(c) Gaye Wilson 2014

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

I’ve just come back from the Third Australasian Egyptology Conference, a three-day conference for scholars in the Australasian region to discuss recent research in Egyptology.

I met another independent scholar there, Elizabeth Bettles, and asked her how she keeps up her motivation to do Egyptology, given that she has no academic position.

Her answer was simple: it gives me a buzz.

For Elizabeth, whilst the work in the library is a necessary part of being an Egyptologist, or any scholar for that matter, it’s working in the field – excavating in the Dakhleh Oasis is her current dig project – that gives her the buzz to keep going, and to keep publishing in a discipline she loves.

It can be a lonely thing, being an independent scholar. You have to use your own funds to buy reference materials and equipment, to travel, to attend conferences and to do all the other things that an academic in a university or museum has access to as a matter of course. You have to motivate yourself in the midst of your day-to-day life, and in most cases, unrelated paid work, to go the extra mile and actually do research. You don’t have the regular contact with other minds that people working in your discipline have, and therefore your life tends to lack intellectual stimulation.

It’s HARD to work on your own. That’s why I am a dissertation coach. Working on your own requires intense concentration and fierce determination to succeed. It requires motivation, both external (going to excavations and conferences) and internal (doing the stuff that has to be done but is not quite as exciting).

In order to work on your own, in any endeavour, you need the following:

  • Motivation – a reason to be doing this.
  • A plan – a schedule of what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and how it will be achieved.
  • Support – interaction with other people who will inspire and encourage you.
  • A routine – actually making the time to do the work.

Find your buzz. That will make the motivation so much easier.

So what’s your buzz? What motivates you, and how can you get your motivation back when it wavers?

1105359  © Gaye Wilson 2013

 Do you browse the internet for hours at a time?

I have been known to do so.

And at the end of the day, I’m tired and annoyed with myself. Typically, I don’t have much to show for the day, except more stuff on my hard drive that I’ll probably never look at.

I’m trying something new today. It’s a log of what I do, as I do it.

I’ve opened a new Word document (a text document would do, or a spreadsheet – I used to use a spreadsheet for work) with the title ‘What I did today’ and the date. And under the heading, I have typed everything I have done, each item on a separate line.

For example:

  • I paid a membership.
  • I took photos for some items I want to sell on ebay.
  • Contacted Canon for help with a printer problem.
  • Filed some receipts.
  • Did some online surveys.
  • Coached a client.
  • Sent out some overdue emails (listed on separate lines).
  • Etc.

I have found this to be a really exhilarating exercise. It shows how I have spent my time. It has kept me focused on important tasks rather than mindless surfing. It has motivated me to do more and cross items off my to-do list. It makes me feel good. I have actually accomplished a lot of little tasks today that have been hanging around undone for ages.

If I was honest with myself, and did this on a day that I was surfing for hours, I would paste the urls, so that I could look back on the day and see if any of the surfing was actually useful. I tend to lose track of where I’ve surfed, even when I’m doing useful surfing.

The other important thing is that this process has forced me to pay attention to what I am actually doing, and I am conscious of my actions to the point where I don’t want to be mindless. In order to make today’s tally look as if I have had a productive day, I am tending to look at websites for specific information, deal with it, close the tab and move on to the next item on my list, rather than spending many more minutes browsing the site just for interest.

It’s self-regulating. I know I will be self-reporting my actions, so I do actions that are worth reporting!

I know there are programs out there that will record what sites you visit (such as Surfwatcher:  http://surferwatcher.software.informer.com/ ) or time trackers (such as True Time Tracker: http://true-time-tracker.software.informer.com/) [neither of which I have used, by the way, and there are many more out there], but for today I have found that manually recording my actions has had a regulating effect on me. I am conscious of what I am doing, I am consistently looking for the next action to take rather than drifting through the day, and I am in the moment.

Win/win/win.

I’m so much more productive today.

What strategies do you use to keep yourself on track and off the internet?

2014© Gaye Wilson 2013

Well, a new year is closing in fast.

What did you accomplish in 2013? Was it all you wanted it to be? Was it a disappointment? Was it awful or awesome?

Did you plan the year, or have New Year’s Resolutions, or did you just let it happen?

So how did that work out for you?

New Year’s Resolutions: good or bad?

There is a lot of literature on the internet about New Year’s Resolutions – how to make them, how to keep them, how many people break them. You can spend lots of money on the newest, latest ways of keeping your resolutions, but realistically, if you’ve failed to keep them in the past, you will likely fail to keep them in the future.

So what to do?

Every year, I make a list of actions I want to accomplish in the next 365 days. (I take a day off in leap years!) I type them up so that they look pretty or impressive or inviting, then print them out and stick them on my refrigerator so that I see them every day.

The fun part comes when I can ceremoniously, or joyously, or relievedly cross them off the list and write the date accomplished.

If I’m really organized, I replace last year’s list with the new year’s list. Sometimes I don’t get to do that – a friend came over last week and noticed my 2012 list on the fridge with some items still waiting to be crossed off. I could put them in the 2014 list, but then I wouldn’t get as much satisfaction when I cross them off if I think they are this year’s list.

Or I could look at 2012′s list and decide if the undone actions are still amongst my priorities. If not, I need to make the deliberate choice to let them go.

Note that the list is of actions, not resolutions. A resolution is not action. Action is action. Perhaps this is why New Year Resolutions don’t work. Perhaps it’s because they are only resolutions, with no actions attached.

Maybe.

If the list you look at every single day is a list of actions, how much easier is that to accomplish than a vague-sounding resolution?

This year I will lose weight.

This year I will save money.

This year I will change jobs.

This year I will go to the gym more.

Those aren’t actions. They are not even goals. They are a list of things you think you should do. They are the top level of decision making. What you need is a whole plan, a strategy, to accomplish all of those items on the list.

The hierarchy goes something like this:

  • Resolution – This year I will lose weight.
  • Goal – By December 31 I will weigh xxx pounds/kilos.
  • Strategy – Four-pronged attack on the goal: mindset, diet, exercise, accountability.
  • Take action

Know your what. Know your why. Know your how. Know your when.

2014

So what will make your 2014 better than your 2013?

What do you need in the next 12 months to make you happier, healthier, wealthier, more fulfilled than you were in 2013?

What do you need to do to make 2014 awesome?

May 2014 be all that you need it to be.

nevergiveup© Gaye Wilson 2013

Well, I finished my Russian diploma in 2011, and started a new language: Italian. As with the Russian, I am learning it by distance, which means that I do not attend classes.

The way distance learning works is that you log onto a web site where all the materials are, including recordings of the lectures. It is up to the student to listen to all the recordings, do all the reading, and submit all the assignments on time.

Is this hard? Yes it is, especially when you are learning a foreign language.

The first year of Italian gave me a good grounding in the language, approximately equal to matriculation level from high school. This year, Intermediate Italian, is proving to be harder. Why? Because the lectures are given in Italian!

At the end of my first year of Italian, I found that I could read simple Italian fairly well, or at least could get the gist of it. But I could not speak it, write it easily, or understand anything said at normal speed.

Hmm. Some more work needed.

As I said, this year the lectures are conducted in Italian. That will help with understanding the spoken word. I am finding that it’s not as hard as I expected, and I suspect that I have one advantage over the people who actually attend the classes: I can stop the audio and look up words or make notes, and not miss anything.

So I am pleased that this year will address one of my issues with the language: the spoken word.

One of the other major problems I have with this project is that I cannot write Italian very well. Or at least, not without spending ages looking up words, conjugations and grammatical structures.

This, too, is being addressed this year. This semester we are buddied up with other students and are required to conduct email conversations with them throughout the semester, with a minimum total of 200 words.

Now, I have a problem with this. Yes, it’s giving me practice in writing Italian. But no, it’s not giving me feedback from a native speaker and I don’t get my mistakes corrected. I have asked my buddy to correct my Italian if she sees mistakes, and I do the same for her.

But my BIGGEST problem with this course is the other distance students. They are whingers. They complain that it’s all too hard. My original email buddy decided it was too hard to learn the language by distance, even though she comes from an Italian family and can practise on them.

What??

It really bothers me that there are people who embark on a new project, such as learning a language, starting a business, or doing a PhD, who then complain that it’s too hard.

Listen up, people.

It’s supposed to be hard.

A past Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, once said “Life is not meant to be easy.” Hmm. I’m not sure of the philosophy, but in a way he was right. Life is hard for many people, but the ones who accept it and forge ahead anyway are the ones who are successful.

Change your language. Instead of saying ‘It’s too hard!”, say “It’s hard! YAYYY! That means I get to stretch myself, overcome some obstacles, and learn a lot.”

Changing your inner language is important, because it is the only way you will be able to change yourself.

When something is hard, celebrate that you are attempting something that is hard for you, and work out how to accomplish it.

Make a plan.
Ask for help.
Stretch yourself.
And never ever give up.

© Gaye Wilson 2012

Ninety years ago this week, on 6th November 1912, archaeologist Howard Carter stumbled upon some steps leading down to a hitherto unknown royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

It was the tomb of Tutankhamun, an Egyptian king who died while in his late teens.

The discovery was a turning point in the history of Egyptology. It showed the richness of tomb goods that were provided for royalty in ancient Egypt. Up until then, royal tombs had been plundered of their wealth long before they were discovered by archaeologists.

Whilst this is all very exciting, the point of this post is not the riches that Carter found, nor the notoriety that followed the discovery. The point I want to make here is that Carter was broke, and nearly at the end of his time in Egypt. He had spent several years coming the Valley of the Kings trying to find an undiscovered tomb, with no success.

But he didn’t quit.

He didn’t give up.

He kept looking, and finally found the tomb that made his name.

If you want something badly enough, never EVER give up.

References you might like to read about the discovery of Tutankhamun:


Image by Kriss Szkurlatowski

© Gaye Wilson 2010

I’ve heard of people being paralysed with fear before, and I’ve seen it – they go rigid, stare into space, and can’t move. It takes ages to come out of it.

But paralysed BY fear? I’m not talking about the person who’s afraid of heights who freezes when he sees a long drop, although it’s related. I’m talking here about being so afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet that you can’t do anything. This type of paralysis isn’t so much a physical paralysis as a mental one. (Trust me, there’s a subtle difference!)

I’m in that situation now. I’m paralysed by fear about my studies.

My penultimate Russian exam is in a week’s time, but I can’t make myself study. I’m afraid I will fail.

There are all sorts of reasons why this is a reasonable fear. The major one (and ultimately the only one that really counts as far as the exam is concerned) is that I haven’t studied enough. Why? Because I have experienced the absolute worst six months in my entire life, and study has been at the bottom of my list of things to do and worry about.

The problem now is how to get out of my funk and do enough study to pass the exam.

Yesterday, when I mentioned that I was having trouble motivating myself to study, someone said to me: “Just do it!”

Hmm, it’s actually not that easy to “just do it” when you’re afraid. If I could “just do it”, I’d be a billionaire by now. But the definition of courage is to take action when you are afraid. If there’s no fear involved, it’s not courage.

Here are some thoughts on how to get out of paralysis that is caused by fear:

1. Acknowledge the fear.

Realise that the fear is what is stopping you from moving forward, not the actual task. Once you’ve acknowledged that it’s actually fear that is the obstacle, you might be able to move away from it.

2. Acknowledge where you are.

Okay, you’ve realised that you’re paralysed by fear. Now look at where you are in relation to the achievement of your goal. Where did you stop in the process? Once you know where you are, you can start to figure out what you have to do from now on.

3. Take one small step NOW to rectify the problem.

What one thing can you do today to move you forward? Do that one thing. Then do another one.

4. Enlist help.

In my case, I can enlist help from the lecturer (done that, she’s very supportive), from fellow students, from friends, from family. The type of help obviously depends on the type of problem. For me, the obvious help would be to get someone to test me on vocabulary. And/or to get a Russian friend.

5. Talk to a coach or counsellor.

Coaches are amazing people. They can motivate, stimulate and rejuvenate. They have tricks up their sleeves that will move the most stubborn blocks. Counsellors do something similar, but might be more suited to working out why you have the block in the first place.

6. Realise that this too will pass.

Most things in life are temporary. Once you realise that the situation you’re in has a sunset clause (i.e. it won’t last beyond a certain date), you can work through it. The thing now is to get through this period with the best possible outcome.

7. Focus.

Work out the best possible outcome under the circumstances, and focus on how you will achieve it.

The trick is obviously not to let fear paralyse you in the first place, but if you do find yourself in that position, screw up your courage, get help and take baby steps towards your goal.

Now I’m going to go away and learn ten Russian words. And hope that helps to banish the fear just a little bit.

© Gaye Wilson 2010

I went to put my dogs in their day pens this morning, and stopped short. On the ground at the bottom of a tree in one of the pens was something unexpected. I moved closer and saw the most wonderful lizard, motionless, staring up the tree trunk.

Needless to say I didn’t put the dog in there. Either the dog or the lizard would have had a very bad day.

I knew I had seen this type of lizard before, but certainly not in my back yard! I googled images of Australian lizards, and fond out that he is a Bearded Dragon. He’s about a foot and a half long, and covered in the most wonderful knobbly scales and spikes.

He’s gorgeous!

Now, what does this have to do with All Paths To Victory, or productivity?

Not a lot, you might think.

However, seeing this dragon in my garden has lifted my whole day. I found something new and unexpected in an otherwise ordinary day. I took time out to take photographs and enjoy the beauty. I learned something (this type of dragon originated in the deserts of central Australia, but is now a popular pet all over. This one is most definitely NOT a pet!).

I didn’t take time out to smell the roses – I took time out to enjoy a wild creature.

How can you enjoy beauty today?

© Gaye Wilson 2010

image by fangolI’ve been frustrated recently with my lack of technical knowledge about downloading from the internet. I signed up for an online course that provided the lessons in streaming video and streaming audio. When I signed up, I understood that I would be getting downloadable files and transcripts. Not so. Everything is streaming.

I tend to work offline far more than online. I like to download stuff, copy it to my laptop, and deal with it wherever I happen to be, rather than be chained to my internet computer.

So it is exceptionally frustrating when I have paid for something that can’t be downloaded. A search of the internet to find a way to download streaming files didn’t find anything useful. I really wanted to download these particular files, because I paid a lot of money for the course and the presenter was not willing to change the format although he originally promised to do so (note to readers: if you offer anything, you MUST pay attention to your customers’ requirements and requests – this guy didn’t do that, and now I have a bad impression of him and his business).

I had downloaded a free program called Audacity before, for another project, but never could get it to work correctly (I told you I’m technically challenged in some areas!). Using Audacity, I could record the stream, but the recording was so soft that I couldn’t actually hear it, even with the volume as high as it will go.

So I started to search online for tutorials on how to set up and use Audacity to download streaming files (since the literature on this program says it will do that). One tutorial suggested a free recorder if you can’t get Audacity to work, so I checked it out.

It’s wonderful!

The program is called Freecorder, and it works as a toolbar in your browser, so I’m thinking it’s probably cross platform (although I’m not 100% sure of that).

The tutorial that mentioned Freecorder suggested that you download Freecorder 3, because it gives you choices about the file format you want to record to. So I downloaded and installed Freecorder 3, and immediately struck problems.

First, Firefox wouldn’t install it, because it doesn’t have valid updating files (or something like that).

So I tried it in Internet Explorer, which installed it just fine, and appeared after I closed IE and then opened it again.

But when I tried to record something, it threw me into an update page for Freecorder – every time. With a sigh, I downloaded Freecorder 4.

The sigh wasn’t justified. Within seconds, I had Freecorder 4 installed and recording streaming audio as an mp3 file. Who cares about whether the mp3 format is lossy or not? It did what I needed it to do!

Freecorder doesn’t seem to have a lot of tweaks available: the Settings panel doesn’t have a lot to it. But it’s easy to use, and it works. Apparently you can also use it to record videos, although I haven’t tried it for that.

Freecorder will record whatever is audible from the computer, so if you talk while the Record button is pressed, it records your voice. That’s handy when you want to make a short note to yourself, or if you have trouble writing and can speak it easier than write it. Or you could record yourself singing a song, or whatever. I saw a YouTube video that showed how it will also record two things at once: I haven’t tried that with Freecorder 4, and I suspect the YouTube video is talking about Freecorder 3, but it probably still does it – cool, huh?

Of course, the program has limitations. As I said above, the settings are minimal (made to be idiot-proof, perhaps?). You don’t get a chance to say where you want the resulting mp3 files to go for each download: in the Settings panel you nominate where to put them and that’s it. If you wanted to change the destination folder, you’d have to go into the Settings panel each time. There are probably other limitations of which I am not yet aware: I only discovered it this morning.

Disclaimers

  1. Please note that I am not advocating downloading copyrighted streaming audio or video if you do not have a right to do so. If you do, that’s piracy and it’s illegal worldwide. I downloaded these files because I had paid for them.
  2. I have no affiliation with this program or its creators. I am posting this simply because I found something that gave me a solution to a problem. Your mileage may vary.
  3. I have no idea what else is out there that will do this job. I found this one, it works, I like it.

If you know of something similar, please let us know with a comment.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

Image by pongsterToday is my father’s birthday. If he had lived, he would have been 83. Although he has been gone for three and a half years, I saw something that he would have liked the other day, and for an instant thought about buying it for him for Christmas. Then I remembered. And I felt like I had lost him all over again.

When someone dies, the world loses. The family loses. Friends and loved ones lose the opportunity to be with that person, to talk to them, laugh with them, confide in them, advise them and find out what they know. The person’s entire knowledge banks and memories are lost – unless they were preserved in some way – books, photos, diaries, blogs even.

Have you seen the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson called The Bucket List? I watched it on DVD last week. It’s about two men with terminal cancer who write a list of things they want to do before they die. And then they go out and do them. Both of them waited until they were dying to do some things they had wanted to do all their lives.

Why wait to do what you want?

When you are dying, it’s probably too late. If you’re dying of a disease, you might not be well enough to climb a mountain or learn a new language. If you die suddenly, it’s definitely too late.

Every day you are alive is a gift. Don’t let it pass you by.

A friend sent me a message from the Dalai Lama today. It says exactly what I wanted to say in this post, so I have quoted it here:

**

Today we have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences but less time.

We have more degrees but less common sense, more knowledge, but less judgement.

We have more experts but more problems, more medicine but less wellness.

We spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get angry too quickly, stay up too late, read too little, watch too much TV and pray too seldom.

We’ve multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

We talk too much, love too little, and lie too often.

More leisure and less fun … more kinds of foods … but less nutrition …two incomes but more divorce …fancier houses, but broken homes.

That’s why I propose that, as of today, you do not keep anything for a special occasion, because every day you live is a special occasion.

Search for knowledge.

Read more.

Sit on your front porch and admire the view without paying attention to your needs.

Spend more time with your family and friends, eat your favourite foods, and visit the places you love.

Life is a chain of moments of enjoyment, not only about survival.

Use your crystal goblets, do not save your best perfume, and use it every time you feel you want it.

Remove from your vocabulary phrases like “one of these days” and “someday”.

Let’s write that letter we thought of writing “one of these days”.

Let’s tell our family and friends how much we love them.

Do not delay anything that adds laughter and joy to your life.

Every day, every hour, and every minute is special.

And you don’t know if it will be your last.

If you’re too busy to make the time to send this message to someone you love, and you tell yourself you will send it “one of these days”,

BELIEVE ME

one of these days you may not be here to send it.

**

The Dalai Lama nailed it, didn’t he?

I would add one thing to what the Dalai Lama said.

Make a legacy. Don’t let your knowledge and memories die with you. Leave something of yourself behind.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

hand“If you don’t know [what's wrong, what you've done, why I'm upset/angry], I’m not going to tell you!”

Has anyone ever said that to you?

How did you feel?

My usual response to this exceptionally stupid statement is “What the …?”

A couple of weeks ago, someone left an organisation that I’m involved with because she had some issues with how it was being run. That’s fine, but the person had never given any indication before her resignation that she was not happy. The remaining members of the organisation were left scratching their heads in bewilderment. What did we do? How could this have been resolved? And more importantly, why didn’t the person say something????

It’s like being told “If you don’t know, I’m certainly not going to tell you!”.

What a stupid thing to say. I’m not, nor do I know anyone who is, a mindreader. I can’t know what you are thinking unless you actually say it. Why do people do this? I actually heard a senior executive say this to a subordinate one day. Say what? An executive telling a junior that she’s not happy about something the junior has done/not done, but won’t say what it was? How crazy is that?

I used to be a Conflict Resolution Trainer with the Conflict Resolution Network. One of the first principles of conflict resolution is to actually address the problem. No-one will know there is a problem unless someone says something. Problems cannot be fixed unless they are addressed.

It would have been much more productive for everyone if the person who left the organisation had said something to someone about how she was feeling. Then the person responsible for the behaviour that caused the distress could respond. No one knows how someone else is feeling. No one knows for sure what else is going on in someone else’s life. There may have been only one instance of the issue, or several different issues. It may have been because the person who unwittingly caused the distress was having a bad day, or was under a lot of stress, or was distracted, or was simply misunderstood. No one will ever know, because the issue was not addressed.

The bottom line is that conflict can often be handled well if the distressed person actually says what is wrong.

How many times have you done or said the equivalent of “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you”?

Don’t you think there is a better way?

Speak up if there’s something bothering you. You’ll never get resolution if you don’t actually address the issue.

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