STUFF begins with U

This series of short blog posts will focus on the individual STUFF gears. There are 5 official “gears”… but when you implement STUFF you can have as many or as few as you like.

If you’re new to STUFF here’s where to catch up…

STUFF – an introduction
Getting started with STUFF

Okay so the first Gear we’ll begin with is U. Usual.

You might think we’d start with S. But the STUFF gears are not about leveling up or progressing. They’re about coping and managing. And before you know if things are “harder than usual” you need to know what usual is.

Your Usual gear is… what’s usual for you. And that can and does change over time. What’s Usual for me when my husband is away is not Usual for me when he’s home.

What’s Usual for you might look like someone else’s Treading Water. Or someone else’s Survival. That’s okay. Think about what’s Usual for you and try not to judge yourself for it (that’s the hardest part for me).

You probably already have a set of things you expect of yourself. You might have it written down in a to-do list app or a bullet journal. It might just be a vague set of judgements in your head about how your house should be tidier and you should be able to manage.

If you can… I’d like you to write down as much as you can of all the things you feel like you should be able to get done on a typical day.

Now I’d like you to rewrite that list. Tell your jerk brain to take a walk and now only write down the things you actually do.

You don’t have to tell me or show anyone. It’s okay if you feel ashamed about it – it’s hard enough to deal with feeling ashamed without doubling up and judging yourself for that.

But that list of things you actually typically normally do on a usual day? That’s your Usual. For now! I know when I feel less shitty about what I actually do manage to do I actually start to manage a few of those other things too.

Next up? The two Fs.

Posts like this are only possible due to the generous support of my Patrons. They’re amazing and very good looking!! If you’re not one of them and you like what I do please help me by joining them and supporting STUFF up! your life on Patreon.


It’s okay to change gears

A lot has happened since my last post. Not a lot has changed for me personally but… gosh. GOSH.

I don’t know if “habits” the way people talk about them really exist. Because people also say things like “… like brushing your teeth!” about habits and I don’t think they mean “something you remember you were supposed to do after you’re already in bed”.

So I don’t think your STUFF list is a thing that will “build” over time. The momentum that builds from having a novel system and a completed list is very fleeting. Then it’s just another list which will be as boring and ugly and scary as any other of the thousands of lists you’ve made.

And you know what? That’s okay. Because I want you to make a list that you can keep using even when that happens. That’s one of the times that you need to change gears.

Now there are two things you can do. You can change gears and/or you can change gears. Is that confusing? Probably. But when you do one it’s a good time to think about doing the other as well so it really doesn’t matter that they’re called the same thing.

Changing Gears.

You move from Usual to Treading Water. Or from Treading Water to Survival. Or the other way around. Something comes up. You need to work from home? Things are hard but you need to keep the lights on. So you look at your gears and you change your expectations of yourself.

Changing Gears.

But how long ago did you put this list together? Before the global pandemic? Maybe it’s not… exactly right. What does your ‘Survival’ gear look like now that… you might have to live there for a while? What changes in your ‘Treading Water’ gear if … *gestures defeatedly*… yeah.

Whenever you change gears you need to take the opportunity to change gears. If you need to! And if you’re going to be here a while… that’s your Treading Water. Because that’s what treading water is for. And if this is your new normal? Well… that’s your usual gear.

Maybe you thought you were changing gears from Usual to Survival. But… maybe you’re actually changing your Survival gear into your Usual gear.

What’s “usual” for you now? It’s okay if that used to be your Survival or Treading Water.

If you’re not meeting your expectations of yourself it’s okay to lower them. I promise. If it’s all too hard and you’re not facing your obligations let alone meeting them? If what you think you should be doing is making you feel bad and you’re still not doing it? You don’t get points for that. That doesn’t make you better than the version of yourself that expects almost nothing – but actually does something.

So right now in this time of foreboding and social isolation… what are you actually able to do? What’s realistic for you? What’s realistic in an ongoing way?

Change your gears. Create a new page in your bullet journal for your new STUFF list. Or re-tag your tasks in whatever app you like best for managing your day-to-day routines and habits.

Make a version of your list that you’ll actually look at – and one that won’t make you feel bad about yourself when you do.


STUFF – an introduction

You’re not coping.

You need a new routine. You need a new system. One that will actually work. Because if you do it right – if you build the right habits and the right routines in the right way then they’ll stick. Then you can add on to them. Then you can build up your routines and eventually get to the point where you can live your life. Am I right?

You know what you need to do. You know that you just need to eat better and sleep more and take more time for yourself and meditate and be present and keep on top of the housework so it doesn’t build up and and and and… 

So why don’t you? You don’t have the right journal. The right app. The right planner. The right tracker. Why can’t you just do it?

Because… It’s hard.

It’s not the routine. It’s not the system. It’s… the stuff. It’s hard.

It feels easy sometimes. So you start a new routine. You start a new system. It’s so easy! To begin with. And having a streak is motivating for a while. But then suddenly it’s hard again and now you’re too ashamed to look at it. And now you’re not coping.

STUFF isn’t a new routine. It’s not a system. It’s a strategy for managing your routines and your systems. A framework for dismantling your routines and putting them back together. Because you can’t keep waiting for things to get better. You can’t keep forwarding your problems to Future You.

Your Helpful Aunt tells you to think positive! Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow and be motivated! But… maybe you won’t? Because Future You is just you… but older. 

Your life won’t begin once you get through this. Once you get on top of things. Once you do it right.

This, right now, is your life. 

When things are good it feels like they’ll keep getting better. But sometimes they don’t. And the expectations that you set when things are easy will crush you when things get hard. STUFF helps you manage the gap between what you can actually do and what you think you should be able to do… and helps you adjust as that gap changes over time.

Sometimes when you’re riding a bike you change gears. You change gears so that you can keep riding up a hill… or down. There’s no “best” gear to be in: it depends. With STUFF you can “change gears” when things get hard. By deciding in advance which expectations you’ll lower (or drop) you’ll have a plan to manage yourself when you need it – and a plan to work back to where you were if and when that’s realistic for you.

STUFF. Survival. Treading Water. Usual. Fulfilling. Future.

S – Survival. Survival gear is the absolute minimum. This is crisis mode. What absolutely needs to get done regardless of how bad everything else is? Food. Medication. Sleep.

T – Treading Water. A step up from Survival, Treading Water is the gear where your priority is to stop spiralling into crisis – to stabilise ready to get back to Usual. 

U – Usual. Your realistic expectations for whatever “normal” is for you. Maybe your “Usual” looks like someone else’s “Survival”. That’s okay! 

F – Fulfilling. Stretch goals for good days. Some days you do these things and that’s amazing! But when you can’t? That’s okay. 

F – Future. Future goals and aspirations. Maybe one day your Fulfilling tasks become your Usual. Here’s what comes next. 

Okay… so where do we start?