Monday Motivation + Goals // Deep Work

My biggest goal this week is to start practicing the art of “deep work“. I learned about the concept through an old Ezra Klein podcast interview with Cal Newport, a computer science professor who writes about the toll technology takes on our ability to be productive.

According to Newport deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task”. Half of it is secluding yourself for anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks to work on a project, and the other half is using the chunks of downtime you have throughout the day to brainstorm and problem-solve your project rather than checking social media or catching up on the news.

The first part isn’t as easy as it sounds. It means no social media, no scrolling, no novelty or dopamine hits at all. It may mean no internet access at all! I would like to start with just 1 to 2 hours during the work week and 6 hours over the weekend devoted to writing. For now, I will just be focusing on blog posts but after a few weeks, I will switch to writing for a major project I have been planning. I want to practice focusing for a while and fail a few times before I direct my attention to things I’m much more terrified of.

To be clear, writing blog posts doesn’t mean searching for featured images, quotes, or editing. It means writing and only writing using what notes and ideas I already have. It means keeping my ass in the chair and the cursor moving no matter how frustrated or bored I get.

The second part is also two parts. I need to stop getting sucked into twitter threads or Facebook video holes. If I have a free minute that allows me to use my brain for writing rather than work I have to use it to take notes or research with intention. Just like when I was learning to meditate I have to be mindful of where my attention is being paid and do the work to redirect myself with kindness. To help me avoid this distraction, I’ll schedule my social media time—because I can’t just quit cold turkey—and keeping my phone anywhere but within arm’s reach.

During these “deep work” blocks of time, I will simply work my way down my editorial calendar putting together my notes and writing post after post after post. I’ll spend the last 15 minutes or so of each session writing a short journal type post for this space summarising how I feel and how the day is going.

I will also schedule what Newport calls “shallow work”. Checking my email, working on my editorial calendar, posting to Tumblr, answering comments, tweaking my blog themes, looking up “calls for submission”, reading other blogs, etc.. These tasks are surely important, but they are easy so I often do these things rather than to doing the actual writing. I feel busy, but at the end of the week, I have little to show for all the effort. I’d like this week to be the first in a long time I feel like I have made significant progress.

In addition, I have quite a few other items that have been lingering on my to-do list:

  • Set up an appointment to tour one potential wedding venue.
  • Create one newspaper blackout poem and a collage poem for Instagram.
  • Draft next Friday’s newsletter for Zen and Pi
  • Read every day for 40 minutes at lunchtime and 30 minutes before bed.
  • Finish my Christmas shopping!
  • Get an oil change and new tires.
  • Develop/choose a bodyweight fitness routine

I plan to write these “motivation and goals” posts every Monday with information and links to what is inspiring me to work harder and smarter and a few specific things I’m working to accomplish. Then at the end of the week (perhaps during my Weekend Coffee Share posts) I’ll check in and let you know how I fared with each new productivity and writing tactic and my ever-overwhelming to-do list.

I’m starting slow, but I’m definitely starting, and I hope that being accountable here and sharing what I’ve learned about what works might help you too.

So how about you? What goals do you have for the week? And what is your plan to achieve them? Have you heard of or tried the “deep work” method? If so, what did you think? How did it fit into your lifestyle?

Let me know in the comments, or write your own goals post and link back if that’s easier.

Thanks for reading and good luck!


Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // A Perfect Week Off

Hello dear readers! Happy Sunday, and welcome to my new blog!

It’s not as put together as the other place, I know. I’m still moving things around and figuring out what to bring and what to leave behind. We probably should have spent one more Weekend Coffee Share there but I’m excited and ready to be here despite the mess. 

So, come, fill up a cup. The cold brew has been steeping since last night and is nice and strong. I’ve got the blinds open and a few windows cracked. After yesterday’s freezing rain and high wind warnings, it’s nice to see the sun and let the fresh air in. Pull up a chair and let’s talk about last week!

“Good morning and be at peace with your coffee. We’re under the same sun.”

— Juansen Dizon

***

If we were having coffee I would probably start by showing off my new tattoo. It’s becoming a tradition now that whenever my sister comes up to visit from Texas us siblings celebrate by going to our favorite shop and getting some new ink. This time it was only three of us, just the girls. My brother, quite understandably, wasn’t comfortable with the expense right before the holidays. Us girls just couldn’t resist though *shrug*.

I got a storm cloud with an eye in the middle of it, a bolt of lightning and a few blue raindrops too. It’s a common traditional style tattoo but the design spoke to me.The rain and lightning made me think of all my uncontrollable sadness and anxiety, the eye is the calm in the storm. It represents wisdom, mindfulness, and self-awareness, but the eye is also part of the storm too, not above or beyond it. The cloud represents the temporary nature of emotions and hard times, and the whole piece taken together is a reminder that everything that is bad, uncomfortable, or scary will pass, and the sun will always shine again.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that my week off from work was just about perfect. I spent every day with my family. We chose not to try to pack in too many activities and instead just ran errands, tried a few new restaurants, and watched movies. I think I liked it better this way. It was like my sister lived here again and there was no need to rush or to stress. It was like we had all the time in the world.

As always after one of her visits, I’m feeling a bit sad. For one, it’s hard to get back into a routine. For two, I worry the visit wasn’t a good one. I worry I didn’t do enough or say enough while they were here. I’m worried I was too tired, too negative, too boring. I’m worried they don’t know how much I looked forward to seeing them and they don’t know how hard it is for me when they leave again. 

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that Thanksgiving this year was a good one. We had plenty of food and the whole family was able to attend. For us, that means just immediate family. My mom and siblings, spouses and the kids. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Thanksgiving with aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents. I’ve never been close enough with any of my extended family. It’s just been us, and the rest of the world.

We all made Thanksgiving turkey hats and write notes to one another with what we were thankful for in each person. It was nice to hear how you have impacted everyone around you. It’s a nice reminder that you do have a place among the people you love and their lives are in fact better with you here.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I’m not looking forward to returning to work tomorrow. After a whole week off its hard to go back to getting up early, spending my days doing things I don’t always want to, and then coming home just before dark, too exhausted to do anything I want to.

Then again, I miss the kids and my coworkers, and as much as I complain, I do miss waking up early and getting to bed at a decent time. I’ve always worked best when I was forced to a schedule. I guess I just wish I didn’t have to work so many days in a row. I should get to ease back into the schedule.

And of course, as soon as I do get used to it again it’ll be time for Christmas break. 

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I’m spending the day with my girlfriends family, watching football, playing games, and eating more holiday food. The game is about to start and the smells coming from the kitchen tell me it will be time to eat very soon.

I want to thank you again for stopping by for a bit of caffeine and catching up. I hope you had a wonderful holiday. I hope you had plenty to be thankful for and that you know how thankful others are for you.

Until next time.

///

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

A New Place to Start

“We have not seen enough of the rough drafts of those we admire. Confidence means forgiving ourselves for the horrors of our first attempts.”

The School of Life Confidence Prompt Card

Hello, hello, and welcome. My name is Lisa, and I’m very glad to meet you.

Some of you may already know me from Zen and Pi where I have been blogging for a couple of years now. This blog is new. I made it after months and months of struggling to write and realizing that much of what was holding me back was not having a place where I felt truly free to experiment.

For those who don’t know me yet, I’m a 33-years-old aspiring writer born, raised, and currently residing in Denver, Colorado. I work as a Bus Assistant, riding school bus routes with Special Needs children keeping them safe, and entertained, to and from school every day. 

I live with my girlfriend. We’ve been together for over 16 years now and less than a year from now we’ll be calling each other wife. We share our home with an anxious dog, a grumpy cat, and two very shy snakes. I come from a pretty big family that could be described as dysfunctional, but we’re close and we’re trying to be better and that’s enough for me.

I’ve been writing in journals since I was a teenager and have always had some small place on the internet to share my stories and secrets, usually anonymously. About two or three years ago I started writing under my own name and since then I’ve had a couple of pieces picked up by small online publications. I was initially very excited, but the recognition terrified me. I suffered intense imposter syndrome and lost all of my momentum and focus.

I’m trying a few different things to get my mojo back. I’m submitting work to publications again, entering contests, and joining challenges. I’ve also decided to convert Zen and Pi to something separate from myself, a place with its own niche and focus, and writing for myself here.

This is a place to learn how to practice. It’s a place for all my bad ideas and horrible first attempts to go. It’s a place to be accountable. A home base to return to, and start out from, again and again. It’s a place I will become a better writer in.

I like to write short, creative nonfiction and particularly personal, confessional, and memoir pieces but I’m working on perfecting my hand at persuasive and informative posts too. I enjoy poetry and have dabbled in micro-fiction as well. I am cultivating a habit of writing daily in a physical journal, excerpts of which may appear here too. When I’m not writing I like making little collages with words and images I find in magazines or old books.

Like most writers, I started out as a reader first. Right now I’m obsessed with Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and ancient Greek literature. Philosophy is another passion of mine and I’m working my way through authors like Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus. I also read graphic novels though not as much as I used to. My favorite at the moment is the Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan.

Science has always been an interest of mine, especially astronomy and biology. I watch a lot of movies particularly from the horror genre but I’m also into superheroes, documentaries, anything the makes me feel deeply, and anything from A24. I enjoy hiking and consider napping an art form. I’m an admitted coffee snob and a staunch political liberal.

I believe in honest painful self-reflection. I believe in sharing our stories, even the ugly and terrible ones, especially the ugly and terrible ones. I believe that beauty and profound truth can be found in ordinary and everyday places. I believe in being authentic and flawed and in love with humanity. I believe in grey areas.

I am a collector of quotes, perspectives, and interesting facts. I take what is useful—from the past, from religion, from schools of philosophy, from stories, from tradition, from ideologies—and leave the rest. I am a weigher of points, arguments, and ideas, and I am a talker.

Like most talkers, I guess I’m just looking for a place to shout myself out into the void and waiting for someone out there—or something inside me—to answer back. 

What I mean to say is, even though I am writing here for me first, I’m hoping that you’ll find something you need too and that we both might find a way forward. So, follow along, leave comments, say hello, and leave all the feedback you can.

***

Photo by Simon Goetz on Unsplash