I’m one of those productivity nerds who has a personal life mission and plan written out. No joke. I have it in a plaintext document on my computer, because if I put it in anything with formatting I’ll spend more time on making it pretty than on letting it be useful.
My whole productivity system fell apart over the past year or so, but I’m currently putting it back together. I’m cutting myself some clean-slate slack because, hey, I’ve never been 100% self-employed before, and I’m still trying to figure out what a “good day at work” actually looks like. And I got off to a rough start, because my self-employed career started with an avalanche of catching up. Real talk: before I came to terms with1 quitting my job, I failed hard. Like real hard. Pretty much across the board, my whole world is a mess. I’m still digging up papers out of drawers I needed to look at last winter.
But it’s happening, slowly but surely. I’m making progress catching myself up on where I want to be in my career, because I have a pretty good structure for getting work done. I’ve tried a few productivity systems, but at heart, I’m truly a very loyal Omnifocus user. If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen my Hobonichi nerdery, but for me at least, paper planners work better as logs of work completed, not actual task managers. My paper planner is something closer to a spontaneously recorded journal than a task manager. It’s like a victory log: here’s what I managed to get done today.2
I’m hoping this year will be a little more about getting things done and making good art, and less of a soul-grinding workload. One of the biggest disappointments in my life is that I’m not the kind of person who could be both a librarian and a writer. I just couldn’t make it work. I really wanted to do both, and I loved working at American as a library paraprofessional, but I’m an all-in kind of person, and trying to balance both was maybe going to kill me.3 It’s nice, at the end of the year, to reconnect with the broader vision you have for what a good life looks like, because it makes the specifics seem a little less dire. Like, yeah, it sucks that I’m not doing the good work of connecting users to information. I hate that. It sucks that I didn’t finish all the writing I wanted to this year. I feel like a total failure. But, in the bigger picture, am I doing what I truly believe I should be doing? I think so. Moment to moment, I know so, and doing the right thing in the moment is all I really feel like I can control right now. Next year, who knows? Maybe all my stars will align. But probably, this will be another year of shooting too high, failing to reach the peak, but ending up a little closer than I started. I think I can roll with that.
- Well, accepted…maybe didn’t quite come to terms with it.
- And also, here are the groceries, random thoughts, nervous scrawlings, tip calculations, and interesting words of today. Beauty through use.
- I actually get a lot of scorn from other writers for this, especially people whose day job is in journalism, who don’t understand the particular kind of drain working a patron-facing job where you have to actually show up at an office can be. I also particularly love this criticism from faculty members currently on sabbatical. I judge myself pretty hard for not being able to do literally everything all at once and be perfect at everything, though, so I feel like I probably can just let everyone else’s expectations slide off. But yeah, if you’re considering criticizing someone who quit their day job to write full time after selling a novel, maybe don’t. Not all jobs are built the same, and there’s no reason to be a dick to a baby-writer who is barely holding her shit together trying to meet deadlines in two completely separate fields. Besides which, you would never say such an asinine thing to someone who, say, started a small restaurant after their foodtruck proved to be profitable. I would think it’s obvious how those two situations are analogous. Maybe some people are just assholes. (If it’s not clear, this is a pretty specific rant about a few pretty specific assholes.)