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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on unsplash.com

I really wanted to write "one list to rule them all." Who thought that when they read the title?

Anyhow, I'm playing with a new way of doing to-do lists that won't leave me with undone things on a daily list or feeling like I didn't put enough on my list. I'm thinking about a master list of things I want to do that I add to when something pops into my head. Then every day I would make a list of the things I did from the master list and cross them off on the main list.

So every day I get what we call in Kaizen-Muse coaching a ta-da list. I get to see what I accomplished and feel good about getting some things done. Plus I get that great feeling from crossing things off a to-do list.

I don't have all the details worked out (I may be overthinking this--it's a hobby). Will I keep it in a notebook? Or just the main list in a notebook and the daily list on an index card? Or the main list on one of my cork boards and the daily in a notebook or a planner or on index cards? Something else I haven't thought of yet.

That's what's on my mind today. I really want to do this and see how it feels, but I may make myself hold off because I'm getting ready to start the new two-month gig tomorrow, so things are feeling a little overwhelming which isn't the best time to add one more new thing. But I'd love to hear what you think or if you do anything like this.

Happy Sunday everyone!

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20

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I don't really have that much to do, but I think after an entire year being unemployed and not on a schedule, now that I'm starting to work a bit more (with a long-term job starting on the 14th) having anything that has to happen at certain times is feeling like a lot. So I'm going to handle it the way I usually do--with a list.

Things I'm planning for this week (and a little bit beyond):

  • Work on stories at least 4 times
  • Post ROW80 goals for Round 2
  • Make class handouts for the two embroidery classes I'm teaching the first weekend in May
  • Give feedback on L's writing that I meant to do last week
  • Try out new PT exercises for my knee and hip and start working them into my regular routines
  • Catch up on Wanderlust lessons
  • Blog daily
  • Read 3 blogs daily

I really want to put a million things on there. I was going to write out all the ROW80 goals here--maybe I should. I feel like there's a lot more I'm supposed to be getting done, but now that I'm making the list I don't know for sure what it all is. Working on my studio--cleaning, organizing, setting it up so I can actually work in there. Changing the sheets and washing the dirty ones. I'm sure there was so much more zooming through my head until I started the list. Maybe that means these are the important things. Anything else that comes up can go on a list for another time. I think this must be the list for this week. My head is feeling better, so it's definitely good enough to work with, and that's what I was aiming for, so I'm going to call it good.

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12

I wanted to write something "important" today, something meaningful and useful. I wanted to talk about how possibly my favorite way of getting things done is to get involved in a group of people doing what I'm doing. Groups and challenges and classes with regular lessons and groups where people share--all of these help me keep going on goals I might quit if I was working completely on my own. I'm really motivated by externals. I love stickers on my exercise calendar, coloring in dots on a habit tracker, reporting my progress and sharing my work in a group. All of these keep me moving.

I feel like I just said everything, but this seems really short for a blog post, so here are I few more thoughts about this. I'm going to focus on finding an ongoing group for something you want to give regular time to. I also jump in on groups for 30 day challenges and things like that all the time; they're lots of fun and I learn a lot of new things that way, but right now I'm thinking about more sustainable group work.

Finding a Group:

  • A critique group is not the same as a support group to help you get things done. Critiquing is for when you're ready to polish things up. Critique too early can stop you in your tracks, so watch out for what kind of group you're getting into
  • Productivity groups can be helpful, but if everyone's only about checking things off and reporting what they've done and nothing more you might not get the encouragement you're looking for to do your work. Experiment and find out if it works for you.
  • It can be especially helpful if you're participating with people who are doing the same thing you are. For example, I participate in The 100 Day Project, and I love it (I get to color in circles on my tracker, and I report via Instagram every day so there's accountability), but I find that I'm most revved up and get things done easier for things like NaNoWriMo where I'm in there with people doing the same thing I'm doing.
  • Be willing to leave a group. This can be hard, especially if it's a small group. You might feel obligated to stay and help others. If it's not helping you move forward on your path, if it's making you feel stressed out, if you feel like "oh no, time to check in again," leave. Give yourself permission to leave if you need to, if it's not working for you.

I guess this comes down to something we know but maybe don't always pay enough attention to. Look for your people, the ones who are doing what you do, are interested in what you do, support you in what you do. Your people will cheer you on, pull you forward, help you reach your goals. They will help you drown out the voices saying to give up, you can't do this, it's pointless. Your people will tell you those voices are wrong, and they'll help you prove it. Find them, stand with them, succeed with them.

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12

My Habitica avatar fancied up with a few filters

I wanted to talk about one more way I keep track of things because I really like this site and app a lot. It's called Habitica, and it's sort of a role playing game as well as a productivity tool. And it helps me remember all the daily tasks and routines I want to do as well as work on building habits I want to have and tracking to-dos. And it's really cute and fun. You can play on a team, join guilds, participate in challenges. Or you can just use it solo (what I'm doing right now--I'm not even hatching eggs for new companion animals and mounts right now, but that's another thing you can do) to track your stuff.

Why do I love Habitica? Because of the three categories of things to track (and they're all on one screen on the website, although on the app you do have to move between them). Plus, it's pretty and whimsical and makes me smile.

The Three Categories:

Habits--you can track when you do certain habits you want to build. You can set it up so that you give yourself a plus if you do it and a minus if you don't, or you can just do a plus for every time you do the habit. Currently I use the habits column for studying Spanish, cleaning my kitchen sink at night, reaching my daily Fitbit goal, and a few other things. I just give myself pluses, but you can experiment with how you want to do it.

Dailies--this is for things you want to do every day. You can edit it so that they only show up on certain days. For example, I have meal planning show up for me on Sundays so I can get ready for the week. I have "take probiotic" on every day because otherwise I forget. This is also where I put temporary dailies like the 30 days of blogging I'm doing right now. You can also add checklists to your items--I have an evening routine with things like set out clothes, set up coffee maker, wash up and others that I want to do before bed. I have exercise set up for every day, but I've created a reward where I can buy skip exercise for some gold coins. It's a pretty nice and flexible system.

To Do--This is your basic to-do list. You can make single items or items with checklists so you can keep track of one-time things you want to get done (I really like this for projects I'm doing). You can set deadlines on these to help encourage you to get them done in a timely manner.

There *is* a learning curve to Habitica, but they walk you through it in small steps to help you learn it. And there's a guild that's all about helping out and answering questions, so the learning curve is easy enough to navigate. . If you're looking for something fun and a little different to help you get things done, I definitely recommend trying this out (it's free!).

Let me know if you try out Habitica. And what other apps and things do you like for helping you get things done? I'd love to hear about what you use.

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10

I've been wanting to write a blog post for over a month. I've started it at least four different times. But I seem to be doing all the things I coach people out of doing! So I haven't been writing it. The funniest part is that it's about my desire to share more (probably a lot more) about my love of planning and to-do lists and goals and how I feel like as a creative I need to adjust how these things are usually done.

Luckily, Effy Wild launched a thirty day blog challenge for April. I saw it yesterday and signed up to do a post a day this month. Having that deadline, plus an audience, should shake those words right out of me!

I'm doing one other new thing this month. Even though I love love love planners and lists and apps and systems, I have balked at using habit trackers even though I'm always attracted to the way they look. They just seem overwhelming--so many things to track! So many spaces to fill in! It's like my whole life would be micro-mananged.

But some people in a class I'm taking have been showing theirs, and they talked about only tracking a few habits a month, and I thought I could do that. I realized I already use a sort of habit tracker with my monthly exercise calendar (I'll show a picture of that maybe tomorrow). And with the trackers I use for my 365 Mile Challenge and The 100 Day Project. I thought maybe I might be thinking of them the wrong way, so I decided to experiment a little bit.

I went looking for different types of trackers and found these cool mini mandalas from The Artisan Life, and I jumped right in to using them this month. I'm going to track my daily blogging. The other two I don't plan to do every day, but I want to do them more days than not. I'm going to track cleaning things in small bursts (tiny, tiny bursts of 2 - 5 minutes) and to work on story writing (also in tiny increments--even 5 minutes is going to count). I can't wait to show you the colored-in trackers at the end of the month!

My April habit trackers ready to go!

Is there anything you'd like to get done? Break it into small steps, and let's do things together! Drop me a note and let me know what you're going to work on this month so I can cheer you on.

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Do you choose a word of the year? I do. I've been doing it most years for a while now (can't quite remember how long, that's how long it's been!). I love the idea of having a guiding light for my year.

It can be hard to choose, though, and I feel a little bit like it's harder this year. I'm trying not to put too much pressure on 2021, but the feeling of needing something much better is hovering around me. So, in case you're new to choosing a word of the year or if you're also having a hard time choosing, I thought I'd share how I choose mine.

Choosing a Word of the Year

  • Decide how you want to feel throughout the year while you're taking steps to reach your goal. For example, I want to feel like I am taking steady, everyday actions and steps that incorporate my goals into my daily life.
  • Pick out some keywords that match that vibe you're aiming for. For me, I picked everyday, steadfast, persistent, consistent, regular, and practice. Pop open a thesaurus site (I love Power Thesaurus and Word Hippo) and start looking up your words. Follow some rabbit holes and click on words that stand out for your, and see if something resonates. It's fine if you have a list of words. Audition them and see what works! Or maybe even use more than one word.
  • Don't feel like you have to commit right away. Spend some time with your words. Use them as prompts to do some journal writing for two minutes or five minutes (something short, whatever feels good for you). Write the words on sticky notes or index cards and leave them where you can see them in passing throughout your days and think about them as you're going along. Notice if any of them seem to draw your attention more than the others.
  • Pick a word. There is no wrong choice. And you can always change. You could even change words every month or every season. Let yourself be flexible.

Ways to Use Your Word of the Year

  • Look at your goals for the year and do a short journal writing session for each goal, writing about how your word might interact with that goal and how taking steps toward that goal would look if you're keeping your word in mind.
  • Write your word at the top of your weekly planner spread (if you use a weekly planner, of course--you can also do this for a monthly or daily planner). This will remind you to approach the world with your word in mind.
  • Make an art card (ATC, index card, whatever size you like) for your word and put it somewhere you'll see it regularly.

I hope this helps you decide on a word and gives you some ideas of how to actually use your word to help you with your goals. Drop me a note and tell me your word, and I'll tell you mine as soon as I've made a final decision.

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It's that time of year. It feels like every business I see messages from is touting some "make your plans and have your best, most productive year ever starting in January" workshop or article or book. Everyone is pressuring for making resolutions and making plans and following through and...

This always feels like too much pressure to me. This year, it feels even worse. I do not want this. I do not want to feel like I have to have every minute of my day planned and scheduled. I do not want to feel like everything I do needs to be in service to meeting some goals.

I also don't want to have an aimless year where I get not much of anything done, and when I do accomplish something it seems mostly accidental.

I want something in between (okay, maybe leaning more toward the rambling and incidental to be honest).

I made something in between. It's called New Year's Ease*. It's a five-day workshop running from December 26 - 30. It's going to help with making plans and goals so you have something to aim for, but it's also going to help with dreaming and with finding the ways to work toward goals while having ease and relaxation and time for things you didn't even think about doing but really want to that come up during the year.

I believe that the worth of our lives is not measured in productivity and exhaustion. It's not measured in how much we've accomplished or how much money we've earned. You do not have to schedule every minute of your day, put your nose to the grindstone, be constantly on task to reach goals and be satisfied with your life and what you're doing.

I believe it is the aim of our lives to find the things that make us feel good and proud of ourselves but also like we have time and space to breathe and enjoy the world around us and the life we have. I want to work on building that kind of life. I hope you'll join me in December.

*Registration opens November 30. Price: $35

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Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

We're in Week Two of NaNoWriMo, and I'm way behind. I'll probably catch up, but I might not. I might fail. And that's okay.

I'm seeing a lot of my fellow WriMos in the same boat and lamenting their possible fate and being really down on themselves, though, so I wanted to talk about failing. Don't get hung up on it. Failing is not the worst thing that can happen.

Sometimes failing can be a good thing. How?

  • Failing can show you things that don't work so you can start over and avoid them
  • Failing can show you things you never thought of so new ideas and new projects might spring up
  • Failing can show you that you are doing something, you are out there moving ahead, you are trying (and yes, there is such a thing as trying; Yoda was wrong, and you can see my thoughts on that here)
  • Failing can remind you that there are still things to learn and discover out there and rekindle your enthusiasm

Failing isn't usually fun (unless it's cake experiments--that can be a lot of fun). But it's not a terrible thing to avoid. If you never fail, you might be playing it safe, and that's probably going to keep you from getting where you want to go. So try things out, reach a little, let yourself fail, and remember it's all part of the process, not the end of things. Failing is just another step. You took that step, you fell down. Now, get up and try again.

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I actually finished this about two weeks ago. I've been procrastinating about writing this blog post, which is really kind of funny given the subject of the book. Don't let my lack of finishing this post right away keep you from reading the book, though. There's a lot in here that's great food for thought, and I think quite a bit of this is going to be useful.

Part of why I couldn't get started on writing this is because I felt like I have too much to say about the book, and I wanted to be concise and write something good and so on. Then I remembered to actually take some advice from the book; I changed my goal, simplified, made it easier. What I'm going to do instead of the big, complicated post I thought I needed is give you some lists. So, here you go.

Things I Especially Liked:

  • Every chapter gives you steps to take, actual actions you can do to help you
  • There are lots of examples of people using these ideas (I do wish there weren't so many about weight loss and sports, but they're still helpful)
  • There's a whole chapter on ways to measure your progress
  • There's a focus on making goals smaller, giving yourself more time--all the Kaizen Muse small step goodness
  • The whole chapter about hiding places and noble obstacles (ways we can avoid trying to reach our goals and still feel like we're doing something good)

Favorite Advice:

  • Make it fun if you want it done (joyless goals fail)
  • Don't try to get everything in place before taking action
  • Choose what to bomb (aka strategic incompetence)
  • Attainable goals are motivating
  • Finishers make things easier and simpler
  • This is our life's work--it should be something we love that feels important to us and that we get enjoyment and satisfaction from

So that's it. Short-ish and to the point. Read the book. Definitely take the steps. Most importantly, let's all get out there and finish our stuff!

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NaNo2015

Are you participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November?

It's a fun time full of writerly companionship, and if you're on the fence I hope I can convince you to jump on in.  I thought I'd share part of a post (with a link to the rest) I wrote for Willamette Writers this summer to help persuade you.

Have you tried NaNoWriMo? You should—it’s a great way to get your words flowing and get your stories out on the page.

Admittedly I’m biased in favor of NaNo. I’ve been signing up for it since 2003 and actively participating since 2006 (turns out you actually have to write something to get to 50K). I’ve taken part as a writer (and a winner seven times). I’ve been the Portland, OR municipal liaison. I’ve attended and hosted local write-ins and events and participated in the online forums. But most importantly, I have written. I have written in November even in years when writing was a struggle. NaNo did that for me.

(Read the rest of the post here.)

I really do love NaNo.  I'm hoping to participate this year even in the middle of a house renovation and move (which may be completely crazy, but I'm still thinking about it).  I hope you'll give it a try and give your writing a jolt of NaNo energy.

Drop me a line, let me know if you're jumping in, let me know how it's going.  I'll cheer you on and see you at the finish!

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