Am I Actually Being Productive?

Emily—you said something to me a while back that I basically haven’t stopped thinking about. I don’t remember the exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, “you keep starting new projects to ignore the fact that you don’t have a hobby.”  While I don’t remember it clearly, I do remember the questions it made me ask myself.

Do I start new projects to ignore the fact that I have no persistent, passionate hobbies?

Do I continue to start new projects to cover up the fact that I’m not finishing projects?

Am I actually being productive?

My friends like to give me crap because I’m basically always planning a new project: a new blog, a new RPG campaign, a book I want to write, rules for a new system; it’s all in good fun. They love to point out that I have no time left in my week. My partner loves to laugh with me every time I have a new idea I want to chase.

A big problem I face is that many of my projects don’t have designated end dates. This blog started and doesn’t exactly have a stopping point. When we started Write Makes Right, we didn’t really have an end point in mind. I want to start a third blog publishing DnD content, and that also won’t really have an end date in mind.

I don’t have a lot of free time anymore, so if I want to pursue these things I need to become a work horse, or I need to start cutting out more of my free time. Or the third option: I can be more productive with my time. I can make schedules and set deadlines.

But lets back up and revisit the questions before. I keep myself really busy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m being productive.

Do I trick myself into believing that doing anything is productive? Or should I cut the fat and find a few core projects to focus instead of trying to do everything? Right now, on a given week where I’m working a bunch of stuff, I work nearly every night. That means I’m quite busy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean productive.

So what is productivity then?

Productivity_Definition

Does it need to be defined by input and output? Does it need to be defined by the value of the work? I think the first thing I need to do is define productivity for myself.

I work on stuff as often as I do because I want to build experience and form creative habits. I would love to eventually be a writer and designer for games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder. But first I need to practice doing this on my own. The idea of a savant who is genius from the start is a lie, and I know that if I want to eventually pitch these things to companies, I need to have experience under my belt.

I take a lot of inspiration from the German Bauhaus school and it’s artistic movements. I learned about it in college and I was enamored with it. The original Bauhaus school was a bunch of designers and artists who had grown tired with the movements of the past, and came together to create a school and a collective. Just to push art forward and create new and interesting things based on newer, more modern ideologies. Many great designers were part of it back when it was still a thing. A lot of artists used the school to create great volumes of work that we still emulate today.

That’s the idea I am trying to encompass when I’m toiling away at the things I want to create. Maybe I shouldn’t bother wondering whether the thing I want to create is going to have value. I think I value the journey a lot more than the product.

Important Thing #1: I place more value in the journey, rather than the product I create.

But let’s back up. What if I stretch myself too thin and I botch the landing? If one spreads their attention between too many ideas, none of those topics get the attention it deserves. It’s cool and all that I have so many things I want to do, but instead of adding more to the workload, perhaps it would be better to form a list and then work on them one at a time.

I could also make the argument that a lot of things don’t get worked on. I have a list of things I want to create and accomplish, but they are always put off because I have something more important to work on—usually Rogue Trader prep or blog posts.

I have always known that I work better and more creatively when my deadline is close. It was probably the most important thing I learned in college: when under pressure, I perform better. This is still prevalent today, it’s the reason I keep trying to start projects and activities that have an inherent, “thing is needed on this day.” Seven Degrees of Smudde, Write Makes Right, and Rogue Trader all have deadlines I need to meet, and as that deadline looms I become far more productive.

There it was. I used the word productive candidly. So what can I learn about this?

Important Thing #2: I need to be completing things on a deadline.

That one makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t be concerned with productivity if I wasn’t concerned with time, right?

We should also consider that a lot of my projects are things I would like to do, not have to do. No sense adding deadlines upon deadlines for each project I come up with. I’m sure I’d get a lot more done, but I’d also be a stressed out, anxious mess.

One of the above definitions of productivity is: “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.”

I already talked about how I don’t necessarily want to measure my productivity in an input to output ratio. But perhaps I can instead group my ideas by overarching categories and treat it as one large, spanning project. Then it will be easier to dissect everything into smaller steps that I can complete on deadlines. I can complete more pieces of larger wholes and still go on a longer journey while also having easy to accomplish goals.

Important Thing #3: Categorize individual ideas into larger wholes so that I can complete larger ideas by finishing smaller pieces.

I have tons of things I want to create for Dungeons and Dragons, Rogue Trader, and eventually my own RPG system. It only makes sense that I take all the elements that fit into one category and begin doing treating it as one whole. Instead of trying to contextualize wanting to create seven new player races, and dozens of new monsters, I can instead think of it as my “DnD Project” with the goal of completing one piece per month. Instead of trying to write chapters simultaneously, I can instead think of it as a book where I tackle smaller parts.

All of this probably seems really obvious to many—if not all of you. But I struggle to contain my wandering mind, so parsing all of this helps me slow down and find my stride. My mind wants to spend its time trying to manage my energy, when really I should instead try and manage the workflow so that my energy is spent more efficiently. Whenever I want to do something, for an example, create a new class in Dungeons and Dragons, my brain thinks, “Yeah, if I just buckle down and get to work I should be able to squeeze this in.” But that’s not really how anything works. It’s a romantic idea to believe that I am a content creating machine, but I’m just setting myself up for failure.

—DTM

 

 

 

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What a Terrible Week

Obviously my post this week is going up late. I wish I had a decent excuse as to why, but it really all comes down to the fact that I’ve had a crappy week.

It all started on Monday when I was dropped off at the airport.

The morning had been pretty easy. I got up, packed the few things I would need for my work trip, and then had a friend drop me off at the airport. We left about thirty minutes earlier than we needed to because I wanted to buy him a cup of coffee as a ‘thank you’ for driving me to the airport. Michael had a pretty nasty cold so he didn’t want to get up early and take me, which was fine. However, that side trip to the coffee shop took about a third of the time I had thought it would, so I ended up at the airport an hour and a half before my flight.

Now, you might say, “An hour and a half? That’s barely enough time to get through security!” Well, that is one of the many benefits of living in a small town like mine. Our airport has only one security gate and it takes like five minutes to get through it. You could get to the airport thirty minutes before your flight and still have time to use the restroom and get a snack.

Anyway, I wasn’t too worried about it. Being early is better than being late, right? And that just gave me more time to work on my laptop. No big deal.

Well, the WiFi wasn’t working and I did have a few urgent emails to send before we got to our destination. I thought to myself, “well that’s crappy, but oh well. I can work when we get to our first layover.” Little did I know that the day was only going to go downhill from there.

About twenty minutes after I arrived, I found out the flight was delayed by an hour so I was actually almost three hours early to an airport that had a grand total of two gates. Did I also mention that you walk directly out onto the tarmac to get to your flight? That tiny.

So I settled in to do some reading while I waited on my flight and then noticed something interesting on my flight itinerary. My first layover was only about forty five minutes, which meant that this hour delay in my first flight was going to make me miss my connection.

Well fuck.

After some finagling, the flight agent managed to find me another connection down in San Francisco. However, the flight was a red eye and I would be getting to my destination at 6 a.m. the next morning. My meeting started at 8 a.m. the next morning so, if everything went as planned, I would get a grand total of two hours to get to the hotel, shower, change, drink as much coffee as humanly possible, and then head right to my ten hour meeting.

Well fuck.

Everything did end up going as planned from there, but I’m not going to lie and say Tuesday was a good day. It sucked. It sucked so much. I was able to sit through my all day meeting, but I had to get up and move around every twenty minutes or so to make sure I didn’t fall asleep where I was sitting. I also hadn’t thought my wardrobe through and brought heels to wear to my meeting. Thankfully, I did not fall on my face.

The meeting was two days, so I did manage to get a decent night’s sleep at the hotel. However, the next day I had to pack up and head the airport right after the meeting because I had another late evening flight to catch. If I had known I was going to end up taking a red eye in the first place, I would have never agreed to such a late flight.

So, in conclusion, I got to my destination at 6 in the morning and spent a grand total of about thirty six hours there before I had to fly home.

Well fuck.

So I got home and slept for about ten hours before heading into work to catch up on emails and check in on a few projects. During my very brief day, I got a phone call saying I had been denied on a very awesome opportunity, which I will tell you about later, Daniel. After that I went home, opened a beer, and climbed into bed to rewatch Gilmore Girls for the hundredth time because when you’re depressed, there’s not much else you can do.

After a few episodes, Michael managed to cheer me up and I finally felt energized enough to write my post. And then, boom. I got hit by a migraine.

Well fuck.

After taking aspirin and sleeping for another ten hours, I was able to get out of bed and go to work this morning, where I frantically tried to catch up a project I missed before I was kicked out of my office for an event. Still have a bit of a headache, but at least it’s manageable, right?

Right.

Anyway, here’s my post. It’s a little pointless and has no deeper meaning, but at least I got to bitch about my weekend. Maybe next time I’ll have something meaningful to write about.

-EMS

 

My Real Trip to Australia

I was really inspired by your last post. There are so many in-between moments in life that I love, like the gurgling noise my coffee maker makes in the morning or the golden glow of my desk lamp. I really want to make my own list of in-between moments, but first I want to talk about my trip to Australia.

And no, I’m not a group of spiders cleverly disguised as Emily, as awesome as that would be.

Anyway, I could write a novel about my trip to Australia. There were so many little things that I loved about that trip, like how the air always smelled like fresh rain or how sweet the coffee was. It was an amazing trip. It, in all honesty, changed my life for the better and that’s what I want to write about this week.

10300232_10207499472623028_5190581736642152200_nI feel like using the term “life-changing” is a bit of a cliché nowadays. It’s almost like the word “awesome” in my opinion. We use the word as just a catch-all term for when something is really good, despite the fact we came back from the trip and continued to lead the same life. My trip to Australia was a wonderful experience and it actually did change my life for the better.

Since I’ve returned from Australia I feel stronger, braver, more passionate, and more in control of my life and my destiny. I’m having difficulty finding the words describe how different I feel since my trip. Have you ever been somewhere that you used to know, but things have changed so much you don’t recognize it anymore? Remember when we drove through Tomah on our last trip to Wisconsin? Everything in the town seemed fuzzy and surreal, like we should remember the place, but we couldn’t. Now remember how it felt to turn the corner onto our childhood street? It’s like everything suddenly came into focus and I remember feeling at home.

That’s how it felt coming back from Australia. Like everything in my life suddenly came into focus and I had never realized it was fuzzy.

Going to Australia had been a lifelong dream of mine. When I was little, think elementary school age, I used to watch the Crocodile Hunter almost exclusively. I know, that’s such a silly reason to want to go to another country, but it’s the truth. I’d honestly been planning this trip since I was eleven and I finally got to go fourteen years later. I think that’s one of the reasons I feel braver and more in control. For the first time in my life I had achieved one of my dreams, a dream that no one else had for me. And I achieved it all on my own.

Don’t get me wrong, getting my college degree and finding a place of my own in this world have always been dreams, but those are everyone’s dreams. Do you know what I mean? When I was born, mom and dad never looked at me and said “I hope she gets to go to Australia one day.” No, but they probably said that about getting a college degree and creating my own life.

This trip was also incredibly relaxing. You probably already know this about me, but I tend to be a workaholic. Even when I take vacations from work, I tend to take my work with me in one form or another. I’ll answer emails or worry about upcoming projects, things like that. This trip was the first time I’ve ever let myself completely let go. I didn’t check my email, I didn’t worry about going back to work, I never thought about what I had to do next. I only thought about what I wanted to do next.

For the first time I actually had the opportunity to be honest with myself. I would wake up in the morning and think “What do I want to do now?” Instead of thinking about what I had to do at work or my other responsibilities, I could actually think about my real passions. I could get up, drink coffee, and read my book or I could go for a run. That feeling was amazing and now, despite being back in the states and at work, I’ve actually learned how to be honest with myself. I’m better at prioritizing my day and knowing when I need to take care of my own needs. I also feel more passionate about my hobbies and spend more time crocheting, reading, and writing.

1918243_10207515415581592_98216960889223726_nAs I mentioned, this trip was also wonderful because for the first time I was actually thinking about what I wanted instead of what everyone else wanted. I never had to wait for someone else to suggest something. I would just bring it up myself. The best example from my trip I can give was when I went snorkeling in the shark tank at Underwater World. No one else wanted to do it with me.

Before this trip I would have just not done it because the group didn’t want to do it. I would have worried that people had to wait on me or that, without some one with me, I wouldn’t know what to do. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m rambling. Anyway, on this trip I actually did things for me and trusted that my friends would tell me if they had a problem. I never worried about what other people wanted. I just thought about myself, which yes sounds selfish, but it was something I had never done before. Now I know I can do that and I feel stronger. I feel like I can do anything and that my friends will support me because they love me, not because I bend over backward to accommodate them.

So yes, I would honestly say that this trip to Australia was life changing. I feel like I can do anything now and that all of my dreams are attainable. I feel more worldly and loved. I love myself more to be honest. This entire post probably feels a little sappy and self-help-esque, but it’s the truth.

Sorry to chew your ear off, Daniel. Next post will probably be a list of in-between moments.

-EMS