Tag Archives: Productivity

Winter Survival Guide (38) ~ Circumvent ‘breakdown’ by ‘breaking it down’…

This time of year, as nostalgic, fun and relaxing as it is ‘supposed’ to be, can often bring with it stress and an ever lengthening ‘to do’ list.

It is so important to be aware of where you are at with your mental health, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, and in more in depth articles throughout my blog.

There are expectations that we place upon ourselves and that family, friends and society places upon us. Expectations that might be completely unrealistic and out of our grasp and that leave us feeling worn out, stressed, worried and even at ‘breaking point’ at times.

Look back over some of my previous posts, or search my blog for posts on ‘mental health’ related topics.

For this post, I’ll try to keep it simple: Break it down to avoid breaking down. 

I don’t know about you, but by the time I’ve got things organised for one week, I’m at the end of the week and needing to start all over again. Your tasks might be work oriented, or to do with keeping up with commitments, events and nurturing your friendships and relationships.

Today, ‘life as it happens to be’ sees me looking at a countertop of dishes needing washed and put away, recycling bags needing emptied, bins to be put out and clutter to be tidied away, food shopping to be done, and other household tasks to attend to, over and above all of the other things I want to do with my days and my life.

I often encourage myself and other people to break things down into smaller, more manageable ‘chunks’ to avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed. At this time of year there may be more things popping up in our diaries and calendars, and it can be hard to get around at times and to keep up with it all, which can lead to stress and anxiety or the exacerbation of existing conditions.

Some people are natural organisers, but even if you are not, you can work at finding a system that works for you to enable you to do what needs to be done, and thereby feeling more relaxed to take the ‘time out’ that you also need.

I have a lot of blog posts on mental health, organising, strategizing, and the different tools, techniques, ‘games’ and systems I use to make the load a bit lighter for myself mentally and emotionally and to even find the fun in being productive.

I need to keep reminding myself of these things, and that includes in attending to my list of ‘to do’s’ today.

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and ‘frazzled’ or don’t know where to start, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your health and wellbeing is far more important than living up to certain expectations that may be unrealistic, and to getting everything done a certain way. Take your time, break it down, put on some calming music and just take the next step. Don’t try to do things all at once and try to make it fun. Ask for help when you need it, and give yourself some kindness and encouragement. Search and browse through my other posts on mental health and getting and staying organised and hopefully you’ll feel less overwhelmed, find something that helps you and reminds you that you’re not alone.

And remember – break it down to avoid breaking down! 🙂

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x

 

“Just one more thing…”

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When I was a kid, one of my dad’s favourite programmes was ‘Columbo’ – an American TV series about an LA-PD homicide detective, played by Peter Falk. Columbo came across as a scruffy, and somewhat absent minded detective, who asked a lot of seemingly random questions. He almost always could be seen with unkempt hair, a cigar in hand and wearing a tan-coloured mac / raincoat.

Detective Columbo in almost all of his cases seemed to the suspects of the murder as posing little or no threat. Until at some seemingly random point usually half way through the proceedings of the investigation when he came to talk about something else, just as he was leaving the room, he’d put one finger to his head, pause, return and say “Just one more thing….”. He’d then ask a question relating to a small, seemingly incidental and yet vital piece of the puzzle of solving the mystery of the murder, the murderer would come up with some answer or another and appear to put our dear bumbling Columbo off the scent. But Columbo’s ‘just one more thing’ that he puzzled over, inevitably always lead to a successful prosecution of the real murderer, and Columbo, despite his haphazard, scruffy and non-threatening, sometimes bumbling demeanour, never failed to solve a case.

Now, this post isn’t anything to do with detectives, ‘who done its’, or TV crime shows. It isn’t really anything to do with Columbo either, except for his famous catchphrase that he used in each and every episode, to the satisfaction of his viewers, even those of us who were just little at the time, watching on with our families. I just thought I’d take a trip down memory lane with any of you who remember one of the most lovable TV detectives.

For those of you who don’t, and don’t have any idea who Columbo is, don’t worry. All you need to remember is his catchphrase ‘Just one more thing’. Not in terms of solving mysteries, but in terms of getting things done.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can feel a bit overwhelmed by how much I have to manage and get done in my day to day life. If I let it, things can become unnecessarily stressful. However, taking a leaf out of Columbo’s book can be good for all of us.

“Just one more thing”. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, relax, just think of that one more thing that needs done and work on that. Just one small thing at a time. Without a doubt it will help us to put aside a lot of the stress that we unnecessarily give ourselves, and we don’t need to be detectives to figure that one out! 🙂

‘Lunch Bites’ – Bite-sized inspiration on your lunch break…

What is something that many people in today’s working society do on their lunch break, almost without fail? They / we go online!

My bite-sized encouragement for today’s lunch break is to be intentional in the use of that time. It’s easy to simply browse randomly, fritter away our time jumping from page to page, and sometimes allowing ourselves to be led astray by the bombardment of distractions that the internet can bring. However, if you see your lunch break as not only a chance to have a bit of a rest, and ‘re-fuel’ hopefully with healthy food and drink, but also as a chance for some self-development, then you will approach it differently. You’ll be less likely to rush or work through lunch, and even if you get a very short break, you will be more mindful of its purposefulness. I would encourage you if you are going online, to be purposeful about it – I don’t mean go online with the purpose of shopping or booking a holiday or engaging in debate, although all those things can have their place; however, at the mid point of your day, view it as you might the mid point of your year – and seek out inspiration for going forwards. There are so many inspirational articles, blogs and posts online, but you need to seek them in order to find them. You need to decide before you log on that you’re going to ignore, avoid and march past any distractions to find that little gem that you need to spark some inspiration and ignite some new self development that may just enhance your day, and as it builds up, enrich your life. x

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Sunday reset afternoons.

Do the thing that your ‘tomorrow self’ will thank you for doing today! 🙂

Sunday afternoons are a good chance to ‘reset’ and reorganise to be fresh and ready for the week ahead, especially if you’ve had a busy week, and weekend. It’s a nice time to chill out, tidy up, and try to get into a positive and productive frame of mind for the week ahead. Yet, it can be hard sometimes to feel motivated. I know the feeling, but I’m going to try to not put unnecessary pressure on myself so that even if things aren’t fresh and ready for Monday and a brand new week, they will be ‘fresher and more ready’. One thing I like to do if I have a lot of tidying or organising to do is to break things down into smaller more manageable tasks, or set a five minute timer so that I can do a bit of work, and then do something relaxing or creative that I enjoy, and then get back into another task. This is especially helpful on those ‘lazy days’ when you need a little bit more ‘oomph’ and motivation. I also like to think of how I’d ideally like things to be, in my home and living space, and work towards that and it’s nice to know there is a whole world of inspiration out there on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet to help get back on track and make our surroundings a little more beautiful and our life that bit more organised and productive. I’ll give it a go, and see how much I can get done this Sunday evening while still staying in a reasonably chilled out frame of mind, and feeling grateful for the blessings and with the intent of doing the best with what I’ve got. A little at a time, right? So what helps you stay motivated? Do you have a Sunday afternoon / evening ‘reset routine’? 

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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 8

Well, it’s the final ‘writerly’ update from day 1 of my 3 day writing retreat. I’m very thankful that my prayers for this time have been answered, and I was able to push past any resistance within myself to not only reach my day’s target of writing 3,500 words of my novel, but exceeding that by 220 words to write 3,720 words.

I started well in the morning, but as the day progressed I toyed with the idea of going out for a walk or doing other things around the house while taking a break, and then I felt a bit of tiredness and resistance while sitting at the computer, but setting small goals (of writing for at least 15 minutes at a time) has helped me enormously to break down a task into manageable ‘mini writing goals’. 

I didn’t end up doing all of the other things I thought about doing, but I did reach my main aim for the time of making progress with my book, and for that I am very grateful. And once I pushed past my internal barriers, I was able to find new avenues for plot and character development as well as self expression, so all in all it has been a productive writing day. 

It is 5.20pm now, and I have been writing since late last night / early morning, so I think I will ‘down tools’ for tonight, and may even get to enjoy the rest of the day doing other things. 

Enjoy the rest of your day, whatever it finds you doing, and keep setting those small manageable goals, for each effort adds up to something bigger. 🙂 Thank you for reading. 

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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 6 (Finding Balance).

Quick tip: When absorbed in the creative process, don’t forget to save and back up your work – many a tearful moment will be spared if you do this. Don’t worry, I have been saving and backing up my work, but it’s always good to keep reminding ourselves of this as we go along.

As to a progress update, it is 11.35am on day 1 of this (at home) writing retreat. I have managed to complete my second stretch of writing time. My minimum is 15 minutes at a time (within an hour), and even if I write for more than this time I will still consider it as one segment of writing time. So for the second stretch, I managed to write for 30 minutes, and create some prose 446 words in length. 

As I said before, it’s not about word count, but consistency and using the time productively and being able to keep myself on track and accountable with my set aside writing time. So for interest, last night and this morning has me at 1,962 words, and an overall (10 + year) total of roughly 84, 000 words. This is because I have only been able to write sporadically over the years for short periods of time due to working full time and managing other commitments. So hopefully this set aside time will help me to progress with my novel, yet that being said, the progress of the characterisation and plot is directly linked to my own inner and outward psychological, emotional and healing journeys that are under the Sovereignty of God, so in a sense things are right on schedule! It all depends on how we look at things I suppose. 

To give myself an idea of what I should be aiming to accomplish during this three day period is quality of work, but in terms of something tangible and measurable, if I say roughly 500 words give or take for each 15 minute stretch, 7 times a day for 3 days would have me aiming towards 3,500 words per day, and 10,500 words over the total writing retreat. Perhaps this seems a little ambitious, but breaking it down into shorter more manageable ‘bursts of creativity’ and focus does help me see that it is in fact achievable, and also provides time to think, and really engage with the creative process.

So, am I on track for day 1 so far? I should be aiming towards writing at least another 1,538 words by the end of today, which does seem manageable. 

However, remember writers, as contradictory as it may at first appear, sitting down and writing for a long time can actually be quite tiring, especially if like me you have to manage health conditions such as anxiety, fatigue and low mood. Which means, a writing or any creative retreat should also be a time of ‘self care’, rest and reprocessing. Having creative time doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t at times find it challenging. The idealistic view is that you will feel rested, rejuvenated, relaxed, productive, in your creative ‘zone’ and overall it will be an amazing experience. It can be, but we need to manage our expectations and look after ourselves throughout the process. Creative writing, especially when it involves expressing a deep part of ourselves, can be challenging emotionally and mentally, as well as enriching and satisfying. 

Yet no matter how enriching the creative process is, it is worth bearing in mind that sitting at a desk or at a computer for hours at a time without a break isn’t good for anyone. So remember to stay hydrated, nourished, and take exercise and breaks so that you can enjoy your writing and creative time and not feel exhausted by it. 

As I’m reasonably ‘on track’ today, I think it is definitely time for a break – and please do give yourself permission to take breaks (but not to procrastinate or become distracted!), as this will refresh you and help you to produce a richer quality of work when you do sit down to write / create. Perhaps I shall return in a couple of hours, or maybe even later this afternoon. In the meantime, some self and home care is called for which includes exercise, a little bit of tidying up, maybe a walk in the park, some lunch, and some lighter creative activities, and a YouTube video or two and reading some of your lovely blogs for inspiration. 

Keep well on your creative journeys, as you find your own balance of inspiration and productivity. 

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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 5

It’s 10.05am of day 1 of my writing retreat, and so far the morning has been reasonably productive. I have written 355 words of my novel since 9.40am, and although this may not seem much I am pleased with it, and have felt content inhabiting the time to think and to focus. So far, cumulatively since last night I have written 1,485 words. 

For me, progressing with writing my novel is not about word-count. However, that being said, I do realise the need to hold myself accountable and make sure that I use my time productively. Having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work is another additional reason for me to be disciplined with my time, and especially as focussed writing and creative time is a rare opportunity for me, other than blogging and business writing for work. I am finding that blogging in little ‘snippets’ about my retreat experience also helps me to stay focused, productive and accountable. 

I have set myself a minimum ‘target’ of writing for at least 15 minutes at a stretch within one hour, and to do this at least 7 times each day for the three days. Personally, this really is helping me as when I sit down to write, I feel a lot more focused, I am not overwhelmed by the thought that I *have* to write for an hour or several hours, and therefore, I am finding the creative process enjoyable, satisfying and productive, which really should be a central component to creativity, rather than any pressures we or others impose upon ourselves. We need to linger in our creative space and explore the internal dynamics of what it is to be human, and somehow to translate that into what we create. These relatively small targets feel very manageable at the moment, and it also frees me up to stay within the creative space while affording myself the opportunity to do other things, the variety of which I feel will help maintain the creative ‘flow’ and interest. 

As such, I know that I can intersperse writing my novel which is the focus of this creative time, with other ‘lighter’ creative projects that I have going on, including some adult colouring in and working on a photography project. Personally the variety keeps me from feeling ‘stifled’, stuck or overwhelmed. 

I wonder if you have gained insights you can share about your creative process? What works for you? What doesn’t? Does this change with circumstances and opportunities, or have you established a set pattern that helps you with both your creativity and productivity? 

For now, I will aim to write for another stretch of 15 minutes, and then take a break and do some exercise, so that my body and brain will be in ‘tip top’ condition and keeping those ‘creative juices’ flowing! 😉 

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