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Your Productivity Baseline

Increasing your productivity is a priority for most of us, in whatever area of our lives we want to focus on.

What’s your baseline though?

Do you know where you’re at – realistically – with your productivity right now? Well, that is your first step.

Establish your Current Productivity

There’s a couple of ways your can go about this. The easiest, for creative or work based productivity tracking, it to get a programme on your computer that does it for you.

I use Rescue Time personally, which promises to help you “find your ideal work‑life balance”. They’re right in saying though, that with so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get scattered.

So they will help you “understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive”. I’m there for that.

The Rescue Time programme is free (there are paid options I believe, but I don’t bother with those personally), and just sits on your computer, judging you.

Nah, just kidding. There’s no judgement here. It’s a really useful, and sometimes very stark look at your productivity, or lack thereof, each day though.

It’s been invaluable for giving a long hard look at myself, and figuring out what I’m wasting time on, how much time I’m spending on ‘busy work’ that’s not actually moving me towards where I want or need to be going, and exactly where I can improve.

Like I said, it’s essential to know your productivity baseline right now, and take an honest look at that, before you can begin to improve it.

“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker

If your productive work is off the computer, don’t worry, you can still get the baseline down. You have a phone right? Or some sort of digital device with a clock function on it?

Set a Productivity Timer

Right so, this sounds way too simple. But it works.

When you get up in the morning, you just refresh the timer on your phone (or whatever), and start a new day. Then you just press start when you begin to do something productive – however you’re counting that – and pause when you’re doing things that are not productive.

At the end of the day, you check your productive time, and write it down or otherwise record it somewhere safe. Then you do it again the next day.

For this to work properly, you’ll need to:

  • Decide in advance what counts as productive activities. You can add things in as they come up, if they’re genuinely in line with your goals, but you’ll need a basic list to begin with.
  • Be disciplined about using the timer. There’s no point in tracking this if big chunks of time that may or may not have been productive are missing from the day. So choose a timer that’s easy for you to carry round with you. (Seriously, your phone is ideal.)
  • Review your productivity. Day to day, and week to week, keep a running record of your daily productivity.

And watch as your productivity grows, just by the actions of monitoring and managing it. Of course there’s lots more you can do to improve it, but establishing your productivity baseline is the first step.

So, start today. Tomorrow at the LATEST.

Be honest, be fair, and go easy on yourself for dogs sake. Drop any ‘perfect productivity’ expectations right now. Nobody is perfectly productive every single day. 

This is an observation exercise, not a stick to beat your damn self if you don’t seem your day has been productive enough.

(Do you hear that, Lora’s Brain? That’s sound advice. We should take that advice. Right so.)


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Find Your Daily Gratitude

I’m trying to practice my daily gratitude.

It’s been part of my evening routine for a while now, but I’ve let it slip with everything that’s been going on.

And I really need this.

This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences.

Hailey Bartholomew found the secret to happiness. After struggling to enjoy and appreciate all of the great things in her life she set our on a year long photography project to find gratitude everyday. In this funny and moving talk see what lessons we can all learn from her experience.

Hailey can lay claim to the titles of photographer, author, director, social commentator and artist. The owner and creative director of her own business, she has clients than span the globe as a photographer and as a director. She has published two books so far in her career, and directed television commercials and visual presentations for major national brands and charities.

But within this eclectic, and brilliant appetite for creative realization, Hailey’s favored passion is documentary film making.

Hailey has a beautiful visual style and sensitivity with her subjects, perfect for allowing a story to evolve and flourish on film and in photographs. Hailey will be joining TEDxQUT to share her experiences with the transformative power of gratitude and the 365 grateful project.

Try the 10 day exercise suggested in this video.

Every evening, take out your bullet journal, or open a new file on your phone or computer, and scan through your day.

Figure out what you’re grateful for, and write about it. A line, a paragraph, a page.

Record your daily gratitude.

You really do find what you are looking for.

 


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Survive and Thrive through Family Pressures

What good is a routine or a system if they blow apart under stressful times or family pressures?

No good, that’s what.

Which is why I’m back at my desk today, doing the work, despite my own serious and traumatic family pressures this past weekend.

I’m not going to go into details… sorry, but I just can’t. Suffice it to say that an old and ugly issue has reared its head rather strongly again, and I’m in bits over it.

The crux of it came on Sunday, though it had been building for a while. On Monday, myself and Jon took a mental health day.

Coping with Family Pressures – The Mental Health Day

In the morning we went and did some errands that had been bothering us for a while, small easy stuff to take care of and enable us to feel a little in control of the day. I did some self care things, such as a repeat prescription for my meds (which is usually a pain in the hole for me first to find time for, and then to actually get out of my comfort space and make happen).

We talked a lot, and once the day to day stuff was under control, we made a joint decision to invest in ourselves, in our health and in our future happiness. We went and bought bikes.

After that, we shopped a little for things to improve our home space, including both indoor and outdoor plants. I was working away in the garden when our friend arrived to share a dinner, tea and chats – so we got to hang out with someone who understands the family pressures, and supports us.

To finish up our evening, we headed in different directions to unwind and relax in the ways that suited us, which we both needed individually.

He built things and took care of his dinosaur ‘family’ in a virtual world (playing Ark on the Xbox), and I headed to a Rose of Tralee watching party with family and friends. It’s an Irish ‘lovely girls’ pageant that’s in it’s 59th year (in 2018), and I’ve never watched it before, would you believe? Maybe you would believe.

We have a horse in the race this year though, so to speak – our friend Kirsten Mate Maher is the Waterford Rose, and she is an amazing person who I would truly love to see representing Ireland world-wide.

The whole experience was strangely soothing, helped along of course by the Rosé wine, and hilarious readings from Irish Twitter’s reactions to what was happening on screen.

All in all, the day worked exactly as we needed it, to ease those family pressures somewhat, at least.

Taking a deliberate, considered, mental health time-out when something big hits is absolutely essential.

When you struggle, as I do, with those pressures on a day to day basis, there is a very real danger that a stressful event can tip the balance toward something very negative.

But if you can press pause, do things that you know will provide relief and support – both short term and long term – ask for help if you need it, and use that time to ground and regroup, even a little… the next day becomes a bit easier.

SUGGESTION – Keep a running list of those things, or even make your own mental health time out plan in your Bullet Journal, so that you have something ready prepared to fall into, if a stressful situation hits you suddenly. Nobody needs to be trying to make a healthy and sensible plan in the midst of a crisis, right?

And once you’ve taken that time out – that’s when the routine kicks back in.

I know what work I need to get to get done today. I have my monthly and my weekly plans and master tasks to simply fall into, without having to think about it too much.

I also know that my work might not be completely productive or entirely perfect this week, this month, this year – depending on how the family pressures continue to play out as we go.

However – I have a system. I can press pause, reset, and slide back into this routine any time I need to. As many times as I need to.

Because I will survive, and eventually, I will thrive. And I hope I can help you to survive and thrive too.

 


 

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New Bullet Journal Class!

I’ve been asked for this quite a few times and I finally got round to doing it, a class for getting your bullet journal set up, and working for you from the beginning.

This class covers:

  • What is a Bullet Journal, and why do I use one?
  • Supplies (basic needs and optional extras)
  • Index, Bullet Journal Key, and Future Planning
  • Monthly Spreads, and creating a Master Task List
  • Trackers – to use or not?
  • Weekly Spreads and how or why to use them
  • Daily Pages

 

Your Bullet Journal Class Download includes:

  • Presentation PDF with notes, links, and pictures
  • Class Video (duration – 40 minutes)
  • Class Audio (for listening on the go!)

 

Usual Price – €17

Current Price just €7! (valid until 31st August)

Click to Get Your Bullet Journal for Beginners Class Download

How to Be a Writer

Isn’t it a question we all ask ourselves? Well, those of us who might end up clicking the post titled ‘How to Be a Writer’, at least.

We’ve spoken before about Writing, and no doubt will do again… but if you want to become a writer, but you’re not sure where to begin, you’re certainly not alone. I get questions on this all the time.

So, I’ve put together a few tips and guidelines about writing a book. (Freelance writing for magazines and such is a little different, but if you’re interested in how to freelance, I still love Carol Tice and her ‘Make a Living Writing’ website.)

If you want to be an author though, to see your name on the front of a lovely fresh non-fiction book, or stunning debut novel, then it’s time to start writing the book.

I know, sounds obvious right? You’d be shocked at just how many budding writers and authors don’t actually get round to this part though, even though they seem to have plenty of time to set up Facebook profiles and send long-winded query letters to publishers!

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. ― Mary Heaton Vorse

 

Get Writing. No, really.

So, how to be a writer is – you need to start writing, or finish writing, if you’ve already started.

There are two quick questions for you to ask yourself so.

Q.1    Do you have a rough plan, plot, or proposal mapped out, a basic framework or structure for your fiction or non-fiction book?

Q.2    What’s your total word count at now, and what does it need to get to?

 

For Question 1, if the answer is no, then that’s what you need to be doing right now. Stop the research, quit telling your friends how awesome your book will be, and get a plan in place. Start with these resources, and follow the steps:

Do it today!

[Note: the post-it planning method detailed here can also be used for book project]

How to be a writer in the day to day – Word Count

For Question 2, most new writers are a bit clueless. What’s the right word count for your type of book?

It varies of course, but there’s an accepted general guide. Bear in mind, that it can wobble around by as much as 10,000 either side, depending on how well put together and tightly edited your final manuscript is.

The only things that are really frowned on are an author picking the shortest word count because they’re afraid of how to write that many words, or an author not paying attention to proper storyline or editing and leaving the story ramble on for thousands and thousands of words of unnecessary, confusing, babble spew.

Yes, that’s a highly technical term, I’ll have you know.  

Generally speaking then, when you’re writing a book:

  • Young Adult runs to about 45,000 words
  • Short Stories or Anthologies run to about 50,000 words
  • Non-fiction runs to about 70,000 words, maybe 80,000
  • Regular Fiction runs to about 80,000 to 100,000 words (traditional publication costs rise when you go above this word count!)

Taking a look at your book plan from Question 1 (you did that right?!), you’ll have a rough idea of what chapters and sections you want to include, and probably even topic and titles mapped out.

For non-fiction, 10 to 15 chapters is normal, while fiction is a choose-your-own-adventure type of fairground ride, with whatever chapter type and structure suits your work.

Romance might run to the lower end of the word count for fiction, while sci-fi or fantasy fiction often runs higher. There’s no real hard and fast rule for that though.

 

Next Steps to Be a Writer

Now, you have a structure, you have a target, you know what you have achieved, and what you have yet to do.

If you have a deadline to work to, then figure on how many days per week you can write, how many writing days til your deadline, and how many words you still have to write – leaving time for editing and word count for cutting of course.

Good rule of thumb is a month (or two, ideally) for editing, and about 25% more than your targeted word-count, for fiction. Non-fiction has a narrower cut margin generally, but still leave 5-10%.

If you don’t have a deadline, then you need to set one.

You’ll need to figure out two key things:

  • What writing time do you have available per week?
  • How long, roughly, does it take you to write say, 500 words?

Yes, sometimes it flows faster, and sometimes you’re dragging the words like pulling teeth, but give it an estimate at least.

Aim for 500-1000 words per day, minimum, and how many days per week to reach your target word-count, plus extra editing percentage.  

Support Article – Time to Get Started with a Writing Habit.

Now, you have a date. Add 1 or 2 months for editing.

Et Voila! There’s a delivery to publisher date (the publisher will have their own schedule and time frames after that, but you need to write the damn thing before you’re going to be looked at), or a time frame for you to start looking at self publishing.  

Whatever your daily or weekly writing schedule looks like now, set it by word-count, not time spent at desk. And don’t move your bum from that chair til your word-count is done.

Do you want to talk about being a writer, dream about how to be a writer… or do you want to BE a writer?

Then write.

 


Get Started with a Bullet Journal

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How to Make a Website

You may not think you need to make your own website right now, but, if you run any sort of business or organisation, you really do.

Like, don’t be building that up with just a Facebook page. I’ve seen WAY too many business pages shut down for no apparent reason. If you don’t have your own website (and mailing list, but we’ll get to that in a while), you’re right fucked then, aren’t ya?!

I don’t do website design, and I’ll be honest I’ve moved to WordPress for everything now, but if you’re really new and just need to get a website up and running, I started with www.Weebly.com, and I do recommend them.

Their Starter or Pro packages are available for like, $10 to $15 per month, and have everything you need to get set up. (Check current pricing here.)

Yes, you do need your own domain name. Yes, you do need to pay for your website. But it’s a small price, really.

Eventually you’ll want to get a bit serious, and WordPress is a great way to go for that. It’s scalable as far as you need it to go.

But if you’re starting out, and just need to know how to design your own website or a build an online store, start with Weebly. (I don’t have any affiliate links to them, btw, I just used that platform successfully and happily for the first 5 years of my business!)

Whether it’s for your business, community or charitable organisation, or even your own personal profile, it’s easy enough to create your own website these days. The design is through templates, and you change it or tweak it with simple to learn drag-n-drop methods.

Having your own website means you can establish yourself as an expert, grow your influence, sell your products or services, start a blog for content marketing or personal uses, or demonstrate your achievements.

What are you waiting for?


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Project Planning

Project Planning can be a bit of a mess at times.

Like, there’s often a load of ideas, and notions, and wonderings, and what-ifs floating around in my brain and it’s tough to get it all figured out.

I often use a sort of Mind Map technique in my Bullet Journal: there’s a resource for getting started with that here

Quite honestly though, I do love ‘big picture’ project planning.

I love having a big blank wall in front of me, or a white board, and filling it with a big ole brain dump so I can see it all right there in front of me… and then starting to put it in order.

So, I found a method that’s been really working for me.

Post-It Project Planning

Pat Flynn has already done a helpful video on this, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. He says:

Have you ever started something but never finished? In this video, I’ll show you the P.A.T. technique so you can learn how to plan anything and actually get it done.

As an entrepreneur, my day is full of creating plans and executing them, and as more and more fill my plate, I’ve learned a specific planning technique to make sure I finish what I start.

If you don’t have a “plan for planning” what can end up happening is you’ll pile up a number of goals and to-dos that can lead to procrastination, it can have you feeling unaccomplished, and ultimately you might even give up.

We don’t want that to happen.

Watch the Project Planning video now…

 

Project Planning my Ogham Journeys Programme with Post Its

I used a method quite similar to this when planning the Beta run of my Ogham Journeys Programme.

That’s been really successful, and I will definitely use this particular project planning method again this month as I refine the course content for opening it to my mailing list (end of September) for our first full annual Programme run.

[If you’re interested in Ogham – Click Here to Join My Author Mailing List.]

How do you do your project planning?

Show us your own method, or try this one and share the results in our Facebook Community Group Here! – www.facebook.com/groups/dotheworksystem 

Guest Post – Izzy Swanson on Being a Business Owner

Izzy Swanson from Feileacan Ministry had a wee rant on Facebook today, and I thought it was gorram RELATABLE that I asked her if I could turn it into a guest post. So here you go.


My friend Angela said it best “Business owner, it’s not just a job it’s a lifestyle”.

It is a life I am beyond grateful for but it comes with a lot of responsibilities. There are things I don’t think people really know about this life so I want to share a few:

1. I’m always “busy”. Not too busy that I need to hear sympathies or unsolicited advice about how to take care of myself, but my life is scheduled and that means I’m rarely going to have time to do anything random. People constantly say and do things that make you feel bad for this including just not being your friend altogether. This is a bummer but something I am no longer losing sleep over.

2. I have serious boundaries about my down time. If I say I’m not working I mean I am literally disappearing from everything except random social media posts. Posting on facebook does not mean I’m working. Football means I’m not working. As mentioned above I take care of myself. Busy includes self-care time. You would be surprised how much judgement there is about this and how much people don’t respect those boundaries.

3. This is my livelihood. It means that it is my first priority so other things have to come second, except my husband and son of course. It also means that my work is how I pay my bills, it is how I make sure I can feed my child and meet his needs, and is also how I can manage part 1 and part 2 above. This idea that I should be available to provide services for free because it is spiritual is not ok. If you recieve spiritual services and pastoral care from church ministers remember they recieve a salary for that. They are compensated for their time. The only difference here is that I’m pagan and I don’t have a church to pay my salary. I have to work for it.

4. Because it’s a business I have to spend a good portion of my time marketing and my livehood as mentioned above depends on this. Small business owners need support through feedback from the peoole they provide service to so if I ask for a review or a share remember it could mean the difference between paying my bills and not being able to. Try to be compassionate and not make peoole feel bad about the fact that they have to do this.

This isn’t meant to be a rant or target any one person. It’s something that happens in some form on a consistent basis. It’s something that needs awareness and needs to be understood. Thank you for reading and thank you for your support.


You can find Izzy’s excellent business – Feileacan Ministry – at http://transformationreiki.com/

Your Sleep Cycle

I woke this morning at the wrong point in my sleep cycle.

The first thing I knew was an annoying cock crow that confused the fuck out of me. Not a real rooster mind you – I use a random selection of bird noises to get me up each morning. I’m not even sure why… maybe the different sounds stop me getting used to the alarm? And, generally, I do like to wake to more natural sounds than the ‘Reveille’ (that bugle call used by the military to wake everyone at sunrise), or a version of ‘the Auld Triangle’ going jingle jangle, like they used in Mountjoy prison to wake the inmates.

Alright so I know there’s other options for alarm noises to disturb your sleep cycle, but I was going for the most annoying but effective ones I could think of. Your methods may vary.

What is the Sleep Cycle though?

A sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and during that time we move through five different stages of sleep – some of which you might already be familiar with, at least in passing. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, from very light sleep during Stage 1 to very deep sleep in Stage 4, where it’s really tough to wake someone from. When we’re in NREM sleep, we don’t have much (or any) muscle activity, and our eyes don’t usually move. But all of our muscles are still functional, which changes when we move to the fifth stage, when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs.

REM sleep is when most of our dreaming is going on, and though our eyes are not constantly moving, they do dart back and forth, up and down. Nobody really knows even yet why our eyes move, but one of the generally accepted theories is that it’s related to visual images we’re watching play out in dreams. During this stage of the sleep cycle, our eyes are going like nobody’s business… but the muscles that move our bodies are paralyzed (except things like the heart and diaphragm, coz obviously we’re still alive and breathing).

This paralysis sounds a bit grim, but it’s actually stopping us from getting up and moving around while our subconscious and unconscious are doing their thing, which is useful for those of us who don’t want to walk out into traffic in our nighties, or attack the person sleeping next to us because we think they’re doing something nasty due to a dream that’s going on. A breakdown of this natural paralysis is why people go sleepwalking or get night terrors in which they do some pretty awful things while effectively unconscious.

Honestly, you don’t want that.

 

A typical night’s Sleep Cycle

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just running together a couple of 90 minute sessions and calling it a night. To understand your sleep cycle, we have to get that they change throughout the night.

During the first two to three sleep cycles, you’ll spend most of your time in deep NREM sleep (stages 3-4), but in the final two to three sleep cycles, you’ll be more in REM sleep with some lighter NREM sleep. It’ll also change according to when you fall asleep, as the earlier parts of the night tend to bring more NREM sleep, and also what stage of life you’re at, as kids tend to get more deep NREM sleep than adults.

 

How to Optimise your Sleep Cycle

Getting woken in the middle of REM sleep, like I was today, is not ideal.

It leads to that sensation of grogginess, a poor reaction time, and general fog that’s actually called sleep drunkenness, or confusional arousal. Being woken from REM can cause significant mood problems, and your blood pressure goes up. Like, it’s not optimal at all at all.

There’s tech you can use to track your sleep cycle and wake you naturally based on finishing one and before you start another. That’s amazing, but I don’t have that tech. (If you use something like that and find it useful, would you mind popping over to Our Facebook Group and giving a recommendation?)

Generally, I stuck with analog, and just tracked my sleep and how I feel the next day in my bullet journal, over about two months (not perfectly, as we’ve seen I’m not good at filling in trackers) to try to figure out what’s best for me.

I came up with a minimum of 7.5 hours and a max of 9 hours, if I can get it. That’s 5 or 6 sleep cycles, respectively. So I figured out that if I need to be awake by 8am, I’m going to sleep by 11pm to get my 9 hours, and that means tech off by 10pm and reading, journalling or talking (or Jon reading something not too interesting to me!) til I fall asleep, which usually takes around the hour to wind down.

Have you figured out your own sleep cycle yet?

Be well

L x


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In Darkness – with a Guided Meditation

Yesterday started off bad. I woke up in darkness, at 5am, from anxiety dreams. Then my Brain insisted on replaying every single sexual assault I’ve ever experienced, in High Definition visuals and sound.

So that’s not fun.

How do I cope with that? Well, it feels very dark to me, when it happens. I used to (years ago) try to run away from that. Find the light. Try and make it so the darkness doesn’t exist and I don’t have to live there.

But you know what?

These things are dark. There are dark things in my past. Also, dark things in my present, and most likely my future. Because we don’t live just in the light. We need the darkness too. In part, we are the darkness.

So, I went into the darkness, and learned to be comfortable there. Yes, I’m talking metaphorically, to an extent, but also quite literally. In that I cope with these things through Meditation.

Ye know that’s not just some woo weirdness that hippies and mystics are into, right? It’s a really valuable, effective, and vital part of any mental health management programme. Ask any modern psychologist or therapist. They’ll tell ya.

Yesterday morning, from 5.30am to 6.30am or so, I meditated. By that time, I was calm and relaxed and I was able to drop back off into a doze until the alarm went off as usual at 8am.

At that point, I will admit, I made sure Jon was awake so I could have a wee cuddle and feel safe in that. And that’s ok too.

Today, I was working on stuff for my other side project, www.Guided-Meditation-Journeys.com, and I recorded a meditation featuring darkness, which feels appropriate to share. It is the basis of the ‘learning to be ok in darkness’ element of my Journeying practice, and my own technique of guided meditation journeying has developed from it.

You can listen to the Darkness Meditation Here…

 

Be well, and I hope you have balance today.

L x


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