Tag Archives: time

Prod Your Productivity Into Shape – 3 Tools for Effective Writing

Today, we have so many things to distract us from writing, and technology is one of them. Fifty years ago, writers didn’t have the strong allure of the internet to go flocking to when they wanted to push back their writing time. But the internet has now grown to the point where it may even be beneficial to our writing! (But only thanks to lovely, genius software engineers.)

Ever read Fahrenheit 451? Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit’s author, was a pretty disciplined man. Why? Because he wrote this famed novel with haste, in 30 minute spurts on a typewriter he paid 10 cents to rent out for just a half hour. He moved in to the basement of UCLA, where he had found this typing station, with a bag of dimes – thrusting them in as the clock ticked madly – and, with this limited time, he furiously churned out the draft of this popular, classic novel. Time and money – what an amazing motivator!

I was introduced to this story and another interesting tidbit via Sarah Wilson’s blog. As it turns out, Bradbury’s writing process was the early “prototype” of a technique created in the 80’s called the Pomodoro Technique. Here is their official website.

This technique, named after those nifty little tomato shaped kitchen timers (“pomodoro” meaning “tomato” in Italian) is a time-management method and a method in self discipline.

What you do is simple:

  1. Set a timer to 25-30 minutes – If you don’t have a spiffy little tomato timer, you can use one of these online timers listed on the official Pomodoro website. (I like the simple focusbooster app where you can turn on the incessant ticking if that prods you into working!)
  2. Move those fingers and write, write, write – You’re Ray Bradbury and your time is money! Your typewriter is ticking away and you have to fit as much of your future bestselling novel, article, or manifesto into this 30 minutes as you can. Don’t check your messages, don’t get on WordPress, Facebook, anything. This is your appointed time to write. My advice? Do not edit.
  3. Break time! – Your 25-30 minutes are up. Give yourself a nice 5 minute break. (focusbooster times this for you too, which is lovely) Get some sun, limber up, grab a quick snack, surf the web, check your email. It’s your free time to do whatever and you’ve earned it.
  4. Get back in the groove, go another round – You were in queue to use the typewriter and it’s finally your turn to give it another go! Shove that dime in (turn your timer back on) and go another 25-30 minutes. Get the bulk of that article done now while you have the chance. Go, go, go!

Do this process just one more time. If you still have words seeping from your fingers and want to keep typing, you now have yourself an hour break! Catch some lunch, you writing speed demon, you’ve earned it.

If you’re done writing, that’s great! Save your draft and revel in the word-countage you cooked up in such a short amount of time.

(And you don’t have to use this just for writing. Try it out for any chore or task you need to accomplish!)

If this process is enough to get you into gear, give yourself a pat, but if you still find yourself having trouble, might I suggest a bit more… wicked writing tool as an addition?

I’m talking about Dr. Wicked’s Writing Lab. Have no self-discipline? This evil invention invites (or is it “threatens”?) you to write… or die! Well, it’s not that evil, but it does claim to “put the ‘prod’ in productivity”. It is an online application based on operant conditioning, in which you choose your “punishment” for not typing after a certain amount of time. Set your word goal, choose your consequence, your grace period (forgiving, strict, or evil), and hit “Write!”

Your consequences?

  • Gentle mode gives you a pleasant little reminder that you’ve stopped typing, and tells you to continue. (It’s for your own good!)
  • Normal mode works best when your speakers are on full volume. If you stop, after some time, it plays a terrible song. Sometimes I get “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”! It quite literally scares you into writing more, and prevents you from stopping so you’ll save yourself from the ear-wrenching wickedness. (Now I’m not sure what else it plays because I get scared into working very easily by normal mode, but if you’re really disobedient and think you need a better punishment, try…)
  • Kamikaze mode. It is exactly what it sounds like. If you stop writing, your words will literally delete themselves. Terrible! Don’t let it happen. And don’t go back to edit, folks. It’ll hurt you in the long run.

This is my absolute favorite online writing tool. It’s even more thrilling to try and write in a quiet library. There’s a desktop version you can purchse for $10 if you really like it.

I love to use the Pomodoro technique and pair the focusbooster app with Dr. Wicked’s writing lab! These are three excellent tools to place on the first shelf of your writer’s toolbox.


Some thoughts…

The first time I tried this medley of productivity, I did some stream writing, and ended up with about 5500 words. I was poked and prodded to keep going, and ended up writing about topics from Kidz Bop, to my boyfriend, to dance music, to the topic of judgment, and more. I even came up with some new painting ideas and a few future plans for my blog.

The draft of this post was also written with these three tools, and I have to say, this is quite literally the fastest I’ve ever written a post. Drafting without editing is key. After your thoughts are all down, the rest of the process just zooms by.

I hope that those of you who were looking for a new productivity tool, those who get bitten by the procrastination bug, or those who just need a new way to go about writing can find some use from these three tools.

As for me, I will never write the normal way ever again! I can only cower in fear imagining Dr. Wicked’s maniacal laugh as he implements his upcoming “electric shock” mode on all those with stiff and unmoving fingers.

Hopefully he’s just kidding about that one!

photo credit: (1234)

Are We Too Occupied to Recognize the Little Things?

For those of you who haven’t yet grown the curiosity to look it up, I felt I should explain the meaning of my blog’s title, Deliciae.

It is a Latin noun for what we would call a “delight” or “pleasure”, sometimes even “darling” or “sweetheart”. Some may even recognize its similarity to “delicious” or “delicate”.

All of these words encompass what I’ve wanted this blog to project: life’s little, delicate, and beautiful things.

While listening to an old favorite band, Atreyu, I remembered a quote I had come across and saved long ago, spoken by the vocalist, Alexander Varkatzas. It reads as so:

“I was driving to a friend’s house, kind of daydreaming and the sky was this gorgeous shade of pink.

I just couldn’t take my eyes off it, it felt like I really forgot to breathe, and forgot about life in all its obsessive materialism for just a few seconds.

When I snapped out of it, I almost rammed into the car in front of me.It just made me think of how many perfect sunsets we miss at work or school or how many beautiful starry nights are spent on the Internet or in front of a TV.

We do all these materialistic things and we seem to neglect that each sunset is totally different than the last or the next and that the wind will never blow exactly the same way. It’s always 9-5, better do this, do that, deadlines, excess, bullshit that just isn’t that important.

Now, I am as guilty as the rest, but for a few blissful seconds it was remarkably clear.”

(Alexander Varkatzas)

As an avid stargazer, his mention of beautiful starry nights we may have missed sitting on the Internet struck a sad chord within me. Have you gazed up there lately? On a quiet, dark night, it gives you a feeling like no other.

Unfortunately, I never really hear my cohorts speak of delicate, and beautiful night skies; constellations have lost their meaning and origin, and a lot of us are too occupied to look up and feel the intensity of colors in a morning sky – something little, yes, but so powerful.

In the ebb and flow of the work week and the strong influence of technology, I too forget at times.

I’ve spent, or I should say, wasted an unbelievable amount of time on the internet, social media websites and the vapid, mind numbing games and applications that come with them (read: Facebook). But that was before I decided to overhaul the way I use my “life” time. Before this overhaul, I naively surrounded myself with quotes I never truly followed such as Jane Austen’s:

“Teach us, that we may feel the importance of every day, of every hour, as it passes.”

And I would have tear-outs of old articles such as this one from a Newsweek edition in 2008 entitled, “What Old Age Taught Me” in which 91-year-old actor and film producer, Kirk Douglas, says he truly believes “the best is yet to be.” However, I never gave it a glance or any more thought like I once had.

Now I try to take these once cherished items back to heart. I realized that, after wasting two days of my vacation browsing Facebook, watching “Lost” on Netflix,  and checking my email ten times a day, I had to do something different with my precious time.

I didn’t want to get sucked into the “what’s his status now? …and now? And now?” addiction, so I stopped visiting Facebook for a whole two weeks.


It was difficult at first, but now I don’t feel the need to look at pictures of an acquaintance’s dad’s birthday party in a different state or check the status of all 300 some-odd friends I added. (And, let me tell you, it is nice!)

I care to read some of these things, but my mind can only store so much information on others before becoming too cluttered, and whatever Timmy, Janice, and Emily ate for breakfast is not really something I’d care to store in my already crowded memory shelf.

Unless I want to contact and keep up with a few close friends or get in touch with new ones, I try to avoid Facebook altogether. It’s a little scary to think that I was once yearning for this useless information. I was addicted, as many people still are.

My brain is no longer the attention-deficit mess that it used to be. Cutting off Facebook time and other mindless internet browsing has done wonders. I have time (that I never knew I had) to pursue more productive endeavors, and take a breather outside and watch the sun go down. I am so grateful for it.

Of course, I do believe technology has helped us tremendously in being ever-so-convenient. It even helps us spread the appreciation for beautiful sunsets and the little things. There is such a thing as too much, however.

The planet has never been more interconnected, and yet, could technology be taking away from our relationships and our lives?

What do you think, readers?

photo credit: MayrNeil Ritchie | livepine | laurenseagull

30 Hacks and Tips to Save Your Precious, Precious Time

Readers, readers, readers! Balancing school, my new job, and my blog has become a bit easier as I am now following and participating in Darren’s 31 Day Challenge to Build a Better Blog. If you have a blog, you should join in as well. Today’s task is to write a list post, but coincidentally, I had planned for today to be a list post anyway!

We all love to read websites with “hacks” for life. “Hacks” in the self-improvement sense are shortcuts and easier ways to do things that improve the quality of how we live.

A chapter entitled “I’m on My Honeymoon, But If You Need Me…” in a book called The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch featured some favorite time hacks. During the time he wrote this book, Randy was battling terminal pancreatic cancer and was given a mere six months to live. In these few months, Randy learned that his time was valuable, and that he wanted to spend less time on menial tasks, and fill every single second with something of importance, even if he’s simply on hold during a phone call.

He imparted his wisdom to the world in this book, and here I’ll share some of Randy’s time hacks along with a few of my own that you can use to make the most of your life.

  • “Time must be managed like money.” As his first tidbit of wisdom, Randy stated simply that we must invest time into things that matter.
  • “The most useful to-do lists break tasks into small steps.” This seems like common sense, but not many of us do this! (Including me until today.) Just like writing a novel or cleaning up your house, small steps help you to be more organized and motivated to keep going. Taking on too much at a time can be draining and overwhelming.
  • “Ask yourself: Are you spending your time on the right things?” Here, Randy mentioned a clipping he had held onto from a newspaper in Virginia which depicts a pregnant woman who protested against a local construction site. She worried about the possible effect the loud jackhammers could have on her unborn child, but get this: she’s smoking a cigarette. Certainly, she could exert her time and worry toward greater issues.

  • “Rethink the telephone.” I thought this was the most interesting tip. Randy mentions that we live in a culture where we spend a lot of time on hold. It may seem like an insignificant problem, but the time you spend holding the phone up to your ears and waiting while listening to that nice elevator music adds up. (Especially if your job requires you to be on the phone a lot!) While on hold, Randy suggests switching to speaker phone so your hands are free to do other things. Also, he mentions a few techniques to shorten unnecessary or less important calls like standing during a conversation, which will make you more apt to speed things along or keeping a project in plain sight as a reminder to what you must get back to after a call.

Though Randy has since passed, these tips remain immortalized as a reminder to us about what we can do to make the most of our time. Live as if we may vanish tomorrow, but make sure you fill it with quality and not quantity! Here are a few tips I’ve come across in my daily routine that have been the difference between hectic mornings and the beginning of a good day.

General

  1. PRIORITIZE! What is more important and hardest? Do it first.
  2. When planning your day, give yourself some free time in case something comes up.
  3. Combine activities when possible, but only if they’re easy! Cook your breakfast while keeping a copy of that book you have to read lying open on the counter. Don’t multi-task if you’re working on tougher projects, however, because it could produce mediocre work.
  4. Take breaks, relax, breathe, and de-stress.

Daily Routine

  1. When getting ready in the morning, do everything you must do in one room of the house then move on to the next. This will keep you from running back and forth through the halls.
  2. Lay out your outfit and accessories for tomorrow before you sleep.
  3. Do not get on the internet in the morning if you know yourself to get caught up surfing meaningless sites during your precious time.
  4. Start your day 15 to 30 minutes earlier. It may be hard first, but those fractions of an hour can be used to wake yourself up, eat a healthier breakfast at a steady pace, feed your kittens, and read some news before scurrying out of your house every morning.
  5. Prepare ingredients or cook large meals the night before you serve them.
  6. Try shopping online, but only on trusted sites. (Especially during the holidays!)
  7. Fold or hang your clothes immediately after they are done drying. This will keep your clothes from wrinkling and you’ll avoid needing to iron.
  8. If you have children or a partner, share chores with them. For children it is a lesson in responsibility. For your partner it’s only fair.
  9. Create laundry baskets or designated areas ahead of time for your reds, whites, delicates, and such. These can double as baskets of folded clothes for each member of the house to put up.
  10. It’s funny and silly, but remember those two tabs you can fold in on the side so your aluminum foil doesn’t fall out every time you grab a piece!
  11. Brush your teeth in the shower while you rinse off.
  12. Limit your shower time. Identify what you’ll do first, second, third, and so on. Leave your conditioner on while you scrub yourself down or brush your teeth!
  13. Pay your bills in one sitting.
  14. Try online banking and bill paying.

Work

  1. If someone at your job asks you for a favor and you’re swamped with other tasks, simply say “No, I can’t do that right now”. Your time is precious to you so protect it!
  2. OR if someone asks you for a favor, trade some time with them. If they ask you to shovel snow out of their driveway, you can ask them to maybe babysit one day or take your mail in while you’re on vacation.
  3. Get a planner and amass all dates and assignments into one, but keep it organized!
  4. Keep a simple ‘inbox’ and ‘outbox’ for projects and papers you must go through. Manage your paperwork in this simple way. I know having too many papers lying around can become a major distraction.
  5. Take clearer notes.
  6. When doing a writing project, don’t worry about perfectionism. Get your basic ideas and information down, and then go back and edit later.

Technology

  1. Learn more keyboard shortcuts! My boyfriend gets his research papers done hours before me because he memorized vital keyboard shortcuts for the programs he uses most often. It’s very useful, and I would recommend it to everyone.
  2. Record your favorite shows with TiVo or DVR and watch them in your spare time. Don’t rush home just to catch the newest season of Heroes.
  3. Limit your activities on the internet to a definitive amount. For example: check your email only three times a day, update your Facebook once or twice, comment five times on your daily blogs.
  4. Create filters and folders for your email.
  5. Keep all of your usernames and passwords stored on a sheet of paper somewhere discreet.
  6. Learn to Google efficiently and effectively.

Do you have more time shortcuts that have been useful to you in your routine? Please feel free to share them in the comments. Tips like these are valuable and stick with us for a lifetime!

photo credit: John-Morgan | Alex Barth | chaps1 | SunriseOttah | spadgy
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