Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Benefits of Transitions

Last post, I promised I would share my second technique that helps me maintain productivity. The first was giving myself small (or relatively small) rewards. But the second, is creating transition rituals to signal my brain it’s time to write. I call them Signal Rituals. Go figure. :o)

It’s a fact that our minds have to switch their mental gears to function optimally. One of the best ways you can help your brain do that is to create patterns in your life that identify a change from one activity to the next. For example, a lot of writers I know play a game of Words with Friends or jump on their email or facebook or blog then rev up to write.

That doesn’t work for me. I could stay for hours once there. (I have limited will power).

So I use glasses of water. I know when I fill a little cup of water up and drink it dry, it’s time to get my brain in the game of writing. I also use water drinking to signal time to exercise, time to get-the-kids-ready-for-school rush, and for my daily devotional time. Other rituals I use are: lighting a candle or other special lighting (like a lamp), music for the writing mood, spray on a good smell or put an oil in a diffuser, or breathing exercises.

It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s consistent and quickly accomplished.

After all, we use transitions with scenes in our stories, wouldn’t it make sense to use transitions for the scenes in our lives? :o)

Merry Christmas to you all!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Benefits of Small Rewards

Eep! I’ve gone a whole month again without posting. Of course, this time it was because I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), have had SEVERAL flu bugs attack me and my kids, and then my parents came for Thanksgiving, which became strictly family time (a good thing).

Enough with the excuses, though, I want to talk about NaNo. Yes, I did it! I won! And best of all, I finished a book I wanted to finish two and a half years ago. As another major positive, I established a daily writing habit I’m happy to have back in my life. The win-wins of NaNo!

I read somewhere that only about 14% of the people who sign up for NaNo actually finish it. That’s extremely low but hey—it’s an extreme ambition to write 50,000 words in one month. Most of us have lives beyond the keypad.

In light of that low statistic, I wanted to share two things that helped me see my goal through because they can apply to any goal-setting endeavor. The first was giving myself small (or relatively small) rewards. Second, I created transition rituals to signal my writing time. Today, I’m going to talk about rewarding only. Next post I’ll talk about signal rituals.

Some rewards I used or thought about using for daily or hourly milestones:
Soaking in a bath or hot tub
Spritzing a favorite smell (trust me—this is a sense that is far too ignored. A good smell can lift your soul out of any dungeon.)
Listening to a favorite song
Taking a short nap
Permitting myself to make random lists or free journal writing (I love making lists)
Volunteering time in my son’s class
Mind wandering for a few minutes (For some people, a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of focused work helps. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.)
Checking facebook/email/twitter etc. for a few minutes
Engaging in some breathing exercises
Lighting a candle
Sitting on the patio to soak up the sun rays
Sipping a cup of tea or a Pellegrino soda.

For big milestones, I did things like:
Go on a dinner date with my spouse
Go to lunch with my friends
Go to the movies
Go shopping without the kids
Go to a favorite hiking spot
Reorganize a pantry/cupboard or space I that was bothering me
Redecorate my desk
Buy a new essential oil and use it

You would need to think up your own rewards, but giving yourself a little pleasure is a huge benefit. It pushes productivity and it doesn’t have to be just one more thing to spend money on if you are creative.

As I was preparing this post, I came across this great article in Psychology Today about how little rewards can boost our enthusiasm about a task. A good read!