[Image description: A clear glass jar is tipped over a light pink background and is spilling out rose gold paperclips and binderclips. The logo for “The Tending Year” is above the words “Lessons from 2018.″ There is a white decorative border.]
Before we jump into the blog post, I want to quickly let you know that I’m currently accepting new one-on-one coaching clients who want a little extra guidance with changing their productivity habits. You canread more about my coaching practice hereandbook a session here. You can also download a FREE guide to habit formation and maintenance by subscribing to The Tending Letter in the pink box below this post. Thanks for your time, and enjoy the blog post!
I can’t believe that I have been writing The Tending Year for 52 whole weeks!
I started this blog for two reasons:
I had some big goals, but I wasn’t sure how I would ever accomplish them on my own. The potential of helping others through similar obstacles by researching and writing about my experience was exactly the motivation I needed to make real changes.
I fell in love with researching self development in the summer of 2017. I daydreamed about building a future career as a coach and author, so I assigned myself a timeline of a whole year to see if I would stick with it as a personal practice.
I not only stuck with researching, practicing, and writing about self development, but I also discovered my passion for productivity. Specifically, for reseeing productivity as a process and practice through the lens of self development. Throughout the year, I created a successful blog and brought one-on-one productivity and writing coaching to my work as a writing advisor. (Some of the biggest things I work with clients on are time management, prioritization, and procrastination.)
I had no idea last January that a year later I would be gleefully committing to another year of researching and blogging about tending. I ran with it, stuck with it, and fall even more in fascinated love with it every day.
Each top tending tip mentioned specific blog posts that corresponded with its goals (i.e., “Habits 101” for Individualizing and “Conscious Input and Output” for Set Parameters).
Now that the year is coming to a close, I’d like to recognize the top lessons I’m taking away from the first iteration ofThe Tending Year.
Using Timers While Working
I was pleasantly surprised at the ways tools like Pomodoro and the 90 minute work session helped me to get more done in a shorter period of time. By assigning individual tasks to short work periods, I felt motivated to hit small milestones (i.e., “write one paragraph in 25 minutes) and I was able to measure appropriate productivity output for the day, which helped me to stay focused and gave me permission to limit my work time (i.e., “work on your blog for 90 minutes today”).
By far, the top tool that helped me with focus this year was the Must-Do Method, which I learned about in Sarah Knight’s bookGet Your Shit Together. I dedicated awhole post to it, describing it as follows:
The Must-Do Method is quite simple: once you write your to do list, prioritize the tasks that you must do today, do them, and then do the rest of the things tomorrow (starting with your must-dos, of course).
The Must-Do Method did more than maximize my productivity output; it gave me permission to get work doneandprioritize time to relax.
Managing Social Media: 5 Second Rule
This tool from Mel Robbins helps me to acknowledge when I am wasting time or energy that would be better spent on something else and to stop doing it in literally five seconds. I wrote about it in myHow to Schedulepost:
By counting “5-4-3-2-1” and then exiting out of Instagram, getting up to wash the dishes, starting that email to a colleague, or putting on our gym shoes, we “interrupt the old behavior pattern and trigger a new one” (Robbins). This creates activation energy, which is what motivates our asses to start and keep doing something.
My irrational worry that something horrible would happen when my phone was on silent is likely tied to my complex recovery from codependency and addiction.
I navigated my discomfort by letting my Sweetie know that I’d be unavailable for 2-3 hours while I put my phone in this box (a ceramic chicken!):
[Image description: a brown ceramic container with a lid that is shaped like the top half of a chicken.]
I call using my phone box “feeding the chicken,” which is both pretty freaking adorable if you ask me and also serves a purpose in describing an action: being unavailable.
One of my four goals for this year was to begin my dissertation. Although I did start and draft a chapter, I needed a little jumpstart for my writing process. The raccoon report is that jumpstart. Here’s how I described its wonder in myHave Purpose on Purpose post:
A Raccoon Report is similar to what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty first draft,” in that its purpose is to make you get words out of your brain and onto the page. It gets its name from the ways one might write a first draft of a report on raccoons: “Raccoons looks like little bandits. The fur on their faces looks like masks. They have striped tails. They have tiny hands. They eat cat food sometimes.” As you can see, these sentences function simply to report information; they can later be finessed via transitions, changing the ways the sentences begin, and can be made more complex. Right now, however, the goal is to WRITE.
I am a visual writer, and being able to see how ideas relate to one another helps me to both understand things better and describe them more effectively to others. I describe this thinking process in myMind & Concept Maps post:
Whenever I’m writing—an analysis, a journal article, a lesson plan, and now, a whole damn dissertation—I do what I call “turning writing into a math problem.” If I use a formula like “A + B = C, except in the case of D, in which case E” to organize my thoughts, my writing is more structurally sound.
When I asked my Sweetie whatshethought I gained most from doingThe Tending Year, she said: “Prioritization of what’s important to you. Holding your health as equal to your work. Giving yourself permission to do the things that keep you healthy.” Pretty cool, huh?
I’m including physical and emotional health under one umbrella here because they both inform one another for me. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain for almost two years, and while I’ve developed a pain management toolbox and truly have healed a lot this year, I started the year in a difficult and dark place with daily pain. I wrote in myReflection: Whys and Hows postabout how I slowly transitioned from self-loathing to self-compassion around my pain, but I want to highlight a key process that helped me get through this year: shifting my perspective.
I learned a lot about shifting my perspective in my research and practice for my Emotional Agency post. By learning how to calm my nervous system with practical tools like the window of tolerance and the feelings wheel, I was able to shift my perspective from one of fear and hopelessness to one with a bit more compassion for myself. An additional benefit of shifting my perspective was learning how to say“some is better than none”and actually believe it.
This year I celebrated five years of sobriety, which I detailed in my Recovery post. Something I mentioned multiple times throughoutThe Tending Yearis the metaphor that my brain lacks an “on/off switch” to tell me when I’ve had enough of things that alter my mood. This includes things like alcohol and drugs, but as I discussed in myWorkaholic Tendencies post, I also struggle with addiction to work. Two tools that helped me to reevaluate my perspective around work were Grace’sHow to Not Always Be Working and honing in on my value of developing long-term over short-term coping skills.
A tiny glimpse of what to expect from The Tending Year in 2019:
Continued weekly posts on specific themes with theory + practice + takeaways
A monthly newsletter with some extra special reflection posts and musings (sign up instructions will be in next week’s post!)
A revamped website (!!!)
Print guides and free downloads
Plus, sometime during the year I may offer the opportunity to work with me one-on-one (and maybe even in a group). One of my future goals is to begin coaching people in productivity and success, so if you might be interested in working with me, reach out to me via my email,firstname.lastname@example.org.
A huge takeaway from 2018 was that I could not find a dissertation coach who I really wanted to work with, so a lot of 2019 will be learning how to be myown dissertation coach. If you’re a graduate student, scholar, or researcher, you’ll definitely want to stay tuned, but I promise my research and writing will apply to anyone who is creative, interested in healing and learning, and who wants to learn how to holistically develop their productivity and self development practices!
My special thanks are due to the people who read my drafts, gave me feedback on ideas, and generally cheered me on throughout the year: my Sweetie, my friends Liz and Chris, and my online community Lynn, Katherine, Leah Beth, Camilla, and Connie. Thank you all so much! <3
*Please note that the original version of this blog post was published here.
This blog is not affiliated with, associated with, or endorsed by the Pomodoro Technique® or Francesco Cirillo.
Subscribe here and you'll receive a FREE digital copy of my habit formation guide, To Hold in the Hand: A Guide to Maintaining, plus extra productivity and self development tips in my newsletter, The Tending Letter!