Archives for the month of: February, 2016

Recently, I read about why procrastination should be embraced. As a chronic procrastinator I was intrigued, but never bothered to read the entire article. Then in the beginning of February, I was listening to Radio Times on WHYY. The guest, Adam Grant, was talking about his newest book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. In the interview he mentioned that he was trying to break his habit of pre-crastination (i.e., finishing projects weeks or months before they are due) in order to become more creative. Grant’s mention of the benefits of procrastination definitely caught my attention this time. I began to wonder why I found it impossible to kick my procrastination habit and if it had any upsides in my life.

I consider myself to be a functioning chronic procrastinator. In high school I learned the very painful lesson that waiting to the last minute can hurt your creativity. It became a habit I tried to avoid, but starting projects extremely early, or pre-crastinating, wasn’t for me. I found that if I started too early on a project I had difficulty focusing. Of course, starting on a project at the last minute produces the same results because of panic. As I continued to examine myself, I discovered that when I wait for the perfect moment to complete a task, it is most likely never finished. Yet, I found it difficult to will myself to do something on the spot, especially if it was out of my comfort zone. I concluded that I work best in the moments when I feel motivated enough to complete a project in chunks, giving myself between a few days or hours before a deadline. (If I have that luxury.)

Did I find any upsides? Sort of. I learned that the sweet spot for completing a task is near a given deadline, but that deadline should have enough lead time to allow for mental breathing room. My bad habit is here to stay, but I now know there is a healthy amount of procrastination.

How do you view procrastination? Do you wait to the last minute or are you a pre-crastinator?

 

Procrastination-Issues from Dobrador -dot-com

Procrastination Issues from Dobrador.com

As many of you may have been able to tell from my posts, I suffer from anxiety. It’s something I have to work with every day and I am still learning about it. I think this is an important topic that people should feel comfortable talking about because it seems to me that more people suffer from anxiety, depression, and other illnesses than I realized. I guess it’s a sensitive topic (I know it took some soul-searching on my part before I felt comfortable enough to write this post). I’d like to talk about dealing with anxiety on a personal level as well as a professional one in a two-part post (this being the first part) because I think it would be beneficial for millennials to raise their voices and talk about this shadowy topic out in the open.

On a personal level, I deal with stress and anxiety by doing small but effective things, such as listening to music, lighting a candle, engaging in calming activities that I enjoy, and exercising. I also try my very hardest to not allow work issues to seep into my home-time (I’ll talk about that more next time). I’d also like to start meditating at some point but, honestly, I’m a bit worried because of all the thoughts whirling around my head. It may sound counterproductive, but I’m afraid they’ll completely take over and I’ll be in a worse position then when I started. Maybe one day! For the most part, these other strategies work; I am able to calm myself sufficiently so I don’t feel that I’m adrift and unable to come back to reality.

I think these “rituals” to help me calm myself down are so important to me, personally. I know that prolonged feelings of stress and anxiety can have long-lasting physical as well as mental effects. I also want to clarify that I’m not on any medication or anything like that for anxiety, so I am only speaking here in terms of my own experience. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments if you feel so inclined.

How about you readers out there–does anyone deal with anxiety or any other illness? What works for you when you need calming down?

Charlie Brown
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Last week Karen sent me a link to a podcast called “This Is Your Life.” The episode I listened to talked about how to write a blog post in 70 minutes or less. I found the advice to be extremely helpful. One of the biggest revelations was generating an idea for a post night before actually writing about the topic. This ensures that the heavy lifting of writing isn’t done until the following day— well after the idea has simmered in your head for a few hours. Other helpful tips included using a template to write, thinking about the flow of the topic idea while exercising or doing chores, turning off all notifications from your phone AND computer, and setting a timer for 30 minutes. The timer idea was extremely interesting to me because it sets a mini-deadline and forces me to focus. When the clock is ticking the pressure is on, even if a true deadline is days away.

Despite the excellent advice, I still feel as if writing a blog post in 70 minutes (or less!) isn’t applicable to every situation. For example, if I am deeply familiar with a topic the words generally flow easier and I face very few stumbling blocks. For topics that require extensive research, or that are out of my range of knowledge, it often takes longer to write a post. Part of the 70 minutes also included finding graphics, adding links, and posting to WordPress. Unless a post is 500 words or less, I simply don’t see it happening for me.

Even so, the advice has helped me focus my writing. I’m editing less in my first draft. I can’t seem to complete kick the habit because I always feel the need to delete a sentence and clarify what I want to say. This greatly slows the momentum of the writing process down. I know with more practice I’ll shift into the habit of editing once the first draft of an article is complete.

I’m also finding it helpful to break more challenging posts into sessions spread over several days. The time helps me take a breather when I’m struggling with a difficult topic and my attention is waning. I am also able to give myself a buffer of a day or two before the actual deadline. This wasn’t part of the original advice, but I adjusted accordingly so I can work in mini-sessions. So far, so good!

What piece of advice has helped you become more productive or effective at a particular task? What was the task?

blogging by Robb Sutton of Flickr

Blogging by Robb Sutton of Flickr

 

How many of you feel the need to “look forward” to something, no matter how small, so that you can make it through the difficult winter days (or just a stressful week)? I know I do! I’m planning a trip down the shore this weekend with some family and I am very much looking forward to it. I have a day off on February 15th. My favorite band is playing a concert here in the summer and tickets go on sale at the end of the month. These seemingly small events are the things that get me through some of my days when it’s cloudy and cold outside. Trudging up the hill to my apartment after work with my breath coming out in clouds, sometimes I just need to remind myself that there are always “little things” to smile about in life.

I love my work, especially now with this new job, and I am grateful for all the good things that my work brings. Of course, every once in awhile, I just need a change. Last week, I had a semi-stressful situation at work and almost every evening I did something for myself. I remember on Tuesday that I wanted to do some cleaning; I was tired and still revved up from the day, so I just didn’t. I lit a candle and watched Netflix instead. Thursday at work was tough, but I told myself I would go home and make my favorite meal for dinner. That made me calm down and focus on the tasks at hand.

It’s exhausting to work day in and day out with no change to my routine (though I do love my routine!). Having something coming up on my calendar is just the thing to get me energized and motivated for the week or month ahead. We all need pick-me-ups sometimes, right?

positive

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