I can’t believe that I have been writing The Tending Year for 52 whole weeks!

I started this blog for two reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


I mentioned halfway through the year that my Top Five Tending Tips were:

  1. Individualize your tending plan
  2. Ease decision making with tools
  3. Be kinder to yourself
  4. Set parameters for productivity
  5. Shoot for long term goals

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 of The Tending Year.

Time management

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”).

You can read more about the 90 Minute Work Session in my Mindful Production post. Here are the free Pomodoro programs I use: Tomato Timer (laptop) and Be Focused (iPhone + syncs with apple watch). 



Must-Do Method

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 book Get Your Shit Together. I dedicated a whole 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 done and prioritize 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 my How to Schedule post:

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. 


Managing Social Media: Phone Box

I got this idea from Marlee Grace’s How to Not Always be Working: a Toolkit for Creativity and Radical Self-Care. While it sounds simple—put your phone in a container for a period of time so you don’t use it—it can actually feel very uncomfortable at first! I wrote about my initial discomfort in my Social Media with Intention and Awareness post

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.



Racoon Report

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 my Have 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. 


Concept Maps 

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 my Mind & 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.

Check out this example of how I used a concept map to set boundaries for writing a high-stakes paper in my Have Purpose on Purpose post


Physical and Emotional Health

When I asked my Sweetie what she thought I gained most from doing The 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 my Reflection: Whys and Hows post about 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.


Shifting 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 throughout The Tending Year is 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 my Workaholic Tendencies post, I also struggle with addiction to work. Two tools that helped me to reevaluate my perspective around work were Grace’s How 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, [email protected]

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 my own 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.

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