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Ronda Bowen

Author, Editor, Blogger, Consultant, Scholar, Volunteer, Maker, Photographer

#MondayMotivation: Down Time is Just as Important as Productivity

Motivation Monday

Have you ever felt like no matter how bad you want to you just can’t get started because you’re stuck in what feels like several feet of mud? You may be suffering from burnout, particularly if you have been super-busy for a long-stretch. Burnout sucks! (And that’s to put it mildly). If you’ve ever suffered from it, you know how hard it is to get started again, and you know how badly you wish you could have avoided it.

Taking breaks is just as important as being productive. I know a lot of people throw the phrase “life balance” around, and it can seem like balance is just not possible, particularly in 2017. Here’s why you want to strive for it anyway: Your body and brain have a way of making you stop when you’re doing too much. Not only can you suffer from mental burnout and adrenal fatigue, but pushing too hard for too long can do long can lead to long-term physical effects including weight gain, heart problems, and depression.

What Do You Like to Do for Fun?

It’s amazing how many people cannot answer this question, but it’s so important to have things you enjoy – whether it’s getting out and taking a stroll in a park or it’s knitting.  Don’t say you like to work for fun – that’s just going to lead to more burnout – and if you do things you love for work (write, craft, etc.) make sure you have other things that you do to decompress.

Schedule Down Time Each Week

Put your down time on your calendar each week. If you schedule time for it, you’re more likely to do it. Consider making plans with a friend or family member to engage in the fun activity – that will help to keep you accountable.

If Your Schedule is Full, Say “No”

“No” is not a bad word. Look over your obligations. What do you already have on your plate? If you are already close to being booked or overbooked, there’s no shame in telling someone you don’t have the bandwidth right now. Even if you do decide to say “yes” now, make sure you don’t make a habit of overbooking yourself, and schedule some extra time off after the busy period is over.

What do you do to ensure you get breaks? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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#MondayMotivation – Getting Back on the Horse When You Fall

Recently, there was a lot going on (isn’t there always). The kids were sick, then I got sick. We had the oldest come in from college for Thanksgiving. I managed to overdo it while running the Turkey Trot a couple weeks ago, and then I managed to step funny on my foot, causing my knee to twist. Needless to say, by the time I finally made it back to my No Boundaries running group, it had been two weeks since I’d run.

First, You Have to Get Back Up

I cannot tell you how many times life has knocked me down. If I started to even talk about all the hurdles, you’d probably stop reading and walk away. I have tripped over a lot of hurdles, believe me. What’s important isn’t tripping. It isn’t being knocked down. It’s standing up, dusting yourself off, and continuing on your path. You won’t fail unless you decide you’re just not going to get up.

Sure, when I’m first knocked down, I talk a good game. “I’m never going to run again.” or “I’m done writing forever!” or the ever-so popular, “Maybe running a business isn’t for me.” But then, not even twenty minutes later, I’m signing up for a half-marathon, doing a word-sprint on my novel, or replying to the latest inquiry into my services and adding to my marketing plan.

Take Quitting off the Table

Just take it off. Even if you feel like you want to quit, it’s not an option if you want to be successful in the endeavor you’re undertaking. Fall down once, get up once. Fall down fifty times, get up fifty times. Take whatever caused you to fall as a lesson, figure out how you can prevent it in the future, and adjust your course of travel.

I keep getting up because quitting just isn’t an option – even if I entertain the idea for a moment or two once in a while when things get tough. Instead, I take a brutally honest look at where I went wrong and then recommit myself to my goal.

Get Back on *a* Horse

Sometimes, it is true that a particular horse is not the horse for you. Perhaps a business idea you thought was viable just isn’t viable or your knees really cannot withstand the impact from running. When life deals those cards, it’s time to take a deep breath, evaluate what you can do about the situation, and modify your course. Don’t stop! Just because this horse isn’t for you doesn’t mean there isn’t a horse that you’re more compatible with. Find that horse, get on it, and get on your way once you’ve given yourself time to regroup and recover.

What do you do when things get in the way of your success? Share your thoughts in the comments.

#MotivationMonday Baby Steps Get You There

This past weekend, I ran my first race since April, 2013. It was 2 miles, and while I’m in the process of training for a 5K, I just started that training a couple of weeks ago. Halfway through the race – at about the one mile mark – I started to wonder why I had done this to myself. Why did I sign up for a race so soon into my training? (Moreover, why did I sign up for two!?! I’m running again on Thanksgiving). Then I summoned my energy: I just needed to get to the finish line.

There are a lot of steps in two miles. It can seem like a huge distance, but the thing is, it’s only a huge distance if you let it be. If you focus solely on the next step, soon, you’ll reach that finish line.

Goals are a lot like distance running.

When you have a big goal, it can seem big, scary, hairy, and audacious. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming. If you’ve already made sure that the goal you’ve set is SMART, then you’re halfway there. Just like a race has a start and finish, it’s important for your goal to have a clearly marked start and finish. Making your goals SMART does this. SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

There are a few different variations of the acronym, but the idea is the same – you need to have concrete goals. “Become a raging success” isn’t very helpful.  There is no clear start and no clear finish. You can’t make a marked path to get to the end. It’s just a cloudy idea. Trying to make that goal happen will just lead you to be lost off in the woods somewhere wondering how you got there.

Goals need milestones

If you only know where the start and the finish for your race are, you’re able to get there – eventually. Having a marked race path, however, helps you get there efficiently, and with a defined path, you’ll know exactly where you stand at any point in the race. For example, when I started questioning my sanity in the 2-miler, I knew I was halfway to the finish line. I knew I just had to make my body work for me for one more mile. Had I not seen the mile marker, I may have been less motivated to finish.

How will you know that you’re on the correct path to meeting your goal? Creating milestones can help. By looking at your goal and determining what milestones you will have for the goal, you can start to map out the path to success.

Milestones need actions

Once you’ve created your goal’s milestones, you can create the actions necessary for meeting each milestone, and ultimately, for meeting your goal. The action items define the exact path you need to take between each milestone to get to the goal’s finish line. These are the baby steps you will take toward making your dreams come true. Try to make your action items as small as possible. Write them as complete sentences. You should be able to know exactly what needs to be done to call that action item done.

By taking time to plan out your goals, you have a greater likelihood of seeing them through to completion.

What goals are you working on meeting right now? Share in the comments section.

 

 

#MotivationMonday Create Habits to Make Repetitive Tasks “Mindless” Tasks

When you have a lot of daily tasks, it can be daunting to check them off. Sometimes, too, we develop bad habits with regards to daily tasks. When you have a lot of repetitive tasks, it makes sense to track them as you would a habit, so that they become automatic to you.

Define The Task

Give some definition to the task at hand. Determine what you need to do to call the task complete, and write it down. This will help you to have defined start and end points for your new habit.

Create a Habit Tracker

Many people are using habit trackers in their bullet journals and planners. Consider using a habit tracker to ensure that your tasks get done when they need to at the intervals in which they need to get done.

Don’t Skip It!

Just like skipping teeth-brushing can ruin your dental health, skipping your repetitive task can be damaging to your productivity and can inhibit your ability to meet your long-term goals. Even if it’s going to be done late, do it! It’s always worth it when you do.

Do It Well

Don’t just go through the motions. Aim to complete your task to the highest of your abilities. Take pride in your work – no matter how repetitive (and boring) a task may seem to you at the time. You never know who is watching.

Create a Trigger So It Becomes Automatic

If you cannot automate the task yourself, you might as well figure out a trigger task that will make your repetitive task automatic. Trying to keep on top of budgeting? Go out for a coffee on a Monday afternoon. Trying to keep up with your weekly review? Put on your favorite music to rock out to for a soundtrack.

How do you make repetitive tasks automatic?

Share your favorite #MotivationMonday tip in the comments section.

#MotivationMonday The Fine Art of Writing a Crappy First Draft

I’m working on a novel, Dances With Crazy, for NaNoWriMo (You can follow my journey here), and I’m 10,009 words in. Those 10,009 words are very rough, they make up what Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird called a “shitty first draft.” Giving yourself permission to write a less than stellar first draft is perhaps the most important thing you can do in order to boost your productive writing time.

Just Get Words Down on Paper

It doesn’t matter if those words will wind up in your final draft or not. But if you’re editing while you’re writing, you’ll take much longer to finish your project than you would if you wrote the first draft straight through. When you already have the words down, it becomes much easier to edit those words and move them around on the page. Whenever you write anything, your first goal should be to get as many words down on paper as possible.

Don’t Edit, Don’t Delete!

Now is not the time to perfect what you’re trying to say. Don’t go back and fix the spelling error; don’t go back and delete those extraneous words. Not yet anyway. Wait until you write the last sentence of your piece before you start the editing process. Remember, it’s a completely separate step in the writing process.

Set a Timer

If you have to, set a timer and race it while you write. This is especially handy if you’re not like me, and you don’t have a built-in toddler timer who will start eating the paint instead of putting it on the paper if you take too long writing your shitty first draft. See what you can lay down in 10 minutes.

Give Yourself Permission to Make it Terrible!

Seriously, you’re not trying to write the best thing that’s ever been written right now. In fact, the crappier the draft, the better. That way, you’re not too attached to it when it’s time to edit. Sometimes, the simple act of saying “It’s okay. I’m going to write a messed up, horrible first draft” is all the gas you need to get it done.

If you write, and you haven’t yet read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, I strongly recommend it. While this is one of my favorite pieces of advice coming from the book, there is a lot of good information in the book. You can purchase it here. (Affiliate Link)

So tell me, do you give yourself permission to write a terrible first draft when you sit down to write?

#MotivationMonday: Enlist Others on Your Journey

You can’t do it all alone. You might try, but it’s rough. Even if you’re a practicing solopreneur, you’ll need people in your corner cheering you on when things get rough – and they will get rough. When you’re trying to be productive, knowing that someone is waiting to hear whether you met your goals can make all the difference between a day spent on the couch and a day making things happen. This is where an accountability partner or a mastermind group can really help boost your success.

What is An Accountability Partner

Years ago, when I first started getting super-serious about the whole success thing, I read “Find A Writing Partner; Make Yourself Accountable” by Anne Wayman at About Freelance Writing. I wound up meeting my first accountability partner through the post, and it was a great experience. We would check in with each other Mondays and Fridays, bookend things we were trying not to procrastinate on, and support each other virtually through our writing ups and downs. Then life happened, moves happened, and very unfortunately, we moved on in our accountability journey.

I do have an accountability partner now, and like clockwork we meet on Mondays and check in throughout the week for “water cooler chat” while we work on things. This makes the whole working at home thing a lot less lonely and isolating – and it helps keep us both on track for our goals.

What is a Mastermind Group?

A mastermind group is a small (under 10 usually) group of people who meet to go over their goals and what they need to do. I run a Facebook group for women who would like to boost their efforts to do well. Mastermind groups usually meet either weekly or monthly, often over coffee or lunch (or virtually), and they answer four questions:

  1. What successes did you have?
  2. What challenges or obstacles did you face?
  3. What opportunities did you come across?
  4. What is your next set of goals?

People in the group work together to ensure that they help build everyone in the group up by answering questions about strategies for overcoming obstacles and challenges and by cheering one another on.

What’s Best for You?

What’s best for you and your situation will depend upon your goals, the stage of life you’re at, and what your preferences are for getting together with others. Accountability partners and masterminds can be virtual or in-person meetings.

Have you had an accountability partner or worked with a mastermind group before? Post about your experiences in the comments.

What I’m Working On October 2017

Happy Fall!

Right now as I write, my 22 month old is throwing a tantrum because the toy he is playing with isn’t doing what he wants it to do. The 3 1/2 year old is dancing in circles (literally) around him as he stomps, and the 5 month old is napping. A city near my hometown where I grew up is on fire, people are still reeling from last week’s shooting, and Puerto Rico still needs a lot of help. There is a lot of chaos in the world – both adjacent to where I am writing my monthly update from and at large. In fact, a lot of places in the world could use some love right now.

It’s easy to get bogged down in what is going on around us. But, even as I’ve written this first paragraph, the tantrum has calmed (with no intervention from myself), building has resumed, and everyone is happy again. Sometimes intervention is needed, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes the chaos causes me to stop what I’m doing, stand up, and redirect. Sometimes it causes me to look over, sometimes it’s just background noise.

The world is like that too. It’s all-too easy to let another news story go past without paying much attention to it, but sometimes, there’s a lot all at once, and it causes an egregious amount of human suffering, and we pause, regroup, and get back at it. September was like that for me. So much happened, that I had to stop for a minute, get my bearings back, and regroup. It meant I did not progress as far as I’d wanted to on goals I’d had, and I had to step back from a couple of projects I really wanted to work on. But here I am, back at it. Here’s what I’m working on this month:

Consulting Work

I’ve been continuing work for the recovery center. I’m about to write some recovery through the holidays articles for the center.

If you haven’t already seen them, check out my two articles for the EVG Campfire Blog that have come out in the past several weeks:

Keep your eyes out, because I’m finishing up another article for the Campfire Blog that should be out soon. Also, my stock images article was highlighted by the Content Management Institute’s newsletter.

I’m also going to be doing some blogging work for Creative Mindscapes starting this month.

Independent Scholar Work

Oh boy, do I have a lot going on in this category. I have some things that I need to put the finishing touches on, but here’s a list of current work in progress:

  1. Philosophy and Wikileaks – “They Can’t Handle the Truth: Plato’s Republic and Wikileaks”
  2. Encyclopedia of Sexism in American Cinema – Entries on Supergirl (1984) and Tank Girl (1995)
  3. Chicana and Chicano Movement – Entries on Chicana/o Poetry and Political Repression and Voter Rights
  4. Critical Perspectives on 21st Century Friendship: Representations, Identities, Roles, Work – an essay titled “‘I Mom SO Hard!’ Social Media Mom Groups and Competition, Drama, Education, and Friendship Between Moms”
  5. Music Around the World – entries on Acadian Music, Northwestern Coast Music, Inuit Music, Great Basin Music, and Bolero

I’m excited to be getting back into some of the research work I’ve been missing.

Magazine Work

The latest issue of Equanimity Magazine is out, and I have four articles in it. You can access the Fall Special issue here. Here are my article titles:

  • “Keep Growing: An Interview with Italian-American Singer and Actress Cristina Lizzul”
  • “The Voice’s Youngest Finalist: A Chat with Singer Aliyah Moulden”
  • “Rising Out of the Shadows: Philip Bowman’s Transcendence from Mischief to Ministry”
  • “Authentically Masiela: An Interview with Masiela Lusha of The Lopez Show and Sharknado 4

Blogging Work

My blogs have been a bit quiet lately. I’ll be posting more on them soon.
I’m also starting a partnership with a progressive startup. I will be writing about Kansas politics and activism.

Non-Profit Work

Our monthly JB Dondolo board meeting is taking place next week. We’ve had a lot of success recently, and I’m looking on sharing more information about that soon!

I’m sure I have a lot more to share that I haven’t listed here, I can’t wait to share it with you soon!

What are you working on this month?

#MotivationMonday Beating the Blues

When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to get things done. That’s why it’s so important to beat the blues and combat depression when you’re a person who wants to accomplish big things. But getting through the muck that is depression can be rough-going. Here are some ideas that can help you get back to making things happen – even if it’s only a little bit at a time.

1. Break Big Projects into Bite-Size Chunks

It’s no fun trying to get things done when everything you need to do seems so big. That’s why it’s important, especially when you’re trying to pull yourself up and out of a slump, to break those tasks into “micro-actions.” Instead of “cleaning the kitchen,” try “clean the clutter off the left counter.” Instead of “write the article,” try “write part one of section one of the article.” Julia at The Business Bakery runs a 100 Day Goal Challenge, and one of the biggest factors for success in the challenge is breaking the goal down into micro-actions that move you closer to your goal each day.

2. Keep Moving, Even if it’s at a Slower Pace

When you’re down, it’s tempting to stop and “couch and fondle the remote control” (Brownie points if you can identify what movie that’s from). But, at least for me, that leads to more feelings of despondency and despair – especially when you have goals you’re working toward. When you stop, you watch as your goals further move from you, you let people down who are counting on you, and the anxiety piles on. Instead, even if you have to slow down a little, try to get one thing done each day that moves you forward.

3. Enlist Help from an Accountability Partner

Sometimes, to get things done, it’s important to seek a support figure. If you don’t have an accountability partner, or if you’re not part of an accountability group, find one to be part of. (I run a Mastermind group for women on Facebook. The group exists for women to network and support one another; there is no advertising or selling allowed.) An accountability partner can help gently prod you into action, and can help remind you of what your goals are.

4. Play the “For Just Five Minutes Game”

It’s hard to get stared when you’re head isn’t in it. Try using a randomizer tool like this one. Select one small task from your list and commit yourself to it – for just 5 minutes – with a timer. The benefits of this are two-fold: There are many tasks that can be completed in under five minutes and sometimes five minutes is all you need in order to get jumping on a task.

5. Tidy Your Work Area Up

When you’re not feeling like doing much, sometimes it’s because you have a lot of clutter in your visual space. Try tidying your work area up just a bit to see how that can help. A lot of the time, it will feel like a load has been taken off – even if all you’ve managed to do is clear off your desk.

6. Revisit Your Goals and Projects Lists

Look them over. What has to be done? What can go for now? By looking over your lists, you can make some judgment calls that can help alleviate some of the overwhelm that can happen when there’s just too much to do.

What do you do when you’re feeling down but still need to get things done? Post your tips in the comments section.

 

#MotivationMonday Should You Push Through When You’re Exhausted?

I’m TIRED. I have small children who seem to never sleep, a student off at college embarking on his own adventure, a husband to hang out with, two businesses and soon-to-be three blogs. I help with a charity, I work to publish my own original work, and…

You get the idea.

Some days, I just want to climb right back into bed and nap the day away.
I’ll be honest, some days, I have to do just that.

In the United States, we have a culture of productivity and exhaustion. It almost seems like a competition, particularly in the mom set, to see who can continue to work while exhausted for the longest period of time. Heck, I’ve been known to really push myself when deadlines loom.

But over the years, I’ve learned something really important. If you work yourself to the bone, soon, all you will be is all-bone. You’ll stare into space, tune out, and feel burned out. You may even find yourself sick with some sort of respiratory infection (at least, for me, that’s how stress and exhaustion manifest) and knocked out of commission for weeks instead of hours.

Sometimes, you can get away with pushing through fatigue – but not always. At some point, it really does catch up with you, either in the form of all-out exhaustion, or illness, or burnout.

Sometimes, you really should stop and rest – even if you don’t want to. Sometimes, the best thing is to forgo a project or push back the date of a launch if you can.

So, dear readers, I throw this question out to you: Do you push through fatigue or do you stop and rest to save energy for another day? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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