Thursday, October 3, 2019

What I Learned at TIFF

It's been nearly a month since the 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival, and I've been meaning to reflect on my experience. It was a very hectic month leading up to the last day of TIFF, and I fell behind with lots of my personal projects, but I can truly say that this over-the-top, crazy-busy experience was exactly what I needed. This is going to be a long post, so let's just get on with it. Here's what I learned about myself at TIFF:

I'm much better at listening to my body. Heading into TIFF, I had a goal to watch at least 20 films. I had always wanted to fully immerse myself in a film festival and what better opportunity since I had access to free tickets from working at the festival. Including the three advance screenings, I ended up watching 29 films, so I blew my goal out of the water. During the first half of the festival, I would work my six-hour shift and then watch three films once I was done with work. Not surprisingly, I felt like a zombie during this time. The old me would have ignored the signs of exhaustion, beat myself up for even contemplating slowing down, persisted with the intense schedule, and gotten sick as a result. The current me decided to listen to my body and slow down in the second half of the festival. Instead of watching three films after each shift, I watched only one or two. That gave me time to rest, stay healthy, and catch up with my personal projects.

I love starting things and finishing things, but I don't love the in-between. The in-between is what I call the messy middle of work, and the messy middle is hard for me. This manifested at TIFF in a couple of ways:
  1. The duration of employment. When I was first hired for TIFF, I wasn't sure how I would feel about going back to work. I've since realized that I still enjoy working. In fact, I love starting a new job: the process of learning different skills, figuring out how things work, and finding my place in the organization. It's such an exciting time that's filled with new experiences, and new experiences thrill me. Unfortunately, once I learn the ropes and get into a routine, I start to feel stagnant. In the past, it's taken me a while to actually call it quits, which is why I loved working at TIFF in my very first contract position. I loved having an end date. It was a decision point, at which I knew I would have to consciously think about what to do next, and it made a huge difference in my job satisfaction.

  2. The work itself. Over the years, I've realized that I quite enjoy transactional and administrative tasks. There's something about this type of work that makes me feel incredibly productive and motivated. I believe this stems from my desire to get one thing done before moving on to the next deliverable. Projects that go on forever or have no real end goal are incredibly draining for me. I need to see the end goal, work towards it, and ultimately get it done. This is something that was lacking in my previous full-time job -- the projects and issues seemed to go on forever, and there would rarely be any real completion or resolution. I felt like I was a hamster in a wheel, constantly spinning and getting nowhere. With TIFF, I worked in ticketing so the work was much more transactional. It didn't require much skill in terms of analysis or deep thinking, but it was still highly satisfying.
I enjoy talking to a lot of different people, even though the interactions are more surface-level. Before TIFF, I thought I didn't like meeting new people or talking to strangers. I've since learned that I operate in a U curve for relationships. I enjoy talking to people when we both know we are only interacting at this one point in time. There is no expectation to get to know each other or continue our relationship. The interaction is polite and friendly, but transactional. At the other end of the U curve, I also enjoy having meaningful conversations that help to further deep relationships. Anything in-between is what I call the messy middle of interaction -- when you don't know whether you want to take the next step to being close friends so you're stuck in the world of small talk ad infinitum. I don't like this. At TIFF, all my interactions were of the former variety and I loved it. I feel that I learned to talk again at TIFF... more about this in the next point.

I love being by myself, but I shouldn't be by myself for too long. This is kind of a too much of a good thing type situation. The part I loved about my full-time job was that I worked independently most of the time. I specialized in spreadsheet analysis and report writing, and I loved this part of the job. However, doing this type of work for 18 years made me even more introverted, reserved, shy, and socially anxious. I started thinking I didn't like new people, and my comfort level with speaking out loud reduced dramatically. This was part of the reason I started my YouTube channel in 2011 -- to practice speaking out loud again. Speaking to the camera is different from speaking with people though, and I realized this with each month I spent away from full-time employment. I applied to work at TIFF to start talking to people again, and boy did I ever talk to people! It was so good for me though and I realized through this experience that I still love people, I still love to interact, and I can blabber on easily without feeling anxious. This was probably the greatest gift in my short month of working at TIFF.

Films can help you learn more about yourself and the world around you. I knew I would be entertained at TIFF as a film-goer, but I was surprised how much I learned from each of the 29 films. For my 52 memoirs project, I reflected on what I watched by briefly summarizing my key takeaway from each film, and I decided to also publish my thoughts here:

Our Lady of the Nile: If we focus on our differences, we risk overlooking our similarities.
Coppers: How do we move from assumptions and misunderstandings to compassion and acceptance?
White Lie: Manipulation, lies, and deception damage our own selves as well as those around us.
The Truth: What is the truth? How does perception influence experience?
Red Penguins: We can't fully understand an environment unless we are immersed in it.
Sea Fever: Did the creature exist or was it sea fever? When does reality become madness?
The Whistlers: A secret language can enhance communication and increase a sense of belonging.
Blood Quantum: Storytelling can be incredibly cathartic and healing.
The County: Sometimes it's better to lose and let go.
Instinct: The desire for power and control can have unintended consequences.
And We Go Green: Commerce can help bring environmental issues to the forefront.
Tammy's Always Dying: Parents express their love in the ways they know how.
The Platform: In the end, we all meet the same fate.
Bad Education: A little greed and entitlement can quickly morph into something much bigger.
The Laundromat: There is no incentive to challenge the status quo in prosperous times.
Letter to the Editor: A collection is a body of work.
Made in Bangladesh: There are times when you have to risk everything to do what's right.
The Other Lamb: It's important to look past the rhetoric and decide for ourselves.
Desert One: A failed mission is not always a failure.
To the Ends of the Earth: When we stop looking for fear, we find joy.
Sanctuary: Celebrities have the incredible opportunity to spread awareness and effect change.
Parasite: Humour and wit can only mask deep-seated pain and resentment for so long.
The Kingmaker: Money, power, and corruption can stifle an entire nation.
Marriage Story: Love can be lost through lack of communication.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator: How do we begin to reverse systemic sexism?
David Foster: Off the Record: All we need is one person to believe in us.
The Perfect Candidate: It only takes one brave individual to spark a community's desire for change.
37 Seconds: How do we evolve the vernacular from disabled to differently-abled?
Murmur: When does the therapy become the addition?
Jojo Rabbit: It's easy to hate. It's much more difficult to look past the hate to find common ground.

If you made it this far, kudos to you!!!

To wrap up my experience this year with TIFF, here are the vlogs I shared to document my journey. :)

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Benefits of a Staycation

Our first ever staycation week was a huge success! We had such a comfortable and easy week, but it was also filled with new experiences and adventures. I was pondering the benefits of staycation versus travelling to a different city (which we also love) and I came up with this little list:

We spent minimal time in transit. There was no need for us to rent a car to drive to the airport, catch a flight, and make our way to a hotel. Depending on how far we travel, this can often save two full days of vacation time that we would normally spend in transit. I remember spending over 24 hours in transit at the start of our 2014 trip to Osaka and it was exhausting. That being said, it was well worth it to experience the Japanese culture, but it was also refreshing to be able to just wake up and go during our staycation.

We had a comfort level with our surroundings. This expressed itself in a variety of ways -- we were familiar with the language, the transit system, the streets, the customs, the money, etc. Of course, sometimes we want to experience the discomfort of travelling to an exotic place; however, our week of adventures in a familiar city was also nice. With this being our first ever staycation, I thought familiarity would translate to boredom, but it didn't. We still got out of our immediate area and tried new experiences -- with an underlying level of comfort that often isn't apparent when we're in a different country.

We could cuddle with our pets every night. This was hubby's favourite part of our staycation. Not only did we get to see our pets and cuddle them every night, we didn't have to drop them off, pick them up, worry about them, or miss them. It is quite a lengthy process to pack up everything that Truffle and Lulu need while we're away. We miss them terribly when we're abroad, and we worry that they're getting into mischief. Truffle's also getting a bit older and he's been having issues with his teeth. We actually had to take him to the vet during our staycation week because he stopped eating. It was just a minor disruption to our week; however, if we had been out of the country, I would have been a nervous wreck.

We stayed well within our budget. This isn't really a fair comparison because we've moved past extravagant vacations and we're in more of a value-for-money phase now, but it's safe to say that we've spent anywhere from $1,500 to $8,500 per person on 9-day vacations in the past. We clearly did not need to book any flights for our staycation, but we decided to take public transit and sleep in our own bed at night, so we saved on car rentals and hotels as well. In total, for this 9-day staycation, we spent under $500 per person. Truth be told, we didn't have an official budget for this staycation -- we did everything we wanted to do and ate everything we wanted to eat. Perhaps our overall spending would have been higher in the past if we had splurged more on fancy restaurants, but we ate very well and had loads of fun for what we feel was a very reasonable cost. Note that I didn't include Truffle's vet visit, and I also didn't include any pro-rated cost for our condo because we would have paid that anyway.

We developed a new appreciation for our city. This was the most remarkable aspect and what I feel was the greatest gift from this staycation. This week really opened my eyes to how lucky we are to live in Toronto. There are so many things to do, neighbourhoods to explore, and delicious food to eat. Hubby and I ate food from all around the world, including Chinese, Korean, Filipino, East Indian, Sri Lankan, East African, Greek, and more. Now that I've started to simplify my life, I am really starting to develop an appreciation for what I already have. In addition to being content with my possessions, I'm now also content with my city. My home. It's liberating to be able to see that you have everything you need at your doorstep, and it's incredible to realize that you don't have to travel halfway around the world to have a new experience. Travelling is fun, but staying home is too.

Overall, we loved our staycation and we plan to make it an annual occurrence. We'll definitely be spending more time exploring this amazing city and I hope our adventures inspire you to do the same in your own city. x

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Change is the Only Constant

Every time I think I have myself figured out, and every time I think I've decided on something, I get some new information, input, or feedback that impacts my future direction. Then I find myself changing, pivoting, or course-correcting. This vlog is all about that. I think change is a beautiful thing, and our ability to learn, adapt, and grow as human beings is one of our greatest strengths. I'm continuing to learn to embrace the unknown, view uncertainty as opportunity, and trust where life leads me. x

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Busy Sweet Spot

In recent years, busy has become the proverbial four-letter word. More and more articles warn us about the dangers of becoming someone who's busy. Busy people aren't mindful; they're not present; they're not focused on the right things; they can't prioritize; they're distracting themselves from what really matters; they're simply not as good as the rest of us. Busy has somehow picked up a negative connotation, and we no longer feel we can say we're busy even when we are.

But busy also has a purpose. It can help you be mindful, present, and focused. I'm currently in my busy sweet spot and it feels great.

Too much uninspiring work used to leave me feeling overwhelmed. I started to worry about meeting deadlines, wasting time, and whether my work even mattered. My racing thoughts left me unable to fully concentrate or relax. In the past, I've turned to pacifiers -- like shopping or eating or drinking -- to take the edge off and escape from the stress.

On the other hand, too little work in recent days left me feeling lethargic, bored, antsy, and even a little sad. I got stuck in a rut, wanting to do lots of things, yet also not wanting to do them. I became the opposite of busy -- idle, inactive, unoccupied.

The busy sweet spot is where you have just enough interesting work to keep yourself motivated and inspired. Not too much, not too little. We all need a certain amount of busy to maintain momentum. If you're moving too quickly, you're at risk of burning out. If you're moving too slowly, you're at risk of standing still. The key to productive forward motion is to find your busy sweet spot -- the quantity of busy is important, but the quality of busy is equally important.

How do you feel when you say yes to new projects? How do you feel when you say no? What kind of work makes you thrive? What kind of work is merely a distraction? Slowly, bit by bit, if you pay close attention and listen carefully, you'll arrive at your busy sweet spot.

Note: I've been on a brief hiatus from filming videos lately because I've been focusing more on my writing. My project work has ramped up again, and that has gotten me excited about sharing my thoughts and ideas through the written word. I'll be back very soon with some new vlogs! In the meantime, here are a couple of my most recent videos.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Productivity Hack • The Ivy Lee Method

At the end of May, I fell into a rut and somehow lost all my creative motivation. I wanted to play, eat, drink, and sleep -- I was happy and enjoying life, but I could never fully relax, because I felt like I was wasting time. I knew there were things I wanted to accomplish, but I couldn't seem to focus on any one thing long enough to actually get it done.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was going through my emails, I came across a newsletter from James Clear that I had parked for another day. He wrote about using The Ivy Lee Method to increase productivity, and I was intrigued enough to leave it in my inbox to implement "one day." Upon re-reading the newsletter, I noticed that I had received it on my birthday, which was right around the time I initially fell into my creative rut. After feeling unmotivated for what seemed like forever (in actuality, it was only three weeks), I decided, spur of the moment and with gusto, to give the Ivy Lee method a try. "One day" had finally arrived.

The Ivy Lee method is essentially a daily to-do list. It was developed as a way to prioritize and complete work tasks, but I'm using it every weekday to further my creative pursuits. The method is super simple and entails the following:

Step 1: At the end of every day, make a list of 1 to 6 tasks you want to accomplish the next day.

Step 2: Prioritize each task on your list (1 = the most important task).

Step 3: The next day, start with your highest priority item and complete it in full before moving on to the next one.

That's it!!

A few tips to get the most of this method:

1) Break down a large project into manageable tasks. Identify tasks you can complete in a reasonable amount of time that will (a) contribute to your overall goals and (b) keep you motivated without feeling overwhelmed.

2) Refer to your list multiple times throughout the day to keep yourself on track.

3) If you have the time and inclination, you can leverage your momentum to accomplish additional tasks that are above and beyond your list.

This method is beautiful in its simplicity and has also proven to be highly effective for me. Since implementing the method on Jun 12/19, I've recorded four YouTube videos (three have been completed and posted), written three short memoirs (one is still in draft), started reading two books, shared a bunch on IG, and journalled consistently -- these were all creative pursuits that I couldn't seem to get done when I was deep in my rut. I'm so pleased with this method that I'll continue to use it until I no longer feel I need a daily to-do list to keep motivated.

Do you use daily to-do lists? Have you heard of or experimented with the Ivy Lee method?

Friday, May 24, 2019

What I Learned in April

In April, my 30 days of self-improvement involved waking up at 5am and eating no processed junk food for the entire month. By doing this challenge, I was hoping to see positive results in my energy levels, motivation, and productivity. Now that it's mid-May, I'm ready to reflect on what I learned during my April challenge.

I love the process of experimentation and learning about myself.
I'm officially done with the April challenge, but I still haven't figured things out. I'm still tweaking my sleep schedule and I'm still making gradual shifts to my diet to see what works best for me. This is a work in progress, but the journey is incredibly interesting and fun. I love the process of experimentation -- it really fuels me and motivates me to find ways to continually improve. If you've followed my goals videos on petitepearstyle, you'll know that I've tried to make lighthearted improvements over the years like waking up earlier, decluttering, not shopping, etc. On Authenblissity, I'm ready to go deeper. May is going to be a challenge-free month, but I'm committed to working on finding my voice and better expressing myself.

I enjoy consuming sweet stuff.
I used to think I was addicted to junk food. In April, I learned that it's actually very easy to give up processed junk food as long as I don't stock it at home. That being said, I also realized I really really enjoy consuming sweet stuff. It doesn't have to be junk though -- instead, it can be a bit of dried fruit, a bowl of blueberries, a homemade dessert, or a couple ounces of port. I learned that I can make healthier choices to satisfy my sweet tooth. Now I just have to work on portion control, because if I'm being completely honest, I have way more than "a bit" of dried fruit and it's actually more like 5 ounces of port.

I need around 7.5 hours of sleep to feel my best.
Sleep is super important to me and not something I'm willing to sacrifice. One of the things I wanted to figure out during my time off was my ideal number of sleep hours. After a bunch of experimentation and noticing how I felt after getting anywhere from 5 hours to 9 hours of sleep, I think I've figured it out. In order to feel well rested and have enough energy to carry me through the day, I need around 7.5 hours of sleep per night. This realization is key to developing a healthy sleep schedule.

I find it difficult to go to bed between 9pm and 9:30pm consistently.
It was more challenging than I expected to wake up at 5am every day -- not because I don't love mornings, but because it's difficult for me to go to bed early enough that I get my ideal 7.5 hours of sleep. My life pretty much involves staying up late. My husband and close friends stay up late, I like to go to classes or events that happen in the evening, there are television shows I enjoy that air at night, I love watching sports, and I tend to blog and edit YouTube videos at night. Even though I love waking up at 5am, I have to admit to myself that going to bed between 9pm and 9:30pm is not feasible in my current lifestyle.

I identify more as a morning person.
Over the years, I've been able to shift my sleep schedule quite a bit. I used to think of myself as a night owl, but now I identify more as a morning person. When I wake up early, I feel great -- and I generally get more done and make healthier decisions. However, since I'm not willing to commit to going to bed between 9pm and 9:30pm, waking up at 5am is a bit too early for me going forward. I was short on sleep pretty much the entire month of April -- I averaged around 6h40m of sleep versus my ideal 7h30m. Accumulating sleep debt and finding times to nap throughout the day isn't sustainable for me. Even though I felt productive on the days I was up before sunrise, by the end of the month, I found I was pretty tired. For the first half of May, I've been going to bed at around 11pm-12am and I've been wake up at around 7am-8am... on most days. :) I've been able to shift my routine a bit though so I still find time for the majority of the healthy habits I showed in my 5am morning routine video.

I love the flexibility of being able to go to bed when I want and wake up when I want.
While I still enjoy routine, planning, and discipline, I've found that with my newfound freedom, I now have the flexibility to change things up on a daily basis. I love being able to go to bed when I want and wake up when I want. If I want to stay up to edit a video, I can do that without suffering at my 9-5 the next day. If I want to sleep in until 9am, I can do that without having to rush off anywhere. If I want to take a nap in the middle of the day, I can do that too. I view flexibility and freedom as my ultimate reward during my time off, so I'm going to embrace it.

I don't love being on Instagram every day.
In April, I committed to experimenting with a new-to-me form of sharing -- posting daily on Instagram stories. While it was fun and easy (and I especially loved the polling feature), I realized I prefer sharing on YouTube. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I pretty much disappeared on May 1st, right after the April challenge. This was intentional as I needed a break. I found that I tended to get distracted on Instagram, and I'd lose momentum and motivation on the things I wanted to accomplish during the day. I'm still planning to use Instagram going forward, but less often -- perhaps on a weekly basis.

Change is a beautiful thing.
I used to be more dogmatic, and as a result, I was hard on myself and others. Now I'm starting to embrace the inevitable impermanence in my life. The April challenge taught me that change is a beautiful thing. I tried so many things in April -- waking up early when I didn't have anywhere to go, stopping the purchase and consumption of processed junk food, posting on Instagram stories every day, taking a mini trip with hubby (our first since I left work), and taking a memoir writing class. I learned that I am comfortable with the ebbs and flows of my emotions, ideas, opinions, thoughts, and feelings. There are no absolutes. Rules are meant to be broken. Dogma doesn't serve me. It's ok to change my mind, to experiment, to learn, to grow. It's ok to be human.

What did you learn about yourself in April? I would love to hear about what you are working on!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

How To Wake Up Earlier

There is a lot of buzz about the benefits of waking up early and becoming a morning person, but it's not for everyone. In this video, I share a few key tips on how to wake up earlier -- if that's something you want to do! This video provides an overall framework if you want to make this change. I don't discuss specific tactics like putting your alarm clock in a different room, drinking lots of water before going to bed, etc., because these tactics vary from person to person. If you follow the recommendations in this video, you'll gradually find the specific tactics that work for you through experimentation.

1. Know your why. Have a good understanding of why you want to wake up early and how you personally feel when you wake up early. This is your "north star" for waking up early and will keep you motivated.

2. Don't sacrifice sleep. The key to waking up early is going to bed early enough so that you get your ideal number of sleep hours. Figure out how many hours of sleep you need and work backward from your ideal wake time to determine your appropriate bedtime. Sleep is non-negotiable as there is all kinds of research about the dangers of not getting enough sleep or accumulating too much sleep debt.

3. Create a morning routine that you love. This will provide you with the daily incentive to get up as soon as your alarm goes off. I hated waking up when I was working full-time -- until I gradually carved out time to do some of the things I wanted to do before I had to leave for work. I started waking up earlier and earlier because I looked forward to this time for myself.

4. Be kind to yourself. If you truly want to wake up earlier and become a morning person, don't give up! Be gentle with yourself and keep experimenting until you find what works for you. Don't get down on yourself if you try specific tactics that don't work -- everyone is different and you have to find the combination of tactics that "click" for you. Also keep in mind that people change over time, so what worked for you in the past may not work now. It's ok to take baby steps and get there gradually.

Please let me know if you identify more as a morning person or as a night owl, how many hours of sleep you need, and what time you typically wake up and go to bed!

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