Productivity

How you spend your days is how you spend your life. by Nikki Van Noy

I don't know about you, but a lot of times it feels to me as if my life has a velocity of its own. There are so many things I want to do and accomplish but, on a day-to-day level, things get crazy and, before I know it, that twenty-four hours is gone.

Of course this happens to all of us sometimes, but I'm realizing more and more how dangerous it is if it happens all of the time (or even a lot of the time). It's those days that ultimately stack one on top of the other to constitute our life. If enough days go by seemingly out of our control, without us doing what we really want to be doing, then it becomes months of that, then years, then decades. It sounds kind of dramatic ... but it's also true.

While I was in Bali, I took a great workshop with life coach Leannah Lumauig. For years, Leannah had high-powered jobs in the Bay Area. She was successful but not fulfilled. Her dream was to give it all up, travel the world, and to help other people create their own dream lives in the midst of living her own. Well, she did it. And, throughout the course of the workshop I took with her, she gave us tips for doing the same.

One of the great things I learned about from Leannah is the Wheel of Life. It's simple, really. Each of the eight spokes on this wheel represents an important facet of life: personal growth, significant other, friends and family, health, money, career, physical environment, and fun and recreation. For each sector, there are corresponding horizontal lines, numbered one through ten. Basically, you go through and shade each sector according to your level of satisfaction in that area of your life, with one being the least satisfied and ten being the most. 

This is a simple exercise, but it also a great way to take a moment and see a visual representation of where you're at in life right now. What areas of your life are satisfying? Which could use a little help? And which ones do you ignore altogether? 

This is a great opportunity to pause, refocus, and (if necessary) redirect.

Just do it. by Nikki Van Noy

When I used to run for student council as a kid, my slogan would always be the same:
Just do it. [insert Nike swoosh] Nikki. Clever, right? C'mon! It was the 90s. 

Anyway, my point is that apparently I haven't changed much since then because I still throw that phrase around all of the time, generally in conversations about writing.

Case in point: If I had to pick one conversation I have with would-be writers the most frequently, it's this:

Wendy Who Wants to Write: I really wanna write. But I just don't know where to start.

Me: Stop thinking about it. Just do it. Every day, sit down and write. It doesn't matter for how long or how prolific it is, just that you do it.

Frankly, I have this same conversation with myself all of the time. Some days I am successful and other days I am not. 

Our lives are all crazy. The world is increasingly noisy. Not to mention the insiduous voices in our heads that tell us we're not good enough or we don't have something important to say. I've lost track of how many books I've written at this point, and I still have these thoughts. In fact, every time a new book deal rolls around, I still wonder, What the f*ck have I gotten myself into?

One of the most important bits of information I've ever heard was doled out by one of my writing heroes, John Irving. With great disdain clearly painted upon his face, he talked about how horrible first drafts are. "You just have to vomit it out," he said. "Then you go back and make it pretty."

Word up, John. It doesn't have to be pretty--you just have to get. it. out. The way to get big things done is little by little, on a constant basis. 

If this resonates with you, I implore you to start writing. Just start. Not tomorrow, not on January 1. Right. Now. Just do it.

 

You gotta flip the off switch. by Nikki Van Noy

When I first went freelance, I essentially never took a break. I worked long, long hours every day, seven days a week. Holidays meant nothing to me. I was a working machine. The truth is that I was happy to do it. Coming from the world of publishing, I was used to working long hours, so it just felt good to be dedicating those hours to my own cause. And what an incredible position I was in to be able to do what I loved ... in my pajamas, to boot!

The pace only picked up when I went from freelance writing and editing to writing my own books a couple of years later. For years, it was go, go, go. I was either on the road interviewing and gathering information or writing until all hours. I would quite literally stay up all night writing, arriving at Starbucks as they opened to continue writing there. 

After I finished my second book, I remember feeling very depleted and wondering why all I wanted to do was sleep. As I was discussing this lethargy with my friend M., I realized that it had literally been years since I'd had any time off. Of course I was experiencing a crash. 

I started becoming more mindful about my work: getting in yoga in the middle of the day for a re-set and taking at least a day off every week. As the years have gone by, I've tried to pull myself more and more into a regular five-day workweek. When I do this, I'm more efficient and more present for my clients. Of course, this isn't always possible with the pressure of deadlines, but it's a good general rule to abide by. 

Lately things have been busy (always a good problem to have), and I've been working with a lot of international clients, which means working late hours because of timezone differences. The other night, for the first time in several weeks, I had the opportunity to go to my favorite evening yoga class (my favorite time to do yoga) and meditation after. I was so relaxed that I decided not to check my email as I walked home around 9:45 that night. It was glorious.

I don't think it's a coincidence that I felt both physically and creatively rejuvenated the next day ... which better serves both me and my clients. So I'm getting back in the saddle with halting meetings at a normal-ish hour (for the most part), allowing myself to do the things that refresh me, whether that's meditation, yoga, or spending time with my husband and our farm of animals, and going on an electronic blackout between nighttime and morning.

This feels like an almost revolutionary, scary thing to admit in this day and age of constant connection. But the truth is, I think that we would all lead happier, more productive lives if we did this. If we gave ourselves the time to recharge and set aside time for those things that make us feel alive. And that, in turn, allows us to enjoy our work more and to be better at it.