Great beginnings

Productivity

It’s a marvelous Monday. Did you start off strong? If not, maybe it’s time to revamp your opening rituals. Successful people spend the first hour of their day in preparation and edification.

Postpone email and other non urgent tasks. There are more productive ways to begin your day than to see what other people need or want from you. Give yourself some time to gear up before launching into administrivia. The truly urgent messages will make their way to you, but the others can wait.

Practice mindfulness and gratitude. No matter where you are in time and space, there’s something you can be grateful for. What is it? Bear it in mind as you begin your day.

Eat that frog. Determine the most important task for the day and devise a clear plan for getting it done first. Although one strategy is to get all the small things done first, Mark Twain’s advice: ‘Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’

Check in with yourself. Are you on the path to professional fulfillment? If not, think about what you need to do differently. It’s possible to be grateful about things in your life while being honest with yourself about your circumstances. Think about changes you need to make to orient yourself toward your dreams.

Check in with your colleagues. Connect with co-workers, mentors, and other contacts. Work is not simply about the tasks, but about people, too.

Read more about it at Fast Company.

What are you creating?

Productivity, Text Talk

I’ve come across a lot of things worth sharing as of late. Long ago I used this space, not only for musing, but also for sharing news articles or other things of interest. Sometimes a video catches my eye. Other times, it could be a picture. Today, it’s a word. Something to ponder:

There is no one lonelier or more unhappy than a person who does not know the pure joy of creating a life for himself or herself. To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge. To be human in the full sense of the word is to lead a creative life. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Emerging Superachiever?

Personal Narrative, Productivity

I received an electronic newsletter earlier this week.  In it, Dr. Sally summarized the common traits of academic superachievers. She was referring to their level of scholarly productivity – in other words, how much some researchers contribute to a given knowledge base in comparison to others. Those who are extremely productive are superachievers, and they have five things in common: passion, planning, persistence, perspective and partnerships.

Academic superachievers are excited about their work. They have long-range plans and short-range objectives. They never give up, they maintain a youthful spirit, and they collaborate.

Although I feel good about who I am and what I’ve done, I’m not an academic superachiever. I’m at the emerging end of the achievement scale, and quite frankly, I’ve spent more time debating my interest in being on the scale than engaging in the work. There are lots of reasons for this, including my attitudes about academia as a culture, as well as my ever-changing, sometimes wildly divergent interests.  But the newsletter arrived at a time when I’m reevaluating where I am professionally and where I’d like to go from here.

Self reflecting, I find two items on Dr. Sally’s list worthy of deeper investigation, and one in particular, planning, seems it will be the key to my moving forward.

As a teenager I planned everything. I made lists, I had long-range calendars. I planned out my entire high school course of study the summer before my freshman year. I planned most of my college career promptly upon arrival. But soon after graduation, I started living and working more spontaneously, with less interest in long-term outcomes.

Both approaches served me well for a time, but now I’ve arrived in a season for strategy. Goal-setting works well for me. It circumvents my tendency to waver or succumb to momentary bouts of overwhelm. It keeps me moving steadily when I would just as easily be ruled by waxing and waning passions and scattered thinking. I say all of this in honest reflection of my personality traits. I’ve never been one to think negatively of myself, yet there’s always room for growth.

I have some exciting things underway. I’m going to spend some time channeling Focused Buddha, and develop/update my 5-year, annual, and weekly plans. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence. ~Frederick Douglass

Good credit. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Productivity

NaBloPoMo March 2013When good things happen, people tend to underestimate how much credit is due to their own efforts, and overestimate the influence of outside forces.

  • That was just luck.
  • It’s only because someone else did thus and such.
  • I was in the right place at the right time.

Meanwhile, when something negative happens, the opposite is suddenly true. They get plenty of credit for the poor outcome, while the external forces are let off the proverbial hook.

  • It’s all my fault.
  • I always do thus and such wrong.
  • If only I had done this, that or the other thing.

In either case, the scales are always tipped to favor luck for good things, and self for bad.

Why is that?

We are co-creators in this world. That means just as there are some things outside of our control, there are other things that we have the ability to influence. We owe it to ourselves to get clear on our power in either case. We deserve credit for the victories in our lives. Perhaps we were in the right place at the right time, but we were also prepared and ready for the opportunity when it came along.

History is created by people. Each individual is a key protagonist in that endeavor. Instead of relying on others, we must enact our own great drama of creativity. Then we can break through the shell of our limited self, advancing and improving ourselves day after day. ~Daisaku Ikeda

We have agency. Don’t relinquish your power, content to subject yourself to the whims of the universe.  Sure, good and bad things “happen.” But be just as sure that you contribute to the good things. The more you recognize your power to co-create the wins in your life, the more victories you can accumulate.

Yes, Lady Luck deserves some of the credit, and so do you. Give credit where credit is due.

Beets and baby steps. #NaBloPoMo

30 Day Blog Challenge, Productivity

Baby steps count. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating from time to time.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m traveling a lot these days. When I’m home, I try to detox to some degree. This weekend I had the great intention to make hot pink smoothies. What makes a smoothie hot pink? One half of one raw beet!

#hotpinksmoothie

My time is limited on the weekends, and I was excited to make it to my local grocer to get beets and the other ingredients. Once home, I unloaded the groceries and immediately departed. No time to clean beets and fire up the blender.

I rushed around handling other business, lamenting my unprepared beets. Hours passed in this way. Then one day. Then two. Not until I was just about ready to depart did I finally get the beets ready.

I was disappointed I didn’t make my smoothies before I left, but guess what? Everything is ready for my next visit home. It’s a little step, but one big enough to put me ahead of the game next weekend.

A thank you note.

Writer's Craft

I promised myself I would write. I owe it to myself to keep my promise.

Joshunda’s sentiment to write as exploration and truth-telling, and ultimately as an expression of self-love, resonated with me months ago.  That afternoon we talked love, pets, career, life, all in no particular order. Mostly we talked writing.

We talked writing as inquiry. As work. As joy. As required. As radical.  

I hear her voice whenever I talk myself out of writing.

When I procrastinate until “later today.”  Or when I say “tomorrow.”  I hear her voice when brilliance flashes at inconvenient moments, and I neglect to take note.  When I resist.  When I do anything other than sit and listen to the ideas clamoring to be revealed, or prodded, refuted, developed, acknowledged…I hear her voice.

Today, I am listening. And writing.

Thank you.
xoxo

A Request

Feminist Thought, Personal Narrative

You are not an impostor and you are not alone. This, despite any feelings or supposed evidence you may have to the contrary.

I wish someone had shared this with me before I started graduate school. I wish it had been the hook of a song I was required to sing each morning upon waking. I wish I had repeated it, hand over heart, at the beginning of each class period; a pledge and a reminder.

As it was, I didn’t figure these things out until quite near the end of it all, after many days (years) of wondering what the hell I was doing there. Really.

A former student of mine solicited advice on finishing up away from peers and profs. It’s a good question. There’s enough isolation during the process when you’re surrounded by support; never mind away, with a new job to boot. Vulnerability is not easy among strangers, especially in a professional setting. And there’s something to be said about the implied distance within virtual spaces.

I’ve developed a response, but I’m going to let it marinate overnight.

Done and Done! | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

30 Day Blog Challenge

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. ~Michael Althsuler

August was the rare month in which I never wondered, where did the time go? In fact, more than once I wanted to hurry August along.

I had two goals to accomplish. The first and easier of the two: run 50 miles. The second, a sight more challenging: write every day. Publicly. Depending on your relationship to either running or writing, you may have ranked the goals differently. For me, the exercise was no sweat. I’ve run 50 miles in a month previously. It was my first time this year, but not my first time, you know, ever. Barring unforeseen challenges, I assumed it could do it.

The writing, however, is a different matter entirely. Unlike exercise, writing has never been a non-negotiable. Over the years I’ve made half-hearted attempts to write more frequently. Sometimes journaling. Sometimes blogging. And so on. But writing everyday? No. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that I would make it to the end without doubling up on posts some days, or just giving up.

Writing daily was a bit of a grind. Within the first few days I got tired of recommitting. I had to do it every.single.day. Couldn’t we just skip a few days and get to mid-month already? I wanted to meet my goals without the struggle of working toward them.

Thank goodness time paid me no mind. It’s only fitting that I would finish my goal during a blue moon.

I have more to say in the way of a debrief, but I’ma save that for later. The rest of this space is reserved for celebrating!  I am committed to self-love. That means every now and again I get to shimmy and twirl on my own behalf (you can join in at home):

YOU GO GIRL! YOU DID IT!

*shimmies*

*twirls*

*presses play on the embedded video and sings along*

And after you’re done singing, catch up on the posts you missed here.

Don’t Give Up | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

30 Day Blog Challenge, Productivity, Writer's Craft

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength
of their determination fades with time.
The important thing is not that your resolve never wavers,
but that you don’t get down on yourself when it does and throw in the towel.
~Daisaku Ikeda

23 down. 7 to go:

I have made a commitment to write (and share) every day for 30 days. Some days it’s been a joy – especially those days when I have time to truly craft or be playful on the page. It’s also rewarding when I’m feeling a bit righteous and want to make a little noise about something on my heart. Unfortunately, not all days are sunshine. When I’m tired, or my day simply hasn’t gone as planned, I often debate skipping and just catching up the next day.

But so far I haven’t done that.

It’s difficult, continuing. I think it’s important to just acknowledge that. Even if you enjoy something, you may not enjoy it the same every day. And even if you’re committed to something, your commitment may not look the same every day. But here’s the thing… even though we acknowledge something is not as easy as we’d like, I think we owe it to our commitment not spend too much time lamenting.

Lamenting is the magic expander. It makes everything loom larger than it actually is. This is so hard, we think to ourselves over and over again. And suddenly we’ve made the thing heavier. We’ve made the task larger. And then it becomes too much! We mop our brow, woozy from the imagined strain. Tomorrow, we think. Maybe I can manage it tomorrow.

Just when I’m whipping out the handkerchief, ready to call it a night, I often realize that I have the same power to shrink the task as I had to enlarge it. And I tell the lamenter thank you, but your services are no longer needed. I remind myself of my original goal, and go from there.

My goal is to build a writing habit. That means I simply need to write. Something. Anything. Even a five-minute freewrite.

It all counts.

That doesn’t mean there won’t come a day when you really don’t have it in you. Not five minutes. Not five words. And that’s okay, too. On those days, be gentle with yourself. Who deserves your love, if not you? Don’t give up on your original determination. Don’t give up on you.

And this makes 24. 9:53 p.m. Home office.

Favorite Things | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

30 Day Blog Challenge, Productivity

From time to time, friends mention various and sundry ailments or concerns, and inquire as to whether I might recommend a remedy. Occasionally, I can! Below, you’ll find a brief catalogue of the items I share most regularly.

Beginning Meditation
Most people naturally assume my Buddhist practice incorporates meditation. It does not. However, meditation, even a few seconds once in a while, can benefit anyone. One year I felt unreasonably harried and unfocused and thought learning more about meditation would help me slow down a bit. It did.

I particularly like Jack Kornfield’s easy going and clear delivery and guided practice sessions. Once every year or so I listen to his mini-lectures and sessions again, as a good reminder to slow down and be fully present.

Shallow or Irregular Breathing
If you are like me, you rarely breath as deeply as you should. And in fact, there have been times we’ve I’ve caught myself holding my breath for no discernible reason at all! Andrew Weill’s two CD set includes a great lecture on the benefits of proper breathing as well as guided practice sessions.

I first heard this years ago, and still incorporate some of these breathing techniques whenever I need to wake myself up or relax.

Monkey Mind
Sometimes I simply can’t turn my mind off at night. For someone who needs a great deal of sleep in order to maximize productivity, it’s no bueno. There are many strategies one can employ, but my favorite is p.m.yoga. This is a big deal because I’m not really a fan of yoga for exercise. It’s just not my go to, despite wanting to enjoy it.

Gaiam’s DVD features a 20 minute series of poses that wind down the mind and body. Any time I follow this DVD, I fall asleep right away, and sleep deeply throughout the night.

As an aside, just doing a few of the poses helps me as well, if for whatever reason I’m not able or willing to pull out the DVD.

As another aside, I’ve only ever done the morning series twice – both about 6 years ago. But recently, I’ve found myself naturally wanting to do sun salutations some mornings. Maybe I’ll look at that DVD again…

Overall Wellness
I was very interested in tai chi a few years ago and purchased this DVD. I prefer the a.m. tai chi series over a.m. yoga (as I prefer the p.m. yoga over the p.m. tai chi). That said, I did both morning and evening tai chi for several days in a row and noticed a dramatic improvement in my overall feeling of well-being. I wasn’t expecting it, but there it was.

The main benefit I noticed at the time was the feeling of space around my organs. It was as if the air could flow more freely throughout my body.

Napping
I believe in power naps. I’m not sure I always did, but a busy schedule doesn’t really lend itself to hour-long siestas. Can you really feel refreshed after a 20- or even a 10-minute rest? Yes. The Ultimate Nap CD is the answer. When I bought this in a store, the CD came with napping supplies! I don’t usually have the ability to whip out the eye mask, and the lavender is just too strong for me, but the music is the thing. If you have earphones, even better.

I’ve used this on short plane trips, secreted away in my car, in my office. Well, you get the drift. If you can carve out a few minutes, you can take a good nap with this CD.

~~

So these are few of my favorite things for recharging and refreshing. What are some of yours?