I decided my future career when I was sixteen years old: tenured English professor.
I’d been writing poetry and painting for about a year, and I determined that I needed to choose one and commit myself to getting really good at it. I chose poetry, and followed that trajectory to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Literature and also a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry, to publish many poems in journals, and finally to publish my very own book of poems. I decided to pursue another Masters degree and a PhD in Composition and Rhetoric, which led me to my research on the writer Lisa Ben. If I continue at the rate I’m at now, I’ll defend my dissertation next Spring and receive the well-earned title of “Doctor Kate” by summer 2020.
This is the first time I’m saying this publicly, and while it feels vulnerable to share, it also feels incredibly empowering: I’m looking forward to finishing my doctoral degree, but I don’t want to be an English professor anymore. It’s an admirable dream, but it just isn’t my dream, and it hasn’t been for a while. In 2017, I made a promise to myself: if I could research, practice, and blog about productivity and personal development every week for a whole year and still feel as passionate as I did in the beginning, then I would give myself permission to pursue the actual career I feel called to do—coaching, researching, and publishing on productivity through a lens of personal development, accessibility, and with intention to empower individuals to improve their lives.
I’m now more than halfway through year two of weekly blogging at The Tending Year, and I’ve been seeing a number of clients privately, so I figured it was time to come out and tell my story of how I got here.
I Was Forced to Reevalute My Priorities
I started to think critically about my productivity in early 2017 in response to developing chronic back and sacral pain. Up until that point, I based my self worth in my output. I had made myself responsible and obligated to many people outside myself. I rarely said no or turned down an opportunity. I was a workaholic with flimsy boundaries, and what I really needed was to stop. What I really needed was a new system, a new perspective, a new set of practices.
My chronic pain forced me to reluctantly detox from my workaholic lifestyle, and I craved a new understanding of what my life could look like without 12-hour workdays. One of the things I missed the most was the fast-paced, celebratory community I felt in spin class. As I shifted to walking slowly alone on the bike path, I started listening to personal development podcasts to feel less alone. My first one was Brooke McAlary and Kelly Exeter’s Let It Be, which covered topics like living with rhythms instead of routines, practicing gratitude, and buidling a life in line with your values. I kept listening to more podcasts, and I learned about building healthy habits, silencing your inner critic, and calming your nervous system.
I began to feel less alone, and I noticed my perspective on my self worth shifting. Instead of running from the incredible sadness and loneliness I felt in losing my before-chronic pain lifestyle, I leaned into the experience. I started to make choices about when, how, and where to invest my time and energy, rather than saying “yes” to every opportunity. I set boundaries, first unintentionally, by rejecting invites to things outside my ability, and then with intention to allocate my time and energy and spoons to things that lined up with my personal values. I rested more. I committed to learning how to love myself, even when I felt frightened by the shifting needs of my body.
How Personal Development Led to Productivity
I started practicing the methods I heard on podcasts, and I quickly learned that the topics that interested and benefited me the most were subjects that were tied to productivity, such as habit formation, time management, setting boundaries, routines/rhythms, and prioritization. (Just glancing at the titles of my first few months of blog posts for year one of The Tending Year shows where my fascination lay!) As I kept researching, however, I observed that the world of productivity research is incredibly male, masculine, capitalist, white, business-oriented, privileged, and able-bodied. I was disappointed that researching topics like habit formation or single-tasking often brought me to Forbes magazine or Harvard Business Review.
These sources lacked what I needed in order to feel productive as a person who lives with chronic pain and illness: a holistic view of mental/emotional/physical health that is rooted in a personal definition of success and recognizes the complex ways in which we spend and recharge our personal resources. Productivity is about systems, logic, measuring input against output, prioritization, control, intention. It literally means achieving the goals you set for yourself. It does not mean working yourself to a breaking point, slaloming between exhaustion and the endorphin hit of multitasking (which doesn’t exist, by the way).
I am not interested in practicing or perpetuating a “one-size-fits-all” approach to productivity or personal development. Instead, I want to guide people to develop their individual strengths and goals in ways that empower and fascinate them. One method I’ve developed in honor of this goal, is to identify and break down habits, practices, and motivations to their essence, to really understand the inside mechanisms of how we as individuals relate to our own current and future success (as you define success for you), and to develop individual practices that encourage agency and self-love.
How Can I Serve You?
I’m now more than halfway through my second year of researching and writing weekly blog posts for The Tending Year, and while I’ve been coaching clients quietly on the side since 2017, I haven’t yet publicly announced my offerings. As I mentioned above, it feels vulnerable to name and share this part of my work out loud before I’ve officially launched a business, but I am truly excited to guide you through your own processes of reseeing productivity and achieving your goals and dreams.
One way you can access my guidance is through the free resources I share with people who sign up for The Tending Letter, my once-a-month newsletter where I reflect on my current practices, get extra personal, and share special takeaways and prompts.
If you’re interested in working with me one-on-one to create a personal productivity plan, I’m now accepting new coaching clients.
My coaching sessions are an hour long, in person or on video or audio call, and are offered on a sliding scale, with a special rate for people with chronic illness and/or chronic pain. Every session includes a personalized write up. If you’d like to book with me or learn more about my offerings, check out my Work With Me page and send me an email to chat about how we can work together!