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Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

I think I should start posting earlier in the day. You know, when the schedule still glows with possibility, and my plans have yet to come to fruition but still could.

Have I finished baking the week’s bread? No, but it is in progress.

Have I aced today’s Wordle? No, but it’s still possible I could pull out a miraculous win. (It’s not, if I’m honest. Really not.)

Will I get to all that yard work on my list, including a date with a massive downed tree branch and a power saw? Soon, definitely!

Finished reading that book on building better habits (and generally being more awesome)? No, but I am halfway through and already feel a fresh cloak of virtue wrapping itself around me like a warm blanket.

Have I worked out a fix for a broken computer, created a brilliant new recipe, drafted a story, sent in that submission, raked and trimmed and seeded and cleaned and refilled and laundered and baked and donated and delivered? (Or realized that this list is unrealistically, impossibly long?)

Now, barring a sudden attack of zombies or a meteor shower, I’ll actually get a lot of these things done. But all of them? 

Probably not. The gap between where I am and where I’d like to be will always be wider than my reach. 

Still. It’s morning and right now all things are possible. Doesn’t the sun shine brighter for it?

Here’s to a productive weekend. Because hope, as they say, springs eternal!

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Photo by Tyssul Patel on Unsplash

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“I have two questions for you,” I said. “One: Do you want to do better?” …

“Here’s my second question: Are you willing to feel the discomfort of putting in more effort and trying new things that will feel weird and different and won’t work right away?”

— Peter Bregman, If You Want to Get Better at Something, Ask Yourself These Two Questions

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Photo by lingda kong on Unsplash

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Today’s Motto

Today’s motto: Don’t think about it, just do it.*

Simple. Right.

Thinking about things takes up a considerable amount of energy. Energy that could be better spent on more interesting projects. It’s also not nearly as productive as I like to imagine.

Today’s example: Do I want to do my taxes? I do not, but needs must.

Are there other, far more interesting projects I could work on? Hmm, let’s see. Yes.

Would I rather put taxes into the “think about it some more a.k.a. put it off until later” column? Of course!

Like many of you** I’ve been avoiding my taxes for weeks. It’s time for a strongly-worded memo (I suppose this qualifies) and a spot of bribery. 

Project: Taxes. So fun.

Reward: Time in the workshop, the library, or the kitchen. Did I mention I just received an order of good chocolate?

/rubs hands with glee

/eyes tax forms

/eh. worth it!

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* I really wish Nike hadn’t turned that saying into an inextricably-associated-with-marketing phrase. 

** I’m guessing, of course, but I like my odds.

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Photo by Shania Pinnata on Unsplash

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Today, do something amazing.

And the more I learn about creativity, productivity, and motivation, the more I realize that the most important word in that sentence is “today.”

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

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I’ve got a bit of a magpie mind. This is a magpie:

Magpies are known for collecting things.* Little things, shiny things, things that don’t belong to them, things that don’t always seem terribly useful (although it turns out they are only birds that recognize themselves in a mirror). But maybe they’re just curious and like the way these items stimulate their brains?

That’s how it works for me. I collect the things that I like, and my shelves are full of maps, pressed pennies, metal animal figurines, little mechanical toys, outdated cameras, paper, stamps, books of course, secret decoder rings, Star Wars stuff, wood stuff, stuff to make other stuff. Lots of things in that last category, actually. Here’s a sample.

I subscribe to the McGyver school of creation, so pretty much anything has the potential to be, well, anything.** 

And from it all I get… ideas! That’s the kind of approach that works for me, but there are a lot of ways to be creative. No matter how you do it, the best advice is to do it. 

A lot of it. That’s the lesson I need.

“quality is a probabilistic function of quantity… the prolific strategy is the most consistent method to cultivate your imagination and creativity. Try it out, keep the portions that work for you, and throw out what doesn’t. After all, there’s no right way to approach creativity —there is simply your way…. Discipline will get your routine started, but happiness and excitement keep it going.”

— Herbert Lui, Creativity strategies for more breakthrough ideas

Do that. Make that. Be that. And go magpies!

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* It turns out this reputation is undeserved, but I’m going with it because the idea is widely-held and because it fits today’s theme, dang it! Magpies are also a controversial species. They are loud, territorial, predatory and not above a bit of casual thievery (I claim none of these traits for myself), but while some people hate them, they can also be both useful and delightful

** Except duct tape. That stuff’s irreplaceable.

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I used to be a terrible procrastinator. Now I’d say I’m about average. Work deadlines? No problem. The birthday card I need to send out? Yeah, that’s definitely going to be late (sorry!). And don’t get me started on my writing for the past year. It was much easier to put it off to doomscroll pandemic and political news. Not better, by any means, but easier.

I had to put that to a stop. But what to do instead? How to stop putting things off and get more done?

The good news is that useful research has been done on how to get past procrastination. Here’s an article with a handy rundown:
‘Why Do I Spend Weeks Avoiding Tasks That Will Take Me 10 Minutes to Do?’

This is an excellent question.

There’s something about the task itself—and the way you feel about it—tripping you up.

As I’ve mentioned, I like the “procrastinate productively” strategy. It can still be hard to get everything done, especially when “everything” includes projects with no external accountability (like writing, if you aren’t a pro). But I find there’s always something little I can do, at the very least. Also? Be kind.

Don’t expect you’re going to get rid of the tendency to procrastinate in the 10 minutes it took to read these tips, and try not to be so hard on yourself. 

For writers who find themselves stuck, I like this book:

On Writer’s Block by Victoria Nelson

“As a rule, young children don’t complain of wanting to fingerpaint but finding themselves mysteriously unable to do so.” 

She’s got a point. So have fun and get things done:)

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My motto for today is “Do More.”

That’s it. Simple and easy to wrap one’s head around, if not always to put into practice. Having a goal helps me focus. Making it straightforward brings me all the positive feedback of accomplishment without the tedious “Holy crap, I can’t do this” of a more difficult challenge.

“Self,” I say to myself, “you are doing more and that is awesome. Let’s keep it up.”

Does a dead-simple productivity hack like this work for me? I am happy to report that so far the answer is yes. I’ve edited one story, submitted another, brainstormed a third, worked out and also done non-writing work. I’ve made what I consider not-bad progress. Here’s hoping that whatever it is you’re working on, you have too.

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The Society for the Constructive Pursuit of Creativity, or SCPC. Yeah, I just made that up. As of five minutes ago it’s my new thing, and it is time to formulate some founding tenets. Like so:

— Be awesome. Duh. And ignore people who tell you that what you are working on is anything but. If you love it, that’s good enough.

— Be constructive. We’re on the planet to laugh and love and all that touchy-feely stuff but we are also here to make things. Elephants think, dolphins talk, even crows use tools. What humans do better than any other species yet met is build. (And don’t give me any guff about acres of mold growing underground or gigantic ant hills; that’s all well and good but when an ant designs the next great handheld device then we can talk.)

— Be productive. That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it, just do your work without worrying too much about the next guy over.

— Be more productive than you were yesterday, or than you thought you could be when you woke up this morning dying for caffeine.

— Try not to overthink. That path leads to insecurity and insecurity leads to procrastination.

— If you must procrastinate, try to make it as constructive as possible. Just because you can’t do what you are supposed to do doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. Figure out what your mind will let you work on and do that. When you finish the new thing, add it to your To Do list so you can have the satisfaction of crossing it out at the end of the day. Design a new organization. See? Fun!

— If you happen to be less awesome or productive than you would like, do not under any circumstances beat yourself up about it. That’s like shouting at a cat, momentarily satisfying but with no long-term benefits whatsoever. Encouragement, goal setting, and bribery are much more effective. I prefer cookies or a chilled glass of Bailey’s, myself.

— Treat projects like practice. It worked for Ender. I take notes on the backs of used envelopes and write in pencil to convince myself that whatever I’m doing, it isn’t serious enough to stress over. Hey, whatever it takes.

— Along those same lines, do not be afraid to hack your mind! It’s a great way to increase productivity, to keep yourself from falling victim to those paralyzingly bad habits you developed in grade school, and if nothing else it gives you an excuse to watch good TED videos.

— Finally, fun is our watchword. Remember, if it isn’t fun and it won’t ever be fun and you won’t feel good about it after, you’re doing it wrong.

Motto: A Posse Ad Esse ~ From Possibility to Actuality

Right, that’s done. Now, what was I working on?

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