Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Archive for the tag “productivity”

Tomorrow never comes

You have today. Tomorrow is always just a dream. However, we do today to the best of our abilities, with the hope and dream of tomorrow.

Make today a present. Make today present. …Get my meaning?




Write Before Coffee

It took me nearly two years to cultivate a daily writing habit that worked. First, I went with word count, then I went with designating an amount of time for writing each day. Both of these goals were too overly ambitious, and they ended quickly.

Although I’ve written in far more detail about how to form a writing habit in a previous post, here, I will outline the two main tenants that helped me:

(1) Form new habits around the habits that you already have.
You will be more successful in creating a habit when it is associated with a habit you already have. For example, I write first, before I get my coffee. I’m a coffee addict, so there’s no way I’d forget to get my coffee. Thus, by forming a habit whereby I may not have my coffee until I’ve written, coffee becomes a reinforcing reward for the writing I’ve done.

(2) Your goal is not on productivity, you must focus on forming a habit, first.
Word count or writing for a set amount of time to move a project forward are very good goals for productivity. However, if you have not formed an addiction around writing first, achieving the productivity that you want can be difficult. Hence, the first thing you must do is form a writing habit that becomes an addiction. To do this, make your habit-forming goal reasonable and consistent. For example, I freewrite for 10 minutes every day. JUST 10. This means I know that every day, I will be writing. It doesn’t sound like much at all, but believe me, it’s not the amount of writing you do that you are trying to achieve. What you are trying to do, is accomplish the goal of getting the writing done. Every. Day.

So, for today’s writing prompt:

Think about your habits and addictions (e.g., brushing your teeth, getting coffee, taking lunch at a particular time), then schedule your writing before your normal habit. When will that be for you? Second, what’s a reasonable goal that you want to achieve in order to get this habit to work?

Need a push? Here’s some other posts I’ve written on the subject of writing sprints, journaling, and habit formation:

Write NOW – Jan. Writing Camp begins!

Today, find me on Twitter @yenbio as I follow my colleagues at the University of Rochester’s writing camp using #writingsprint to keep track of our sprints. We’re taking 10 minute breaks each hour, with a 1 hour break for lunch. We’re sprinting every day this week!

Need a boost? Check out my post on writing sprints.




Write your life – get ready for writing camp!

Make a journal that captures your thoughts. Learn to think through writing, by writing every day. You can’t keep everything in your head. It’s simply not productive! So, use a journal to hold your thoughts. Use today to prepare your journal. Here’s some posts to help you get started:

Keeping a research journal

Using Evernote to track things electronically

How to find writing time

About writing sprints

The Pomodoro technique

Then, join me tomorrow on Twitter for writing camp!  We will be doing 50 minute writing sprints starting at 9 am EST, and going until 3pm EST.


Stop, drop, and ROLL!!!


Image from Pixabay

I’m an overly ambitious person with a to do list a mile long that extends well out into the next decade.  However, I have received the gift of a very tight October 19th deadline (16 days) to get my dissertation proposal draft finished and turned into my committee (le gasp!).

To me, it feels like I’m perched on the edge of the Grand Canyon, about to make my jump over the edge, while asking myself to do the impossible – to fly!  Fortunately, I have a backup parachute if things don’t go well, but I don’t plan on using it.

Anyways, this  deadline made me think about how I have so many things I want and need to do – both on a weekly and daily basis.  However, as I look at my list, I have to be realistic, and strip everything down so that my most important goal gets done.

What that means is no distractions.  I don’t have time to be distracted.

STOP doing things that are not important or do not contribute to my #1 goal of writing my dissertation.

DROP anything that distracts you, and that can be done after October 19th.

ROLL with everything you’ve got.  EVERYTHING.  Keep your eye on the prize, and invest everything into getting it.  Rest later.

Which means, I may not be able to do regular blog posts for a while – and if I do, they will short, like this one.  Also, these posts are personal reminders, and for me to remember:  We experience life by being fully present.

We experience life by being fully present.  Sometimes, when these goals are particularly important and life-changing, they require our full presence to be achieved.  Your amount of effort and sacrifice is a clear message to your muses and the universe that yes, you want this goal so badly, that you are willing to live for it.

Be in the moment, and battle on, my friends!

Tuesday’s Tutorial – Pomodoro Technique

Hi everyone!

I love making tutorials for people to learn.  This tutorial is about the Pomodoro method – an easy time management technique that can really boost your productivity – especially when you are working at home and have your own schedule.

Essentially, you break up your day into 25-minute productive chunks, called “Pomodoros,” with either a 5 to 10 minute break in break in between each one.  Aubrey and I have turned Pomodoros into a science, and we squeeze out every single productive minute that we can out of them!  Here’s what we do:

  1. Start by making a plan for your day in 25 minute Pomodoro blocks.
    • Sometimes (like you will see in my videos below), a task may take a lot more than one Pomodoro to do (sometimes mine take a LOT of Pomodoros), so estimate how long it may take you.
    • For tasks that are less than 25 minutes (like answering emails, or Twittering…), group them all into one Pomodoro.
  2. After you plan your day, get rid of ALL distractions!
    • Use a web blocker to Strict Workflow, Stayfocusd and others to keep you off the web for that period.
    • Move your cell phone to a different room.
    • Get that glass of water, use the restroom, let out the cat, etc etc….
  3. Set your timer for 25 minutes and WORK.
    • Some people like the ticking with a timer – there’s actually a science to metronome training (you may hear the clock ticking in the background of my video)
    • You may prefer to hear music, or when it’s loud and hard to concentrate, I listen to white noise.  There’s lots of things you can find on Spotify and YouTube for this.
    • Find a study buddy – We call these “sprints,” where we work for a designated block of time.  I work with some classmates and Aubrey to do a sprint.  Incidentally, if you need a study buddy, and can’t find one?  It’s why I made the second video!!!!  You can study/work with me!
  4. At the end of your work period, when the time dings, quickly reflect on what you’ve done.  Think about the next Pomodoro, then… TAKE A BREAK!
    • Break for about 5-10 minutes.  Get a drink of water, restroom, or get up and stretch.  Take a brain break!  It’s good for you!
  5. Start another Pomodoro!!!
  6. Need more info?  Go to the official Pomodoro page.  I have some helpful apps listed below, after the video.

Helpful Apps and things:

Alinof TimerPro – is the timer you see in my video.  I really like this timer!

Pomodoro Time – This app has a task list where you can mark off your Pomodoros.  After it counts down a Pomodoro, it’ll even time your breaks for you.

Strict Workflow – Is a viewer browser plug-in that blocks off your websites for 25 minutes.  Very nifty!

Happy Productivity!!!


Find Writing Time

a9d88bb7802909a508d9da51cff69941The basic goal for any writer is that you must write.  You must write regularly, and often.  The notion of a writer’s block no longer exists when it’s tied to the job market or a pay check, you know?  Fortunately, I’ve gleaned a few lessons from fellow writers – one being my dear friend Natalya, who is also a contributor to this blog.  This post is a piggy back to Nat’s blog on time management, which you can read about here, where she goes into far more detail on the techniques that she uses to manage time and to stay on track.  Totally worth a read!

For me, just because I don’t roleplay often, does not mean that I am not always writing.  As a graduate student in the social sciences, writing academically is a job requirement, and once I graduate, I will be in the “publish or perish” world.  What this means is that my “value” as an employee is judged by how many high impact publications I make every year in my field.  Hence, between my exam papers (the last one is due on October 1), I try to make room to write extra – and I often submit my research papers to journals in my field for publication!  Here’s some things that I do:

Establish a daily writing goal:  First off, my days start with a goal.  A basic goal is to write at least 1000 words on paper each and every day.  Now, this could be notes, it could be memos, stories, observations, etc.  The idea though, is that writers write, so you must accomplish this goal EACH DAY.  It’s sort of like leveling up in a video game.  Each time you don’t hit that goal, the guilt takes a lot of HP from you.

Catch the butterflies:  I’m a bit of a ditz, and my ideas simply flow a lot of times, so I have to be portable!  Ideas can come at any time, so I try to have something on hand to catch them.  Here’s some of the things I use:

  • iPhone – I record my thoughts (especially when I’m on a run and can’t stop to write).
  • Notepad – Here’s the one I use.  It’s a little pricey, but the hard cover makes it portable anywhere.
  • Evernote – This is a free program that can organize your ideas.  You can also have it synced to your phone, so you can capture pictures, embed voice files AND write all in one place.  The best parts?  You can sync it to your devices, AND you can search.
  • Scrivener – I write in “circles,” usually never beginning to end, but starting in the middle and working out.  Scrivener is like an electronic binder – it can keep all related files together.  In fact, most of my writing goes into Scrivener.  Then, when I’m ready to submit anything, I can easily export to Word for formatting.
  • Bathtub crayons – Writing on shower walls with soap crayons beats soggy pieces of toilet paper with blurred writing…

Find a writing buddy:  I have a grad group on Facebook that I must “report to” each week.  There, a bunch of fellow grad students and graduates share their weekly goals, as well as tools to help everyone succeed.  We encourage each other, and it makes us accountable.  My bestie, Nat, is also my sprinting buddy – she and I hold each other accountable for our goals, and it helps a lot that we check in with each other throughout the day.  You can find writing buddies on many different e-sites.  One that I enjoy is  For some of my short fictions, I can “vet out” editors from this site, and get some great critique!

Writing Sprints:  In Nat’s blog, she talks about sprints and the Pomodoro method.  Sprints are when you set a timer for a set amount of time (usually 25-30 minutes).  Then, for that amount of time, you simply WORK.  No distractions… you just do straight up work.  Then you break for a few minutes, and sprint again.  Nat and I sprint almost every day except on weekends.  We can hammer out maybe.. 6-7 sprints a day, if not more.  But what’s nice about it, is that even if we aren’t able to make our goals, necessarily, we know we’ve made progress.  Also, a sprint makes us hyper aware of what we have been doing for the sprint (yes, I’ve had to confess to Nat after a sprint that I honestly did NOT write, and instead, made myself the most delicious snack ever – I’ve done that…).  The goal isn’t to punish yourself or the other person if they don’t make it (unless, like, I know Nat will be very firm with me if I don’t get to writing my last comprehensive exam), but it’s to keep us productive.

Write.  Just write:  Lastly, just write.  Hit that writing goal, no matter what.  If you need to, feed your inner writing critic a giant NOPE sandwich with extra nope sauce, tell it to shut up, and keep writing.  When you don’t write, you’ll feel the guilt of not writing.  Don’t do that to yourself!  Just.  Write. I’ll tell you, most of what I write starts off as formless mind excretment.  I think of it as a pile of mud plopped onto a page, and well, it looks more like a pile of poo.  It’s the editing where the magic happens!  You work with it, and sometimes it takes a LOT of work.  But keep at it, and soon, you’ll have a masterpiece that you’ll be proud of.

Happy Writing!!!

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