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On Systems

Apr. 19th, 2017 02:03 pm
peartreealley: (Default)
I love productivity systems. It's awesome when getting things done is just a matter of plug-and-play.

(Of course, it's never that simple.)

But like most things, I need to adapt and customize it to fit my life. (Because I'm special and unique? Because I'm incapable of doing anything "out of the box" without fussing with it? Ha!)

Anyway, two of my favorite systems right now are:

1) Bullet Journal
2) The 12 Week Year

I've always preferred analog for organization, and so I've been playing with Bullet Journal for a couple of years. Initially I liked it because it let me keep everything in one place. Later on, I hated it because it kept everything in one place.

Last year, I bought myself a "wedding present" in the form of a (faux) Travelers Notebook with my married name stamped on it. It's been a good purchase, and it continues to get regular use, despite that I've changed how it gets used frequently. Because it's basically just a leather folder that holds a few notebook inserts a time, it's really perfect for someone who is constantly tailoring their system. (Assuming their system, like mine, tends to involve use of notebooks.)

Anyway, right now, my "bujo" system is as such:
Disposable notebook for to-dos, rapidlogging, and braindumps. At the moment this is an entirely separate item (cheap spiral-bound notebook) from my Travelers Notebook, although I think when I finish this one I'll switch to adding a notebook into my TN to keep everything in the same folder. The reason I keep this one part from other stuff is because I realized that having my to-do lists and random notes in with my more reflective journaling entries led to my journal being overwhelmed by "clean cat box x2" and "do laundry" and "check energy tariffs" and "see if library has this book" and I didn't like that, so I changed it.

Journaling. This notebook has been for reflection, occasional freewriting, and records I want to look back on. Flat things, like event ticket stubs, often end up taped in as well.

Life in Lists. An ongoing collection of bullet points. Places visited, books read, notable experiences, stories written, etc. This is, in a way, my answer to bujo migration.

My calendar is online because it's easier to coordinate with the Gryffindor. Despite having tried a lot of ways, I haven't found a satisfying answer to how to integrate my fiction into the system yet.

The 12 Week Year:
The basis of the system is that a year is a very long time. A lot of organizations create lofty annual goals without much of a plan on how to get there, which mean people procrastinate and faff around aimlessly for the first three quarters of the year, and then suddenly light a fire under their bums and are productive the last quarter when they're under pressure to achieve and make the goal. The idea behind the system is to get people working like that last quarter all the time.

To do this, you are asked to create a strong, emotionally-evoking vision of what you want your life to be (in one year, three years, and five years). From there, you ignore annual goals and instead set a small number (3-5) twelve week goals (personal and professional) that require a lot of focus and dedication, create tactics to achieve them, do weekly plans and reviews, and work diligently to achieve those goals each quarter. (The vision is to guide you and your goals and keep you motivated.)

To be honest, I'm still wrestling with this one, which means it may not be the right system. But I love the philosophy behind it and I think it has potential, and despite that they want you to subscribe wholly to it as written... I will play around with it for my second attempt. It's my nature. (Perhaps I should figure out how to integrate it into my bujo system, too! I did the tracking digitally last go-round.)

ETA: Here is a decent summary of what the book covers.

Anyway! What systems do you love?

Obligatory Writing Update:
PS 1st Draft
31014 / 60000
(51.69%)
peartreealley: (Default)
I fell ill at the start of the holiday weekend, of which I'm now beginning to recover. This meant I missed out on a lot of the weekend's events--going to Oxford, and more time hanging out with our houseguest, AB, but on the other hand I read books and rested and marathoned through most of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended edition), and those things are great in their ways, too.

Yesterday evening, AB left on her way to further adventures (she's in the UK and France for the next ten weeks, spending the first and last few days with us, and possibly an interlude in between). The Gryffindor returned to work this morning, and I'm better but not yet quite well.

This morning, I've worked on brainstorming some disparate thoughts, writing extensive story beats for PS, and misc. other writing tasks that didn't feel too intimidating, and I don't feel that I've wasted the day away, even if I don't have a lot of novel pages to show for it.

I have myriad thoughts to journal, but they're still marinating. I think a common theme has showed up amongst them, though: my deep desire to have a personal user manual or guide for being me. A written guide in which I can reference. "I need troubleshooting. What do I do?" "I'm now in this situation. How do I deal with it?" "Which of these foods do I eat to be at my best?" Explorations of rituals and routines are all part of that user manual. I have attempted to write them down, and there is of course the one in my head, and it's gone through at least as many editions as years I lived, and has an addendum a thousand pages long. But wouldn't it be so nice to have one I could download and reference from my head in the clouds?

x
peartreealley: (Default)
Good morning,

A short letter this morning. It's the beginning of the Easter holiday here in the UK (which is a four day weekend affair--it's a lot like Thanksgiving in the States). The Gryffindor is out at the farmer's market stocking up, I've just taken the grocery delivery (for things that cannot be acquired at the farmer's market), and our American friend arrives early this evening.

There's a thousand to-do's that still need their boxes ticked off, but before I get any further, I'm going to get some writing in.

I hope you all have a fantastic weekend--whether it's Norwescon or Easter or even just laying around and vegging it out.

X

PS 1 First Draft
25364 / 65000
(39.02%)


ETA: G brought me back an Easter present.

(There are fancy creme eggs from the artisan chocolate stall inside.)
peartreealley: (Default)
Good almost-not morning,

At the moment I have physical therapy (or "physio" as they call it here) on Thursday mornings to deal with a long-term pain issue. This schedule throws my routine off, but I suppose it's mini-lessons in resilience. It's a half hour walk each way--so hey, at least I get my daily walks in and I'm home, all beat up and exercised. Now after a brunch, I'm beginning to transition to the story.

I'm still working on my ritual of approach, but at the moment I'm trying out tidying the studio (in my case, that involves cleaning the litter box, sweeping scatter, and often a quick dust). I make tea in a special little pot and cup I've designated for the job--and I'm using my nice teas. I'd gotten into a laziness of just drinking any old bagged tea, so I've been making sure to use my nice loose leaf teas for writing time. (I'm realizing as I write this that this tea set-up is reminiscent of my Yumchaa writing dates with [personal profile] alobear, which might be why it's helpful.)

The music is on, I'm writing my morning letter....

Thinking about the old days of social journaling, I went to look for a word meter. It appears the one me and the gang used to use all the time has gone down, but I found this one that I think is close enough.

PS 1 First Draft


PS is a YA/NA story I've been plotting on for quite a while. It's fantasy, set in the future on a necropolis moon. I'm very much enjoying finally getting to dive into it--although there is that nagging feeling that the last FN story still needs revising and the deadline is creeping up.
peartreealley: (Default)
This morning, I set out a goal to hunker down in my newly cleaned studio for 3 hours (or, six 25/5 minute dashes, Internet blocked) and bust through 5k words on the new novel.*

The result? I passed 6k with 10 minutes to spare. At which point I was at a transition, so I stopped.

The how? Determination to catch up after not having added to the draft after a few days, and that I spent most of yesterday writing story beats for the next several scenes.

The lesson? Apply what I already know--I work well in sprints and when I know where I'm going.

The folly? Whenever I have a day like this, my mind goes wild with what if I could do this every day? But experience has taught me that I can't sustain much more than 3k a day without paying for it the next day (and sometimes days).

The ambition? Use what I already know, and build up my stamina. It's not that I want to write 5k every day, but it would sure be nice to know that I could. Note that it's an ambition, not a goal. I'd like to be able to do it, especially when chaos happens and deadlines are pinching. I don't want it to be more important than my goal of "writing good stories."**

*In Deep Work, Newport calls these "Rooseveltian Dashes" which is a bit lengthy to explain the name, but basically it's setting a goal and giving yourself just slightly less time than you think you need to accomplish it--thus forcing you to work with blistering intensity and unable to entertain distractions if you want to meet your goal.

**Which, of course, is not to say that stories written quickly are not good. By most people's metrics, I'm already a fast writer. It's more than I don't want the number to be more important than writing the story.
peartreealley: (travel)
Good morning darlings,

Although I'm a creature who craves routine, I'm no stranger to disruption. I've been aiming to get more resilient, to not let my creative life (or just my life in general) go off the rails when I hit a bump. But like the first snow after a year or years; the first disruption after a long while is unpracticed. I forget what to do, how not to slip, how to return to business as usual.

April is a month full of disruptions. They're all the lovely sort--a long weekend for a games convention in Edinburgh, this coming week we have a beloved American friend coming to stay with us for a few days and an event in Oxford, and after that another event in the Peaks District.

And yet. And yet.

When I built my ambitious April writing calendar (it's Camp NaNoWriMo, so I was being extra ambitious) I marked out all of the days. I knew which days would not be writing days. I knew there'd be a lot more of them than usual.

I didn't take into account the recovery days. The time to pull myself back into the story, to regain my stillness to bring the narrative voice back in my head. How on Monday I was home, yes, but shattered, and although I did force myself to the keyboard, I didn't keep any of it.

Tuesday went slightly better, as I put my toe into the water. I wrote story beats, and prepared myself for the days ahead.

Today--well, today I'm hoping to make up for lost time. And I'm also thinking about the rest of this month (and all of the disruptions that come after that). I'm trying to accept I'm not a failure because I'm not a word factory that can crank out on demand (this is hard, very hard). But I'm also trying to be more resilient, to recover more quickly because while I may not be a factory, I am most happy when I am prolific and immersed.

Well, I suppose we're forever works in progress....

x
peartreealley: (Default)
Good morning,

I'm still thinking about rituals of approach.

On the Sunday evening train ride home, I reread sections from Deep Work by Cal Newport. I read this last summer, and have found it extraordinarily helpful in my journey to regain focus. But like many other commitments we make in which the world seems stacked against our best interests (exercising, eating healthy, etc.), I find I have to frequently recommit to focus and going deep. I'd noticed a sense of sliding of late, so I wanted to read the relevant passages.

As it turns out, Newport also talks about the importance of rituals:

“[Rituals minimize] the friction in this transition to depth, allowing [us] to go deep more easily and stay in the state longer.”

He goes on to point out there is no one-size-fits-all set of rituals, but by reading the routines and habits of deep workers through history, he surmises we should address:

1. Where you’ll work and how long;
Ideally, one has a place dedicated only for focus and deep work--but it is, of course, an ideal. Even if it's not space dedicated only to deep work, he recommends a regular place or set of places in which you "go deep."

2. How you’ll work once you start to work;
These are rules and processes to structure your efforts. For example: using Pomodoro or requiring a certain measurement of work achieved in a specific time window, having the Internet blocked, etc. Basically, how you will do what you’re going to do; how you measure that you’re working deep.

3. How you’ll support your work;
How to ensure your brain gets the support it needs to keep operating at a high level of depth. (Eating healthy snacks, drinks, exercise/stretching, etc.)

Newport notes that all of these things will take experimentation--and you must be willing to work at it. Having a ritual cribbed from another creator because it works for them, or using the same ritual long after you have outgrown it does you no favors, no matter how much an inconvenience experimentation and change is. (I imagine one could also use "finding your ritual" as a vehicle for procrastination, but that's another topic.)

I'm not entirely sure of where my own rituals stand today (although a cup of tea is certainly involved), but today I'm going to spring clean my studio--which has left to dust and the collections of junk that abandoned rooms often grow. I found it a bit chilly and dark to work in during the winter, and I've gotten comfortable working instead of my couch or at the dining room table. But the sun has returned to London, and I have this room dedicated for going deep, and I can't help but wonder if a new consecration of the studio might help with my recommitment to ritual and depth.

I guess I'll find out.

Have a lovely day X
peartreealley: (writing)
My darlings,

I've been reading Terri Windling's blog for a while now, and with her recent site overhaul, I've been combing the newly organized archives with enthusiasm. So you're likely to see it referenced a lot. (I don't think you'll mind.)

In her essay, "The Rituals of Approach" she talks about those who can dive right into their creating each day, and those who inch themselves into the mindset. She says,

"For me, the slow circling of my writing desk in the morning isn't one of avoidance (though it can be, on a bad day, if I'm not careful), it's simply part of my transition from the everyday world into the cold, clear pool of my imagination."

She details how she starts with a walk with the dog, then puts on the music, cleans the studio, reads a few pages of something off her shelves, pours herself some coffee, writes a post for her blog to warm up her writing muscles... and then, finally, she gets to her writing or drawing or whatever her major project is for the day.

I used to be someone who could dive right in--who tumbled from the bed to the desk and get straight to it. I used to be baffled by other creators' long lists of tasks before they finally got to the work, and thought if only they just dove straight into the cold water of creation, it would be easier and more efficient. It looked too much like procrastination.

But then, I suppose I changed. I didn't notice it for a long time. Maybe it's because there is more crowding my mind. Maybe it's because it's less easy to ignore the bellows of rest of the world. But that transition period from the real world to the world of my imagination does take longer for me, and I think it may be time to try to work with the change, rather than against it.

And, I think for the moment, I will try to do "morning letters" as warm ups to limber up my fingers and brain, because it feels right. And the time or times when it stops feeling right, I won't.

Have a beautiful day X
peartreealley: (tea)
Good morning, my darlings.

After a late train, the Gryffindor and I have woken in a little flat in
Edinburgh, where we will be staying the weekend. My window overlooks a
patio where magpies play and shortly we'll be out in search of breakfast.

If I disappear from the new flush of journaling for a few days, now you
know why.

Cheers,
PTA

PS: Also, trying out email posting.
peartreealley: (Default)

It began over the course of last year, but at the beginning of the year, I began in mass to reduce my social media (and Internet in general) usage. I deleted some accounts. I have kept others, but don't check or interact with them.

I did this to increase what I call my "psychic space." I found myself spending too much time being neurotic about what comes across my various feeds. I spent too much time worried about how people would respond to whatever I put out there. This was time I was not spending in my psychic landscape thinking about my stories. It wasn't time, really, that was the issue. (Time is something I'm lucky to have in abundance--at least in the short term.) It was the space in my head to connect the dots and to expand on my thoughts and get below the surface of my stories.

If someone gives you a hammer, everything is a nail....

And that's largely been going fine. My writing productivity has increased dramatically. I've only had a handful of panic attacks and lost a few days about things people said online.

Then came the decampment, and suddenly I had a shiny new online journal to follow my friends, and of course the thoughts creep into my head--how will I use this thing?

I have written five posts, and not submitted any of them, because I'm too neurotic. This is not healthy.

So I have to consider--what is it that I'm so worried about?

Those worries )

In (a distinct lack of) conclusion....

How do I connect while keeping hold of my psychic space? I suppose the answer is "care less," but I'm clearly not doing a good job at that.
peartreealley: (Default)
I always said I would be where my friends were. Although there has been a trickle down for many years, most of my close friends had stayed elsewhere. (Last year when I was housekeeping, I even deleted my early adopter account here. An optimist, I guess.)

Then in light of recent events, most of them have now moved here in in part or whole.

So here I am.

I don't know how often I'll be using it. (Or if I'll import, delete, or just leave the old one alone.) But I'm here now, and I'm reading.

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peartreealley: (Default)
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