Day 8 – I am grateful for the luxury of following my passion.

I am grateful for the luxury of following my passion.

Many people don’t have the luxury of following their passions. They have a family to feed, bills to pay. I have none of those things. It may sound old fashioned but my husband takes care of all of these things. I love what I do. I love lifter, I love writing and waking up everyday to work sounds like more of a treat than work. In fact, its what I do when I want to break from child rearing. And I always end up feeling refreshed. But things weren’t always this way.

When I worked as a resource nurse, we rotated around different hospital units on different days. Some places were great, the work was exciting and the pace challenging yet fun. Some places on the other hand, I literally dragged my feet to. When I started realizing that I was actually dreading going to work on some days, I switched to a job I enjoyed more. I’d seen too many old and bitter nurses angry for having wasted their lives in a field they didn’t love – and guess what – their patients, colleagues and managers didn’t enjoy having them around much either because they were always complaining. So if you dread going to work everyday, go find yourself new work that inspires you.

Of course, not every moment of the workday is so beautifully engaging. Obviously, anything of value takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to build. However, the difference between toiling to build something you aspire to and something that you do for the sake of doing lies in the amount of engagement that you experience while working.

If you’re just there for the money, sooner or later you will burnout. You may even start to hate yourself and your job because you know that is not where you belong. I’ve seen it happen over and over again in the healthcare arena.   When you know you don’t like what you are doing, perhaps, you even know deep down inside that you’re not doing a particularly good job either, it creates a cognitive dissonance that will leave you restless. You risk becoming a bitter and resentful machine.   Find something to look forward to in your work day. If you can’t, then get out as fast as you can. There is better work elsewhere that desperately needs your skills and enthusiasm.

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[message_box title=”Affirmation Day 8″ color=”beige”]I am grateful for the luxury and freedom to follow my passions. I am grateful that I do not have to worry about making ends meet, putting my child through school or putting food on the table. I am grateful for a husband who takes care of these things so that I don’t have to. I am grateful for the ability to learn, write and create so that I can come up with new ideas and pursue them. I am grateful for an education that has shown me a new path when my old means of earning money were no longer feasible. Most of all, I am grateful for the blessing everyday of waking up excited, fired up and passionate about whatever project it is that I am doing today. I am grateful that I don’t have to drag myself to work every morning. I am grateful that I don’t have to worry about child care because I get to work alongside my toddler while she is playing. I am grateful that everyday of working on the lifter website feels like such a treat that I often use it as a way to relax. I am grateful that I have been blessed with work I love so much.[/message_box]


Harnessing your monkey mind to turbocharge your productivity

The monkey mind refers to a Buddhist concept describing the constant flitting of thoughts from ‘idea to idea’ and the distractions influencing the undisciplined mind.

There are numerous books, articles and experts these days talking about the monkey mind – how you can calm it, eliminate it or control it.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]“The human mind is like a drunken monkey… that’s been stung by a bee…” – Founder of Bikram Yoga[/quote]

Many of us are under the misconception that we need to rigidly rein in our thoughts in order to sit down and be calm, productive and focused. The truth of the matter is that in order to truly accept your mind and body, in order to work effectively, you need to work with your mind and not against it. When you’re constantly fighting yourself, trying to rein in your mind and force it to focus on something its not interested in, you’re creating a circular struggle that just feeds upon itself until you’re frustrated and demoralized (unless you’re a yogi or a monk who does this for a living ).

For the rest of us mortals, it is time to realize that in some situations, the monkey mind is not something to be stopped, chained or forced. It is something you can harness and work with in order to multiply your productivity and creativity in order to come up with your most craziest, wildest and perhaps most successful ideas ever.

Consider this scenario –  you’re sitting at your desk, bored our of your mind trying to write that 12000 word report that’s due next week. Of course, you’re going to try and procrastinate until the very last minute, then at the very last moment when you’re stressed, you sit down in a frenzy and try to write the article in 2 hours instead of twenty. Then, surprised by how easy those ideas came to you, you tell everyone about how you are more productive under pressure.

Actually, you were just tapping into the power of the monkey mind. The monkey mind jumps fast, brainstorms effectively and bounces from idea to idea like fireworks. In this state of jitters that all kinds of new, shiny, crazy and even irrational ideas come to you. Part of the process of working effectively is to catch this monkey mind and ride its wave so that when you’re done, you’ve made a huge dent in your brainstorming work.

Once your monkey mind blurts everything out on to the page – that’s just your starting point. From there, you have something substantial to work with. Think of yourself as a sculptor. First, you start out with a rough lump or ball of clay. With every pass you elongate, shape and define the lump of clay until you’re satisfied that it resembles a human figure, a portrait, a landscape, a pot. It may or may not be an exact replica of the image you held in your mind, but that is not the point. The point is that everything just did not just happen on the first go, did it?

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The next time your mind is flitting form place to place while you’re working, just put your serious task aside and go on a flight of fancy.

1. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper in front of you.
2. Use a pen, pencil, or if you like, go all out and use colours, crayons, oil pastels, anything that you feel like to create whatever comes to mind for you.
3. If you want to doodle, doodle. If you feel like sketching or drawing cartoons, give in. If you want to draw hearts all over and write in-between, do that instead. Indulge in whatever journey your monkey mind takes you along. Maybe you will get new interesting ideas about the problem or situation you’re dealing with, maybe these ideas will be completely irrelevant. Don’t try to drive the action. Just see where your mind leads you.
4. Keep up the creative pursuits until the bored and restless feeling passes. When you’re done, assess what you’ve done. Note your thoughts to see if you’re in a better mental space to go back to the task you’re trying to finish. You may be surprised at how quickly you calm down and focus once you give in to your creative and disorganized urges.You may find that you start to settle down into a rhythm. Chances are, once you settle down into this new rhythm, the work you were initially setting out to accomplish will come to you in a calm and inviting manner.

The point of this exercise is for you to work with, not against your monkey mind. The mind can be your strongest ally or your most formidable enemy. The key to living mindfully and working productively is not to fight your mind into submission, but to work with the energy of your mind in order to create something worthwhile. Think of your monkey mind as an adventurous friend that edges you towards dangerous and successful new ideas. You just need to latch on to it and go for the ride that it offers you.   [/message_box]



A Low-Tech Way to Boost Productivity

The humble pen and paper. 

They seem to have lost their popularity in our tech-immersed era, but there is a lot to be said about working with simple tools that will open up your creativity and make you come up with innovative solutions for your problems. 

There is something organic about using pen and paper that makes you  come up with unique solutions to your issues. From learning a language to coaching football players, more and more of us seem to be drawn to the organic nature of pen and paper in a world where everyone else is opting to streamline their work and learning onto laptops and tablets.

Look at the following surprising benefits of using pen and paper:

Boosts Memory and Recall 

In a recent study, researchers Pam Mueller (Princeton) and Daniel Oppenheimer (UCLA) found strong evidence suggesting that laptops, even when used solely for taking notes (as opposed to shopping on Amazon), can impair learning and facilitate shallower processing.

Contrast this to pen and paper, whose slower pace seems to solidify understanding and promote better recall

Slows You Down

The slower pace of using pen and paper can actually help you process, understand and create content that is deeper and of better quality. In fact, David Allen, the author of the book Getting Things Done talks about the productivity benefits of slowing down in order to overcome the busy-making nature of our work-lives in order to really step back and put our priorities into perspective.

So paradoxically, by slowing down, you’re setting yourself up to work more efficiently.

Boosts Creativity

Author Lee Rourke talks about his twitter conversations with other authors and speaks to the creativity that stems from creating slower,  more thoughtful work where the focus of the writer is more on creating good sentences and prose than on tap-tap-tapping away on a laptop in a state of corporate-like anxiety. 

I have to agree. As a fiction and non-fiction writer, I often feel anxious staring at a blank screen and then even more anxious when I hear myself pecking away at the keyboard in a frenzy of half-baked ideas. 

Facilitates Unexpected Connections

The organic nature of writing is highly conducive to doodling in the margins, drawing circles, squiggles and creating unexpected connections that you ouldnt even notice on a laptop, mobile phone or tablet. In fact, this high school teacher encourages writing creativity in his students by asking them to doodle stick figures into the margins of their writing notebooks. 

Unmatched Portability

How easy is it to grab a pocket notebook as you step out the door? No batteries, no charger cords, no desperately looking for power outlets in public places. Most importantly, no worries about losing expensive gadgets if you leave them lying around at a table while you go grab another coffee. The portability and novelty of using pen and paper in our constantly connected world is unmatched.

No Delete Button

That’s actually a good thing.

The fact that you can’t instantly edit and hit a delete button can help you salvage those crazy ideas that may first seem far fetched, but on second thought might be potential nuggets of brilliance! Ali Hale, a freelance writer for the Daily Writing Tips blog, says that the inability to delete when using pen and paper also forces you to take a bit more time crafting your sentences and word choices.

More Personal 

For those looking to stand out in networking relationships (and lets face it, who doesn’t need networking?), using pen and paper to reach out to clients, co-workers and even potential mentors can make all the difference between creating a memorable connection, making a sale and landing a lucrative deal or letting your connections go cold and die out.

In the networking world, the novelty of pen and paper can also be used to persuade, to sell and to convince stakeholders. Roger Dooley, a contributor at Forbes magazine talks about the selling power of pen and paper. 

Declare a laptop holiday for an hour. Or make the room a computer/tablet-free zone, if you can get away with it… The people who use pen and paper will absorb more of your content and your message will be more persuasive.

In an era of permission marketing and the soft sell, the ability to convince your audiences to use pen and paper while you are at the podium is as valuable as that ubiquitous email list of customers.

Pen and Paper Exercise

If you are not used to pen and paper, using them can feel clunky and awkward at first. An exercise I found highly rewarding when I first started out using pen and paper was Julia Cameron’s famous Morning Pages exercise. You sit down every morning, writing three pages of free writing. No stopping, no stalling until you finish your three pages of legal paper. Just do a colossal vomit of all your thoughts and worries. At first, it will just be a jumble of complains and worries that you can’t tell anymone else. But as you keep at it, looking back you will get a lot of insights, creative ideas and even solutions to complex problems that you will be able to use in your everyday life.

This simple exercise from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artists’ Way, has been the single most effective productivity hack I’ve tried in the past 5-10 years. The Morning Pages essentially got me started with the daily writing practice that eventually launched my freelance writing career.