Observation journal — space and time and small epiphanies

One of the unexpected results of the observation journal project was that it provided a thread through 2020 — something colourful holding it together, and occasionally a way to work out what was happening.

I’ve mentioned several times that the journal helped me to clarify (and work around the fact) that I don’t enjoy extended introspection (see e.g. Observation journal: flirting with contagion, and soothing with reflection and the links there). But from time to time the journal was a usefully contained place to work out why I felt a certain way (instead of analysing stories and motifs about which I felt strongly, which was more fun).

These two pages were a week apart. The context was April 2020.

On the first, I was trying to work out 10 WAYS TO ACTUALLY STOP AND NOT FRITTER:

Scan of two handwritten journal pages. On the left are five things seen, heard, and done, and a drawing of a slug trail. On the right is a list of thoughts about how not to fritter away time.

My go-to emergency relaxation/circuit breaker is going to the movies. (It’s air conditioned and you can’t wander off and do something else around the house and sometimes there are large explosions). Making a list of other available (and actually relaxing) options was… not helpful, in that most of my go-tos had vanished. There was no-one to sketch, and the cafes were closed, and I couldn’t meander on errands, and most other options either ran up against or turned into actual work at some point.

It was illuminating, though. I never quite worked out better alternatives (my housemate and I did watch a lot of Midsomer Murders and Miss Marple). But it made me realise that although I thought I was already working from home, I really wasn’t.

This led to the page below, in which I was TRYING TO FIX WORKSPACE.

Scan of two handwritten journal pages. On the left are five things seen, heard, and done, and a drawing of Lindt chocolate rabbit. On the right are several tables breaking down work time and space.

I had worked from home, yes, but actually from two desks, both sofas, both ends of the kitchen table, bed, and (for various purposes) the spare room and store room. I’d also been working from my desk at uni, other people’s offices, several classrooms, two campus cafes, two local cafes, etc, etc, and quite often those each served a different project. (The eagle-eyed will also spot at least 11 categories of project, and conclude that might be TOO MANY, but it took me a bit longer to work that out.)

But I’d also been living alone for a couple years. In January my new housemate moved in, and then of course everything outside shut down and my housemate also suddenly had to work from home (none of this is a complaint — we’ve had a great year). So my working space was compressed to one desk, one sofa, one end of the table, and bed. Which is quite a lot of room, really, if I’d noticed what was happening. But I didn’t, and all the projects began crowding each other, mentally and physically.

Just realising this — sketching it out on one page and going oh — helped a lot. My mind was a bit cacophonous in April 2020.

The best practical/physical changes turned out to be as follows:

  • I took everything that wasn’t a computer off my desk. This created the illusion of elbow room.
  • My housemate and I both bought some rolling caddies (a la the RÅSKOG, and off-brand equivalents).
  • Each trolley was assigned a broad project category (i.e. general art supplies/admin/teaching).
  • The trolleys were herded out of the way at night. By day, the relevant trolley would be dragged alongside the relevant space, creating the illusion of a dedicated workspace.
  • We also bought a TV (my first for about 8 years!) and a rolling stand, so it could be trundled into place for Evening, and back out of the way for work.

3 thoughts on “Observation journal — space and time and small epiphanies

  1. Pingback: January 2021 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: Observation journal — plans and deliberateness | Kathleen Jennings

  3. Pingback: Observation Journal: Time & self-management aka immoveable moods, moveable objects | Kathleen Jennings

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