will and dogged determination. “Damn it, I’m gonna walk out of here with that piece of paper if it’s the last cottonpickin’ thing I do.” That kind of thinking helps you to keep going after you’ve just been asked to revise a chapter for the third time, your committee member has failed to submit a letter of rec on time, and you feel like blowing something or someone up.
  • Be your own best advocate. Prioritize your own professional needs/goals.
    • You have not because you ask not.  You have to be willing to ask for what you need. You deserve transparency about the rules and procedures of your program, cordial treatment from faculty, staff and students, and a program that prepares you not only for the rigors of grad school but also for the job market (should you desire a career in academia).  But folks won’t hand it to you on a silver platter. You have to build relationships, ask questions, and make demands.
    • Figure out your writing process (the place [home, coffee shop, library], time [morning, afternoon, night], and conditions [background noise, total silence, cooler or warmer] under which you work best and try to create those conditions as frequently as possible during finals, qualifying exams, and dissertation.
    • Your self-advocacy will often be misperceived as aggression and anger, entitlement or selfishness. Don’t apologize. 


More here:

Throwback Thursday: Back-to-School Beatitudes–10 Academic Survival Tips”

Clients of Matrix Education and Editorial Services receive emotional support in each and every one of the areas identified by The Crunk. I have a weekly online support group for academics who have ADHD added to the challenges of non-traditional academic identities — i.e., people of color, LGBT, disabled, and other non-European-descendent-cisgender-male identities. This group currently meets Thursdays @ 5-6 p.m. Central through my Join.me technology (very easy to use), which allows screen sharing and recording (with your permission).

If/when I can gather three to four non-ADHD people interested in a support group that focuses on the issues specific to those non-traditional academic identities, I will create another group to be scheduled according to participants’ needs. The charge for this is $20 per person per one-hour session. If I have four people I will reserve one space for someone who needs to negotiate a lower fee.

Note: I am myself a white cisgender straight female, but my passion in life is to enable real social change by helping non-traditional academics to succeed and thrive. I have three identities that make ME non-traditional: I am ADHD myself, I am disabled in non-visible ways, and I have lived a lifetime of being “other” by virtue of surviving childhood sexual abuse. I know what it means to be invisible and to be judged by prejudice. In addition, I OWN the privileges that accrue to me by virtue of my whiteness and my status as middle class (despite low income) due to culture and education. And I am open to being called out when I do or say things that suggest I am unconscious of my privilege. I welcome being educated by my clients!


ADHD and Contextual Thinking

Years ago in early graduate school I wrote a paper on the communications theorist Walter Ong, who looked at the differences between and among primarily oral and primarily literate cultures and the ways that literacy actually restructures the way people think. He told a story about how some researchers were trying to get some indigenous people to categorize the way Westerners categorize things. You know — “one of these things is not like the other; which one is different, do you know?” The example he gave (if I recall correctly) was of a hammer, a saw, a carving knife, and a piece of wood. We would automatically say the first three are tools and the last one is not. However, these respondents absolutely insisted: “why take something away from the thing for which it was made?” Each of those “tools” would work on piece of wood — that is, the thing for which those tools were made. 

When we go about trying to “make a point,” we have great difficulty separating the “tools” from the “things for which they are made.” We are HIGHLY CONTEXTUAL THINKERS, and more often than not the context we feel we need to supply comes from our personal experiences. Thus as we relate our personal experiences as we are trying to make our point, it appears that we are “making everything all about ourselves.” When we are not at all doing that. We are simply conveying the ways in which we understand the world.

It is also our contextual thinking that makes it difficult for us to create a linear outline and to follow it, and to produce work that passes muster in a linear-thinking world. We understand what we read in the context not only of everything else we have read but also in the context of our personal lives. ALMOST EVERYTHING is relevant to the point we are trying to make, including something that may have happened to us (for example) when we were four years old!

This is a problem for us for three main reasons and three o main reasons alone:

1) The rest of the world (but especially the academic world) thinks linearly, or demands linear thinking, because they see it as more “efficient,” and so therefore all our provisions of context are just a waste of time.

2) The rest of the world devalues personal experience both as a source and as a context for knowledge.

3) Efficiency of time use is prized above everything else.

Do you see how utterly contrary these three concerns that “normals” have are to our way of being in the world, our way of understanding it? And how utterly alien they would be to people living in a primarily oral culture, where time is measured by the location of the sun and the moon in the sky, and people don’t mind waiting for others to arrive at a gathering because the waiting time can be spent in all sorts of wondrous pleasures, and nobody is thinking about the next meeting they have to get to?

And when it comes to speaking and making points — STORIES are valued?

Now, it may seem contradictory that all of us here are writers and we love to read (but kapow! I just suddenly understood why so many ADHD folks have trouble with reading, and it is not because of short attention spans, but rather because reading is linear and the subject matter all too often taken out of context).

I have learned how to edit dissertations and other writing in order to get them to conform to the standards of the linear, academic world that prizes efficiency. I am absolutely superb at it. But I am much better doing it with other people’s work than I am with my own, because I don’t have the attachments to context that my clients do.

Come to think of it, this may not just be an issue of differences between ADHD folks and “normals” but also differences between people whose own cultures are different from the dominant one. For example, I can see how African Americans might have difficulty with the linearity of “standard” academic thinking, depending on whether they grew up in middle class or lower class environments. In middle class environments they would have parents who’ve also been drilled in how to think linearly. Ditto with working class cultures. I know that working class folks find much of academia alienating.

Anyway, I have come to the point that I intend to DEFEND my way of expressing myself as a legitimate way of understanding the world. I may choose to speak less often in deference to the constraints of time so that others also have the opportunity to speak. But I will ask people to be patient with my story-telling and all my prefatory material that I believe needs to be part of “my point.” And if they aren’t willing to be patient, am out the door. Because I don’t need that negativity.

People who are looking for support from other people to allow them be who they are in all their glorious individuality as well as their differences from the “norm” should be able to accept someone who is different, but different in a different way.

Time to have an ADHD Liberation Movement, maybe? I am only half serious about that. But the half that is serious is very serious. I think we need to stop accepting other people’s evaluations of ourselves for our failure to conform to their expectations. We have our own unique contributions to make. Yes, we need to become more self aware — if for no other reason than we know how unbearable it can be to be in a room full of ADHD folks who are unaware! We do need to find ways to compromise and live within the dominant world, but as we do that we must not for once think that our way of being in the world is WRONG, something to be FIXED.

Coping with ADHD (part 1 — or is it 2? 3?)

I wrote this in response to someone who commented on my “Rhythms are the Best for Working,” post and decided it was long enough and worthwhile enough for me to make it a separate post.

Jonathan, I encourage you to CELEBRATE your ADHD as a quality that makes you stand out from the crowd. People with ADHD are generally very intelligent and have a wide variety of interests about which they can be equally intense. Instead of seeing it as a disability (except when you need support for it), see it as a “misfit” between your brain wiring and the expectations of a rigid world that likes “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”

What I try to do is follow my interest for as long as I can, and then pick up the thread of something else when interest wanes. The trick is to keep track of all your various interests and have a way to remind you of all the work you’ve already done on as-yet incomplete projects. So when you run up against a blank wall, go back to your other projects and see if you can spark some interest in one of them again. If you keep going, eventually you will complete something!

I have been writing almost all of my life, and I have saved everything, whether on paper (earlier work) or electronically (I’ve had a computer since 1984). At 64 I decided I needed to go back to old work & pick up where I left off, writing an autobiography. Well, guess what? It is already 3/4ths written, between my journal entries, emails, facebook posts, completed autobiographical short stories (names changed, but otherwise, autobiography), novellas, fragments, and poems. Right now it’s a matter of bringing it all together, filling in the gaps, and planning the story I want to tell (which affects how I arrange the materials), and then writing an ending. These days my age is pressing on me — I’d better get this done now, or I will never do it. And so I find myself carving time out for it, whenever I can fit it in.

There will always be setbacks. For instance, in June 2010 my son-in-law committed suicide, and I chose to move closer to my grandchildren. This has caused a major upheaval in my life, as all moves do, but particularly moreso for people with ADHD and for people with my various chronic pain conditions.

Nonetheless, it is the experience of all of that that has brought be back to my writing as a way of healing.

Setbacks are barriers only if you allow them to be so. Setbacks can be stepping stones instead. You may have to step back for a while, but something will gestate if you allow it, and eventually you will be a better, stronger person, and a better writer!

Rhythms are the best for working

Rhythms are the best for working.
Break the rhythm and it’s like
starting cold: creak and puff and
grind away, write reams of garbage
until the garbage becomes
a lubricant. Lift that dead
arm you’ve been sleeping on. See
it sway and flop: half corpse you
are. The arm is useless. Paralyzed
for life. Can’t do it. Won’t work.
Imagine yourself dead: this
is it, kid. Body won’t work.
Feel it dissolve into the
sheets. It’s noon. Last time I looked
it was nine. I don’t remember
sleeping. The rhythms of the
world have gone awry. Who can
trust a clock

That’s the first stanza of a poem I wrote, first draft, some time around 1976 or so. More than 36 years later I still have trouble establishing a rhythm for working.

There was a time, back when my daughter was an infant, that I did manage to do that for, oh, about 6 months, starting in September of 1973. She was just a year old. I was suffering from horrible migraine headaches, and decided that they were caused by the fact that I was not writing, since at the time I was full-time mom and had no time for myself. So I found a parent-participation day care center (the only one then that would take a child still in diapers) where I took her every Tuesday and Thursday (with every eighth day my day for required participation). I would load her up into the car and drive from Ontario (Calif.) to Claremont, deposit her there at 8:30, drive back home, sit down at the typewriter (a manual!) and pound away for a few hours, drive back to pick her up at noon, come back home, feed her lunch, put her down for a nap, and then write for another hour or so while she slept.

It worked very well for a while. During that time I wrote the first drafts or portions thereof of nearly everything that ended up in my masters’ thesis (a collection of my own short stories). But then I hit a wall. I would sit at the typewriter and nothing, absolutely nothing, would come. And of course, my daughter decided to change her schedule. No more naps after lunch, mom. Thanks anyway!

There were many other things that interfered, not the least of which was my crumbling marriage, and internal conflicts of which I was only dimly aware … it took me three decades to understand the forces that were driving me then.

I am now 64 years old; 65 next August. An age when most people are getting ready for retirement (although that is taking much longer these days in this economic climate). Because of the various health issues I’ve struggled with, I’ve not really had a career yet. This in spite of all the wonderful gifts I have. I know in good part, aside from my health issues, this is a result of being ADHD, a diagnosis I did not receive until age 45, a few years after I completed my PhD. I read Sari Solden’s Women with Attention Deficit Disorderon the hunch that ADHD could be a major factor in the struggles I have had throughout my life. I read chapter after chapter with tears in my eyes. Tears of recognition and relief. Most important in what I got out of all that was the realization that I was not somehow morally deficient. My inability to establish and maintain order in my life was not a character flaw. I was not a terrible wife and mother.

One of Solden’s key arguments is that women are expected to keep order in the home. They are expected to keep everyone else organized and on track. When they can’t, it’s a reflection on them as women. Women who don’t keep their family lives in order are defective as women. Their entire identities are at stake. If  you have a husband who demands order, and who responds to the lack of it by hitting you below the “emotional belt” with attacks on that very identity, reinforcing your own sense of inadequacy, you spiral downward. Not knowing that it is something you cannot help, that you were born this way and you can’t fix it without help, leaves you feeling worthless.

So reading Solden’s book came as a huge relief to me. At last I had an answer for the long years of feeling I was completely incompetent and a failure at being a woman, and particularly a wife.

I haven’t been a wife for more than three decades now, having divorced my second husband in 1984, turning instead to focus my attentions on becoming a college professor. It took me ten years to finally finish that PhD. Getting the ADHD diagnosis (I insisted that my psychiatrist send me to a specialist for that) helped also in understanding why it took me so long. I remember working three times as hard as my cohorts to get my assignments done. I had to read first, marking the texts, then go back and type verbatim sections from those texts as notes, then review those notes several times before I could get the gist of the material. Not because I was stupid (far from it — once my work was turned in, everyone thought it brilliant), but because I would read for a bit and then my mind would go wild with new ideas applying what I had just learned. Hour upon hour would be spent in these flights of fancy. The dissertation journal I kept at the time is chock full of materials for at least TEN dissertations!

Whenever I would go to talk to my adviser about my dissertation, he would always ask me, “which one”?

My filing cabinets are also full of kazillions of articles, creative non-fiction essays, short stories, poems, novel ideas, novel chapters (different novels), and the like. Not to mention all the ideas I would have for solving social problems, or practical problems with the various institutions I worked for, flitting about from job to job.

I am, indeed, an “idea person.” What I am not good is setting up and maintaining that rhythm for work that is absolutely essential to bring an idea to fruition, suitable for sharing with the world and (one hopes) resulting in financial remuneration.

So, in addition to providing this blog as a means for my clients to connect and to get help sorting through their own blocks with writing, I am hoping this will also help me work through my own.

I am going to try to set up a rhythm for my own writing, and I suggest that others who are struggling like me figure out how to do that as well. You can post a reply here, or those who have “author” status can create their own posts about the blocks you are up against.

My first big block is that I am up against a life that is in complete disarray, mostly due to health issues that keep getting in the way. At this point I can’t even commit myself to a particular time of day at which I would concentrate on my own writing. I need to start by committing myself to 15 minutes a day just planning what to do with the rest of my day, even if it doesn’t include my own writing!

What about YOU?