How I Do It [or “Soule Work” for my students].

Paraphrased and adapted from this post by Charles Soule.

  1. DECIDE on what you can do today and do it. I practice this by meditating for ten minutes before I start my day–before a shower sometimes. I focus on my breath, while letting my mind run through all that I have to accomplish that day. Then I…
  2. ORGANIZE: Make a list and put them everywhere–phone, desktop, notebook. I use Wunderlist. After a few false starts with various Android applications for Gmail Tasks, I’ve settled on this one. I organize the Inbox section for Week Goals–like getting to a particular section in something I’m writing, and updating my Mint budget account, and then I setup separate lists per day. This is for little things that I forget easily like making sure I have a student’s paper graded, or I’ve photocopied that handout, or got batteries for an thermometer. I have a hard time remembering those things, so I offload it to Wunderlist to remind me to do.
  3. RECOGNIZE and ELIMINATE Distractions. Shut off the Internet and restrict things to what I NEED to do instead of doing things that I WANT. This is a hard one for me, because I’m so easily distracted. But what I do when I have to sit down and get to work, I use Waste No Time as a Chrome extension, because I can lock down my internet and just focus on the primary function for my computer: writing, or grading papers. This way, in the time I set for myself, I can do nothing but that task.
  4. SAY NO. Soule writes that if you can’t draw a straight line between a “potential obligation” and a “goal” then say no. This especially  means if/then statements. I’m actually really great at standing my ground and saying no or being unable to do things because of my goals. Sorry, I can’t make it to that meeting, because I’m meeting with a student, or I’ve taken this time to focus on writing for an hour straight.
  5. EXERCISE. This is really important to me. I need to work out at least three times a week. Whether it’s lifting [I can now squat my body weight!], swimming, or doing a Nicky Hollander workout–I know I need to have that regular exercise otherwise I get anxious, unrested, and generally lethargic. I really can’t be lethargic–it’s something that I’ve always struggled with–I have a lot on my plate and it’s all really important to me.
  6. PRE-WRITE. Outline things: A list of plot points and chapter breakdowns, especially lists and stick to them. I handwrite every thing. Lists, drafts of stories, thumbnails even handouts. After that, I put the list into that day’s Wunderlist and setup reminders so I know to move onto the next thing after Wunderlist pings me.
  7. SIT DOWN & DON’T STAND UP until it’s done. This has been really helpful, with the lists and the reminders from Wunderlist, I’ve gotten really fast at grading things and getting them done so I don’t spend an entire Saturday and Sunday doing school work.
  8. MAKE the best use of YOUR TIME. Mostly related to the last thing, and is Soule’s second “decide”. It helps me regulate how much time I spend on the Internet. I only check tumblr, twitter, or my work emails twice a day. I have more important things to get done than be on the Internet. It’s gotten so focused that I really only check my Feedly once a week. There’s nothing that happens on the Internet that’s important to check every minute of every day.
  9. DO NOT MULTI-FOCUS: You can’t do it, or at least I can’t do it. I got this from Greg McKeown. We can multi-task–you can listen to music while drafting or doing chores or driving, but we can’t multi-focus like try to grade a student’s paper while watching television. That just prolongs the pain and one works at the half the rate of speed that you normally could. It’s amazing how much can get done in an hour if you focus on just that thing.
  10. I just added this one last week: DON’T GET FLAPPY by trying to do too much at once. Focus on one thing at one time. This is a major problem for me. I get ahead of myself often, especially in stressful situations like cooking dinner or doing the dishes. Trying to do three things at once causes a mini-breakdown where I’ll ask questions and run from one task [say grilling chicken] to another [making a salad] before completing the first task. This relates to multi-focusing, but the “flappy” bit is from Meggan. When I get stressed out I try to do too much at once to compensate for an error. I run around flapping my arms and asking a million dumb questions that I know the answer to.  

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