Be your own historian

When I got a text that said, “You came to see Valerie Harper with me and my sister, didn’t you?” I knew what that meant. I immediately felt that she must have passed away, but I waited for that confirmation text that came minutes later.

Yes, I’d gone to see Valerie Harper with my friend Rebecca and her sister, Ginnie. It was Ginnie’s idea because after a handful of meetings, we’d stumbled upon our mutual love for the Mary Tyler Moore Show and, especially, the spin-off, Rhoda.

When Rhoda’s appearance in Vancouver was announced, Ginnie orchestrated our trio’s attendance and we all relished the life experience she was so willing to share. It felt like we were in the presence of a true icon.

We continued to text back and forth last night – about that event, about the cancer she’d survived and about her death. At one point Rebecca said, “that was a while ago.” She was right, but I couldn’t put my finger on when. It could have been as long as a decade and, honestly, it could have been longer.

I looked through my Instagram feed because I’d secretly stolen an illegal and crappy camera phone picture of Valerie Harper sitting on stage. Turns out, I didn’t post it.

I tried to google Valerie Harper appearances in Vancouver, but as always when a rush of articles pop up after a famous someone’s death, there was no way to cut through the news articles.

Finally, I thought I must have tweeted something about it so I entered the perfect coordinates to find my way back into the search bar: Valerie Harper @carlyrigby.

Two results.

The first was the requisite article leading up to the event (here’s a link to the tweet.)

The second was a celebration of the night we’d had (here.).

It felt victorious that I was able to finally put my finger on when we’d done that. As you can see, it was April 2015 when we saw her, almost 4.5 years ago.

I felt a rush of gratitude that I have tweeted so much of what I’ve thought, seen and done over the years. I found a new appreciation for how I’ve been documenting my life without fully recognizing that it’s what I’ve been doing. As much as I’ve wanted to be someone who journals, it’s just never stuck and my feelings about calendars has varied over the years. Sometimes I’m into keeping them, sometimes I’m not.

I started to notice earlier this year that my historical information wasn’t being saved in my Apple calendars and it made me kind of sad, but also kind of annoyed. At the time of discovery I’d been looking for some somewhat important medical timelines and because I couldn’t search the appointments, I couldn’t put a finger on when they’d occurred. I can’t remember how I eventually sorted it out – could have been a clue on my blog or perhaps email – but I did while at the same time becoming aware that I needed a better process. I want to know what I was doing on this day last year and all the years before that. I also want to be able to tell when it was that I did a thing.

In the meantime, since that realization, I hadn’t actually done anything about it. This morning, in a fit of brutal honesty, I admitted that as much as I love paper, that wasn’t going to be where I could keep up a personal history. Notes? Yes. Sporadic thoughts? Yes. Strategy? Yes. But not records. I get too bored too fast to keep up with the same thing for more than a few days at a time.

Having long standing social media and an active blog do give me a leg up, but there is plenty I don’t (and don’t want to) share publicly. Some because it’s too personal, some because it’s too boring.

Knowing that I wanted more, I started by searching diary apps. I thought that if I could have someplace I could write, save photos, video and voice memos, that would be ideal. I want the freedom to add as much or as little as I want. I want to be able to search it and I’d like to be able to download it as well. I relied on this article for guidance in where to look and I’ve actually decided to try using three different apps to see which one I like the most. I’m trying Day One, Penzu and Momento.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

How are you the historian of your life? How do you keep a record of your adventures?

Rethinking Instagram

There’s something I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of weeks. It’s something I may have been very wrong about.

To start, let me rewind.

So, nearly four months ago, I quit Instagram. Here’s part of the reasoning I cited at the time.

And here’s the main thing: I have a fundamental opposition to pictures being showcased more than words. It’s obstinate and it’s old school, but it’s something I’ve never come to terms with. Instagram has always made me feel like it arose because suddenly 140, then 280 characters were just too many, like words got to be too hard so we were resorting to looking at pretty things instead. That’s never felt right to me. Don’t get me wrong, I like pretty things, but I like my pretty things with a little more depth.

Interestingly, after that, I made the statement that “Instagram stories just make it worse.

Huh.

Because here’s the thing. What’s got me reconsidering my position? Instagram stories.

This summer, I’ve been working full on with some social media projects again. In all of them, I’ve started using stories to support the main posts, share extra information, show off some behind-the-scenes action. The opportunity to view the stories of others has helped me better understand what’s going on there, but it’s also made my time on the platform a lot more enjoyable.

It actually reminds me of when I first started using Twitter, back in 2008. I maintain that Twitter is still more challenging to really get, but Instagram stories came at me in a similar way. Until I got some really hands on experience with it, i couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the big deal was.

Now, I get it.

I’d also started to notice that I was missing news on some of my favourite businesses and people. Much to my dismay, not everyone uses Twitter and certainly many don’t use it like they used to. I’d love to be able to change that, but I know it isn’t easy – on the nerves or the heart sometimes.

So, I went to my counsel of two and asked, “should I get back on Instagram?”

Now, both are Instagram embracers so I kind of knew what I was going to get…and maybe that’s what I wanted. Their support.

First up, Hillary sold me on it, especially stories. Full disclosure, I’ve been keeping tabs on her via one of my business accounts and, well, it kind of started to feel a little bit creepy. She spoke to my true heart when she said that, for her, it feels like old school blogging. Anybody who knows old school blogging still has a place for it in their heart. Le sigh.

And speaking of old school blogging, my loooooong-time blogging partner in crime Rebecca chimed in this evening, also likening it to blogging. She says she liked that she can use one photo to tell a whole story in her feed while adding, “the extra authentic stuff (read: minutiae and daily random moments)” in stories. And pointed it out that it wasn’t as much work as keeping up a blog.

These two women are pretty influential for me and I trust them so I went with it and reawakened my account. (The only reason I hadn’t deleted it entirely was because I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to get my handle back.)

So, I’m going to give a shot again. I don’t really know what that looks like. I don’t know how it feels. Come find me over there and help me learn to love it. Who should I be sure to connect with? Tell me who you think I should follow and why.

Surveillance

I’m no fool. I know that with everywhere I go and everything I do I’m leaving a trail of information. I’ve been keenly aware of that for some time and I’ve taken responsibility for it. I don’t write things I’m not comfortable discussing, I don’t share things I don’t want others to know, I don’t tweet things that I would hide from my bosses, my parents or anyone else in the world and I rarely say things I wouldn’t repeat in front of a mixed audience.

Do I like that our every move is being recorded? Fundamentally, I don’t, but it doesn’t particularly bother me, either. To be clear, I’m not talking about the larger scale Cambridge Analytica bullshit, I just mean the everyday information that we all give out so freely: the kind of coffee we drink, the songs we prefer, the podcasts we listen to. Because I’m conscious about what I’m doing, I don’t get too hung up on ads that are tailored to things I’ve been googling or product placement for items I’m legitimately considering buying. In fact, I kind of enjoy exploring predictors of my preferences: my Made for Carly-Ann Spotify playlists and suggestions that I should watch this Netflix show next. (Even though they’re not all that accurate.)

Here’s what I don’t like: when companies I’ve entrusted flaunt their collection of my data.

Something like this cold call email from my cable/wifi provider:

Did I watch Big Brother last summer? Yes. Will I watch it again this year? Probably. But this email I received that was probably intended to be an enticing little reminder that this show is starting again tomorrow came across like an invasion of privacy. So, now my tv stats have been complied and I’m on a Big Brother list. Would I have guessed that’s the case? Sure. Feels a little gross to know it, though.

In another example, a small Canadian health and food-related company whose founder I really like and respect used to send me newsletters every week or so. I’m terrible at email and read approximately 3.5% of the messages that land in my inbox. This company’s wasn’t really making the cut for a while there. I know because one day I got an email from them saying, “we noticed that you haven’t opened any of our emails in XX weeks.” As much as I love the product, I immediately unsubscribed. It’s one thing for them to have that information, but for them to try to use it felt like a line had been crossed. It was digital TMI.

Again, I’m not naive. I know my information is out there being tracked and compiled and profiled. I understand how it works and I’ve taken steps to protect information that is important to me. Still, I think personal data is one of those things that just because you have it doesn’t mean that you have to tell everyone you do. In fact, it makes it a little skeezier when you do.

The strategy of scheduling

I wrote earlier this month about my Passion Planner and how much it has helped me to set and realize goals each day and each week. As we blaze towards the end of this month, I’m getting ready to do the end of month/beginning of next exercises that are found in there, too.

At the time I wrote that, I truly felt I used that paper planner and nothing else, but in thinking about it over the last couple of weeks, I have come to terms with the fact that I actually schedule a lot of things – both personally and professionally.

Remember in Martha Stewart Living where she would (and perhaps still does – I had no idea that magazine was still in circulation) publish her schedule for the month? The one below has been labeled gentle reminders, helpful tips and important dates. And this is how I approach scheduling.

Does she really sharpen and oil the garden tools on the 9th of February every year? Or even on the second Monday of the month? I choose to believe she doesn’t, but that this calendar represents all the things that she makes a point of doing every February (or perhaps every month or second month) to keep everything running as smoothly as she’d like it to. Am I comparing myself to Martha Stewart? Generally, no, but I think we do have this approach to scheduling in common.

I like to put a lot of reminders in my phone for home and in my Outlook calendar for work. They’re in there and when it’s time to do each, a reminder goes off. If something comes up that conflicts with doing at it at the originally scheduled time, I just move it someplace else. I’m not rigid on sticking to the outlines dates and times, but I do stick to getting things done in the ballpark of when I’d planned them – and not letting myself lose track of them.

These are some of my at home reminders that pop up in my iCal (Do they even call it that anymore? Is it just Apple Calendar now?):

  • Clean washer (I use this method)
  • Birthday and anniversary check (where I check the calendars for upcoming events that we want to acknowledge)
  • Buy two items of clothing (have I mentioned how much I hate shopping for clothes?)
  • Cut cats’ nails

My work calendar is a variation of the same – daily, weekly, monthly reminders to stay on top of the tasks I need to stay on top of. Since I know I can’t rely on myself to initiate the routine, I have made my calendar the gatekeeper.

And now I want to get a subscription to Martha Stewart Living again!

Things I’ve quit this year

  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • BibRave

I’ve never seen anything valuable come from LinkedIn and prefer my networking face to face. I can’t stand Pinterest. BibRave is a great concept with a terrible interface.

I stayed on LinkedIn because I felt I should. I stayed on Pinterest because I was too lazy to get off. I stayed on BibRave because I kept hoping it would get better.

All of it was providing me static. Static in my email inbox, static in my app collection, static in my browsing.

As a continuation of yesterday’s email clear out, I’m also looking to clear out less than ideal sites, mailing lists or memberships that take up even a few seconds of my time.

Honestly. When I starting searching for an image for this post, all of the first page of results that came back we’re on Pinterest. Is there a way to block a website from your Google results? Somebody tell me there is!

In the bright side, my search led me to this article on Lifehacker.com: How to Cut Back on Digital Clutter and Regain Your Focus.

I love how Belle B. Cooper (who took me down a rabbit hole of her own – check out her NOW page that lists all the digital and physical tools she uses!) wraps the article up.

Taking the time to re-evaluate the tools we use and how we spend our time can be an eye-opening experience. And if we regularly evaluate our choices and protect our time and attention, we may just be able to avoid falling into that trap again.

THIS! This is what I’m talking about!

Have you ever done a digital declutter? Online or IRL, what have you quit this year?

Inbox zero/email bankruptcy

I’ve been thinking about these concepts for the last little while…and by little while, I mean three days. In fact, before I listened to episode 203 of my favourite podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, I don’t think I’d even heard the term email bankruptcy. In case you’re unfamiliar with either/both, here you go.

Inbox zero: having zero to few emails in your inbox. I know. I don’t think anyone has ever actually seen proof of this in real life, but they say it’s been done before.

Email bankruptcy: the act of achieving the above by blowing up any existing backlog and just deleting everything.

I currently use three email accounts. One is Gmail that I got back when you had to be invited to use it. (Yes, seriously. And invitations were so scarce you legit had to wait for them. I once even scored a client based on having an extra invitation to get them an account.) I use a ProtonMail account that I started to transition to after listening to the Escape From Yahoo! episode of the Note to Self podcast back in 2017. (I switched to ProtonMail because it is encrypted and someday I’m going to use the account full time.) I also use my work email, a corporate Outlook inbox where I perpetually receive more than a thousand emails each week.

In all of my inboxes, I have (lots of) unread mail. With all of my inboxes, I feel a lack control.

Do I really want to achieve inbox zero? To be honest, it’s not that important to me at all, but I would like to get rid of a lot of the junk that I thought I’d someday go back to, but then it all got buried in more junk that I thought I’d someday go back to and so on. I also love me a fresh start so why not just, in the words of Seth Rollins, burn it down?

The case for email bankruptcy argues that if there’s an email from 2014 (or 2004 for that matter!) that I haven’t replied to, well, then it doesn’t need a reply anymore. And if something that does need my attention gets lost, well, somebody is going to let me know about it.

I kind of like these arguments. At the same time, I’ll remind you that I’ve had my main account since the early 2000s so I’m a little afraid of losing the emails of my 20s and 30s without revisiting at least a few of them and the ridiculous eras of my life from which they originated. (I learned my lesson from

I don’t think I’m prepared to go full bankruptcy on any of my accounts, but I am going to hit all of them with a heavy hand. Including the archives. Including the folders. After all, this isn’t the first time the idea of digital decluttering has hit me.

Every time I get a new device, I swear that things will be different. I’ll maintain the records/files/apps/information/photos/songs/podcasts/you get my drift. Every time, I start strong and then I give up trying to keep track of everything. It’s the same as all my email accounts. They started with the best of intentions, but then the newsletters started rolling in and all hell broke loose.

I’d like to build up again using a better and more stringent approach to filing my important or cherished messages and just have an inbox that was generally cleaner. I’d like to be more diligent about picking a process for storing things and sticking to that plan. I’m not really sure where to start, but I think the approach I need to take is much like the most challenging goals of my year ahead – giving my full focus to just one thing at a time.

Do you strive for or live up to the inbox zero concept? Would you ever declare email bankruptcy?