Category Archives: Productivity

Organization: Writer’s Block’s Biggest Enemy

A recent incident at my day job inspired this post. You may have heard about the importance of being organized from teachers, parents or bosses in the past. If you’re like me, in went in one ear and out of the other. I’ve always been  a supporter of organization. I suppose it’s in my blood but I never realized just how important it was until I suddenly didn’t have it! Organization is a key component to staying productive and on target with your goals. What caused me to finally realize this?  Here’s what happened.

The Day Job

My day job consists of a lot of paperwork among a few other things. As an Administrative Generalist, I do a lot of what no one else has time for. So my responsibilities cover the span of several different departments. One of my biggest responsibilities is that of the hourly employees’ Probationary Reviews. Basically, it’s a form that every new hire receives on their 30, 60, 90 and 110 day anniversary in order to be evaluated by their boss to ensure whether they are proficient enough in their job to remain employed.

I lay my hands on these forms every day for one department. There are over 200 that are sent out each month and as we are hiring every week, as one group finishes their last review, another group begins.

Keeping these forms on track and up-to-date requires a steady eye. They are returned to me through the mail every day. And every day they must be signed by management, scanned back into the computer system, logged as received and scheduled for their next review. It isn’t difficult but very tedious and time consuming. Keeping a color coded spreadsheet helps.

The Transition

There used to be two of us in the office who handled these forms. I distributed them for one department while the second person did it for another. However, that person recently acquired a new job and due to budget constraints, wasn’t being replaced. This meant that their monthly Probationary Reviews fell to me. It is now safe to say that I spend over 30 hours a week on these reviews alone while I have other responsibilities at work. My days of refusing overtime are gone.

In picking up this new task, it quickly became apparent that the previous individual did not keep up with their filing and organization. Compile that with the fact that none of their forms had been introduced into the computer system and I had my work cut out for me.

Suddenly, my downtime at work was nil. The first day the transition took place I worked a twelve hour shift and skipped the lunch break. So many forms were delinquent or missing in action, it was hard to fathom how things had gotten so bad.

The Solution

Phone calls were made. Emails were sent out. Files were sifted through and alphabetized for easy navigation. A week later and I still don’t have that department’s forms where they all need to be. Though I’ve made substantial progress, I think of all the time I’ve spent organizing when that should have been done from the start.

Being that the first department I had sole coverage of is so organized, I’m better able to help them and not rip my hair out while fixing the other department’s mess.

How to Apply this to Writing

During this process, I’ve been thinking on how I can use it as a lesson to better my productivity at home.

Here is one of the biggest folders I keep in my filing cabinet and it’s filled with all sorts of half-developed ideas and writing prompts. I know exactly where to go when I’m lacking inspiration.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen pictures of my desk. I’d like to think my organization skills are on point and being a minimalist helps with cleanliness. Staying organized not only gives me no excuse to put off writing… [Sorry, I don’t have time to write, I need to organize by thoughts first...] but it also promotes peace of mind.

By being organized, I can quickly pick a folder, grab my laptop and head to Starbucks for an early morning writing session. I don’t have to worry about leaving anything behind because all of my notes are neatly tucked away. This means no more, “Where is that napkin I jotted that random piece of dialogue on that I wanted to use for this scene?”

I’m a big fan of “floating storage,” which means “off of the floor!” Keeping all of my notepads in one place means I always know where a spare bit of paper is. Keeping it off of the floor means I’m less likely to throw other things into the basket. Notice that the folders are also labeled with working titles and numbered.

Whenever I want to switch things up and work on another project, I just grab the respective folder. If an idea for one project pops into my head while I’m working on another, I write the idea down quickly and throw it into that project’s folder. If the idea doesn’t have a big story line yet, it goes into the filing cabinet with other “random ideas.”

Promote Good Habits

What organization really is, is setting yourself up for success. Ever notice how your mornings run a little more smoothly when you’ve laid out your clothes for the day, the night before? Or how stress free your week is when you fill your car up with gas when the tank has dropped to half instead of riding on it until it’s nearly empty? What about paying your rent the day you get the bill as opposed to waiting until the last day they’ll accept payment without a late fee?

I splurged on some clearance isle Post-Its. The different colors make it super easy to form an editing system. Or a blog idea system. Or whatever you want!

Self-published author and self-made millionaire, Amanda Hocking, frequently states, “There is No Magic Hand.” Since the first time I saw her blog post stating that, it also became a mantra of mine. She’s right. There is no magic hand that is going to swoop into your life and makes your dreams come true for you. You must put in the work. So why not make it easier on yourself and set yourself up for success? Stay organized, my friends!

In Summation…

Perhaps I should have titled this blog 3 Reasons Your Lack of Organization is Promoting Your Writer’s Block.

  1. Gives you an excuse not to write.
  2. A cluttered space is a cluttered mind…which promotes anxiety.
  3. Writing is much more difficult when you don’t set yourself up for success… Lay things out, categorize them and put them within arm’s reach, and you’re golden.

I hope this helps your endeavors!

Happy Writing!

-RB

The Right Way to Create a Routine

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about the top 3 ways to establish a routine. In my own experiments with trying to create routine, I discovered that I was doing something very wrong. Furthermore, what I was doing caused my attempts to establish a routine to fail, over and over again.

There were so many things I wanted to do and not enough time in a day. I would say to myself, “Monday I’m going to start doing these three tasks before work everyday.” I wouldn’t stop there. I would continue with, “And when I get home from work I’m going to do this at 4pm and this at 5pm, then this other thing at 8pm.”

As per usual, I was setting myself up for failure. It’s something I do a lot. I have unrealistic expectations which can be prevalent in today’s society. Once the light bulb in my head lit up and I realized this, I knew that it was time to start setting myself up for success. After all, if I wanted success, I couldn’t keep failing myself. I believed in myself enough to know I could do anything I set my mind to, the trouble was setting my mind.

What was I doing wrong?

There were two things I did wrong when I tried to create routine in my life.

First, I tried to change too many things at once. I expected myself to wake up on a Monday (of all days) and change everything about the way I normally lived my life. I wanted to write, workout, meditate, change my diet, etc. and start it all right away. I was convinced that was the only way and if I couldn’t make it work then I wasn’t trying hard enough or didn’t want success bad enough. So, when I didn’t fall in line and obey my own strict policies, I told myself that I sucked.

Secondly, I didn’t allow myself any flex time. By planning something to do at 4pm everyday when I work at a job that lets out just 30 minutes before that, I had no wiggle room. Sometimes I have to stay at work late. Or sometimes I need to pick up dinner, or go out to dinner, or it’s date night… You catch my drift? Anytime I worked through my “routine task” time, I either pushed that task back or skipped it all together. Oh and I also told myself that I sucked for not completing it.

I guess that brings about a third point…

Negative self-talk is not your friend.

Beating yourself up for anything is doing more harm than good. Making changes to your daily lifestyle can be challenging especially if you try to do it all at once. Go easy on yourself. It’s not an easy lesson to learn.

How to Create Routine

When forming new habits, breaking old ones or changing your lifestyle in any way, it’s important to take things slow. I took things one week at a time. First I started with reading more (as a form of meditation) and eating healthier. I recently discovered that I was lactose intolerant and being that I ate a lot of dairy products, my system was in for a huge shock. After I gave my body about three weeks to adjust, I added something else.

I had been struggling with writing every day. So I signed up for 750words.com which encourages me to stay on track. Now, I’ve been at that for a week. Next, I plan to add yoga to my routine. So as the weeks go by, I will adjust accordingly instead of trying to do it all at once.

Lastly, I don’t set a time for any task. I allow myself to flex. Sometimes I can draft a blog post in an hour. Other times, I need to draft it one night and come back to it the next. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to publish anew blog post up here every day. However, I don’t wish to burn myself out. Even the smallest of steps in the right direction…are still steps in the right direction.

Looking for Ideas? (Further Reading)

The internet is filled with dozens of articles telling you, “The top 20 things you must do every day to stay healthy,” and “15 things to do daily to be smarter.” But if you’re looking for a summation of all of them and a good laugh, please check out Sara Kloek’s “95 Things I Should Do Every Day According to the Internet.” #34, #56 and #57 made me laugh out loud!

Happy Reading!

-R

Photo Credit: ID 78999514 © Feng Yu | Dreamstime.com