Tag Archives: productivity

A Body In Motion Tends to Gets Shit Done

If I have learned anything from post-grad life, it’s that unless I absolutely force myself to do something, it will probably only happen every 5-6 months.

Since graduation, I have written exactly one complete story and have revised absolutely nothing. This is devastating because I am not doing the very thing I went to school for 5 years and earned two degrees to do.

And it’s much too easy to convince myself that I am just too tired after my six hour work day to go for a 30-minutes run.

The hard truth of it is that in school, you need very little self discipline because you have hard and fast deadlines to adhere to. Post-graduation, that’s just not the case, so one must develop some serious self-control in order to actually get things done, even things you legitimately want to do (because there will always be an excuse not to).

How do you go about cultivating some self-discipline?

According to the first link I found on google, one must:

1. Develop and Follow your Priorities

2. Make a Disciplined Lifestyle Your Goal

3. Challenge your Excuses

4. Remove Rewards Until the Jobs is Done

5. Stay Focused on Results

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For me, personally? I’ve made a few strides in getting myself to actually get things done, and the number one reason is this: I adhere to a schedule. And I don’t let myself slow down or blow it off.

I am finally in the office every day, so when I come home, the work day is actually over and there is a separation between work and play. This is particularly crucial because after working from home for 5 months, the lines began to blur and I started to seriously resent my living room couch.

So now, when I come home, the first thing I do is: sit for a moment, have a small snack, drink some water, and then I immediately go for a run. I’m usually tired, kind of want to make dinner, and really just want to watch tv–but no. It’s 30 minutes, I have no reason not to go.

When I get home from my run, I shower and feel like I have accomplished something.

And it is that that feeling of productivity that keeps me going. Without feeling productive during the day, I get depressed, feel down on myself, and then proceed to accomplish NOTHING.

It’s all about inertia. A body in motion tends to stay in motion, so start your day by being productive and keep being productive.

Come home and go on your run. Come home and write your story. Sure, take a small break, but don’t turn on the TV, don’t lay on your bed–keep yourself in the mindset that you aren’t done for the day  just yet.

Because the minute you sit down and stop, you stop for the night. At least in my experience, it is really hard to get moving again, and that’s what has been killing my productivity. Don’t let it kill yours too.

 

 

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The more NaNoWriMo grows, the better it gets

NaNoWriMo 2012 StickynoteWhen I first did NaNoWriMo in 2009, it was by no means a small group of participants. It had already spread across the globe and was pretty darn awesome. But I feel like in the past three years, NaNoWriMo has grown and evolved in a way that has garnered more recognition and notoriety, increasing the organization size and participant base even more.

This is probably very obvious to most people, but the thought didn’t occur to me until I stated searching for NaNo calendars for  my computer background. In past years, they are pretty standard calendar templates with some encouraging quotes, word counts to meet, and occasionally witty suggestions.

But this year when I went searching, you know, just to see what’s out there, I discovered that the cheerful, simple calendars had changed just a bit. Now they are tactical as well as encouraging, and offer quite a few more options for personal daily minimums.

I was particularly taken by the calendar to the left by David Seah. As one commenter said, it’s like “productivity candy.”

Seriously, the obsessive-compulsive box checker in me is loving this. And better yet, he even offers it as a free download on his site. Go there, download, and print out immediately. This can only benefit you.

Another favorite (also to the left) actually uses the very classic template that I used when I won the first time. That might be why I am partial to it. The simplicity mixed with bright white and quotes keeps you awake, at your computer, and chugging right along.

And the one on the right I found very enchanting in it’s portrayal of a writer’s desk calendar. I’d imagine that if I had a paper desk calendar sitting on my desk rather than hanging on my wall, this is what it would look like at the end of the month.

It reminds me of a Where’s Waldo search and find because of all the little details hidden throughout that you won’t see until you’re sitting at your desk, staring at the word count willing the words to appear so you can meet your daily quota…. Ahh NaNo, how I’ve missed you.

I’m also a big fan of the images that have been circulating. I mean, how does David Tennant not motivate one to keep writing?

Oh that face! Those eyes! That hair! Pardon my swoon. But seriously, I might have to print this one out and post it right above my desk.

And then, there is this picture of a typing rhino that just cracks me up. You can’t have a productive, enjoyable NaNoWriMo without a lot of humor and light-hearted, mental breaks.

I am so impressed with how NaNoWriMo has come in the fast few years, and so very eager to see where it goes from here. With such a phenomenal community and dedicated group of leaders, I don’t see it going away any time soon. And thank goodness, because what else would we do during November?

And with only a few days left until the start of NaNoWriMo 2012, I want to wish everyone a big, enthusiastic good luck. It’s a crazy challenge to take on, but with the right materials, frame of mind, self discipline, and an amazing community, I’m sure there will be record numbers of wins this years!

So, my friends, as all hallows eve approaches and we’re tweaking the last bits of our outlines, I want to wish you

GOOD LUCK!

And may the words be ever in your favor

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Don’t Break the Chain!

They say the best way to improve your writing is to just keep writing. For most people, including big-name authors like Stephen King, that means making writing an every-day habit.

A lot of people struggle with this–I know I do. Busy lives get in the way and we find ourself getting into bed at night and wondering why we didn’t have a chance to sit down and write today. The reason? Because we don’t make writing a priority. It’s something you have to make yourself do, and to do that, you have to make yourself accountable.

I’ve personally started doing this by using Jerry Seinfeld’s method of productivity. Below is a brief explanation I’ve excerpted from this great LifeHacker article.

[Jerry] told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

“Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.

Essentially, you are visually holding yourself accountable for keeping up with your daily writing habit.

But how much writing you get done depends on you. Do you want to set a minimum word count? Maybe you want to write at least 500, or 1000 words a day. Or a time minimum, where you don’t get up from your chair until you’ve worked for at least an hour. Decide this ahead of time and hold yourself to it.

And thanks to the magic of the internet, someone has already created an awesome, easy to use (and free!) website called Don’t Break The Chain!

I am a huge fan of this site. I have it as one of my home screens to remind myself to get work done every time I pull up the internet. My favorite feature is how it allows you to create and manage multiple lists. I currently have four lists: Writing, Editing, Reading and Working out.

Unfortunately, in the wake of my recent completion of graduate school, “Working out” is the only list I’ve been keeping up with, but I plan on changing that. After all, I only went to school for five years to learn how to write well–I had better be using those skills, darn it!

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New Year, New Expectations

Break is over and like many, I have crawled forth from the warm folds of my comforter to start the new year as a better, more productive person. And like many, I didn’t finish everything I wanted to today. But that’s okay. The new year is all about what you do and what you’re going to do–as long as it gets done.

So as you compile your to-do lists and figure out exactly what you want to accomplish this year, keep these three things in mind.

1) The best diet is the one you can stick to. This might seem like advice specific to dieting, but it can be applied to all aspects of life. If you want to write more, set a schedule you can stick to. Don’t burn yourself out and then fall off the wagon completely–figure out a schedule that works for you, as intense or laid back as you need it to be, and stick to it!

2) Rest days are necessary. You are not throwing everything off or quitting by taking a day off. Your brain needs to relax every now and then, especially if you’re working, writing and taking care of others all at the same time. Just make sure you get back to it the next day.

3) Set short term and long term goals. You need a sense of accomplishment every so often to keep you going, otherwise you are more likely to give up. Short term goals will help you achieve small victories and motivate you to work toward your long term goals, such as finally finishing that manuscript.

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5 Tips to Staying Productive During the Holidays

This is my first week on winter break and like many college students without solid holiday plans, I am feeling a little lost.  With no harsh deadlines for school assignments or a professor reminding me every day how far along on my thesis I should be by now, it’s hard to maintain any kind of productivity or even accomplish more than one thing a day (if that…)

Yesterday I spent about 75% of the day in bed, moving only to eat and transport my stationary body to the living room where the tv is. I’m not proud of days like this and rather than be relaxing, they make me feel pretty awful. But I told myself I would get one day like that, just to remind myself what “being on break” used to mean, and the rest of my holidays would be productive in some way–and they will be, because I’ve got a plan.

1) Have a solid reason to get up in the morning. Okay, I admit, this morning when my cats woke me up at 7am, I should have gotten out of bed. And when my alarm went off at 9am, I should have gotten out of bed. And when I woke up feeling refreshed at 10am, I should have gotten out of bed. But I ended up laying there till about 10:45am, and this is simply because I didn’t have any reason not to. Had I thought of a good reason to start my day last night, solidified it in my mind and made it a priority, this morning may have turned out different. Hopefully tomorrow will be an improvement.

2) Have a specific to-do list. For some reason, seeing “read Lolita” or “write a story” on my to-do list just doesn’t quite motivate me to actually accomplish that goal. So instead, I try to break these larger goals into very small, specific accomplishments that are more tangible in the short term, such as “read 10 chapters” or “outline a story”. This creates a much higher sense of reward and keeps me moving through my list.

3) Do anything “productive” to get started. When I’m feeling particularly lazy, I find it extremely hard to just jump into my scholarly pursuits with any kind of enthusiasm. So I try to do small, productive things like clean my room, take out the trash, clean the litter boxes, etc. It’s amazing how just accomplishing one small, albeit unrelated, task makes you feel productive enough to take on the things that you really should be getting done.

4) Go to sleep around the same time each night and keep a general schedule. It’s easy to stay up till 3am when there is nothing weighing you down or forcing you to get up the next morning, and for some people, 3am is the most productive time of the day. But then you’ve ruined your whole next day, you have created a bargaining chip for not getting anything done until that mysterious time called “later”, and you’ve set off a chain of events that will probably keep you from doing anything productive for the rest of the week–at least that’s how it works in my experience. So I plan on getting to sleep around the same time every night, unless a book gets particularly good right around midnight (and they always do), and keeping to somewhat of a general schedule. Wake up, coffee, morning tv, a little physical exercise, shower, read/write, family time, etc. You don’t have to stick to it hard and fast, but trying to keep it in mind will keep your day a little more structured and hopefully productive.

5) Don’t Break the Chain. This is the Jerry Seinfeld method of writing every day. Simply use this website to mark each day that you get some writing done, or whatever else you want to do every day (you can create multiple lists), and don’t break the chain. Simple! After a while, you’ll see when you get most your writing done, and when you check back and realize you haven’t done anything in a week, you know it’s time to get something on the page.

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My good friend coffee

I love coffee. I love the taste. I love the smell. I love how focused I feel when I drink it.  Unfortunately, coffee doesn’t feel the same way about me. The doctor says I should cut back on drinking it every day. He also says I should stop eating cheese, chocolate, and wine. HAH! We all know that will never happen.

But for a brief period over the summer, I really tried to give up coffee. I drank mostly tea and those Emergen-C packets that are BS other than the boatload of B vitamins in them. Of course as soon as it got cold and class started up, meaning late nights reading and early mornings for work, I went right back to the holy coca bean.  But what I discovered was actually very interesting.

If you are looking for an excuse to kick coffee, I have some good news for you. You may actually function better off of it. After observing the difference between tea and coffee, I’ve noticed a few key difference at least for me.

1) Coffee makes me really anxious. I don’t get jittery (a lot of people do), but I get irritable and don’t like feeling crowded or stressed out. Coffee is supposed to make you focus and function better to avoid that stress since you’re getting things done, but coffee when you are in a position to not be working just makes you want to pull your hair out a little.

After the jump: More reasons you may consider switching to tea

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