Judging your worth by productivity

Judging your worth by productivity

American culture is obsessed with productivity.

You can look to apps (another obsession of ours) for proof. There are all kinds of apps dedicated to tracking, managing, organizing, rewarding and inspiring productivity. You can make lists, set reminders, coordinate your schedules, color-code emails, schedule tweets and more—all in the name of productivity. Ironically, you could waste a lot of hours trying to decide which out of the thousands of productivity apps are worth your time.

As for us writers, when we talk about productivity, we’re talking about progress in the form of putting words on the page. Simple and gut-wrenching as that.

The problem is, our sense of self-worth is often closely linked to our productivity (or lack thereof). If we fall short of even the most arbitrary of goals, it can be devastating not only to our mental health, but to our work as well. Thus creating a cycle of suckiness, or the “I Suck Spiral,” as my boyfriend calls it.

I noticed a somewhat disturbing trend when updating my five-year diary every night. I’ve completed almost three full years of it, and looking back on the past couple of years, so many of the entries refer to how productive I was or wasn’t on any given day. The more productive days reflect happy moods with exclamation points. But on some of the days I deemed unproductive, I go as far as spelling out a few sighs. So dramatic, right? I can practically see the roller coaster of emotions in my jittery handwriting.

Here’s the thing: It’s so much easier to get down on ourselves for not writing enough than it is to write one book, one blog post, one sentence that feels right. It’s hard, and it’s supposed to be, but if we stopped attaching our self-worth to how much we haven’t written and instead celebrated every crappy sentence or shitty first draft we did write, we’d all be better off.

The label “writer” is a part of our identity. Word counts and rejections and bad days are not.

Now, I’m documenting only the little victories and things I’m grateful for in my five-year diary, even—and especially—on bad days. And I don’t need an app to be productive. All any writer needs is someplace to put the words and the faith that those words will come.

 

 

Holiday hiring slump: how to network & be productive when business is slow

Holiday hiring slump: how to network & be productive when business is slow

December is notorious not only for its icy freezes, but for hiring freezes, too. (Unless you work in retail. In which case, I admire you for your strength.)

And that can be a pain for those of us looking for work. (Though what job-seeker wouldn’t be a bit panicky at the thought of starting a new gig at the height of the holiday season?) If you’re on the market for new employment but aren’t getting a lot of leads, you can still use the holiday season to get ahead on your networking game.

Here are nine ways to polish your online presence, make new connections and maybe even open up doors that will lead to employment. (You know, for when you’re not last-minute Christmas shopping or sipping seasonal cocktails):

Update your bio or about page. So you have a website that you update regularly. But when was the last time you even looked at your bio page? Is it collecting dust? Does it still say you’re overseas teaching English to penguins who are probably dead by now? (First thing that popped into my mind.) Don’t let your first impression give the wrong impression—refresh that bio, and update your headshot while you’re at it.

Revise your resume and organize your clips/samples. If you’re been using the same resume template for years, it’s time for a revision. Have you picked up any new skills or taken on new clients? Can you tighten up the language or remove a position that’s not really relevant anymore? Make those changes. And if your work constitutes having a portfolio or providing work samples, collect links or files and organize them neatly on your computer and website. This is your go-to when potential employers ask for examples of your work.

Breathe new life into a standby cover letter. They say you’re not supposed to have a “Dear X, I’d love to be considered for the X position with X” cover letter, and they would be correct. (It’s so obvious when you just copy and paste positions and company names into a generic cover letter.) But most of us aren’t rewriting each letter from scratch, either. Sit down and write out all the things that make you a great catch and then use that to draft a letter that’s inspired. If you’re stuck, this post outlines a great mind trick for writing a non-sucky cover letter.

Clean up your social media accounts. Unfollow people who annoy you or don’t follow you back, create Twitter lists of your favorites, and read through your latest posts to make sure they’re contributing to an image you want to convey. Do away with any social media sites that zap your energy or merely feel like an obligation. As Sarah Von Bargen says, you only need to be active on two or three sites that you enjoy using and that make sense for you.

Talk to people you’d like to work with online. On the subject of social media—are you following or talking to the people you’d like to work with (or for) online? Find the writers, editors, designers, marketers, public speakers or developers who are your colleagues—or who you want to be—and respond to their posts, share their content and offer up your own thoughts on the same subjects. Don’t kiss ass just to kiss ass. Engage and discuss. People will start to take notice, and you’ll attract followers in your field.

Offer pro bono work. ‘Tis the season of giving. Offer your services free of charge to a nonprofit or organization you’d like to work for or whose cause is important to you. This is especially valuable if you don’t have a lot of experience. Sometimes one solid recommendation is all you need to get your foot in the door for the next paid gig that comes along, and if you do a solid job, you’ll get just that.

Write testimonials for connections on LinkedIn. Endorse or write glowing reviews for current or former colleagues whose work you’re familiar with. It’s not only good karma, but those people will be more likely to think of you when they hear of a job that pops up. (And maybe they’ll return the testimonial-writing favor!)

Send holiday cards or “thinking of you” emails. This is not one of those emails that says “It’s been so long” and “I have a favor to ask” in the same damn paragraph. Instead, try a no-ulterior-motive email like this: “Hey X – Merry Christmas! Hope all is well. I thought of you recently when X. I just caught up with your latest project – impressive stuff!” Warm fuzzies all around.

Keep an eye out—just in case. Hey, new opportunities can come up any time. (There are a lot of good reasons why December can actually be a great time to land a gig if you’re looking.) Just ask Laura or Nicole—they both just started great new jobs they’re excited about! So have your stuff together and be ready for when that opportunity arrives. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays!

Aside from some of the above, I’m working on a brand new site design that I’m really excited about and hope to reveal for the new year. It’s a much-needed refresher that I’ll be even more proud to show off to potential employers.

Are you currently on the job hunt?

Slow the eff down

Sound familiar? A lot of us feel like we’re moving at a hundred miles a minute but not accomplishing nearly enough. That’s why Claire is here to tell us how sprinting from one task to the next is killing your productivity and making you feel like crap. (Luckily, there’s a solution.) Listen up!

slow the eff down

As I type this, I am trying to move at 100 miles a minute, in about 20 different directions.

This is not a joke. Since beginning this post, I have:

  • Eaten an after-dinner snack (okay, several after-dinner snacks)
  • Done laundry
  • Answered emails
  • Made tea
  • Scrolled through Instagram roughly 47 times

Honestly, though? None of these tasks were done well, and just as importantly, none of them have made me feel the way I want to feel.

For all of the time I’ve spent trying to keep myself busy, clean and satiated this evening, I’ve accomplished embarrassingly little.

How many of your days look exactly like this?

If you, like me, spend your precious time struggling to complete what really counts toward accomplishing your Big Life Goals, it may be time to:

Slow down. Take a breath. Look more closely at whose agenda you’re following.

When I say “whose agenda,” here, I’m not implying that you’re taking orders from another person; what I actually mean is that you’re allowing a noisy little voice in your head to run the show.

Because believe it or not, we’re all catering to two agendas: our own, and our egos’.

Our own agendas are full of inspiring, life-changing plans, like:

  • Create a work of art that truly moves someone
  • Treat my body with the love and respect it deserves, so that it looks and feels awesome
  • Build a career that’s challenging, fulfilling and makes a difference in the world

Our egos’ agendas are full of self-centered, instant-gratification plans, like:

  • Binge-watch Orange Is the New Black
  • Get some Very Important Email Answering done
  • Take a nap

Neither of these agendas are inherently good or bad; they both simply revolve around a core of desired feelings. The major difference, however, is that our agendas are rooted in bravery and the embracing of challenge, while our egos’ agendas are rooted in comfort and the avoidance of pain.

Creating a work of art—or, in this case, a blog post worth reading—will ultimately bring me satisfaction, pride, and the joy of collaboration with a writer I deeply admire (hi, Cassie!). First, however, it has brought feelings of fear that what I write will be crap, and frustration at the fact that the words aren’t materializing as easily as I’d like.

Only by slowing the fuck down, feeling those scary emotions and moving through them do I have any chance of accomplishing my goal tonight.

Instead, however, I’ve chosen to run from them for the past three hours. And my ego has happily stepped in to help me.

This irritating little ego still wanted to feel proud and productive, but it didn’t want to deal with the tough stuff. So it picked easier options. How about the laundry? it said. Oh, and look, you have new Facebook notifications. Those are probably important. You should check them off the list!

And so I did. And now I have clean underwear and know that three people “liked” a photo I posted yesterday.

But have I really accomplished anything? Have I connected with anyone? Did it matter?

Um, resounding NOPE up in here.

To experience the deep fulfillment and feelings of helpfulness that spring from creating something worthwhile, I’ve first had to:

  • Admit to myself that yes, I’m scared, and yes, I’m frustrated.
  • Actually FEEL those feelings for a minute. Hang around with them. Let them wear themselves out.
  • Put my fingers on the keyboard and do the damn work.

By sloooooowing doooooown and accepting those emotions you’re so used to running from—those flutterings of dread before a workout, the overwhelm of launching a new product, the nervousness that no one will connect with your art—you’ll actually be able to get more done, and you’ll be better at what you’re doing.

Keep trying to numb those feelings, and your ego will gleefully help you overeat, put that new product on hold indefinitely, send lots of tweets, texts and snapchats, then settle in for a nap.

And you. will. be. stuck.

The next time you’re feeling busybusybusy but aren’t actually getting anything done, stop for a second. Put down the phone/laptop/cookie.

Ask yourself: How do I feel right now? And how do I want to feel?

If “how do I feel?” results in a negative answer—afraid, frustrated, hurt, angry—don’t rush to block it out. Let it wash over you. Try to live inside it for a second; what does it feel like, physically? Is your stomach clenched? Are your knuckles white? Do you need a few seconds to punch your pillow, or to cry it out? Do what it takes to get comfortable with that emotion—once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to move through it in peace.

Once that’s finished, you can focus on the good stuff: if you want to feel accomplished, you’re smart enough to know that a nap won’t provide that result. If you want to feel healthy and vibrant, the package of Oreos does not hold the answer.

You know what needs to happen to move closer to your dream life. Rushing from one activity to the next in an effort to avoid discomfort is not it. 

I’d love to know, though—what is?

What plans from your agenda are you going to tackle today, and what plans from your ego’s are you going to happily kiss goodbye?

 

 

Claire Suellentrop

Claire Suellentrop wants to live in a world where her friends pursue their bucket list dreams with reckless abandon, where they give their all to doing what they love, and where their health and well-being aren’t compromised in the process. As the health coach behind Eat Well. Party Hard., she’s passionate about creating opportunities for people to grow and thrive, and fuels her own crazy life with a plant-based diet, black coffee and whiskey. Her ebook, Killer Confidence: Anywhere + At Any Weight is available (for free!) right here.