On Being Productive…and Those Days Where You Really Aren't.

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On Being Productive…and Those Days Where You Really Aren't.

Post by owlandsparrow » October 4th, 2010, 4:38 pm

On Being Productive…and Those Days Where You Really Aren't.
by Kayla Olson

Inspired by the last week of my life¹, here are two lists: How to Ensure You Will Get Nothing Done and How to Get EVERYTHING Done.

Here goes.

How To Ensure You Will Get Nothing Done:
  • Sleep a LOT. Fall asleep on the couch, don't set your alarm, and proceed to snuggle your pillow until your cat bites you into consciousness.

    Click EVERY link that looks interesting on Twitter. Don't hold back. Read everything immediately, leave novel-length comments, and generally peruse the internet at the speed of a poet in a field of dandelions.

    Once you've finished reading all those interesting posts, check Twitter again. Proceed to click every new link that looks interesting. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum/ad nauseum.

    Say yes to everyone. When people ask you to do things, just say yes! You have to eat lunch/have coffee/relax sometime, right? Why not do it with someone else and double (maybe even TRIPLE!!) the time you would have spent doing those things alone??!

    Watch as much TV as possible. I'm talking Glee, The Biggest Loser, Survivor, America's Next Top Model, Project Runway, and The Amazing Race. Side note: I did NOT watch all of these shows this week. But, I like them all, so I was tempted. Of those that I did watch, this clip (http://bit.ly/a2OnYX) from The Amazing Race premiere is SO HILARIOUS. Watch it. Painful, painful, painful—but hilarious.
  • Don't deny yourself: just be wise. It kind of hurt me to write the above list because it's so extreme. None of those things are bad, in and of themselves. It's GOOD to get a healthy amount of sleep, to read links on Twitter and make new friends, to spend quality time with people, to watch some TV at the end of the day. Denying yourself things you enjoy won't make you more productive—you'll probably just end up procrastinating with things you enjoy less. Do things you enjoy, just try not to let them eat your day. How? Read on.

    Have a clear idea of WHAT you need/want to accomplish. When you're not sure where to begin, it's easy to waste your own time. Figure out what, specifically, you need to do. A list of specific goals is a concrete thing to wrap your mind around and is essential toward making progress of any kind. In my experience, it's much easier to pull my head out of the clouds and get to work if I know where to begin.

    Have a clear idea WHY you need/want to do whatever it is you're doing. Worthwhile goals usually take time and discipline to accomplish. They are not always fun. They are not always easy. The WHY is your light at the end of the tunnel, and it's also the steam for your little engine. It's the truth you come back to when things get hard and you forget why you started a project in the first place. Know why you get up before the crack of dawn to write, why you allow yourself two TV shows per week instead of every show on the air, why you sacrifice like you do for your goal—you can come back to the why when things get hard. When things get hard, it's too easy to give in to what's merely fun, while putting off the thing that's a little more difficult, but worthwhile. The WHY is essential. Know yours.

    Pay attention to the clock. Not obsessively—just be aware of it. You're human: you have numerous passions and priorities, and like all other humans, a scant 24 hours/day to nurture them. Know your priorities, know yourself, and get a feel for how long it takes you to do things. Work hard, rest hard.

    Then (and this is the thing that seems easy, but isn't always) DO. I realize this is a revolutionary concept and all—to be productive, you have to do stuff. Stuff that helps your goal(s) move along, I should clarify. It really is that simple, and it really is that difficult. Silly brains, always convincing us we need to do the exact opposite of what's on our agenda. Go back to the WHATs and WHYs when you feel stuck.

    Don't beat yourself up. This is pretty much imperative if you are a) human, and b) want to be productive. Some days your focus will just be ornery. You'll have things on your heart and mind, or you'll just be exhausted. You try and try, but still—nothing. Or, maybe you don't try, and you ride the procrastination wave until it dumps you in the sand. Some days will just be this way, and that's okay. The quickest way to have a more productive tomorrow is to just move on and try again, sans self-inflicted guilt trip.
Okay, I think that's it. I now raise my coffee mug in a toast to making the most of your time, whether we're talking ten minutes or ten hours. Happy productivity, y'all!

¹If you're familiar with my blog, you know this is completely out of the ordinary for me. I'm taking a brief break before starting the fourth draft of my WIP, which has messed up my usual routine. I pretty much thrive on productivity, so being out of my routine feels very strange.

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Re: On Being Productive…and Those Days Where You Really Aren't.

Post by WritersBlockNZ » October 4th, 2010, 6:12 pm

I'm guilty of clicking on every link in twitter :-S So maybe you could add 'disconnect the internet' to your list of how to get everything done?
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

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Re: On Being Productive…and Those Days Where You Really Aren't.

Post by owlandsparrow » October 4th, 2010, 7:05 pm

Hey, WritersBlockNZ! :) Thanks for your comment. I suppose that would be a good addition for people who have tried to be disciplined but simply cannot focus with Twitter on in the background.

There are a couple of reasons I didn't include it on the list. Mainly, this: so much of being productive has to do with being self-disciplined. Turning Twitter/the Internet off is a solution, yes. Of course! That said, leaving it up and training yourself to use it to your advantage is good practice at self-discipline, and it can be beneficial to writing itself. Twitter, for me, has been incredibly advantageous toward building a community of writers, as well as a rich resource for honing the writing craft. Turning it off tends to be counterproductive for my writing process because a) I feel disconnected and wonder what I've missed, and b) usually end up spending WAY too much time catching up when I finally do turn it back on. It's been a healthy thing for me to learn to leave it up but not let it rule me.

Anyway, I realize this isn't the case for everyone. It's probably like writing with music playing: many people prefer it, but I prefer silence.

Best of luck to you! Thanks again for your feedback.
:) KO

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