Ready, Set, Goals!

For most of my life, “goals” has been a 4 letter word. Now, I am fully aware that “goals” has 5 letters, but it might as well have been “fuck” or “shit” or “twat-waffle” (which also doesn’t have 4 letters) because goal setting is not something that I have the ability to do.

I don’t know about you, but in every grade from middle school up, the school provided a planner, which we were just magically supposed to be able to use effectively. And most kids did (at least as well as a 12-year-old can organize their life). This was one of those things that made me feel like I was lazy and stupid and a whole bunch of other words that ruled my life in childhood. Teachers said I was ‘smart but insert word here‘. Lazy, unmotivated, not willing to change, inflexible.

I believed all of these things about myself, until 2016, and then again in 2019, when I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and 2 Specific Learning Disabilities (Reading and Writing).

This is how education changes live, folks. I believed that I was lazy and stupid and all those other things negative identities that got gotten lodged in my self-identity for 28 years. That’s a seriously long time to think those sorts of things about yourself. that’s a whole childhood. Especially since all it took was a handful of hours and a bunch of tests to show that I’m not, in fact, lazy. I’m autistic. I have learning disabilities. I have Auditory Processing Disorder, and I’m Hard of Hearing.

Turns out, with hearing aids, aural therapy, and occupational therapy to help me, I’m actually pretty great at organization!

I’m not going to proselytize about Bullet Journals again, but I did want to show how I set goals and using my Bullet Journal has led to my success, both in organization and in goal setting.

I’ve never been able to make a pre-made planner work for me, and oh how I’ve tried. This makes sense if you’ve really think about it. Journal, planners, and calendars are made for the neurotypical majority, and autistic minds simply don’t think that way. This led me to the realization that if I wanted something that was going to work for me, I would have to be the one to design it.

I’ve been Bullet Journaling for more than 2 years now, and I’ve gone through a lot of changes because I started out knowing that I needed something, but not knowing how to do it. I did a lot of trials. I tracked a lot of things that didn’t actually need tracking, and I set goals with no support or follow up. None of this was effective. I’ve spent years tinkering and I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve got, especially with this new goal system I’m trying out for this semester.

I begin the month by setting 3 or 4 goals. These are monthlong things that I want to work on. I also have a to-do list that has single things that I want to get done before the end of the month. I have daily trackers for things that I’m aiming to do every day. These used to be located on my weekly page, but they cluttered it up, and I’ve found that being able to see trends monthly instead of weekly is better anyway. This is what I fill out out the beginning of the month- it has a follow up at the end of the month, and that’s what makes this so effective.

The end of the month goal page lets me analyze how the month went. Thinking about what worked and what didn’t work not only helps me change to how I make future goals but lets me figure out how to make changes for the next month. Next month changes can either be solutions to the ‘didn’t work’ stuff, or it can help guide goals for the coming month.

There are also less analytical parts that aim to be positive and fun. I love reading and I read a lot of books a month, so picking just one can be a satisfying challenge. It’s also really interesting to be able to see what songs have been stuck in my head over time (does anyone else have an earworm at all times?). Successes is a feel-good after analyzing what went wrong. Successes can be related to the goals, or they can just be stuff that I’m proud of and want a record of.

I’m totally okay with saying that the numbers cloud was borrowed from a bullet journal Instagrammer because it’s awesome. Like the earworm list, it’s fun to track over time, plus, it can be a catch-all for little things I want to remember, and is the place for humor (like the ‘doing nothing as self-care’).

So there we are. This is how I set goals. Is it always perfect? No, but that’s the point of goals, at least for me. I need to work through what I actually want and how I’m going to get it, and this set up allows me to do that.

I never would have thought before that organization could be so individualized, and  Occupational Therapy definitely taught me how to figure out what I want from being organized and how to set goals, and most importantly, techniques for figuring a system out on my own.

If any of you folks have a goal system, an organization system, a bullet journal, or anything that you feel inspires you, I would love love love to hear about it!

6 Ways I’m Getting Through The Semester

I have been in college for 5 weeks now, and as usual, it has been a serious adjustment. My longest previous experience of being on a campus, I was a tiny baby autistic me, only 18 years old! At the time I knew nothing about autism, and I especially didn’t know that I was, in fact, autistic, so I moved through the college world overwhelmed and confused.

I failed a class, not because I was lazy, but because I couldn’t find it. No matter how hard I tried, I got lost, and eventually, I just stopped trying. Little me also didn’t know that you could drop a class, which could have been really useful.

I was also so sensory overwhelmed that I spent most of my time hiding under my bed. Some days I wish I could still do that now, but my bed isn’t tall enough. #adultproblems

Because I knew how hard college was last time, I made sure to have a plan going in, and that really helped. Did all of it work? No, of course not, but it gave me a great foundation for tweaking it so it can be better for the coming semesters.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s worked for me so far.

  1. Visual Directions

This one requires a buddy, but if you can visit your campus before the semester starts and have someone with an excellent sense of direction to help you make visual directions, it can significantly cut down on the amount of time you spend lost.

2. Hybrid Classes

I’m not sure hybrid is the word that all schools use, but a hybrid class is partially in person, partially online, and all autism-friendly. Spending 1 day a week in class instead of 3 has left me with less stressful social issues, and less sensory overload. Even just one hybrid class has made my traditional on-campus classes more doable. Now, online classes aren’t for everyone- it usually requires you to be more independent, but I love the flexibility, and to be honest, the fact that I can communicate on emails and message boards instead of face to face. Also, as a bit of a hangover from all that homeschooling, I prefer to teach myself things. If this is sounding good to you, I highly suggest seeing if your college or university offers hybrid courses as an option.

3. Color Coding

There are several ways that people learn, some people learn visually, some are better with Auditory, and others are kinesthetic learners-they learn using their bodies. Now me? I’m a hands-on learner for sure, but most of the time it’s not very convenient for me to touch everything I’m trying to learn. Luckily I’ve got visual learning as a back-up. Even though I can’t make pictures in my head like most people, visual information is fairly accessible to me. Hence, color coding. Each class of mine has a color, and I use colored pens and markers on my planner, my calendar, my to-do lists- all that organizational stuff. For me, it makes tasks and appointments pop out, so I’m more likely to process and complete them.

 

4. Built-in Self Care

I’m pretty sure that one of these days, I’m going to bring up self-care, and you’ll all revolt, and leave me here talking to myself. But until that day, we can talk about self-care! I find it extra important during the semester, because all of my brainpower is going towards learning and being social and trying to be flexible, so I’ve got no brain power to take care of myself. And I’m not talking overly complicated. You don’t have to book a spa day or get a massage. I go to my favorite used bookstore and browse for a while and buy a book (or two). On my long days, I treat myself to coffee. I bake cookies with Jess. I take time to snuggle with the cats. I think the best self-care is little, focused things. You know what you like best, so let yourself have it sometimes.

5. Quizlet

Hands up if you were that kid in school who always had a stack of note cards to study with. My hand isn’t up, because although I admired to organizational abilities of people who could study, I could never figure out how to make it work for me. Enter technology. I found the Quizlet app when I was looking for a way to put digital post-it’s on my phone. I still haven’t figured that out. Hm. Anyway, it’s a free app, where you can make your own decks, but you can also use other peoples. I can guarantee you that most low-level courses already have decks of information made. This, and the fact that Quizlet offers not only quizzes but games to help you learn information, made me a studying convert. Having all my decks on my phone means them when I can run through while I’m waiting in line, or in the car. Convenience, people, I’m all about convenience.

6. Habitica

The apps that I find most successful are the ones that give you a streak if you use it every day, and if you miss, you lose your streak. I’m talking about apps like Duolingo, or Memrise, or in this case, Habitica. Habitica used to be called Habit RPG, which I think gives you a better idea of what the point of it it is, but whatever. The concept is pretty simple, you put in things you’d like to make a habit, like brushing your teeth twice a day, or playing with the dog, or remembering to pack your lunch. If you do these things, you get points. You can level up, buy cool gear for your character, and hatch pet eggs. If you don’t, you break the streak and get noting. I find it a nice push to do things that are important, but not that important. (And if you’re worried that keeping your streak is TOO stressful, there’s a tavern where your character can rest without consequence.)

So here we are, everything that’s keeping me going this semester. I’m sure I’ll figure out new stuff, so look out for a part 2 of this post in Fall 2019!

Online Communities Project

Hello Friends!

I’ve been more absent than I’d like over the past few months, but it’s been for a good reason- I’ve been back in college!

Now it’s finals time, and I have a favor to ask.

I’m taking an Interpersonal Communication class this semester (and let me tell you how bizarre that’s been as an Autistic Person), and I have to do a final project on types of communications. Since I already spend a large amount of my time online, I realized that I had a built-in interest sitting right in front of me, and I’ve chosen to examine how people Create and Maintain Online Communities, totally appropriate, right?

Now, here is what I’m asking from you, my favorite online community-

I need ‘original research’ as part of my project, so I’ve created a survey, and I need participants! It’s only 10 questions, and about 5 minutes long, so if you’d be open to taking the time, I’d really appreciate it!

I can’t offer you much except the results of the survey if you’re interested, but I promise either way it’ll be a totally painless experience.

Thanks again, and wish me luck on finals week!

Online Communities Survey Link