Habits Live in Your Free Time – creative work as roommate

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It seems like it should be within reason to switch some of our daily free time to daily creative work. Our other time is clearly spoken for; work, people, animals, cars, bills, bodily needs, all these things occupy our non-free time.

But free time is not as free as we think of it. Our free time, every bit of it,  is already occupied with the world of our habits.Whatever we do now within our free time is something we selected to do a long time ago and it has been well practiced. It could be a few hours of television watching. For months, years (longer?) we sit and watch television. We stop on particular programming that strikes us. We open up to its content. We absorb it. Probably, this free time, we once declared, is our unwinding time, our hang out time. We worked hard all day and damn it, no one has the right to disturb us.

You think that it is going to be easy to change this long-term habit?  We can’t rush in and make this sort of change. We have to do it with tips, tactics, luck, and time.

Pick two or three times in a typical day when you might be able to do your creative work
It is important to pick two or three possible times so we indicate to ourselves that we will be flexible about our time. If one doesn’t work well, we will move on to another time. We won’t give up until we find a time slot, that will eventually work.

Learn about the habit that already occupies these times
Answer each of these questions and you will know what you are habitually doing in your free time now.

  • What happens in that time now? No matter how small or insignificant it might feel, you are truly doing something in that time. You are relaxing, or visiting, or zoning out, or problem solving, or problem finding, walking the dog or thinking about walking the dog, enjoying a snack, letting off steam…whatever. What are you doing?
  • How long have you been doing whatever you been doing in that time? A year or decades?
  • How did you end up doing whatever it is that you do in this time?  Likely this is something you gravitated to and may even be considered  as a special time to retreat from the world.

Cut a deal with your current habit if you can
Changing a habit by going cold turkey while introducing a substitute is very difficult work and can kill any new efforts. A way to ease the work a bit, is to see if your current habit can be moved or addressed at least partially. Take your answers above and:

  • see if there is another time at which you can do the same sort of thing that your habit has you doing now
  • see if the current habit (your needs) can be combined with another habit
  • see if the current habit can be altered a bit to fit another time period or another habit
  • or, as a last resort, see if your current habit can be put off just for a short work period. Once the work period is over, the current habit has your undivided attention. Make sure to follow thru on your promise.

Be comfortable with being the newcomer in this space. Your new habit of working daily will not get treated well and it will even be hassled by the long-term tenants. Hang in there and know that they had to go thru the same thing when they first tried to move into this time.

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Hey, as I have said many places before, the real power a stuck creative can find, is the power in working daily. What you need is 15, 20, 45 minutes and then you can do whatever you current habits dictate.  Power comes from small but steady steps of daily work.

 

 

 

 

How Not to Cheat on Work Session Quality

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To get anywhere we start with two skills:

  • showing up to the daily work session
  • staying in that work session for your targeted time

Getting good at these two skills takes time, much more time than we ever think it will. And if we do, there is a third required skill comes after that.

If we can keep at it, we get to our daily work session and we stay in it. But it’s not enough. We need another skill that’s hard to attain:

  • The skill of doing quality work in each work session

My focus here is not on the quality of our work but the quality of our working.

What is Quality Working?

Our state of mind and state of heart tells us if we are doing quality work:

  • We face our work straight-on
  • We feel increasingly engaged as each minute goes by
  • We feel we are honestly giving all we can muster for that day
  • We feel connected to our work even if it is very challenging, not going well, confusing,  etc.
  • We stay in the work session not skip out early
  • We are so concentrated we feel outside of clock time
  • The entire world is right in front of us

How We Cheat on Session Quality

  • We drag distractions into our work sessions. A little background music is fine but television, web surfing, having the cell phone around, large cafe crowds, and the such, is too much. We have to get over our grade school habits of half-way working as we do our homework, half watching entertainment (old days, TV; now TV and cell phone).
  • We avoid the real work. We do everything but the hard stuff. Instead, we research, organize, purchase, plan….anything but the core of our work which is usually very challenging and not easy.
  • We bring in the mindset that today is not important. There will always be plenty of tomorrows to get serious, get down to it, to do things right.

Keeping Quality High(er)

The skill, keeping good work session quality, takes time to learn and isn’t easy to master. But there are some things we can do make it more likely we will get this skill under our control.

>Pause and Make a Real Felt Shift
Take a few moments to gather yourself and to leave what you have been doing behind. Mentally let it go. Pause. Now take a moment to feel and see yourself shifting into your work. Visualize yourself working a few minutes before you actually pick up your tools to begin. To get this right you will need bring yourself to a complete stop and then work through the steps justs listed. If you don’t stop, you will impatiently skip through the steps and defeat the purpose of making a shift.

>Go Cold Turkey
Don’t bring distractions into your session. Put your work front and center and if there are distractions blocking you, move them aside. Give yourself to your work even if it is difficult to let everything else go. Trust the work process and yourself that you can get through this without bring some form of distraction along. Cold turkey. Immerse yourself in your work.

>Read the Definition of Work Session Quality Daily
Memorize the list above of the qualities of quality sessions by reading the list daily. In time, you will be naturally led towards maintaining work session quality by your unconscious.

>Work in the Presence of Others
There is something about working with others that helps us be more focused on our work. It probably has to do with the social skills and connections hard-wired into most humans. When others are working around us we kick-up our game to a higher level than if we working alone. We are naturally more accountable for showing up, staying focused on our work, and maintaining quality work.

Find a work partner or partners. Commit to having a check-in at the end of the work session and have people report on work session quality, not just what was produced.

If you can’t find partners in the flesh, turn to visualization. Visualize that you have invited someone who is important to you to be with you in every work session. By choosing someone important/respect, the visualization will call up some of the same accountability that happens when working with real work partners. What would be o.k. (read as sloppy) work for ourselves becomes more unacceptable in the presence of our visualized partner. Think of it now: How would you act/perform in a session if a special person was there, not judging your work, but evaluating if you are giving enough of yourself to your work?

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Protect your work sessions.  How many can you afford to waste to poor quality working?

Subcribe today_yellow

 

The Finish Line Trap – It feels so good to quit

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We’ve made it thru a tremendous amount of work. We have beat back all the temptations not to do our work or to continue our work and we have arrived, at the finish line at last. The finish line can be any big project, finally completed.

Ah, the joys of having done it. Time to celebrate. Time to catch our breath after this big accomplishment. Time to let in the little inner demon who tricks us never to do anything big again.

Standing around every significant finish line is our inner demon who says:

-“Quit now and you go out on top of your game.”
-“Quit now, you’ve done your part.”
-“Quit now, you’ve done ten years, 20 projects, this is your __ birthday, or some other milestone date or quantity.”
-“Quit now, you don’t want to repeat yourself.”

These are very common statements we hear all around us. Something we’ve heard in movies, literature or myth and it feels like we have reached a time to quit because it feels like a point of power. It is powerful. Hitting 100 podcasts, the writer-producer of these shows as me if it made sense to quit doing his very successful show because he hit that milestone. He didn’t ask me that when he was at his 87th show or probably he would not mention it right after he put show 123 in the can. That magical 100 is a powerful place to be. It is so inviting: “Hey, I pumped out 100 shows before I stopped my show.”

The Charming Poetry of the Finishing-Line Demon

We can be tempted to quit something because it is so damn poetic, so going out with drama, the thought of missing that moment is painful. Perfect mythic moments don’t come around every day or after some uninspiring number of projects completed.

It feels so cool, so right, I’m going to walk out the door and never look back is a great thing to visualize. Movies are filled with this stuff.

Pushing Back on the Quit Now Moment

-Pull back from the drama you can feel at this moment. Visualize it being anything but a magical, mythical moment.

-See it like any other finish line.

-Remember that the Finishing Line Demon is around you, tempting you, dazzling you with the poetry of quitting.

-Make a list of reasons of why you don’t need to quit at that finish line. What would prevent you from working towards another?

-Ask some friends about what they think, should you quit now or should you go on longer?

-Make a list of alternative finishing lines you can shoot for that use most of the skills you have been using to get to where you are. Make them real with real ideas of how and when they can be started. It is so easy to quit with vague plans of what we are going to do next and our skills fade because we wait too long to get down to them.

If you do decide to quit after all, at least, using the steps here, you were free of the Finishing Line Demon’s spell, and it is your true decision. Your decision should be your own, not the demon’s

Don’t Ask Your Inner Rejector Questions

wizard-of-ozOf course, it is alright to ask questions like:

  • What project do I want to do?
  • What creative field do I want to explore?
  • Who should I approach to learn more?
  • How can I apply this or that to my life?
  • What do I feel like doing?
  • When should I get started?

Those questions and more are fine.  They are about what direction you should follow and commitment of energy, time, and money you should make.  The questioning is fine but….asking the wrong person for advice will get you the wrong answer. The answer you will get is something like this:

  • No, that won’t work out.
  • No, that isn’t the direction for you because_____fill in the blank____
  • No, you can’t do that.
  • No, that’s already been done
  • No, that doesn’t feel right.
  • No, no, no, no.

Ever come home after a day of work and someone asks you if your want to do something? Everything they suggest just doesn’t “feel right.”  Sound familiar?

“Noooo, I don’t want to do that.”
“Well, what about _______? ”
“Noooo, I don’t want to do that.”
” Ok, what the hell do you WANT to do!!!!?????  Just forget it. I give up.”

Our thoughts: “Nothing looks good so I guess I want to do… nothing. Strange.  Usually, I want to do something but…this is weird. Hmmmm.”

Secret:  We have an Inner Rejector who, in summary, hates anything other than sure pleasures, like chocolate sundaes, beach vacations, massages, puppies and kittens, tantalizing images, gossip, impulse buying, chips, and summer breezes.

The pleasure-safety-comfort complex controls us far more  than we realize. Sometimes it stops us and almost always, it is tugging at us.

This complex has the purpose of protecting us from the extremes of:

+ never resting,
+ never slowing down to think before acting,
+ never taking time to smell the roses.

That is the light side of the complex. The dark side gets us to:
– resting too much,
– hanging too loose,
– loving inertia,
– accepting self-doubt as a perpetual condition

As you can see the light-side has a real purpose but, without balance, we can allow the dark side to be the side that is always facing up. We will talk about balance later.

The Inner Rejector is a direct relative of Depression. They link up and Depression gives the feeling tone the Inner Rejector needs to really get going. Now all the pleasures and comfort things and processes that have worked for us before, now those really suck, too. Chips and chocolate are like rotten food and eating cement. A horrible combination, that Inner Rejector and Depression, but they are frequently hanging around.

The Better Choice for Your Questions
We are far better off not asking straight-forward questions because our Inner Rejector will pull them right to itself and fire back, machine gun-like, “no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

Instead, quietly look around your memory.  Look for clues:

  • what has attracted your attention,
  • what has charmed you,
  • what has fascinated you,
  • what has caused you to take spontaneous or almost spontaneous actions
  • what has given off the air of rightness
  • what have you done in the best of times (and maybe the worst of times)

From this inner archeology, you will get strong but quiet indications of what to do next; where to go; where is likely to be the right fit for you;  how you might approach something or someone; how you can find more resources or, at least, further clues.

Shhh…don’t be too loud. You don’t need perfect information to start something or take your next move. You are not a mind-reader or a sooth-sayer, so stop acting like one, scanning for information you can’t get.  Go with what you got. If you start poking around too much you will make too much noise and stir your Inner Rejector to come on over to “help you out.”  That help sucks.

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Longfellow’s Sound Beacon

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The ringing sound of metal striking metal is distinctive. We hear, joined:

the solid strength that is the anvil;

the strength of motion delivered by the hammer

the strength of resistance in metal between hammer and anvil;

and, the determined alchemist, the blacksmith.

The ring of the metals is simple, real, necessarily constant, and earthy.  We are drawn out of our thoughts and analysis, right into the center of action, into the world of grit, sweat, work, focus, and the finite.

We are badly in need of a beacon, reminding us that action, almost any action is what we frequently need to break free of stuckness.  We need to start anywhere and just work.  Work enlivens us and leads us to where we need to go. It ends confusion and removes the troubles caused by wandering and slumbering.

Begin today and hammer away.  Hit hard and feel reality’s reverb in your arms, shoulders, and heart. Let go and strike fast, leaving no time for self-doubt or criticism to intervene. Feel resistance slowly move under your focus.

Hold in your ears the blacksmith’s beacon.

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands; 
The Smith, a mighty man is he, 
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can
And looks the whole world in the face
For he owes not any man.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming furge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing floor.
He goes on Sunday to the church
and sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach.
He hears his daughter's voice
singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Toiling,--rejoicing,--sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought!
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow