Posts Tagged ‘organizing’

writing life

Optimizing My Life

This year, I’ve been contributing posts to Fiction University about various aspects of the writing life. My latest, from last week, is about creativity boosters.

This series has come out of my ongoing quest to optimize my life. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about productivity and creativity, and I think it’s making a big difference. For one thing, I’m really getting my house in order. Some of the trouble spots I’ve fought for years are clear and have stayed that way for weeks, even months. I’ve organized my closet and drawers, my bathroom, and my kitchen, and that’s turned into a big time saver because I don’t have to go searching for things. Everything I need is right where it’s supposed to be. I think I’ve shaved a good five to ten minutes off my morning routine just because I can just reach for what I need. That’s really nice on mornings when I have to be somewhere. There’s no frantic search for the shoes I want to wear.

Then the tidiness has led to being able to keep things cleaner. When you don’t have to move things to dust or vacuum, it’s quicker and easier to dust or vacuum.

This has a ripple effect that seems to be making me work more effectively. When the room is clean and orderly, I can focus on my work. I do still sometimes get sidetracked with thoughts about what I need to be doing, but it’s not quite as bad.

Meanwhile, I’ve really established an exercise habit, which also helps my productivity and creativity (there’s science behind that).

You can read a lot more of my tips in my Fiction University posts.

I’ve been doing this reading for years, but it seems to finally all be coming together. I think it really started when I was in physical therapy for my knee a couple of years ago. That meant I had to do exercises daily, and that started a new habit, which led to more new habits, and those new habits have pretty much stuck, so I’ve been able to start more new habits.

This year, I’m on track to have spent more time writing than I have in years, I just have the upstairs to get organized and cleaned (which has to wait for cooler weather because it’s unpleasant up there right now), and I’m on track to surpass my annual reading goal.

The really important thing I seem to have finally worked out is that failure in any one thing doesn’t mean everything has to fall apart. If I get busy and things get untidy, I don’t just give up (which used to be a bad habit of mine). I merely tidy it up again and get back to my habits. Ditto with exercise, eating right, and writing. In the past, every time I started a diet, exercise program, housekeeping routine, or writing schedule, I’d do fine as long as I could keep things the way I wanted them. Then when something upset my system, it would all fall apart. I seem to be doing better now about forgiving myself for little lapses and then going back to my routines.

My latest attempted habit development is focusing on promotion and marketing, trying to dedicate time to that every day, with plans for specific things to do. I’ve had lists of things I felt I ought to be doing that I never did, but now I’m trying to make it a priority to actually do them.

It’s weird how all of these things tie together — being more organized seems to make me not only more productive but more creative, and that spills over into being healthier, and the overall result is being a bit happier and more satisfied with life.

Figuring Out Success

I mentioned that book I just read about analyzing conventional wisdom about success. It’s called Barking up the Wrong Tree and is by Eric Barker, who also has a blog on the topic.

This is an interesting book to read if you’re trying to optimize your life, looking for ways to improve your career, get more done, or are just interested in human nature. I’m pretty much all of the above. It’s essentially a Mythbusters of success and motivation, except instead of doing crazy experiments, he looks up actual research studies.

One of the sections that intrigued me most was on dreaming and visualization. One of the big pop culture things about success over the past dozen or so years has been visualization, with the idea that visualizing yourself having the thing that you want will somehow magically bring it about. You hear terms like “manifesting.” Even if you’re not going so far as to believe that just thinking about something will make it happen, there’s the idea that visualizing yourself having what you want and seeing what your idea of success will look like when it happens is motivating.

It turns out that it’s the opposite. Research has found that visualization is actually de-motivating because it tricks your brain into thinking you’re already there, so you’re less likely to be motivated to work toward getting that thing. You feel like you’ve already received the reward, so you have less energy for going after it.

What does work is turning that dream into a plan. If you have a thing that you’re dreaming of having or doing, then you need to get specific about the exact outcome you really want. Then think of what you have to overcome to get it and come up with a plan to address that. Going through this process instead of just picturing the end result is more likely to energize you to go after that thing — unless the thing you want is unreasonable, and then you’ll lose motivation, which makes it a good test of your dream.

There’s also stuff about how turning steps of a plan into a game makes you more likely to carry out that plan and how to go about networking in a way that doesn’t come across like you’re trying to use people.

The other interesting takeaway is about finding a balance between overconfidence and lack of confidence. Being really confident can help you be effective because you go after things and stick with them, but that can also make you a jerk and make you blind to your own weaknesses. Having less confidence makes you work harder to improve, but makes you feel bad and may make others see you as less competent. The balance is “self compassion,” which is recognizing your faults, but forgiving yourself. See yourself accurately but don’t judge yourself harshly.

His blog looks pretty interesting, with a lot of lists of books to read or items from research on various topics.

And now, a key part of my plan to achieve my dream of publishing world domination is to spend more time writing, so off I go to work on my book.