Archive for Productivity Posts

published in Achieving Your Dreams, Aging, Clutter, Creativity, Dreams/Goals, Home, Productivity, Writing by Maryanne | May 13, 2019 | 8 Comments

Purge, Toss, Recycle, Reflect: Is This What Happens At 50?

 

“I hope you will remove the clutter that prevents more from coming into your life.”

– Suze Orman

Purge, Toss, Recycle

As I ever so slowly continue to unpack my 200+ boxes from the move, I am purging, tossing and recycling like a mad-woman…not crazy-mad (although some would argue that) but a MAD WOMAN. As in, I am furious with myself for accumulating so much damn stuff over the years, never mind holding on to it for so long.

Upon reflection, here’s what I’m noticing…

The actual decisions as to what to keep and what to toss are easy. As I enter my sixth decade on the planet, I know what I want, need and love. As Marie Kondo would say, I know what “sparks joy.”

Making the decision is simple. Executing the decision is fast (put the item in the recycling bin, the thrift store box, the garbage or place it where it needs to go in the house). Where I am struggling is dealing with the psychological fall-out of purging all the old files in my office.

For it’s not just papers I’m getting rid of. I am also having to let go of an awful lot of goals, hopes and expectations I had set for myself as a writer. Not that I’m dying…I’m sure I still have plenty of time left to write. But I AM having to face the fact fact that despite my best intentions, I have not achieved anywhere near what I had hoped to, in the writing-department, by this point in my life.

Perhaps even more disconcerting is the fact that it’s not like I’ve been sitting around for the past 20 years, thinking about writing instead of actually writing (like the old days, before John’s death when I was 32 and got the wake-up call of all wake-up calls about the importance of working towards our dreams instead of just talking about them).

No. I have been writing…like a mad-woman. And yet I have not accomplished anywhere near what I had set out to. This is an extremely uncomfortable conclusion to arrive at.

And yet, I think it’s healthy. As such, I am trying to embrace this discomfort (rather like hugging a cactus) instead of denying it or running from it.

The fact of the matter is: time IS passing very quickly. And I’m hoping that the sooner I can shed that which I no longer want or need (or is no longer serving me), the more time and energy I will have to focus on what really matters to me – the relationships, projects, causes & activities – in the years that remains.

Is this what happens in our 50’s? We reach some sort of…point of reckoning? 

I would love to hear your perspective!

In the meantime, here are some photos from the past few weeks of purging, tossing & recycling:

Boxes of stuff headed to the thrift store 🙂

 

My wood nymph dress from ballet, complete with adorable cat pin (this did NOT get tossed)

 

My Nan Nan’s telephone table fits perfectly in the foyer

 

A cozy nook by the fire a.k.a. the reflection chair

 

My assistant on yet another backyard break

And here comes the new…

Of course, now that I am shedding stuff left, right & center, this is creating a vacuum in which to receive new stuff – but believe me, I am being VERY selective as to what new items make their way into my home and life.

Case in point is a BBQ.

I had left my old, rusted, beast of a BBQ behind in Sidney so was going to have to get a new one. But I looked out my living room window a few weeks ago and low and behold, right across the street a BBQ had appeared on the curb overnight – with with a big FREE sign stuck to it.

I raced out my front door lickity-split, dashed across the street and pounced on that BBQ like a fat kid on a Smartie. I had just opened the lid to inspect inside when the home owner came out her front door and greeted me with a big smile.

“It’s older but it’s barely been used,” she said. “Can you use it?”

Beaming, I rolled that puppy back across the street, parked it in my backyard and have been using it almost daily every since 🙂

Slow Motion Multi-Tasking

Interestingly, shortly after beating myself up about not getting enough writing projects completed yet, I heard on the radio about a concept called “Slow Motion Multi-Tasking.” Apparently it is a creative process that many geniuses (such as Einstein) have utilized to their advantage over the years.

Basically slow motion multi-tasking refers to the practice of working for a significant period of time on a single project then putting it aside, working on another large project then putting that aside and returning to the first project with a fresh perspective. I have been doing this for years with multiple projects and I DO see the benefit. I just get freaked out sometimes that nothing will ever get finished and sent out into the world.

Apparently, however, I am in good company with this practice of slow motion multi tasking, so I shall continue to persevere with patience and passion!

But I reckon a little self-reflection now and then is not a bad thing.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

 

published in Book Reviews, Change, Creativity, Dreams/Goals, Habits, Inspiration, Productivity by Maryanne | June 12, 2018 | 2 Comments

WHEN? Why Time of Day Matters

 

“The best time to perform a particular task depends on the nature of that task.”

– Daniel Pink, When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Just going to tackle that oh-so-important task any old time?

Think again…on when.

I recently finished reading Daniel Pink’s latest book, When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. It is excellent.

In terms of brain-power, “Our cognitive abilities do not remain static over the course of a day,” Pink explains. “We are smarter, faster, dimmer, slower, more creative, and less creative in some parts of the day than others.”

This may seem obvious (I, for example, am pretty much useless after 8 p.m.) but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily taken into account when making decisions or solving problems.

And this can lead to problems – often as the result of making poor decisions. “The effects,” cautions Pink, “can be significant but are often beneath our comprehension.”

Most of us are sharper in the morning

“The best time to perform a particular task,” Pink says, “depends on the nature of that task.” According to the research, for the majority of people, our sharp-minded analytic capacities – our ability to concentrate and our powers of deduction – peak in the late morning or around noon.

Why? Because “when our minds are in vigilance mode,” explains Pink, “as they tend to be in the mornings, we can keep distractions outside the cerebral gates…but our alertness and energy levels that climb in the morning and reach their peak around noon, tend to plummet during the afternoons. And with that drop comes a corresponding fall in our ability to remain focused and constrain our inhibitions.”

Not all brain work is the same

I found this differentiation fascinating:

An analytic problem doesn’t require any special creativity or acumen. Yes, it can be tricky but it has a single correct answer and you can reach that answer via logic.

Whereas an insight problem is one in which reasoning in a methodical, algorithmic way won’t yield a correct answer. Rather, the answer will (eventually) come after a “flash of illuminance” – otherwise known as an aha! moment, which can help you see the facts in a new way…and then you will be more likely to solve the problem.

So, for most of us, when our brains are in vigilance-mode in the morning, we are better able to solve analytic problems by keeping out distractions. “In the mornings, most of us (but not all) excel at analytic work that requires sharpness, vigilance, and focus. Later in the day, during recovering, most of us do better on insight problems that require less inhibition and resolve.”

Why? “Because insight problems are different,” says Pink. “They require less vigilance and fewer inhibitions. That flash of illuminance is more likely to occur when the guards are gone.”

In fact, there is a term for this phenomenon: “inspiration paradox.”

Get this: “Innovation and creativity are greatest when we are not at our best, at least with respect to circadian rhythms.”

If you are not familiar with circadian rhythms, Pink examines the findings on those as well. But basically there are several different “chronotypes,” one of which a person falls under. A chronotype is “a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology.”

For example, I am an early bird (or “lark”). I have the most energy and get my best work done early in the morning – but don’t expect much out of me in the evening (unless I’ve had a nap).

Pink’s book resonated with me because it makes sense. I figured out a long time ago that I did my best writing in the early mornings. The trick has been for me to learn how to stay clear of looking at e-mails or social media until after I have finished my writing for the day.

In the first part of the morning, I am better able to avoid allowing myself to become distracted. I have learned, time and again, that once I have “just taken a peek at e-mail,” I am sucked into the vortex…and my writing – my intense-focus work – for the day is done. So for me, I wait until later in the morning or early afternoon to tend to my e-mail.

Whereas mid to late afternoon has always been down-time for my brain. I’m not alone. This is the time of day that Pink calls a “trough.” In fact, most people are not at their sharpest mid-afternoon. Yet they plow on through – often because their work requires them to. I fade out big-time in the mid to late afternoon and try to either have a nap, do appointments or errands, go for a walk or do a work task that requires less brain-power such as filing, dishes, folding laundry, etc.

But for me, it is often during this mental down-time that the greatest insights come – often pertaining to the writing project I was working on in the early morning. If so, then I just jot down a quick note, then incorporate it into the project when I am sharp and focused again the next morning.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the time of day impacts how your brain works, I highly recommend When; The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.

Along similar lines is Chris Bailey’s brilliant book, The Productivity Project; Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention and Energy.

Here are two blogs I wrote about The Productivity Project:

Hey Busy Bee – How Productive ARE You in That Little Hive of Yours? 

Do you Procrastinate? Here’s a Tip – Think of Your Future Self

I love learning about how to make better use of my day so that I can get done what needs to get done, in as little time as possible. As I get older, I want to be spending less time in front of the computer, not more.

Interestingly, when I share with people what I am learning about circadian rhythms and how to best utilize our daily energy and focus to maximize productivity, I often hear a comment to the effect of: “Well, you’re lucky you get to work when you are the most productive. Most of us have to work when our jobs require us to work and we just have to make the best of it.”

I never know what to say this. Yes, it’s true: I am blessed to be able to work when I work best – and I take full advantage of that.

But I suspect there may often be some room for tweaking one’s work schedule to better suit one’s energy levels. Individuals working at their highest productivity leads to more productive organizations…and safer, healthier and happier ones, too.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

 

 

Pssst…Wanna Win a Gift for YOU?

Check Out Our Quick Christmas Contest

 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

– Dr. Suess

I don’t know about you but I have this odd habit of giving gifts to other people that I personally love. A good book often meets that criteria.

So for our little year-end Christmas contest, we are offering up the chance to win a book of your choice. But we’re only giving you two books to choose from – partly because I’m a bit of a bossy Santa 🙂 and partly because both books have truly impacted me this past year.

And the two books are:

Big Magic; Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Productivity Project; Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey

I have already written several blogs about these two outstanding books, so if you would like more information on why these books have resonated so much with me, the links are at the bottom of this blog.

Quick Christmas Contest

If you would like to win one either Big Magic or The Productivity Project, just send us an e-mail (with subject heading: “Christmas Contest”) with the following info:

A) State WHICH book you would like to win.

B) Tell us (in a few sentences) WHY you would like to read it.

All names will be entered into the draw. Contest ends on Dec 24th 🙂

Good luck and I hope you have a happy holiday season…may it involve much reading, reflection and relaxation. And here’s to a creative and productive 2017 for all. Ho ho ho!

Related Blogs by Maryanne

Hey Busy Bee – How Productive ARE You in that Little Hive of Yours?

Do You Procrastinate? Here’s a Tip: Think of Your Future Self

Using Creativity to Bring More Joy & Beauty to the World

Beautiful Big Magic – the Book AND the Magic

Books With Bite

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.