Tag Archives: taking time

Just Let It Happen: How to Stay Productive While Sick

  • Someday Lesson: Plan in catch up moments for unplanned breaks in productivity.

Kai Hendry on flickr.comLast week I updated you on my mostly successful first week of a hyper-schedule. My creativity and productivity soared and I was taking plenty of time off. My second week was going to be even better than the first.

And then I got sick but not can’t get out of bed sick. It was a weird sickness. I was dizzy and had a strange sinus pressure just above and behind my eyes, likely the cause of the dizziness. And I couldn’t concentrate, especially creatively.

So what happened to my creativity and productivity? They, of course, vanished.

I wanted to get things done. I wanted to be creative and move the novel forward, but any time I sat down to write pretty much anything the world spun and my stomach flipflopped. I could still do technical things and very logic-heavy tasks but anything that required creativity made me ill. It’s like whatever was wrong with my sinuses only affected my right brain.

Dealing with the Unexpected

I could have gotten cranky. I could have pushed myself and produced utter crap. Or I could have taken a break and let whatever was bothering me pass.

My lazy tendencies stirred long enough to convince me of the virtue in the last option. I dedicated myself to getting the bare minimum done and relaxing the rest of the time. I watched the entire latest season of Project Runway and spent most of the week in bed.

But I wasn’t completely unproductive. I also took the time to come up with a series of visions for my future – not the outcome kind of future but an action-based one. I looked 6 months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years into the future and decided what I was doing. As Richard Wiseman points out, in his book 59 Seconds, people who picture future actions rather than future outcomes are more likely to achieve their goals.

And for some reason my dizzy right brain let me come up with some pretty awesome stuff. I guess it wasn’t a very right brain activity. I also focused on other left brain activities like creating the Personalized Someday Assessment form now available on the website, and created a flowcharts and processes for the business.

Letting It Happen

Instead of fighting with myself and making the week even worse, I let myself be sick. I enjoyed the time instead of whining about every moment that I wasn’t sticking to my schedule.

By Saturday evening I was feeling much better and by this point itching to write. So that’s exactly what I did, catching up two of three writing sessions I had missed during the week. If I had tried to push myself and fought against what my body and brain wanted, by Saturday night even writing a single word of fiction would have been as impossible as forcing a cat to play with a string it had no interest in (and I would have only ended up with the mental/emotional scratch marks to show for it).

And even though I didn’t follow my schedule much at all, by having it and knowing my goals for the week, I could pick and choose what I would get done and what I would leave unfinished. And in the end I got almost everything accomplished even though each day my tracked schedule was full of missed activities.

Plus by scheduling in plenty of relaxation time I gave myself wriggle room to catch up after feeling better. If you don’t give yourself that sort of space, then when you do fall behind, you just keep moving backwards struggling every moment.

So be kind to yourself and stop struggling – plan your time well and give yourself the best chance to achieve success, creatively.

P.S. Remember how last week I mentioned and interactive Someday Interview series? Well, it’s ready. Fill in the Personalized Someday Assessment form and starting in December your situation and my suggestions could be featured on the blog and maybe help someone else bust their own Somedays. Go check it out!

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Taking a SLOW Journey: Aukje van Gerven Interview

Being aware of the clock isn’t just about getting more done fewer hours. It’s also about slowing down, ignoring the clock, and taking the time to enjoy the journey step by step. This week’s Someday Interviewee, Aukje, took this concept to an extreme, disconnecting from the clock completely and achieving so much for doing so. Here’s what she has to say about her (literal) Someday Journey.

Aukje van GervenWho: Aukje van Gerven of beetroute
Aukje started beetroute with her partner last year and together they cycled from Tanzania to the Netherlands for beetroute‘s first project: The SLOW Journey, taking matters into their own hands after the disappointment of previously failed expedition.

Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
In 2007, after having spent hundreds of volunteer hours, money and more into a project that was supposed to lead an expedition team for a human-powered expedition from the south pole to the north pole, I received the message that the institute was put into hibernation due to lack of funding. I was devastated, because I was an expedition team member and I had talked about this for so long and wanted it so bad. I felt I had no control and thought that I maybe should have even put more energy into it than I already did.

Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
I hoped that somehow money would fall from the sky or I would get an incredible idea to make it work after all. I didn’t want to give up but the decision was made for me. There was a need not to give up.

Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
A small group of remaining team members decided we did not just want to stop and get back to our former lives. We wanted to make something happen and walk the walk, after having talked the talk for a long time. We started brainstorming about what steps to take and had the craziest ideas. In the end, we decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, as that would have been our half way point. My partner and I decided that we wanted to keep going even after that milestone was reached, and cycle a part of the intended route anyway, and have schools follow us to teach schoolchildren about the countries we would pass through. We supported and encouraged each other to keep focused and make it happen.

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
Taking action felt good. We spoke about it for so long, it was time for action. Let the world see what we were made of, not just blah blah. The results were rewarding. We started cycling in Tanzania in July 2008 with only three months preparation time and only two months of face to face time, so we barely knew each other. We got to know each other quickly in the circumstances, and managed to finish our SLOW Journey, plus edutain 600 schoolchildren, experience new things, and gain a ton of new skills.

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
I might need it someday: I have a tendency to fill my life with emotional things, especially the needs or problems of those around me: it highly affects me and i tend to think for them, and make decisions for them, trying to ‘fix’ them.

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
I am learning to focus more on my personal happiness and make choices that are good for me, because when you yourself are happy, only then you can truly give other people your time and energy without it exhausting you.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
Be kind, compassionate and supportive, but don’t let it get to you. Everyone is free to make their own choices, and you need to let them make theirs. This is hard, because you might think you know better. But you can only do so much and need to take care of yourself before you can support others.

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
The strength to stay positive and keep believing in yourself.

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Slowing Creating a Happy Life: Jane Matthews Interview

You already know this week’s Someday Interviewee through her many guest posts her on Someday Syndrome, but for the final interview for September’s self-development theme, I thought I’d give you the chance to get to know Jane a little better.

Jane MatthewsJane Matthews of Small Books and Someone Nicer
Jane is a writer and workshop leader, whose books and courses aim to help others discover how to live more authentic lives (since we teach what we need to know..!)

Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
I was stuck at home with two tiny children and the only thing dragging me out of bed each morning was the need to respond to their demands. Outwardly I had everything I thought I’d wanted: I’d married a good and loyal friend, we’d bought a country cottage looking out over poppy fields and I’d become a full-time mum.

Inwardly the part of me that would have been happy to stay in bed for the rest of my life recognised the extent to which my misery was entirely down to giving up on my real dreams. I’d fooled myself by buying into the conventional ideas of what a perfect life should look like rather than going in search of my own. My mother said I had post-natal depression. I knew that was I was actually suffering from was the shock of how deeply I’d betrayed myself.

Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
Initially what I wanted was for someone to step in and sort out the mess I’d made of my life. One of my fantasies was driving my car into a brick wall, injuring myself just badly enough that I’d be whisked to hospital and looked after. I’d proved I couldn’t be trusted with my own life, so why not let someone else do it?

At a deeper level, it’s been my experience that we sometimes allow ourselves to sink to the bottom of the pit in order to generate enough momentum through misery to get us up and out the other side: a bit like pedalling a bike like fury downhill in order to work up the speed to conquer the steep slope on the other side.

I needed time wallowing in my mistakes and I needed to get to the point where I could look myself right in the face and admit that in listening to the hubbub of what the world seems to expect of us I’d failed to listen to every single one of the whispers from my soul that were telling me I was way, way off track!

Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
Thank God for Louise Hay; for Susan Jeffers and countless other self-help writers; for my sister; and for the hills of northern England… (see below)

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
There was never a moment. What there was was a journey which took me years, but which helped me unpick the mess I’d made and start to see what I needed to do to create a truly authentic life.

I’d always wanted to walk the Coast to Coast, 185 miles across northern England, taking in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North Yorks Moors. Since my sister, who was also my best friend, lived in the north east, we began stealing a couple of weekends away each year from our everyday lives in order to walk this route.

Those weekends were what saved my sanity. I’d hand the kids over to my husband on Friday night and with Louise Hay or Susan Jeffers for company on the CD player in the car, drive 200 miles to meet my sister for two days tramping the hills and talking honestly about our joys and miseries and dreams and mistakes. The renewed sense of direction and purpose which we both began to discover will be forever attached in my mind to the landscapes we were walking through. And in time, knowing a weekend was coming up, would actually work as a spur to make the changes we’d talked about on our last outing so I’d be able to tell my sister how I’d moved on.

It took us four years to complete the walk travelling east from Robin Hood’s Bay to St Bee’s Head in the west. By the time we’d reached the Cleveland Hills I’d started writing again. When we hit the watershed, where the rivers of England have turned the Dales into a vast soggy sponge of moorland, I’d given up a part-time job paying pin money and gone back to journalism.

And after a scary time getting lost on the unforgiving peaks above Haweswater in the Lakes, I found I had the courage to leave my marriage and move, with the children, into a new home.

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
No matter how far I’ve travelled – and my sister and I continue to walk-for-therapy at least twice a year – I’ve yet to out-distance that temptation to fall into line with others’ ideas and expectations of how life should look. Every so often I catch myself in the middle of serious self-deceit, most recently when I considered ‘doing the sensible thing’ and returning to corporate life as an easier option than trying to build my dream career as a writer and workshop leader.

I’m not there yet, indeed ‘pin money’ is what it currently looks like, but it helps to remind myself it took my four years to cross England so it’s OK if it takes me a few years to properly reset my internal compass.

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
An important part of staying true to myself is daily spiritual practice. I start each day with at least an hour’s reflection, reading, meditation and visualisation – more if I can manage it. For me, the first hours of the day are the time I seem most open to getting in touch with my own inner wisdom. It’s a bit like the blackboard in a classroom. First thing, it’s clean, so anything written on it stands out sharply. Later, as the calls and emails and demands on my time flood in, everything is a little fuzzy and congested and I can’t make the words out easily.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
One of the most liberating moments for me in recent times was hearing Gill Edwards read the poem ‘Wild Geese’ by Mary Oliver that starts ‘You do not have to be good’.

That’s it. I do not have to be good and you do not have to be good. All we have to do is be true to ourselves.

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for? You might be tempted to provide a cheeky answer, but stop and think a moment about what would really help you.
If I could attend a personal development workshop every month I’d probably never waver in my conviction that money comes from doing what I love. I do find contact with others, and the space to explore myself away from daily routines really helps me recharge and refocus. A workshop while walking in the hills would be even better…

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