An end-of-summer, back-to-work update.
“Just do something, anything”
I’ve been gradually shifting more and more of my goals to a binary “did I do anything at all toward this goal?” metric, and so far it’s a success. Turns out the hard part is just getting moving. And the barrier to that is surmountable if even one minute counts (and that minute almost always ends up being much longer and more productive).
I’ve also shifted many of my goals to a daily check-in metric. It started with daily-routine goals like
kitchen-pm, where I wanted to make sure everyday tasks didn’t fall through the cracks. Daily-routine goals let me use Beeminder as my single to-do list for recurring and long-term items. These (also binary) goals get a data point when that item is done for the day, which might also represent “I didn’t need to do this today” (if I was all caught up on laundry or we went out to eat, say).
It works great, so I’ve been expanding the strategy to other goals:
exercise and so on. It doesn’t make me actually do these things every day, but it does keep them fresh in my mind and my intentions. And the days I don’t do them are well-considered days: when I enter the data point, I’m consciously choosing “I didn’t need to do this today”, which is pretty powerful. It feels like being in control and taking care of myself – when work is busy, or other goals take precedence, that deliberate choice not to work on a goal feels like I’m prioritizing well instead of failing. And (bonus!) ticking it off when I make that call clears it out of my head for the rest of the day.
I hate the word “vegan”
(@apb Tagging you here, Andy, since you also wrestle with this.) I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the point of my eating habits at a pretty fundamental level.
– I didn’t request a vegan meal from the airline before we flew, so I had to make do with the vegetarian option. Which made me realize that not eating the cheese was utterly pointless: it was on my plate now and it would be thrown away if I didn’t. By not requesting a vegan meal ahead of time, I’d wasted that cheese either way. So I ate it, which felt like the less stupid option.
– My goal is to move our treatment of animals to a good place. What best accomplishes that? It isn’t putting people on the defensive, which a strict adherence to veganism frequently does.  It isn’t making them go miles outside their cooking comfort zone when I come over to eat. My husband has suggested a 90% rule that would let me eat whatever people serve me in their own homes, but as an ethical vegan that sounds a lot to me like “it’s wrong to kill people/own slaves/commit child abuse/…, so I make sure I don’t do it unless that would inconvenience others”. Yet the idea has a lot of merit, too:
– – My personal eating habits don’t make a dent, in the larger scheme; but passing on the idea does. If my behavior gets people thinking about their food choices, the idea spreads. Putting them on the defensive doesn’t do that, which means that being 100% strict about my diet actually works against my goal.
– – Every little bit really does help. Even if people don’t get defensive, when I’m 100% strict they see an all-or-none proposition. If instead I present an example of cutting back, they’re much more likely to give it a go. And 100 people eating “meat-free Mondays” cuts out way more animal products than 1 person eating strictly vegan. And from meat-free Monday it’s a manageable step to cutting a little more, and then a little more…
– – When my nine-year-old who loves to bake comes home from his grandmother’s house with brownies that contain eggs and butter, I AM EATING THEM. I am not crushing his little baker-boy heart and turning the bright, proud smile on his face into tears by telling him that dairy cows are more important to me than he is. And, frankly, they aren’t. They just aren’t.
New language learning resource
Thanks to @kerrie’s post on Kwiziq , I ended up in a Duolingo forum thread where a user named LanguageButcher listed several resources, including https://www.readinga-z.com/worldlanguages/. Holy wowzers! The site has leveled books from AA (simplest) to Z (most complex) for a handful of foreign languages (plus English). They offer a 14-day free trial; after that it costs money, but it looks like you can preview the entirety of a book on its description page. (I think the site is geared to instructors who will order copies for their students?)
EDITED TO ADD: Just found another fantastic resource (and bought the whole enchilada of worksheets ): Notes in Spanish. Spent an hour browsing through the site, trying out the sample worksheets, reading reviews… and trying to decide whether to buy the whole pack at a significant discount, or just buy the first course. Then I found their charity page, and that tipped the balance. Good people behind this website.
 For that matter, just the word “vegan” makes people defensive, so I need to find a different way to describe myself. (And, technically, if I go with a 90% rule, I won’t be vegan anyway.) For now, I think I’ll just say “I’m cutting back on meat and dairy” if people ask, and then explain why if they want to know more.
 Sorry I can’t help you answer your question in that post, but tusen takk for introducing me to Kwiziq! I hope they get Spanish up and running soon.
 All their audio is free for everyone to use. The paid content is the accompanying worksheets, if you want them.