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Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

September 21st, 2017 2 comments

Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

Glenn Carstens-Peters

Do It 2017 #13: Making Excuses

“Stop Making Excuses,” is a phrase we often hear from our parents, our teachers, and even our employers. Making excuses is akin to be called lazy — a slacker — a loser. Making excuses isn’t the problem though. Failing to think deeply about why we are making the excuse is what is really required,

Yes, we all make excuses for a wide variety of reasons, myself included, but the worst part is that there is often a valid reason for the excuse. We might be missing an important skill. We might be missing the basic desire to do something. We might be fearful that we cannot do the task at hand. Typically, it isn’t the excuse that is the true reason we aren’t doing something, but rather something deeper. Something hidden. Something scarier. Something that keeps  you awake at night.

As bad as it might seem to others, we often dislike ourselves for making excuses, too. We know we aren’t doing the right thing, but it can be difficult to do the right thing, so we make the excuse so we can move on.

If you have recently offered an excuse for something, take some time to deeply think about why you made the excuse. Is there some smaller part of the issue that you can tease out and solve that might allow you to avoid the excuse in the future? Can you break the situation down into manageable chunks that you can address one at a time? If you are like me, you might surprise yourself with how many excuses you can avoid by taking them piece by piece and issue by issue.

First, do you have a good reason for learning new skills? Do you enjoy doing that kind of work? Sometimes it is the case that you simply aren’t interested in pursuing a particular area of work. If you aren’t, there is little that can persuade you to learn that new skill, much less become accomplished. Even if it might bring you better jobs or a higher income, you have to honest about where your interests lie.

If you decide you do want to learn new skills, how can you learn them? Can you go to school or training center? Maybe. Your next hurdle might be that you can’t afford to pay for school. Ok, that is indeed a reality for a lot of people. If you can’t pay for school, can you learn the skills you need online? Can you teach yourself from books? Can you ask someone knowledgeable to show you for free? Can you take out a loan – will it be worth that financial burden to obtain this skill?

The important part of breaking down any excuse is not to let one particular problem stop you. If you hit a roadblock, think about ways of circumventing that particular, smaller, issue. Attack each of the small issues in turn and see how far you can get. I think you will be surprised at how far you can progress through any excuse if you want to.

Of course, that is the real issue with any excuse. Do you really want to progress beyond the excuse, or is it simply easier, quicker, less stressful to use a blanket excuse and move on? I think for most of us — and most of our excuses, — we would feel better about ourselves if we made fewer excuses. It would have so many benefits in our lives, but it requires hard thinking to do this, and too many of us give up rather than face the hard work ahead. It is a constant challenge for all of us to see what we want and need from the future and how we can get there and not take the easy path out and make the excuse.

What is one excuse you have fallen back on lately? Can you break it down into smaller parts and slowly chip away at it? Do you even want to? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Do It 2017 #11: Eat the frog and other productive advice

July 27th, 2017 Comments off

Frog Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

Jack Hamilton

Eat the frog!

It has been said — in variety of forms throughout history, that…

“If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

A thoroughly disgusting thought, but a good one for my productivity of late. I am as fond — if not fonder— of procrastination of specific tasks that most people. Tasks like balancing the checkbook to doing my daily blog posting to sweeping the patio. Many of these tasks are extremely important, but most also come with an unpleasant side. Sure, it isn’t like mucking out the horse stalls of my youth, but we all face them with a certain amount of distaste.

So, in an effort to keep things moving forward in all aspects of my life, I have taken to “eating the frog” whenever possible. I’ll get up, make my coffee and then face the most procrastination-causing task on my to do list. Once that’s done, I can move on to other, more enjoyable tasks without feeling guilty about avoiding them and knowing that that is probably the worse thing I will have to do today. It doesn’t always work, but I have used it to recently move a couple of projects forward that have been languishing for a while now. Can it help you? It might. Then again, you might be someone who is blessed to never procrastinate on anything. I envy you, but we all have to find out own way through the swamp that is any given day.

Bird by Bird

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table, close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’” — Anne Lamott

This phrase crops up in our household on a daily basis. There are times we all need a reminder that every big project is made out of many smaller steps — and sometimes even smaller ones. The only way to complete a big project is to take it “bird by bird.” In my case, this means making a daily to do list — separate from my overall to do list. This list contains all my typical daily tasks as well as those weekly items that occur on the same day each week. Partially this list is to help me remember all the little things, but they are also a “bird by bird” breakdown of tasks that move each project forward. Typical entries include my daily posts to Instagram, a blog post on Garden Decor, video clips from my talks, reading time-related documents and articles, feeding the birds (the real one’s outside my window), phone calls, emails and more. Breaking my larger tasks in these small, even tiny, steps, helps to keep me progressing even when I might not be able to complete the entire project today.

To some, such a detailed to do list can make projects seem overwhelming, but for me, I find great joy in progress, even the smallest progress. If I keep on doing the small steps each day the overall project will eventually get done. If I never start on the big project because it is too big then it will, guaranteed, never get done.

Work on a variety of tasks throughout your day

I don’t have any pithy quote to accompany this advice, but for me, it is probably the most important. If I focus on any one task for too long, the quality and speed of my work quickly diminish. I start making silly mistakes, misspelled words, fuzzy thoughts and more. I have to switch up my work throughout the day to prevent this from happening while still getting work done. This means I might do something like writing this post and then switch over to some video editing for a while. Sometimes it means culling a bunch of photos and then working on an Arduino program I have been trying to get running. Finally, sometimes it means I set an alarm for 20 minutes, lie down on the couch, allow the cat to sit on my lap and dose. Never underestimate the power of a short nap to reenergize your day!

Douglas E. Welch To Do List

I have learned over time that I am a variety junky in all aspects of my life. My way of working may seem scattered to some, but it works for my and my overall productivity seems to prove it. In many cases, some of my best ideas about a project come from when I am thinking or working on an entirely different project. You can never tell how moments in your life are going to interact, so it’s important to experience as much as possible and see what happens.

What are your favorite pieces of advice that keep you productive in life and work? Share them in the comments!

7 Cheap Photo Hacks Using Common Household Items That Will Improve Your Photography (VIDEO) via Shutterbug

May 31st, 2017 Comments off
Some more cheap tricks to kick your photography up a notch. My favorites are using a beer cozy to protect an unused lens and using the cheap circular fluorescent to create a large ring light. — Douglas
 
7 Cheap Photo Hacks Using Common Household Items That Will Improve Your Photography (VIDEO) via Shutterbug
 
 


* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out!


An interesting link found among my daily reading

The transformative power of doing absolutely nothing via Quartz

May 24th, 2017 Comments off
Something to remember when life gets a bit too crazy. — Douglas
 
 
On a recent Sunday, I found myself overwhelmed. It was my last free day between several consecutive weekends of travel, visitors, and weddings. The morning had ticked away, and my boyfriend and I had groceries to buy, paperwork to file, a house to tidy, and something to do at Home Depot. As I contemplated how to productively use the afternoon, my chest tightened. I stepped outside for a gulp of fresh air. There, an idea struck.

“Let’s go to the beach for two hours,” I said. “Then we can do our stuff.”

I was still feeling stressed while I packed my bag, and even while we sought out a spot on the sand. But eventually—maybe when I spotted some dolphins past the breakers, or dunked into a cold, oncoming wave—the stress dissipated. I didn’t do much reading at the beach, or really much of anything. I mostly stared at the water, got wet, laid on a warm blanket, then moved to a chair. After two hours, we folded up our blanket, drove home, and divided and conquered our tasks for the rest of the afternoon. And you know what? They weren’t so painful. It was actually kind of pleasant to surrender to the rhythm of paperwork, while the sun sank lower in the window.
Read The transformative power of doing absolutely nothing via Quartz


An interesting link found among my daily reading

9 Books To Read If You Struggle With Anxiety via Romper

April 29th, 2017 Comments off

I have had issues with anxiety all my life and I have recently begun looking for some ways of mitigating its effects. Here is a collection of 9 books (plus 2 recently recommended to me) to help you cope when anxiety in your life gets to be a bit too much. — Douglas

Read 9 Books To Read If You Struggle With Anxiety via Romper


Recommended to me, but not included in the linked article

I am currently reading My Age of Anxiety and I am in the 4th week of the Mindfulness program as outlined in the second book

Books included in the linked article

* A portion of each sale from Amazon.com directly supports our blogs
** Many of these books may be available from your local library. Check it out! 


An interesting link found among my daily reading

On YouTube: Meaning Behind Camera Movement

April 2nd, 2017 Comments off

How you move your camera colors and changes the meaning and emotion of the scene. Are you doing it on purpose or giving your audience accidental misdirection to how they should feel. — Douglas

Watch YouTube: Meaning Behind Camera Movement

I liked this video and think you might find it interesting, too!

Noted: How to Take Unique Double Exposures Without Using Photoshop

March 1st, 2017 Comments off

On YouTube: Make a PVC Light Stand for Under $5

February 2nd, 2017 Comments off

Noted: Library Extension Finds Books At Your Local Library While You Shop On Amazon via Lifehacker

January 12th, 2017 Comments off

What a great idea? Whenever I recommend books on my blog I usually link to Amazon as it is convenient source of book info and I can make a few pennies if people purchase through those links. That said, I also usually include a reminder that those same books might be available at your local library and highly encourage people to take a look there.

This extension for Chrome integrates that idea right into Amazon book pages. Once you select your local library or libraries, you see an up-to-date count of how many paper and ebooks are available at your library for a given book title. It will even link you directly to the book detail page at the library, ready for you to place a hold and, in my case, have it delivered right to my local library branch. Cool! — Douglas

Noted: Library Extension Finds Books At Your Local Library While You Shop On Amazon via Lifehacker

Read Library Extension Finds Books At Your Local Library While You Shop On Amazon via Lifehacker

Tip: How to Use a Paper Journal Effectively via SnapGuide

July 10th, 2016 Comments off

A friend texted today for a link to this SnapGuide which I did ages ago. He had started to use this technique when he originally saw this guide and wanted to share it with some of his friends. I hadn’t thought about this guide in a long time, but it is great to see that it is still useful to people.

Snapguide journal

Check out How to Use a Paper Journal Effectively by Douglas Welch on Snapguide.

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