Special Feature

Pauline’s Depth Year Diary – Jan – Feb 2019

Back in December I published my Depth Year 2019 post, which set out my goals and hopes for the year. We’re now two months into the year, so it’s time to reflect on how it is going so far. Have I been able to achieve full or partial success in any areas, or has it been an abject failure?

As a reminder, these were my rules for the year:

  1. Limit my social media time to 20 minutes per day, except if I’m involved in an important group chat about something: no mindless scrolling.
  2. Uninstall or block notifications from Instagram and Twitter. Turn off Strava notifications and most Facebook notifications so they’re not distracting me when I’m trying to do deep work.
  3. Set aside dedicated time each week to play board games and shoot the breeze with Michael. You’d be surprised at how little that happens due to a combination of my fitness training schedule and mindless time-wasting.
  4. Look at ways to improve how we run the house, so that less time is wasted on mindless chores. Spending money on this is fine as long as the utility value makes the costs worthwhile.
  5. Allocate (realistic) time limits for tasks. If I haven’t got the task completed in that time then move on, and work out how to do it more efficiently next time.
  6. Identify a personal project to work on over the year, and track my progress on a monthly basis.

Although it may not seem like it, based on the amount of time I spend interacting with a small group of people on Facebook, I have actually been reasonably successful in limiting my social media time. I do still check Facebook multiple times a day, but the app I installed on my phone to monitor usage says I spend between 0 – 19 minutes per day on social media. That doesn’t track the time I spend on it on my PC, but I only really log in there to upload photo albums, or promote blog posts, so it won’t add up to much more than that. I do have to confess though that the amount of time it occasionally says for “Reference and Learning” (under which it includes Strava) is over an hour for one or two days per week! Needless to say, I’ve not followed rule 2 fully. I have successfully turned off Instagram notifications and have only opened it once this month, and that was a complete mis-click. I spent a couple of minutes looking at photos then decided there were more productive ways to spend my time and shut it down. I did block Twitter notifications, but they seem to have switched themselves back on after an update. The only thing I do on Twitter is to favourite a few of Michael’s tweets so it’s annoying to get “Recommended” notifications and I need to get around to changing the settings again to block it, even though it occasionally lets me know when Michael is making disparaging comments about me in public behind my back.

I’ve done reasonably well with rule 3. January and February are a really busy time in the academic year, and often at this point in the year “quality time” can be at a premium. I did have to abandon him completely for my marking pile one weekend, but most weeks we have managed to get at least 2 or 3 games played. It would be nice if we had more time to re-visit more of our favourite older games, but with the punishing publishing schedule of Meeple Like Us we need to largely concentrate on new games.  We have though taken a couple of tried and tested favourites to board game evenings with friends. My Stonehaven posse were very taken with Splendor, and were disappointed when I had to take it away after the third game in order to make the trip home.  I needed to do that whilst there was still an odds-on chance I might manage to drive all the way home before falling asleep. Michael and I have also found time to watch a little more of some tv shows we started watching before the Depth Year started (therefore not breaking his rules). Big Bang Theory is fine but the latest seasons aren’t as good as the early ones. The Good Place and Jessica Jones have been worth the time input though. Of course, as soon as we decided to catch up on Jessica Jones it got cancelled, so maybe it’s a good job we’re not starting anything new this year: always best to wait and see if a new show will get enough episodes to tell their story. We’ve also managed a couple of day trips, and it’s nice to spend time doing things where we can be totally in-the-moment and not with half a mind on what we’ll need to be writing about it later.

It would be fair to say that I have failed pretty substantially on rules 4 and 5. I’ve made no headway in streamlining household processes, unless “forgetting to clean the bathroom until the sink drains water at an imperceptibly slow rate because it’s full of toothpaste and Michael’s hair” counts as streamlining household chores. I can’t seem to come up with more efficient methods for food prep, and we’ve got nowhere in terms of purchasing a dishwasher or tumble drier. It’s not the cash outlay: it’s all the stuff we have to get removed from the lean-to, then getting the lean-to floored, that needs to happen before we can get the new white goods, that is the stumbling block. Michael is never keen to make trips to the Recycling Centre, and he hasn’t been able to get inspired by Marie Kondo due to his depth year rules, so it hasn’t happened. Then a few weeks ago they cut services further at our Recycling Centre and they no longer take the things we need to recycle, so we’ll need to make a 20-mile round trip to the nearest one that does. This is big stuff like a broken exercise bike and broken rowing machine so even with my strength training they really need two people to lift them safely, and because we’ve both got tiny cars may require multiple trips. It’ll get done – eventually.

In terms of rule 6, Michael and I have indeed identified a personal project to work on for the year. It’s actually an idea I had last year but never got around to. We haven’t found time to make a start on it yet, but, again, things get a bit easier time-wise from April (well, running training ramps up then, but work gets a bit less hectic) so I’m planning to make a start on that over Easter break. It’ll have benefits in terms of skills I need for work, as well as being another way to spend time with Michael and get some intrinsic enjoyment out of creating something that may find a very niche audience.

In terms of my hopes for the year, I am at least marginally more mindful of how I am spending my time, but I’m aware that a lot of the stuff I do needs to be done whether it is enjoyable or not, and I just need to get on with it.

With regards to becoming as good as I can be at running, it’s far too early in the season to tell, but I’m struggling to get my 5k times back to my previous PB. I still don’t think I’m fully recovered from Loch Ness Marathon. First race of the season for me is Smokies 10 mile ladies race this weekend. It’s organised by my first claim club, Arbroath Footers, and I’m feeling some pressure (mostly self-inflicted) to do well, both for myself and the Club. After it’s over I’ll have more of a benchmark to gauge where I am and what to focus on running-wise. Obviously Chicago Marathon is the big one this year for me, but I think the other focus needs to be on taking a chunk off my soft half marathon PB. My performances at 10 miles show I should easily be able to knock a few minutes off it, so I’m entering more half marathons this year and looking at distance rather than trying to get my speed back over 5k and 10k distances, which the past few months of Parkrun has shown to seemingly involve a lot of effort for very little progress. I’ll still be doing regular speed work as part of the half and marathon training though, so it’s still possible I won’t embarrass myself over the shorter distances.

I’m feeling pretty good about my third hope for the year: that of reading more Kindle and paper books. We’re not at the end of February yet, and my completed books spreadsheet is looking pretty healthy, with 9 books listed (two are halfway through). That includes audio books. But I have managed to complete three Kindle books (Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov, and Bird Box by Josh Malerman,  an eclectic selection if nothing else) and am halfway through a fourth (The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi) so I’m hoping to at least double the paltry 9 I managed last year. This uptick in book completion has been managed purely by replacing social media with reading when I have a spare 10 minutes, usually at the beginning and end of the day, and if I’m trying to make myself do work on a weekend but find myself browsing the web I will acknowledge that I’m not working or being productive, and get a book instead.

So, my final hope was to spend more time contemplating my long-term goals. What are the chances that a couple of months of small lifestyle changes would have helped with that? Have I made much progress in terms of long-term life plans? That would be a fairly emphatic no, largely because we don’t know what the future has in store for us thanks to the inability of our government and the EU to reach any kind of agreement or certainty on what Brexit means. There’s no point in us making long-term plans to move to central Europe or Scandanavia if we don’t know whether that will be a viable option or not in a few years. I am however focused on paying down debt, because you should always take action on things you have some control over, and not waste time worrying about the things over which you have no control. Michael and I are probably going to get married this summer depending on whether it looks like that might simplify things for us based on the outcome of Brexit. I know, we’re hopeless romantics like that… (And no, you’re not invited: it’ll be a minimum fuss, town hall affair with two random witnesses and as little cost as possible. I was telling Michael about the average UK wedding spend being about £17k, and about a couple I know who are spending nearly double that, and he was dumbfounded as that’s a sizeable deposit for a house.)

So, on the whole I’ve only been successful with about half of my aims so far. I’m a little frustrated with myself that I’ve not managed more, but I’m feeling pretty happy about the additional time I have managed to carve out for reading books by spending less time on Facebook. And I’ve enjoyed finding a bit more time to spend with Michael than we usually manage at this time of year. He’s a great guy to spend time with, and he usually turns down all social invitations (without running them by me) so I’m pretty privileged to get to spend more time with him than most people and need to make the most of that. I’ve never felt constrained by the Depth Year rules, and unlike Michael I’m not suffering from FOMO about anything. At the end of these two months I feel pretty positive and I’m hoping I’ll continue to make more positive progress with my goals over the next few months.


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  1. I’ve come to this (and your previous Depth Year post) through the Meeple Like Us FB and it’s so interesting, thank you so much for sharing your progress.

    1. Pauline Belford says:

      Glad you found it interesting Kate, and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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