The Half-Full Glass is Just Fine

So, Kristen Lamb and I spent a lot of time last week talking about self-help (among other things, including podcasting, serial killers, and why the NSA doesn’t get better phone tap tech – we can hear the clicking!).  As the daughter of a psychologist and a social worker, I am genetically predisposed to be twitchy and see cult-like induction strategies in almost all self-help books/groups/techniques/merchandise.

Anyway, we’re talking about self-help. I broke out in hives. Kristen laughed. She said the word, ‘positivity,’ just to see how I’d react. I went into convulsions. She was laughing so hard that the 911 operators could barely understand her. *le sigh*

But today, I want to talk about something that is a bit more related to my post last week about the absurdity of Perfect Productivity, or this insane concept the self-help industry has sold us on that we can achieve 100% optimal productivity at all times in all things from sleep to sex to sending emails.

Because when we peek at chapter 3 (because admit it, you skimmed all those positive affirmation exercises in chapter 2), we see that there’s actually an even MORE insidious goal embedded deep in the overarching goal of just trying to get us to spend our money on these systems.

The thing is, whether it’s stated or implied, the purpose of Perfect Productivity is to get us operating at peak yield…in order to do more.

More is better. Greed is good. And Perfect Productivity is killing us.

Chugging Opportunity

You ever done anything you regretted at a bar or a party? Maybe it was that shot on a dare (seriously, never ever ever accept a dare to drink a ‘Pickle Barrel’ shot – so gross!). Maybe it was the stupid beer hat. Or the keg stand. Or the, “It’s so sad to leave a wine bottle unfinished.”

What follows the next morning is regret, at least when aren’t praying for death or at the very least for GrubHub to hurry up with that greasy recovery breakfast we ordered.

Even a glass of water. Chugging a whole 8 oz. in one go can leave us feeling a bit queasy and sloshy on the inside.

Perfect Productivity is designed to make us believe that chugging is the only way to drink anything and that the fact we feel sick after means there is still something wrong with us and we need MORE help.

Because if we are doing everything right and being truly productive, we should have the time/capacity/energy to do MORE! Accomplish MORE! Double that to-do list and still have time to add the next post to your Pinterest cupcake fail blog that you started because the program told you to force yourself into being adventurous in a new creative venture in order to ‘re-inspire’ yourself to dream bigger and achieve even more in your day job and better organic Japanese lunch box art for your kids to take to school…

Sorry, it’s almost too easy to pick on this stuff.

Basically, self-help wants us to chug that 8 oz. so we can drink another, and another, and another…

And that way lies alcohol poisoning…of the soul.

The Cheap Liquor of Fulfillment

Cheap liquor is designed to get you wasted. And the point of getting wasted is so that we don’t have to feel or think, and we can float on fluffy pink clouds of contentment…at least until we get arrested for starting that bar fight or puke our brains out.

But for that little bit…we are happy. Things are okay. Things are good. The only thing we have to do right now is enjoy the right now. Because when we drink, we are not expected to do anything (in fact, we are quite reasonably FORBIDDEN to much of anything else) other than drink.

Go home, Goose. You’re drunk.

We turn to self-help to help us…feel fine (*hums Indigo Girls and accidentally gets time-teleported back to college). Why buy the small bottle of really nice whiskey on the top shelf when we can get two big bottles of <insert Irish/Dew/Rose/something here> instead?

More is better! Right?

Right????

More books on Amazon with our name on the cover! More plot bunnies brought to life! More projects, deadlines, commitments! More income….*crickets*

Eh.

Sure, I can see why it’s addictive. I mean, who doesn’t want to have a 26-book backlist in just under 26 months? Every release day is a party to celebrate us! Compliments on the cover! An ARC team whose quasi-literate boilerplate reviews are absolutely worth every single daily $5 Amazon gift card raffle…sorry *stuffs my cynicism back in its box with some Schopenhauer to keep her quiet*).

Back to the issue at hand. Whatever the idea of ‘MORE’ is doing to the quality of literature aside, ‘MORE’ is the biggest culprit in our declining quality of life.

But until we learn to see the value of LESS, we will chase MORE until we have NOTHING left.

Capsule Wardrobe, Capsule Life

If you don’t know already, I am a Pinterest junkie. Yes, I collect recipes and actually make them. Yes, I have occasionally tried crafting from Pinterest. No, I will not show you my crafting results.

Mostly, my Pinterest is a hoarder’s paradise of historical clothing, strange/weird history topics (from cryptozoology to marginalia, and Victorian memento mori to Lalique hair ornaments). If you are needing a rabbit hole for distraction, come visit!

As an aside, with almost 50k monthly views, I could probably do something interesting in using my Pinterest profile for marketing, but I choose not to. In fact, I probably will never do so. Why? Because Pinterest is the ONLY social media I do for pure fun.

Anyway. One of the things I discovered on Pinterest was the concept of a capsule wardrobe. What is this encapsulated creature? It is the concept of building a complete wardrobe (annual, seasonal, etc.) out of multi-purpose and multi-season items, from coats to clothes to shoes.

There are lots of approaches, styles, and even fads within the capsule wardrobe trend. But the driving principle is to simplify your complete wardrobe so that while you have less, you wear more.

I won’t be diving deep into how you build a capsule wardrobe (though I have a Pinterest board on it, LOL). But I have been doing it for about 3 years now, and I truly love it. Having less has allowed me to have better and wear more.

No longer do I have the pieces in the back of my closet that occasionally emerge like a lost tribe that time forgot coming out of the Amazonian rain forest. No more do I come away from shopping trips with guilt that weighs heavier than the impulse purchases in my bag. In fact, two drawers of underthings/pajamas/workout wear aside, my entire wardrobe (coats included) fits on one 3-ft long closet rod.

Which, unfortunately leaves a lot of room in my closet for purses. Hey, I never said I was perfect.

It’s not that I don’t see amazing, beautiful pieces that also look amazing when I try them on (I’m not made of steel). It’s just that I have drummed it into my head over THREE YEARS that, “I lived just fine without it yesterday, and I will live just fine without it tomorrow.”

Weird how that makes us feel uncomfortable, right? How sad is it that we have to work hard at reconditioning ourselves to be content with less?

It’s not that ‘less is more.’ It is ‘less is enough.’

Redefining ‘Perfect Productivity’

So, to bring this whole thing full circle, part of the reason we are so hung up on achieving ever-higher yields from our time and effort is because we have been suckered into chasing ‘more.’

I’m not saying this is an excuse to slack off or give up. In future, posts, I’ll be talking about how/why we need to use ‘less is enough’ to fuel extraordinary effort to achieve extraordinary results.

What I am saying is that we need to stop the knee-jerk reaction to the half-empty glass. We have been conditioned to mobilize our efforts to do whatever it take to make that glass FULL! Because FULL is complete! FULL represents the proof of success! FULL is the hallmark of Perfect Productivity.

Maybe sometimes the glass does need to get to FULL. But, maybe…sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe sometimes, the glass is complete with whatever it contains in that moment. Maybe there’s a bigger glass we need to fill. Maybe this is our cue to drain the glass to the bottom.

Okay, I’ll stop with the metaphors. For now.

Not saying they won’t be back at some point (i.e. next post).

What do YOU think about the value of LESS? Agree? Disagree? Want to talk about them Red Sox (yes, still basking in the glow, thankyouverymuch)? Gimme a shout in the comments! I love hearing from you 🙂

Also, be sure to check out my YouTube channel with Kristen Lamb – Reynolds & Lamb.

Unproductive: Why the Productivity Industry is Killing us

productivity

Last week was one of *those* weeks. You know the ones I’m talking about. A Sisyphean series of tasks that kinda sorta moved forward but never really got finished. A black hole of productivity where effort went in, but nothing came out.

productivity

Yeah…that kind of week.

In my case, the causes of that kind of week could be any number of things: anxiety, procrastination…the need to do the dishes above all other income-generating work.  

The results can range from snail’s-pace productivity to complete paralysis, emotional stagnation, and work stoppage. This leads to a fear of failure, which feeds back into the vicious cycle, which leads to self-fulfilling sabotage, which leads to the motherfucking rabbit hole of all rabbit holes on Pinterest.

Productivity

But, the thing is…it doesn’t have to be like this.

Even worse? We are getting bamboozled, fooled, scammed, and robbed by the self-help productivity industry. In fact, I’m pretty sure they are at the root of it all and wouldn’t be surprised if they had a super-secret global cabal that met quarterly and outlined evil task priorities in their planners.

How can I say this? Because I figured it out. Just today. While walking my dog (which is pretty much when all amazing, brilliant, razor-sharp life insights happen).

This way madness lies…

You know the old chestnut about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result leading to madness?

That is exactly what we are doing with the productivity self-help industry. Sure, the details of the approach might change (the tomato thing, the micro-task-delegation page planner, the subscription-based app to organize and motivate us), but they all share the same goal…

…and that goal is what is killing us.

productivity

The self-help industry doesn’t want to make us more productive. Their only goal is to SELL us on the idea that we CAN and SHOULD be 100% PRODUCTIVE EVERY DAY.

While we actively engage in debate about idealized body image, relationships, politics, etc., why are we not questioning the acculturation of the idea of PERFECT PRODUCTIVITY?

Perfection is not attainable. Ever. In any way, shape, or form. It is the great existential challenge of humanity to be aware of this wisp of an ideal just beyond our full comprehension and grasp, and yet to learn to see flaws as part of a whole that has become perfect in and of itself because of those flaws.

…um…sorry, my inner academic nerd is peeking out. *stuffs back in box with a copy of Plato’s Republic to pass the time*

My point is this: all absolutes are guaranteed to fail eventually.

(*side-eye at quantum physics and the like* You may be excused until further notice.)

So, if absolute perfect productivity is unachievable at worst and unsustainable at best, why are we so determined to bang our head against that wall?

The Bad Day Tax

I don’t have all the answers to what will help make us more productive. I’m not even sure we NEED to be more productive.

productivity

Shocking, I know, but work with me.

Say we make $50k per year. Break that down into a 40-hour work week, then we are earning (rounded) $24/hr…before everything gets taken out. If we get more productive, work more hours, get more stuff done…we’re still making $50k per year, but even going up to a 50-hour work week drops our ‘hourly rate’ to $19/hr.

So, our employer is getting more work, more productivity, more hours out of us…for less money…because we believe we need to work harder, smarter, better, etc.? And you laughed at my international productivity self-help cabal conspiracy theory…

In a way, we could look at that $5/hr we lost as a ‘Bad Day Tax’ that penalizes us for imperfect productivity. We can’t even throw teabags around our cubicles in protest because…we’re not protesting. While we are trying to keep up with the email (or Slack for those sharp techno-progressives) chain, we are tacitly accepting the rule of Perfect Productivity.

Damn you, Rousseau!

productivity

We can’t change society expectations or recover from our own conditioning overnight. Maybe not even in a generation. This mindset has been a long time in the (*coughIndustrialRevolutioncough*) making, and it may take just as long for us as a society to learn balance. That, or a zombie apocalypse that will wipe out everything and force us to start all over again.

What we can do now is stop tripping ourselves up with the idea of 100% Perfect Productivity. If productivity is a flow, then it must also have an ebb. Forget that little detail and we’re on our way down the garden path to anxiety, depression, exhaustion…you know the rest.

Equal and opposite reactions, baby. Newtonian physics for the win!

The Old College Try

Even ‘trying your best’ is an effort that cannot be sustained at 100% at all times.

productivity

Usain Bolt doesn’t sprint full-out every time he runs. He doesn’t even jog to the supermarket. His attempts to ‘try his best’ are reserved for specific, confined bursts of time – workouts and races. And trying his best is no guarantee of any result. It’s just his intention to sustain superlative effort for a set period.

Biologically, we are not designed to function at 100% capacity at all times. Yet, we chase the perfect body weight, perfect sleep patterns…and optimal work capacity. And since our brain is a resident member of our biological ecosystem, the same rules apply to our psychological health and mental abilities.

In all seriousness, we need to accept that we will have good days when we set ’em up and knock ’em down, and we will have bad days where trying to get something done feels like riding in a bumper car without a seatbelt.

productivity

That’s just the way it is. And, that’s okay. Take a deep breath and really think about it.

You are no longer expected to be perfect and achieve all things on your to-do list today. Yes, obviously, some things have to get done and are non-negotiable (feed the dog/children/partner/goldfish).

The best we can do is to aim for putting forth our best effort for a certain amount of time for a certain task/set of tasks. This doesn’t guarantee results. Lots of stuff might get in the way, both legitimate and procrastinatory.

productivity

Bad days will happen, thwarting our best efforts. BUT, giving our best efforts EVERY DAY means that there will be GOOD DAYS when we zoom through our to-do lists, finish projects, and reach major milestones.

The good days and bad days will balance out until we are operating at the level of productivity is that is optimal for us. Nature will always seek its level…and nature is inexorable.  We can nudge the needle a little through practice, habit, and knowledge, but the only real way to change is the unglamorous, unmarketable reality of plodding persistence over time.

Earthquakes are quick and exciting, but gentle water over time carved the Grand Canyon.

Does this mean I’m doomed to serve fries forever?

Probably not.

Yeah, I know. Not the answer you’re looking for, but hey, I’m gonna side-step that trap of absolute guarantees.

productivity

I feel your pain. I fight ‘Fryolator Flunkie Fear’ every day, and this past year, I’ve struggled with more bad days than good days. But, I haven’t given up yet.

All I can do is give my best effort today, accept what I did and did not accomplish for what it is, get up tomorrow, and give my best effort again.

You with me?

(Oh, and I have a lot more to say about the evil productivity self-help industry, so there will be more posts on that! LOL)


WANANANO?

I have lots of things coming up to help you get through NaNoWriMo! As usual, I will be right there alongside you, slinging words and pulling hair.

On November 1, Kristen Lamb and I will be doing a LIVE ALL-DAY WRITE-IN on our YouTube channel – Reynolds & Lamb.

NaNoWriMo

For the first time, and for FREE, you can hang out with me and Kristen, chatting, putting words up on the board, and getting jazzed for NaNoWriMo! We’ll probably also be dishing out expert writing advice…because we can’t help it.

But seriously, if you’ve never seen us together, you are missing out on doctorate-level snark, random goat noises, and 10 million watt energy!

I’m also offering two classes – one to help you get ready for NaNoWriMo, and one to help you get through it. Check them out below!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $77.00 USD (both classes live/recorded AND bonus gift!)

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: (see below)

Get two live classes plus all recordings for 30% off!

And, did I say bonus gift? I did! That’s right. When you buy the WANANANO Class Bundle, you will get a FREE copy of my “Book-in-a-Box” template that you can keep and use for all your stories.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

 


Book-in-a-Box: Get Ready for NaNoWriMo like a Doomsday Prepper!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: MONDAY, October 29, 2018. 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

The best part of NaNoWriMo is the worldwide energy and camaraderie that fuels the writing community. The worst part of NaNoWriMo is facing the fact that we are trying to write a story from beginning to end in 30 days.

For many writers, planning out our NaNo novel ahead of time feels like cheating. Well…so what? It’s not cheating if we don’t add the plan into the word count. In fact, it’s what I like to call SMART WINNING.

Yet, those of us who are planners and plotters still want to be part of the slightly-giddy, euphoric rush of pseudo-pantsing through NaNo with millions of other writers.

Fear not, Wordy Warrior! I am going to share with you my Book-in-a-Box Method that will give you the ability to plot and pants as much or little as you want while helping you stay focused on the finish line.

This class will cover:

  • The Book-Before-the-Book: the secret magical well that you can come back to every time you get stuck or blocked;
  • The Serial Killer Wall: capturing, tracking, plotting in real-time (string and duct tape not included);
  • Stress-Free Plotting is not an Oxymoron: how to cruise through all three acts, figure out chapters, and keep the action going…all without breaking a sweat.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

THE WANANANO CLASS BUNDLE! (with a bonus gift!)

Get two live classes plus all recordings for 30% off!

And, did I say bonus gift? I did! That’s right. When you buy the WANANANO Class Bundle, you will get a FREE copy of my “Book-in-a-Box” template that you can keep and use for all your stories.

REGISTER HERE!

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.


The Sticky Middle: Get out of the Swamp and over the Finish Line!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, November 16, 2018. 7:00 P.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

So…how’s NaNoWriMo going for you?

The first 10k words? No problem. Another 5k? I can pants that.

Now…I’m at 18k words with 14 days left…and 0 clues about where to go from here.

Sound familiar? This is what I call ‘The Sticky Middle,’ and it is a treacherous swamp that can swallow even the most accomplished, focused writers. It is the moment when writers are most likely to be pulled under by the forces of writer’s block, insecurity, and exhaustion.

The Sticky Middle is the root cause of 98% (I’m guessing here, but I’m pretty darn sure I’m right) of all unfinished first drafts. This class will teach you how to get out of The Sticky Middle…not just for NaNoWriMo, but for every book you write from now on!

This class will cover:

  • Walking into Quicksand: Half of getting out of The Sticky Middle is knowing how we got in there in the first place…and how to avoid making these early mistakes next time;
  • Maslow Stripping: Assessing where characters are when we get stuck…and what we need to take away from them in order to move forward;
  • The Treasure Map: Making sure we have our eye on the prize (i.e. the ending), and how to use that to get through The Sticky Middle;
  • Stop! Break it Down!: (Couldn’t help myself with that…) A blunt, practical way to tackle the amorphous goo that is The Sticky Middle and wrestle it into realistic, achievable, bite-size steps.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

THE WANANANO CLASS BUNDLE! (with a bonus gift!)

Get two live classes plus all recordings for 30% off!

And, did I say bonus gift? I did! That’s right. When you buy the WANANANO Class Bundle, you will get a FREE copy of my “Book-in-a-Box” template that you can keep and use for all your stories.

REGISTER HERE!

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude.