Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Month: March 2016

The best way to start doing anything

I am about to give you the secret to productivity. Are you ready? Brace yourself, because this is a game/brain changer.

Set a timer for fifteen minutes, then do the thing.

It doesn’t matter what the thing is. Writing? Drawing? Laundry? That phone call to Mom? Learning a language? Getting ready for the next day? Cleaning the sink? Mastering the ukulele? Making bread dough? This works for all of them.

Too complicated? Let me break it down.

  1. Get a timer. Use your microwave, your phone, your computer, your watch (yes, some of us still wear and use them!).
  2. Set the timer for 15 minutes.
  3. Do the thing.
  4. When the timer goes off, stop doing the thing.
  5. High five yourself for being productive!

Of course, if you not only can do more, but also want to do more, by all means go ahead. You can even set the timer for another round of fifteen minutes. Go crazy! You’re on a roll!

This is how people get an insane* amount of things done. Life in fifteen minute chunks.



*This is how I manage to write novels in thirty days**: 15 minute chunks. Over and over and over again.

**And blog posts. Fifteen minutes is serious mojo making magic.



3 for Thursday

What I’m liking this week:

Reading: Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews. I love the Kate Daniels series, and it has been awhile since I read urban fantasy (I was on a science fiction kick, and then started working on my TBR pile, and now wanted something to just entertain myself with).

Eating: Roasted pork chops. I had never cooked pork chops before, despite growing up with them. Tried a very simple recipe (I like “simple” in just about everything), and it turned out so well that I’ve got to do it again. Like this weekend.

Thinking: Unf*%& Your Habitat. Been trying to create a more efficient and simple (see? I told you I liked simple) cleaning routine, and as much as I like a lot of Flylady’s content*, she seems to have way more time than I do. UfYH has an attitude that resonates with me**, and I really like the “before and after” photos of folks cleaning up their spaces***.

Now, to get back to enjoying the current sunbreak . . .



*I will say that Flylady’s “swish and swipe” concept is brilliant, and combined with keeping the kitchen sink and counters clean, means a lot of the stress/effort of cleaning becomes moot.

**Just the name would be enough, but then they go and say things like “Excuses are boring.” I love that.

***It’s a guilty pleasure, like watching Property Brothers , but without hot Canadian guys. Or Canadian accents.

The five minute journal

I came across a reference to “The Five Minute Journal” and had to take a look. I love journals, and paper and pens, and have kept a diary of assorted varieties since I was seven years old (I love that there was a “lock” on one from elementary school — as if it would keep my sister out of my diary), and I’m always looking for ways to tweak my daily routine. So when I saw “Five Minute Journal” my curiousity was piqued.

The idea is that in five minutes a day (yes, just FIVE MINUTES A DAY) you can journal and become a better person. Or something like that.

The gist of it is: in the morning, write down three things you are grateful for, then three things that would make the day great, and then your affirmations (if you’re into that). Then in the evening, you write down three amazing things that happened to you that day, and then a note about how you could have made that day better.

In many respects it’s genius — a few minutes in the morning to set your intentions, and then a few minutes in the evening to note what happened and reflect on improvement. All of this fits on one sheet of paper, and if you buy the actual “Five Minute Journal” you get daily inspirational quotes and a split-sheet effect with the morning section on lighter background and evening section on darker background.

I’ve been trying the morning section to settle my mind down before getting to work. Most mornings I have a zillion ideas running through my head, which range from the Terribly Important and Must Do Today to mundane silly things that Aren’t Important and Will Add No Value to My Life But Dammit I Want to Know More (like who is on the new cast of Dancing with the Stars, or what the reviews look like for a recently published academic book on the Japanese tea ceremony). Trying to sort through the mess and triage it often has me heading down rabbit holes (and usually of the mundane and silly) before I ever get to determining the important and timely stuff to do.

So I’m liking and using the “three things grateful for” and “three things that would make the day great.” Just three things. I think I can manage that.

For the evening I’m still preferring Lynda Barry’s “Daily Diary” format that she describes in her book Syllabus. You take a composition notebook, and each day note seven things you did that day, seven things you saw or noticed, something you overheard, and then draw a picture from some aspect of the day (a self-portrait is okay, esp. if expressing emotion). Something like this*:

daily diary format

Rough daily diary format from Lynda Barry
(my handwriting is nearly illegible, hence the print version here)

I can’t draw (really, I can’t), so it’s been a struggle to even attempt to draw something that vaguely resembles reality, but when I look back over my diary entries, it’s the pictures that stick out, like the one of the guy in his car flipping me off through his open sunroof, or the outline of mountains under clouds, or a day I was frazzled and have the self-portrait to prove it.

This is a far cry from Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” and takes less words and penmanship than a standard diary, but it’s working well for me for catching the highlights of the day and pushing me to render them visually. It also takes less time than long-form writing, which means I’m more likely to do it, and it means I get to my bedtime reading much sooner.

*I draw the kanji for “picture” because, well, it’s a picture of a picture and I have to have some Japanese content in whatever I write.

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