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Productivity & Work Writing

Writing through sheets of ice

You bought the new notebook, snagged a new pen, and listened to a motivational podcast. You’re ready to do the work!

But two things happen as you start:

1 – You freeze. The thoughts in your head never make it to the tip of the pen. Your brain trips up on its wiring of ideas. Warning!

2 – You get going but know that what’s splurging on paper is crap. You’re producing sheets of melting ice. The writing is ugly, an explosion of everything at once. Such cacophony melts your heart, deadens your spirit.

The urge to quit and give in to the resistance is what smothers dreams. Goal-setting often backlashes when you set the bar too high.  

What if instead of focusing on the goal, you concentrated on the system?

Systems are more powerful than fears because discipline always overrides motivation. 

The real work happens when you sit your ass down at the desk for half an hour and write hundreds of words regardless of the outcome. After all, the more you make, the more you have to play with. 

Writes James Clear in “The case for having no goals in your life:”

“Goals are good for planning your progress and systems are good for actually making progress.”

James Clear

It takes a long time to strike the chord you seek. The rest of the time you’re practicing with the intent to nail it down. All writing is in the edit.

Even poor sentences give you fresh ideas and force you into new territories. Other times it is one edit that makes all the difference.

The muse only works in your favor if you’re willing to be consistent and put in the work. “Remember our rule of thumb,” writes Steven Pressfield in The War of Art, “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

The rest — the Moleskine notebook, the perfect pen, the dreamy goal — are excuses that trip you up.

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Productivity & Work

Trust the routine

The writer, blogger, or boxer must always keep in training. The artist or athlete can’t wait for the muse to inject them with productivity serum.

Routine is much more compelling than inspiration, which is fickle, comes in flashes, and rarely sticks.

On the flipside of consistency, is also imperfection. The practician not only faces the resistance, they also face human error.

Showing up every day is one thing, doing it again regardless of the results is yet another habit to develop. All that you are is a result of what you have thought.

Error is human. You need some form of struggle to remind you what needs tweaking. However, when the going gets good, you’ll want to maintain it.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to do it all again tomorrow, build off the confidence of yesterday.

I’ll leave you with this advice from thought leader and psychologist Benjamin Hardy.

Get this clear: confidence is a direct reflection of past performance. Hence, yesterday is more important than today. Luckily, today is tomorrow’s yesterday. So, even if your confidence today isn’t optimal, your confidence tomorrow is still within your control.

Benjamin Hardy
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Funny Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Writing

Streaks

We never stop, continuing a streak of a thousand days.

Each day, rain or shine, we either pop with energy or force it.

Consistency is not neutral.

The exactitude of life requires a sense of urgency. And the daily routine is his space to be creative and thoughtful.

How one navigates the tension between doing and knowing is less important than showing up and doing the work.

The only schedule worth keeping is one that begs for us to do it all over again tomorrow.

Categories
Arts Productivity & Work Psychology Writing

There is a time for everything

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gif by John Corsi

The time you spend away from your task still qualifies as work. That includes doing the dishes, running errands, and taking care of the kids—whatever responsibilities you think to impede your central occupation contribute to its success.

British novelist Jon McGregor gives a good example of how he manages his writing despite making time for everything from Tweeting to taking care of his children.

“I rarely manage a whole unbroken day at the desk. And it can be frustrating, sometimes. Once or twice a year I manage to get away somewhere and live like a hermit for a week, eating and sleeping next to a desk and talking to no one and getting a lot of work done. Imagine if I could work like that all the time, I think, then. Think how productive I’d be! But if my life was always like that, I suspect I’d have very little to write about.”

Locking yourself away in isolation is a forlorn attempt to escape all that matters. Patterns can backfire, especially when it comes to creativity which thrives on observation and sudden randomness.

There is a time for everything

While productivity can be messy, time away from work is not squandered time. Instead, it is spent accumulating experiences and visualizing how the ideas you’re chewing on will all come to focus when you sit down in and commit to the day ahead.

The discipline of work is just as necessary as the chaotic daily tasks of life. In fact, the best things in life often disrupt it, forcing you to rethink priorities and see how it all connects.

Contrary to popular opinion, busyness is not a badge of honor. Life seeds all the ideas.

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Triggering and cementing habits

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The weakness of will drives our worst habits.

Remove the cookies, and we’re less likely to snack on them. Refuse the cafe down the street and drink the Starbucks office Keurig pods instead. That’s $3 saved!

Surroundings dictate our behavior. They are unconscious triggers for experiences.

So the reverse is also true.

Pack your gym bag the night before, and you’ll be more likely to work out the next day. Know what you’re going to write about tomorrow and let it the mind mull it over in your sleep.

With a little preparation, you let the decision thaw. By programming the unconscious, you leave yourself little choice but to follow through.

This is not to say that life is all about repetition. Even the dancer or the author needs rest. Stemming the stimulus is ok. However, it’s not ok to quit just because you broke the chain.

“When the mind is merely consistent it becomes mechanical and loses vitality, the glow, the beauty of free movement.” 

Jiddu Krishnamurti, Think on These Things

Creation and discovery is the result of serendipity. Yet, it is smart habits that build competency and help remove the nagging confusion of getting started.

gif by Alex Trimpe

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Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work Video

How to practice effectively

How to practice effectively

Everything is practice. Practice is everything. “Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement.”

Biologically speaking, practice strengthens the neural tissue, specifically the fatty substance myelin which enhances the runway for brains to communicate effectively with the muscles.

The 10,000-hour rule of deliberate practice doesn’t necessarily guarantee improvement. The training needs to be effective. Below are four tips for ensuring that quality meets quantity.

Tips on how to practice effectively

1 — Focus on the task at hand. Minimize distractions like TV and social media. Put your smartphone on airplane mode or throw your phone into the ocean.

2 — Start out slowly and then increase the speed of repetition. Raising the pace builds up the likeliness of performing the task correctly.

3 — Practice frequently with allotted breaks. Professionals practice 50 – 60 hours per week.

4 — Practice in your brain by reinforcing the skill with your imagination.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

You can’t schedule joy

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“We make lists because we don’t want to die,” said Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco.

The problem with lists though is that we tend to include things we enjoy doing like writing, reading, meditating, along with other habits we should do, like exercise or our grocery shopping.

When we fail to cross an item off the list, we feel like a failure. Said author and meditation expert Susan Piver on the obsession of getting stuff done:

I knew I had to give up trying to be disciplined in any conventional sense. It doesn’t work. And since the definition of suffering is trying the same thing over and over expecting a different result, I had to put myself out of my misery.

Susan Piver

So she looked at her daily habits a different way. Instead of scheduling her to-dos, she instead did them out of sheer pleasure. She remembered why she pursued spiritual practice and writing in the first place and rediscovered a lighter, organic creative flow.

Once I remembered that my motivation is routed in genuine curiosity and that my tasks are in complete alignment with who I am and want to be, my office suddenly seemed like a playground rather than a labor camp.

If we want to be successful in any field, we have to do the work. Everything is practice. The problem lies in our interpretation of discipline and motivation.

If the task becomes routine, the activity we once loved loses its purpose. But if we follow Susan Piver’s advice and convert tasks back into joyful exercises, we may be able to plan less and play with the process more.

I suggest that instead of being disciplined about hating on yourself to get things done, try being disciplined about remaining close to what brings you joy.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Writing

In search of a writing process

That blank page screams at you with all its anxiety for you to fill it in. But starting from scratch can be intimidating, especially when anything goes.

It’s not surprising that so many aspiring writers quit their canvass–it’s so much easier to avoid the pain of inconsistency. That’s where a productive writing system comes in.

Instead of waiting for inspiration, you set a schedule for the muse to wake up. Whether you can squeeze in an hour between 5 – 7 AM or find time to write during lunch break at work, the practice has to get done. The method is everything. Everything is practice.

What you write isn’t as important as the process itself. Some days (i.e., most days), what spews out the ink is garbage. However, nothing goes unused.

That weak sentence or kernel of an idea resurface in more lucid prose in the future.

Words are tools for making stuff.

And the more one sits down to yank them out of the head and onto paper, screen, whatever–the more likely it is to do it again and keep going regardless of how the person feels. When in doubt, the processes that worked before.

In search of clarity, it only comes through at the result of the work.

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Tech

Leave the phone behind

I have a simple rule: every time I take the dog outside for a walk I leave my phone behind. #gif #tech #addiction

I have a simple rule: every time I take the dog outside for a walk I leave my phone behind. 

I used to take the phone with me wherever I went — even the bathroom. Now when I abandon it, I can literary feel my mind rebuilding itself.

I have a similar approach for my work desk. I deliberately put the phone out of reach so I don’t have the temptation to snag it.

The resistance, of course, is never perfect. I wish I earned a penny every time my eyes get sucked into that rectangular glow.

Resisting the phone by leaving it behind is a win for my head. So grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk. It’s impossible to connect the dots when your mind is playing the slot machines all day.

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Productivity & Work Science Tech

Why sitting is bad for you, animated

Sitting is the new smoking. While that claim may be a bit exaggerated, it is an effective reminder to remind ourselves to take our body for a walk.

The more than 360 joints inside our bodies are also ample evidence that we are built to stand up and move. And while more offices are including stand up desks and other mobility devices, the sedentary lifestyle still dominates.

Sitting for long periods of time reduces overall blood flow, particularly the oxygen that gets pushed via bloodstream through the lungs to the brain.

So, set yourself a reminder to get up every half hour and move around. But beware of text neck.