February 4, 2011
Make Noise Especially now, you need to make yourself heard. Hound editors, badger sources, broadcast your bright ideas and latest bylines to your networked minions. Gaze-averting humility is no longer an option.
Be Boring If you’re the most interesting one at the party, something’s definitely wrong. Strive instead to feel outclassed, outsmarted, depressingly dull. It means you’re in superlative company. Ask questions, take notes, skulk home with genius-grant-worthy story ideas.
Other People’s Money Pretend it doesn’t exist. Fixating on the fortunes of others — whether higher or lower — ultimately only has one effect: making you feel like a small-minded wretch. Writing what you love is a richer reward.
Write for the Apocalypse What if the ridiculous blog entry or Kardashian charticle you’re writing today ends up being the only surviving fragment of human culture? It could happen. Edit, sharpen, write like eternity depends on it.
Stay Calm In Thai culture, mai pen rai – “it’s nothing” — is more than an attitude. It’s a way of life. No worries, no dramas, let’s move on. No wonder the Thai economy is booming while the rest of the planet kvetches.
Form a Council Here’s an idea: Every other Monday evening, bring together the ten wisest people you know. Sit in a circle. Dim the lights. Pick a conversation prompt. Respect the person with the talking piece. Watch the transformation unfold. To learn more about the 30-year-old council movement, see www.ojaifoundation.org.
Shower Not only will you smell better than most freelancers, you’ll generate fresher ideas. The New York Times recently reported on the neurologic benefits of zoning out — like when you’re showering — for making the nonlinear connections essential for true creativity.
Spend to Earn I just returned from a month in Thailand. Now I have no choice. I have to write about the experience to pay for it. Make your Visa statement your writing coach.
Be Brief Some radical honesty: People care less than you think about your random musings on the college road trip you took to Florida. Take a hatchet to your draft before pressing send.
January 25, 2011
Have you ever stopped to think about all of the things you rely on every day that you plug in – your computer, cell phone, printer, lights, TV, etc.? If they aren’t plugged in or recharged, then they just don’t have the energy to work.
Now think about all of the things that you are metaphorically plugged into in your work-life. Think of all the mental energy you devote to your work. Think of the various physical activities you engage in during the day. Step back even further, and think about your beliefs about yourself, the world, and the people in your life.
Are you plugged into the activities and thoughts that get you what you want, or are you wasting energy on things that lead to frustration and exhaustion? We all have a finite amount of plugs and energy.
Here are three ways to help you stop wasting your energy this month.
1. Unplug. Literally unplug your computer, cell phone, TV, lights and anything else electric that you use for 12-24 hours. Unplug metaphorically as much as you can from all the other things that get your energy and attention. Live simply. Use this time to explore what is most important to you. See what you miss. Create some quiet, introspective down time for yourself. Don’t forget to take some deep delicious breaths. If 12-24 hours seems too long then try it for just an hour or two.
2. Plug Back In. You are probably not going to choose to stay unplugged forever. So, when it’s time to plug back in, do it consciously. Think about what you want to plug back into or what you really missed. Use a rating scale if that helps you to think about each item, activity, thought or belief in your work-life. How important/helpful is it to you to plug back into ________? 0= least important, 10= most important. Plug back in to only the most important and energizing things first – the things you rated with a 9 or 10 and then see how many plugs and how much energy is left over/. Experiment and let some plugs hang loose.
3. Choose. Even when things seem daunting and impossible, remember that you have a choice. In any and every moment you can choose where you are going to put your attention and focus. Are you going to put it on thoughts or activities that deplete you or are you going to put it into the places that energize and enliven you? At any time you can unplug cords that are frayed or no longer serve you and you can plug in new ones or untangle old ones.
Here is an example from one of my clients:
For months Jeffrey was plagued by his messy home office. At times he felt like a failure for not making the time to clean it up. This month, he unplugged for a day and realized that he had a choice to plug into:
1. Beating himself up about his messy office.
2. Whole-heartedly choosing to keep his office messy, for now.
He decided to plug in to the mess – letting it be messy, instead of plugging into beating himself up about it the mess. What a refreshing shift! This freed up energy so he could focus on other tasks that were much more important to him.
What are you going to consciously unplug from and plug into this month? When you use your energy to plug into what is most important to you, you’ll stop wasting energy and may even have some extra left over to plug into you.
Illustrations by Jordan Awan
February 10, 2010
The Wall Street Journal just ran an interesting piece by Richard Greenwald on the rise of freelancers and consultants. “The implications for the American workplace are profound. Imagine one in four workers, of all collars, working on a contingent basis. Whole career paths and professions have shifted from stable full-time jobs with definable career ladders and benefits to almost completely contingent work forces that shift from project to project.”
It’s fascinating and Greenwald offers some very good advice, including the following – “…successful consultants say that having a work space separate from your living space is crucial. Clients do not want to have an important phone conference interrupted by a nagging two-year-old, a TV in the background or the sounds of street traffic. Most freelancers I spoke to have a space in their home that is solely for work—a bunker, as it were.”
I like the idea of a bunker. If you’ve got any bunker-like work spaces send them in – we’d love to see them.
The home office above is from Steven & Chris – Decor on a Dime series.