Cover to Cover: Station Eleven

 

Happy Thursday, everyone! 

I'm starting a new series here which I'm calling Cover to Cover so I can write a little bit about a book I recently finished. If you're looking for your next book to add to your TBR shelf this may be a great fit for you. Or, have you read it already and want to share your thoughts? Get to commenting- I'm definitely down for a little electronic book-club chat.

As I figure out what to share here, please let me know what kind of book reviews and write-ups you like to read. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a post apocalyptic novel that didn’t leave me feeling hopeless. Scared? Yes. Researching survival skills? Absolutely. But not hopeless.

Station Eleven follows a traveling symphony and Shakespeare troupe around the Great Lakes region twenty years after a super flu wipes out most of humanity. Through memories, shared stories, and glimpses into the past, we’re shown what the characters have endured for the 20 years following the end of civilization as they knew it. 

 

 

What I liked: Not feeling utterly hopeless when I turned the last page. I liked how full the characters felt, despite not knowing their back stories. It was a wake up call to how much I take for granted: seeing airplanes in the sky, being able to reach my husband whenever I want to, the internet... I also appreciated the lack of zombies or zombie-like creatures— the flu made it more realistic. Which leads me to...

What I didn’t like: EVERYONE DIED FROM A SUPER FLU. Too realistic and had me reaching for a breathing mask.

I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because the characters still managed to find the humanity in survival— as Star Trek says, “because survival is insufficient.”

Psst: The link to the book is an affiliate link, which means I may earn a few cents if you purchase it using the link. However, I'm also a huge fan, HUGE, of the local library. So if that's more your style then go forth and support your library!

10 Things You Can Do To Increase Your Confidence

I’ll admit, I was initially surprised when I read about the connection between having confidence in myself and being productive. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. I feel the best about myself when I chip away at my to-do list like a professional ice sculptor, and I’m that much closer to a goal or two. When I’m feeling like my best lady-boss self, my posture is better, my smile is brighter and I have that proverbial bounce in my step.

The opposite is true too— on those days when the most productive thing I do is put on pants, I don’t feel very confident about anything. That sluggish, can’t-do-anything feeling weighs down on me, making simple tasks feel like the New York Times crossword puzzle on Saturday. In order to keep you productive and feeling confident, I’ve compiled a list of 10 habits that keep me moving on my productive days and that help me get through my not-so-productive ones as well. I hope they help! If there are any tips that keep you groovin’ please share them in the comment section!

1. Set up a game plan for the day

I love mornings because anything is possible. Take advantage of that possibility and schedule your day accordingly. Do your heavy thinking, or the tasks that require the most from you, when your mind is “on.” For some people— myself included— that’s the morning. Others ease into the day and really hit their stride in the afternoon or evening. Find what works for you and block off that time. I find that if I keep myself off social media and other distracting sites first thing in the morning, I generally get more done. I’m able to put my curiosity and effort into my research and articles instead of falling down the click-bait holes.

2. Break down your goals into manageable tasks

Take a look at your goals or your tasks— are there any that can be broken up into smaller pieces? It’s overwhelming to know that you need to complete a major project by the end of the month, but probably less overwhelming to think that this major project is made up of many smaller tasks. Breaking a project down into manageable pieces makes it easier to cross them off your list and before you know it, you’re turning in your project and opening the champagne!

3. Stick with one item on your to-do list at a time

I’ve found that jumping from task to task without completing anything just leaves me frazzled and my to-do list just as full. Sticking to a task, however, let’s me cross it off my list and gets me closer to my goal. Being able to focus on what’s important and prioritize has definitely helped me get better at this.

4. Write it down so you don’t forget it

Of course there are days where I can’t focus on anything, much less one task. When this happens, I make sure to be extra detailed about writing down my tasks and my to-do’s to tackle when I’m back on the productivity train.

5. Tidy up

I’m not telling you to have a spotless desk or home because we all know what works for us. Clearing out papers you don’t need anymore, emptying the trash, and re-stacking your piles helps clear any lingering mental fog, and it gets your space ready for you. At the very least, it’s taking an action when you very much don’t feel like doing anything.

6. Do not reach for your phone

Don’t do it. There are some studies out there that say people check their phones 85-150 times a day, spending 5+ hours scrolling, tapping, and gaming. I find myself reaching for my phone when I want to be distracted because I’m uncomfortable. Maybe I’m stuck trying to write a tough article, checking my phone is easier than working through the stuck. If there aren’t any notifications, fine… I’ll look through Instagram. If there are, then my brain switches track and I dive into that. When that happens, it’s twice as hard for me to get back to the task at hand. Unless you’re waiting for a very important call or text, try your best to keep your phone out of sight while you work.

7. Challenge yourself to “5 more minutes” of work

I find myself doing this towards the end of the day, when all I want to do is stare into space or hide under my desk. I’ve found that if I keep my head down for 5 more minutes, I can complete one more task. That’s one less thing I have to do the next day! When my brain feels like it’s about to fall out of my ears, I’ll try to spend the final 5 minutes making notes on whatever I’m writing about, so I know where to pick up the next day. Pro Tip: Explain your notes to yourself. You may not remember what you meant when you scribbled, circles. It would be a shame to miss a great piece because you thought you would remember.

8. Visualize yourself completing the task

When we’re bogged down in the details, it can seem like we’re never going to accomplish our goal and that sucks. Take a second to remember what you’re working towards. Think about how great it’s going to feel when your article is accepted, when you cross that finish line, when you play Hedwig’s Theme for your family at Christmas… That should help keep you moving!

9. Take a stretch break

Talk about keeping you moving, get up and move your body! Whether you’re being productive or not so much, it’s good to get up and stretch to keep blood flowing. It keeps your mind from getting sleepy and gives you a chance to step away from the computer— your eyes and back will appreciate it.

10. Pump Up the Jams (or Podcast)

When you’re feeling good, every song is your walk-up song. When you’re feeling a little more like you’re not sure you’ll ever work again, the right song can get you moving. Listening to songs that help you create, or podcasts that inspire you will help you blow through your to-do list in a blaze of glory. They can also re-inspire you if you’ve lost momentum or are at a crossroads.

I've found that not only are productivity and confidence related, but it's a cycle. The more confident I feel about my abilities, the more productive I am in my work. 

Consider this another argument for the hammock

hammock

I love the idea of relaxing in a hammock, even though actually getting into one proves difficult for me sometimes. All that swaying, you know? Once I’m in, though, it’s wonderful— especially with a book, a breeze, and a cool drink within reach. Okay and a puppy in my lap. That's not too much to ask, is it? I can almost hear the wind chimes on the porch... Hold on, what was I saying? Oh yeah, hammocks. Okay, stay with me...

Norman Lear was on Wait Wait ...Don’t Tell Me! a few weeks ago, and he said something about being present that no personal development book and no yoga class has ever said so well. I thought about how quick I am to brainstorm the next project while finalizing details on the one I’m finishing and how that’s just a little rude to the current project. Or I’ll dream about how good it’s going to feel when I jump in the pool as soon as I leave work, completely ignoring the fun and joy of picking up speed on my bike.

Mr. Lear was asked for advice on how to be as happy and successful at 93 years old, as he is. And he said:

Two simple words. Maybe as simple as any two words in the English language: Over and Next. And we don’t pay enough attention to them. When something is over, it is over. And we are on to Next. And if there was to be a hammock in the middle between over and next, that would be what is meant by “living in the moment.”
— Norman Lear


So, in the spirit of Summer— and appreciating exactly where you are today— I think we should all jump (carefully!) into our hammocks. They can be the mental hammock of being in the moment, your actual hammock— don’t forget your lemonade— or both. Wherever you are in your life, in your career, or in your travels, wherever you are between “over” and “next,” take some time to pay attention to that moment.

Creative Pain & Other Discomforts

Confession: I’ve been sitting on an article for a while because I’m afraid to write it. What’s especially embarrassing is that it was my idea- and something I’m excited to talk about. What’s stopping me? MYSELF! My own dang mind.

The worst creative pain is seeing someone do what you’re afraid to do.
— Hallie Rose Taylor

I’m seeing all of these incredible women do these amazing things, and I’m awed into inaction.

Oof.

Carson Tate’s article for 99u about intellectual discomfort called out to me almost as loud as Hallie’s knock-out line. As soon as I combined the tools from Tate’s article with the emotion Hallie’s, I was ready to go. Google docs are popping up like bluebonnets and I’m pushing myself to work through the nerves and discomfort. As I worked, a pattern started to emerge though, and it wasn’t pretty.

I would write a few lines and then check my phone, or discover I was simply too thirsty to finish that sentence. I would make a dozen little adjustments to my desk, fidget a little more and then, then I could write. Fidget. Adjust. Repeat.

No wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere! I leaned into distractions and gave them way more weight than they deserved. So now I’m working on writing when I want to fidget, or check my phone one more time. Engaging in my work as it deserves to be engaged.

I’m also employing my “five more minutes” rule. When I get the urge to get up from my desk or distract myself, I give myself permission… if I just work for 5 more minutes. What I’m finding is that I don’t actually need to get up, it was just the resistance trying to throw me off my game. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art.)


I encourage you to read Tate’s article and visit Hallie’s site. Both women have a unique perspective to work— and how they work— with everyday life applications. More importantly though, I encourage you to sit down with your project— whatever it is— for just 5 (more) minutes. Trust me, you don’t want to know that you were the one standing in your own way.

Oh. And if you're wondering, I submitted the article. I'll let y'all know if it's accepted!

When All You Want To Do Is Lie In The Road.

My sweet sister-in-law taught me the phrase, “lie in the road” several years ago. While it’s not used literally- most of the time- it does signify a serious break. To lie in the road is to take a temporary step back from what happened (or what is happening), take a minute to reflect, and then get back to work. Sorry Mr. Frost, I won't be taking either of the roads right now. I'm just gonna lie down here for a minute...

You will generally find me on said road:

  • At the end of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day
  • At the completion of a stressful project, before the start of the next stage
  • After receiving bad news or a rejection
  • While reading the news

To lie in the road is not to meditate, but it is meant to be time spent refueling and powering up for what you need to do next. Think long baths- preferably with bubbles- and listening to your most angsty music. Okay, that’s what I do. And it works. What works for you?

Prime demonstration of how to lie in the road. Credit here, you're welcome.

Prime demonstration of how to lie in the road. Credit here, you're welcome.

The tricky part though, is getting up and out of the road. Again, you have to find what works for you. Keep in mind that action -and not inspiration- is what is going to get you moving. I could be inspired up to my eyeballs, but that won’t get any of my writing out into the world. It’s hard, after experiencing a setback, to keep going forward. There’s self doubt, bruised ego and major disappointment. Again, that’s me… but maybe it’s you, too?

Remember when I said it's a temporary step back? I meant it. You're not roadkill so up, up, up!!! Quick, list three things you can do to move forward.

Mine are:

  • Submit a piece I've been sitting on
  • Create next month's content calendar
  • Utilize my Skillshare membership to learn some new skills, especially about storytelling.