What just happened? Why I had to temporarily stop writing and re-asses how I create . . .

In the last two weeks, I have not written a single word, despite my original goal of reaching 180-300 hours of writing this summer. Why?

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A Downward Spiral of Inactivity

My relationship with time management is a funny one.

For weeks at a time, I feel like the most productive person ever, and then, for an equal span of time, I am the least productive person! I know some people can relate – especially writers.

Sometimes, I stop writing, because thinking about lost time causes a unique type of anxiety within me. It makes sitting down to write harder, and the inactivity perpetuates a negative emotional cycle. Usually, I feel a mixture of imposter syndrome and frustration. I view my work through an overly critical lense, leading me to abandon projects or spend less and less time towards writing my books.

These emotions lead to a lot of time spent thinking about my creative projects without actually doing them – biting my nails as to why I wasted two, three, or four days.

This was part of what happened this month, but not all.

Life Took Over in July

Earlier in July, I had other priorities to take care of in my life.

I needed to spend my time with important people that needed love, care, and attention. Attending to family was far more important than anything else going on. I have to spare you the details, as they are extremely personal and private.

During this last week, I needed to spend time away from writing. Just seeing my fiancé, my brother, and my immediate family, while getting back into exercise was what I needed. I had to take time to think about my life’s overall priorities and bolster my health and spirituality practices.

While taking this time, I had so many questions: What do I want to accomplish before my last breath? How can I be of service to other people in the next ten, twenty, or thirty years? Am I spending enough time with my family? In light of that question, does it even matter what I want to accomplish?

I realize now that this past week was about reminding myself of my priorities.

Yes, writing is important. It is meditative to me, and it is a thrilling hobby. However, my family and friends come first, before my creative projects.

My health comes first, before writing my novel. I needed to be present with all of it.


Despite My Frustrations…

I still need to finish my book, and honestly, I’m biting my nails!

My project The Witch’s Uprising, has taken me too long to write because I initially didn’t know how to manage my time. Earlier in the summer, I had finally reached a successful streak. I was running with the manuscript, full of creative flow. In July, life took over as mentioned above, I needed to take time off. And now… Now I’m trying to get back to writing again.

My gut tells me that taking time off it’s ok. It tells me I should take my time and that I shouldn’t rush. Still, my ego reminds me of the goals that I set. It reminds me that I should have been done, that I should have worked harder, that I should have pushed.

So which is right? Maybe both? Can I embrace the duality of this situation?

Maybe I’m overzealous. Maybe I’m setting goals that I cannot meet, and maybe that’s a recipe for disappointment.

Taking time off from my creative hobby made me understand a fundamental problem in my writing practice: I had not yet developed a balanced practice. Meaning, I had not yet found a way to work writing into my life where it wasn’t a high-octane endeavor at the exclusion of other important activities.

It’s time to try something new – an emotionally healthier way of writing these books. I’m going for balance, and I as I reach towards it, I’ll keep you posted.

Be well!!!

-Curtis


Share a comment below, or, you can connect with me here.

 

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“Just writing” – How a summer of writing is teaching me to do life better

This is one of a series of posts for my writing challenge, Minutes to a Better Book. You can read more about the challenge, and see all related posts here.  


 

 

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I Wrote an average of 2.5-3 hours a day, for ten days…

I’ve reached the 30-hour milestone for writing my books. I’m happy with the results:

  • An almost-finished manuscript of The Witch’s Uprising (TWU)
  • A longer manuscript than expected
  • Meaningful changes to character arcs and conflict
  • A completely posted Part One of TWU on Wattpad – You can read it here.
  • Rankings on Wattpad going up: 

    Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks
    One of my Instagram stories. @CurtisWritesBooks

Other Results:

  • I was able to work through some writer’s apprehension I’d been having over the last few months.
  • My mental health is better, and I’m starting to balance my life. This was the biggest success.

(There are, of course, always more details. You can check out my public posts on Patreon if you interested.  All public posts are available here. )


Just Doing vs. Meeting Quotas: What writing without a word count made me realize…

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Why does it feel so easy to write, all of a sudden? Maybe it’s because I have more time this summer than usual, but the very task of writing feels so different when I sit down to do it.

The real answer?

Between work obligations and commitments to friends and family, it had been hard to find time to create, and when I found the time, I didn’t write well.

I was out of balance. I touched on this briefly in my last post.

My time is balanced now, and when I sit down to write, I’m just writing and enjoying writing. It reminds me of a Zen Buddhist idea of being fully present while “just doing” something.

On that note, I stopped using word counts.

Writing without them has helped me be more creative. For example, I focused last week’s time on crafting scenes, and I wasn’t worried about reaching a quota of words. My characters came to life instead of robotically moving through their conflicts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a fan of using word counts in the past, and why not? Word counts are useful. It’s nice to set a challenge. It’s nice to do a writing sprint every once in a while, but any method can become a crutch. The act of writing was no longer fun when I was just aiming at a particular goal.

I learned a valuable lesson this summer. By taking care of myself, my commitments, and my time, I was better able to enjoy writing – just writing. Setting aside blocks, without any arbitrary word count or quota to meet. Just writing for however long I can.

An hour. Two hours. Three if I have them.

I know I won’t have this much time forever. In fact, in a month and a half, my work-life balance will tip towards work. But after this summer, I won’t forget what I just learned:

-Make time for writing that doesn’t intrude on valuable family time and social commitments.

-Taking care of your mental health.

-Just write… Just write and enjoy writing. 

Before this summer, time was scarce, but more specifically, my imbalance negatively impacted the quality of my time. I was putting goals on a pedestal, and while goals are fine, experience has taught me that putting goals before balance leads to burnout.

Balance is important. This whole process makes me want to do a better job balancing my life…  I mean, who would want to miss a morning of this:

 

I hope you find a routine that works for you, and that you find a way to “just do” too.

Be well.

-Curtis


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A Summer of Writing: Minutes to A Better Book

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I write books as a hobby, and last month I had to push that hobby to the side.

The school year was ending, and I spent the first two weeks of June wrapping up loose ends and taking trainings. I was busy, to say the least. The three days that followed were fraught with mental fog, and quite frankly, guilt. I avoided writing at all costs. I looked at my work, and I thought, I could have done more.

 

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I felt guilty for not writing.

I felt guilty for putting my hobby to the side.

On top of that, I made a pretty big deal about writing my books for the last nine months, and I feel like I don’t have a lot to show for it.

I do not want to belittle the important steps I have taken, however tiny those steps were. I do, however, feel like I could have done better.

Yes, I’m proud of the revised chapters and new material. Yes – I’m happy to have made new friends and connected with total strangers over reading and writing. Still, I feel like I need to do more.

So . . . I will do more.

Minutes to a Better Book

A few posts ago, I talked about Minutes to a Better Book. My goal was to dedicate 180 to 300 hours towards writing my books – not my stories, not my blog, but rather, my books.

If I write for three hours every day until August 20th, I will make the 180 mark. The 300 Hours bit makes the challenge far more interesting and incentivizes me to just dedicate my time towards writing books.

What does this mean for Paper Palaces? It means that I will only work on posts after finishing my required writing for the day. This will most likely result in one or two posts per week on the usual topics.

You can read more about the challenge by visiting the challenge page here. Or, you can follow me on Instagram (@curtiswritesbooks), where I post stories about my progress, among other things.

If you feel like dedicating time towards your hobby, let me know. I love knowing that other people are putting hours in towards their passion.

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Are you writing to? Do you have a hobby that you’re diving into this summer?

-Curtis

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

A Poll for My Followers: How often should I post to Paper Palaces? What works for you?

Happy Sunday, everyone!

I just wanted to get some feedback from you this week. I’m trying to make an effective posting schedule without bogging you down with too many posts. Let me know!

-Curtis

If you’re new, you can start here.

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How to manage your time when everything seems important…

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We all know what it is like to be overwhelmed. Our parents, siblings, or friends may have events for us to attend. Our bosses, colleagues, customers, or clients demand a certain level of performance. At work, home, and in our relationships, we commit ourselves to activities and tasks that seem important. Sometimes, significant people in our lives ask us for favors, to complete a job, or for our help.

Sometimes the assignments arrive at the last minute, while at other times we have had a project looming over our heads for months. We intend to fulfill our promises, to deliver on the expecatations of our peers. And we do. . . when the conditions are favorable.

But what happens when all of it is important?

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For many, a sense of panic creeps into the day, or maybe a less-intense mental fog takes over the brain. While there are a select few people who thrive in a busy environment, over-committing your time and effort to multiple objectives can cause overwhelm or burn out.

My life is fairly busy, and I tend to enjoy it. At least, I enjoy being busy to a point. I’ve learned how to create a happy work-life balance in my own corner of the world. Seven years of teaching helped me. But I’m not perfect. I’m still adjusting the formula, and I still encounter busy times.

Even when the number of your commitments is fair, it is still possible for the milestones of your projects to converge. This nexus of obligation can make even the most organized people stressed out.

Sometimes, all of the important tasks are hard to accomplish. Worse –  they can prove difficult to prioritize. Everyone’s life is a complex network of obligations, commitments, and responsibilities, but moving through them does not have to be complicated.  

In fact, you could move through them gracefully.


How I manage my time when my calendar feels full . . .

My life is full of complications, obligations, and commitments.  It’s May and I have fifty more essays to grade, 340 mini-journal entries to read (that’s one week of journal entries from 68 students), and a novel to finish writing. I also want to spend time with my fiancé, visit my brother and parents, and occasionally relax.

On top of that, the laundry is piling up, the dishes need to be washed, and I have a wedding to help plan.

Usually, I have routines in place to take care of these activities, but this week, it seems like my ability to stick to routine has fallen apart. I know this is normal. Why? Because I talk to other human beings. This situation occasionally happens to all of us. The details are different, but the reality remains the same: we have many roles to play and only so much time to play them well.

When everything piles up, my main goal is to stay sane while trying to fulfill all of my responsibilities.

Here’s what I do.

I focus on two key habits: 1.) Prioritizing, and 2.) Reflecting.

These two habits may seem simple, or daunting, depending on who you ask. If at the end of the day, I have spent time doing both, I can rest knowing I have at least moved a step closer to fulfilling my objects.

I want to do everything, every single day, but the truth is . . . there is rarely enough time to do everything in one day and remain healthy. So, I must prioritize.


Prioritizing:

There can only be one priority at a time, but with a list of commitments, we have to decide how the items rank. Your number one priority will be a mix of what is most important and most urgent.

I read a book by two Navy SEALS a few months ago: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin’s Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win.  While reading it, I came across the phrase “prioritize and execute.”  

Jocko talks about prioritizing objectives and following through in their execution. Most of the time, this is just a matter of silencing your anxiety and cultivating enough discipline to activate a task. This was not a new idea for me; however, both authors emphasized one piece of the time management puzzle that I was lacking.

They spoke about the importance of perspective – knowing how your actions affect others when you are making your priorities. Without perspective, without a sense of the bigger picture, these priorities could result in neutral outcomes, or worse, negative outcomes.

When prioritizing, be sure to think about the bigger picture of why your particular project, activity, or task needs to be accomplished. For example, I am writing a novel series. I am doing this to communicate ideas that I have and stories that need to be told.

 

On a larger scale, writing these books is about fulfilling a larger dream of engaging with my life and work on a deeper philosophical level. It may be through the lens of fantasy fiction, but it is the lens I have chosen. If I forget why I am writing, any activity I do could have the potential of negatively impacting this process. I could accidentally over-invest my time in trivial activities, instead of putting my effort towards meaningful action.

On that note, here is an exercise you could try:

I do this at home – especially when I am too tired to tackle any task.

  1. Take ten minutes to write down everything that needs to get done. Write whatever comes to mind. This frees up your brain. Just let it all out. Sometimes it helps to separate what is urgent from what is important. Meaning, some tasks are supposed to be done before others, but may not seem as important.
  2. Rewrite the list in order of importance and urgency. If something must be done on a specific day, add a note.

With your list, you have a number of directions you could take. Personally, if you’re about long-term change, you should consider investing time in figuring out why you are doing something. All of a sudden, some of those tasks will make their way up the priority list.

At this point, I suggest doing the NUMBER ONE thing on your list for at least ten minutes. If you finish this task, move to the next, as long as time and health permits. Don’t hurt yourself.

Your goal is to finish the tasks in the order of their importance and urgency.  If time allows, move on to task number two, three, four, five, etc . . . If your number one item is a large-scale project, then it may help to break that project down into manageable tasks that make sense for the day.  

If you are having trouble figuring out why something is important, then maybe you shouldn’t do it, or maybe it is truly unimportant busywork. At the end of the day, you will know what is important to you.

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Reflecting:

This is just as important as prioritizing in terms of keeping yourself sane. At the end of the day, or idealy while I am finishing tasks, I keep a log of what I have done. This is a list of victories from the day, big and small. This helps overcome overwhelm.

 

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself at the end of the day:

  • What did I accomplish today?
  • What could I do to make tomorrow awesome?
  • Would I have changed anything about today?
  • What small battles did you win?

You should celebrate your accomplishments daily. That way, when you think of work, you think about the small wins that total up instead of all the little mistakes. While it’s healthy to reflect on failures, it’s important not to beat yourself up.

Being intelligently critical is different. If you are able to self-criticize without losing your momentum, then you are at a great advantage in accomplishing your goals and commitments. This type of reflection is helpful. Thinking about how you can improve and how to improve is always useful.

Sometimes you need to be honest with yourself.

Most of the time, your dreaded important task takes less time than you would think. By prioritizing what is important, following through, and then reflecting at the end of the day, you will decrease the amount of overwhelm you feel.

If you are trying to do too much, try setting an upper bound, as James Clear notes in his article, “Do Things You Can Sustain.” Read it here. While I’m at it, here’s another good James Clear article on marginal gains.

I’m applying these same strategies to help balance my work and writing commitments this week. I hope this helps you as much as it helps me!

-Curtis


Let’s Connect!

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

 

Why 300 hours of writing seems like a good idea . . .

For the last two weeks, I worked on promoting and participating in a 7-Day Reading Challenge. This summer, I plan on challenging myself with an experiment that I call Minutes to a Better Book. This long-term experiment involves dedicating 300 hours towards writing my books. Here’s why I’m doing it:

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Why am I choosing to dedicate 300 hours towards writing my books?

My goal is to dedicate as much time as possible towards my book series. You can read about my new personal challenge here.  

The truth is, I’ve spent much more of my time doing other things – and for good reasons. By day, I’m a teacher. I grade papers, read young adult novels, and help kids develop their reading and writing skills. When I get home, there are nights of my week dedicated towards grading, reflecting, reading and planning for my classroom. This is the case for many teachers. 

Even finding twenty minutes to write my fiction has seemed harder these days, and I think I know why. I have been avoiding my novel. More specifically I have been avoiding ending my novel.

The reason is simple. End a novel is hard.

Ending my novel would mean passing judgment on a project that I have worked hard on, put off, and returned to over the course of a year.

It would mean that the manuscript was ready for full revision – a process I actually love once I get started. I feel like my worst procrastination habits come in two places: right before the start and right before the end of major tasks and activities. Novel writing is no exception.

With my first novel From One to Another, I wrote a short, 50,000-word young adult realistic fiction novel. To be honest, it was pretty awful, which is why it will never see the light of day in published form. I have since had practice writing, but I noticed that I am most enthusiastic when I start stories and novels.

In many of my major projects, I encounter resistance around the 75% mark. One factor is time, and another is commitment.

As we near the summer, everything changes.

I have fifteen days before my students end the year and fourteen more before I am finished with training, meetings, and other important school-related work. My brain will be free to write for hours on end when the summer comes. If I’m organized, this could be a great chance. I will have more time and mental space to write!

I would be a fool, however, if I didn’t admit that this will take discipline and follow through.

Why is this different than any other summer?

In the past, I didn’t set a specific goal for writing my books. Now, I have one. I want to dedicate 300 hours to my books this summer. This is different than setting a word count. I noticed that I am more productive just setting aside time for the task, rather than an arbitrary outcome or word count.

When the summer hits, I’m aiming for three or more hours a day of writing.  In the next 30 days, that will be hard to find, but after the next 30, it will definitely get easier. Don’t worry. I will still post about other subjects, and not every post will be a process post. 

Right now, it’s a push for as many minutes as I can contribute to my novel, no matter how small. It will all add up. 300 hours is just a worthwhile mark to hit.

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Let me know what you think!

-Curtis

Let’s Connect!

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

 

 

 

 

7 Lessons I Learned From Hosting My First 7-Day Challenge, and What I’m Doing Next . . .

Today marks the end of the 7-Day Reading Challenge.

At least, it marked an end to the official days. . . Here’s what I learned from hosting a 7-Day Challenge over Twitter, Instagram, and WordPress, and what I plan on doing next.

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Seven Days of Challenging Myself

I spent the last seven days of my life reading for 20 minutes a day and posting to Instagram, Twitter, and WordPress about my reading experience. This was an attempt to start building a stronger reading habit while connecting with others about the joy of reading. You can read about the challenge here.

I thought that building the reading habit would be the hardest part. It was not.

The most difficult element of the challenge was keeping up with a consistent posting schedule across the three mediums. The process taught me so much.

Here’s what I learned:

Lesson # 1: Hosting a challenge is fun, even with a small number of people.

As of writing this post, the Instagram hashtag garnered about 26 public posts. This is a relatively small number considering what is possible during a challenge. However, this made no difference in terms of how fun the challenge was.

Some people are still continuing the challenge, and that’s unbelievably cool. Others are just starting, like this user, @blackbird_reads, who is creating a story highlight for the challenge.

I had the opportunity to connect with people I didn’t know, inside and outside of the challenge, simply because we were consistently reading and posting about our reading experience.

Lesson # 2: Social pressure helps me accomplish tasks.

Hosting the challenge gave it an extra edge, as I had the opportunity to see the process grow. I was pushed by social pressure to make sure I completed my 20 minutes of reading a day. Social pressure also encouraged me to post daily on WordPress and Instagram – a habit that I would like to continue whenever possible.

Lesson # 3: I can easily let social media consume me.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I found myself checking Instagram far too much, and I needed to check in with myself about how much social media time was healthy. I know I may sound old saying this, but there definitely is a limit to how much Instagram a person should consume before it consumes you.

Still, it wasn’t wasted time. Last week I didn’t even know what a theme or aesthetic was for an Instagram feed, and now I’m learning how to post more visually-appealing content.

Lesson # 4: On most days, I wanted to read for more than 20 minutes.

The reading challenge not only pushed me to read for 20 minutes, but it also pushed me to think deeply about my own reading. As a result, I took a longer amount of time to process my reading each day. For that, I am happier.

Lesson # 5: The most meaningful connections were with people over the smallest things.

Whenever someone told me about a new book, project, or ARC, I felt like we were building a small community around reading. I know that Bookstagram and other communities exist for readers, but this felt more personal. Maybe it was the size, or maybe it was the specificity of the challenge.

The smallest conversations somehow felt bigger, like we strangers were reaching across the internet and building bridges.

Lesson # 6: Hosting a challenge keeps you focused on a small set of tasks.

Hosting the challenge kept me focused on these tasks:

  1. Reading every day.
  2. Posting to Instagram every day.
  3. Writing blog posts every day.
  4. Asking questions every day.
  5. Becoming inquisitive about what works and reflecting for a few minutes on new things I could try.

Lesson # 7: Seven days is too short of a time to recruit people to a challenge. Which is why it will remain open . . . forever.

I only promoted the challenge for a week before it started, and I honestly have a very small following of people at this point. This didn’t discourage me when I started the challenge, and it doesn’t discourage me now. In fact, it’s rather encouraging. I’m keeping the hashtag open, and I will post regularly to it, just in case someone else decides to take on the challenge and #readwithcurtis.


What’s Next?

I organized all the 7-Day Reading Posts on a new site page. You can check it out here.

I’m going to post about my reading regularly to the Instagram hashtag #readwithcurtis , and I will update the #readwithcurtis site page when I write articles about specific books.

New Habits to Keep

  1. Reading regularly.
  2. Posting regularly to Paper Palaces.
  3. Posting to Instagram daily.
  4. Connecting with others daily.

I’m sure there will be days when this won’t be possible, but I think setting the intention is important.

A New Challenge

I’m planning a new challenge, just for me. It’s more of an experiment than a challenge. You can follow the experiment via this blog. Of course, you are welcome to join in too!

For the next season, I am going dive into my fiction writing. I will post about it regularly on my Instagram feed as well under the hashtag #MinutesToABetterBook, and I will, of course, create process posts here on WordPress. I want to see how quickly I can get to 18,000 minutes (300 Hours) of time dedicated to just writing fiction, specifically my books. Read more about Minutes to a Better Book here.

I’m would like to complete that writing time by the end of the summer. It will take many early mornings, and probably some late nights, but the story must be told.

-Curtis

Let’s Connect!

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

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Want to try the 7-Day Reading challenge? Read more about the challenge here.

-Curtis

Spend your Day Binge Reading or Sampling New Books – 7-Day Challenge – Day 06

Today’s post is for the Day Six of the #ReadWithCurtis 7-Day Challenge. Today’s bonus task is to binge read or sample new books.

Read all of my 7-Day Challenge Articles here.

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Binge Reading or Sampling New Books

 

My Response

Day 06

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This week has been great. While I have mostly stuck to reading two books Fragile Things and Tolkien’s Ring, I have found the process of reading daily and posting daily to be not only fun but also extremely sustainable. It’s nice to connect with friends, family, and complete strangers over what’s being read.

For day six, I’ve already started amassing my next list of books to binge read. In a few hours, I am heading over to my mother’s house for Mother’s Day, so I won’t binge read until tomorrow – sometime between grading papers, doing the dishes, and writing A Thousand Watchful Eyes.

I’ve continued reading Tolkien’s Ring as a start, and I hope to budget more of my time tomorrow towards knocking out books on the list.

Here’s the start of my Mythic / Epic Fantasy Binge-Read List

  • Tolkien’s Ring – David Day and Alan Lee
  • The Mythology of Middle Earth – Ruth Noel
  • Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman (Re-Read)

Do you have any book recommendations to go on my list? I’m looking especially for short fantasy fiction, as I am doing some writing experiments within that genre.

-Curtis


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Let’s Connect!

 

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

Connect with another reader!

Today’s post is for the Day Five of the #ReadWithCurtis 7-Day Challenge. Today’s bonus task is to connect with another reader!

Read all of my 7-Day Challenge Articles here.

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Connect with another reader!

7-Day Reading Challenge Update & My Response

Day 05

This challenge was about connecting with readers while forming a stronger reading habit. In a way, I have been trying to do this since the beginning of the challenge. To change things up a bit, I’ve decided to talk to more and more people. I want to connect with others about what I am reading, what I am writing, and share the enthusiasm for both! To help with this,  I am participating in a few more challenges and communities online. #BookstagramTogetherInMay is a one example.

I am finding that I often stick to my own comfort zone when it comes to connecting with people, and sometimes I need to take a risk and reach out. I’m hoping to make as many meaningful connections with people as I can. I’ve already gained solidarity with the people who have joined the challenge, and I am happy for that.

 


Have you started the challenge? What are your reading plans?

-Curtis


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Let’s Connect!

 

Instagram: @CurtisWritesBooks

Facebook: /curtisteichertbooks

Patreon: /CurtisWritesBooks

Twitter: @staghorncrown

WordPress: PaperPalacesBlog.com

31 Questions to Help You Embrace the Challenges of Time-Consuming Work and Commitments

Work consumes time, and sometimes we need to work outside of our average professional day or work week. Whether your task is creative, administrative, organizational, manual, or a combination of the above, any one of these 31 questions may help. I hope they inspire you to embrace the challenges of your job, hobby, or side-hustle.

Even taking a silent minute to mentally answer or reflect on one of these questions may change your day.

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It’s 6:00am on a Saturday, and I’m up. I have always been a little bit of an early bird, but today, I wake up early to have a long, reflective morning.

Throughout the week, I worked with my middle school students on picking books for an upcoming unit of study, graded papers, and participated in a variety of meetings. During my early-morning hours and after-school time, I worked out,  wrote for this blog, wrote fiction, and spent time with my fiancé.

To say I was mentally exhausted from my activities would be accurate; however, I am happily exhausted.  This Saturday will be a combination of work and play.

I hope to finish grading a stack of essays, to post a story draft and video clips to Patreon, and to further prepare for the start of the #ReadWithCurtis 7-Day Reading Challenge. 

#ReadWithCurtis (1)

I enjoy being this busy. That is no secret. More importantly, I enjoy being productive and feeling fulfilled. Part of that feeling of fulfillment comes from a small ritual. On days that I am reluctant to start an activity, I ask myself a question from the list below.

I use these questions when journaling or drinking a cup of coffee in the morning. Sometimes, I go for a walk with a question in mind.

These questions are not meant as anything other than a way to push your thoughts in a productive and positive direction. I hope they help you embrace the challenges of your own work/life commitments. 

As a note of caution, if you are also a person who likes to be busy, that’s great; but, please be aware if your body and mind are sending you signals to rest. You may be too tired to work, or maybe even fatigued. The goal, I believe, is to feel fulfilled while being productive. I have bolded my favorites.

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Here are 31 Questions I use to embrace the challenges of work and other commitments:

Questions Related to Purpose:

  1. What is the bigger picture of my work today?
  2. What is the purpose of my actions today?
  3. Why am I doing this task today vs. any other day? (Be honest with this one, and you won’t procrastinate.)

Questions Related to Emotion:

  1. How can I make this task fun?
  2. How will I feel once I have completed this work?
  3. How can I be as present as possible today?
  4. How can I walk away from this task or activity feeling happy, fulfilled, or LIKE A BOSS?

Questions Related to Productivity:

  1. How efficiently can I do this task today?
  2. What are the immediate results of me finishing this task?
  3. How will finishing this task free up time for me later?
  4. In what ways can I go above and beyond?
  5. What does taking this “too far” look like? What does doing this”just right” look like?
  6. How can I simplify today’s work?
  7. If I picked one task or activity to excel at today, what would it be? Why?
  8. When in my day should I put forth my best effort or energy?

Questions Related to Your Friends, Family, Co-Workers, and Society

  1. Is there anyone who can help me accomplish my goals today?
  2. Does doing this work help another person?
  3. How can doing this work improve the life of another person, or at least my own?
  4. If I do this today, will it benefit other people?
  5. How does this work/life challenge or task make me, my family, or my friends stronger?

Questions Related to Quality of Life:

  1. If I do this today, will tomorrow be better?
  2. How can I learn from this task or experience?
  3. How can I reward myself for finishing this task right now?
  4. Am I doing meaningful work? If not, how can I make it meaningful?
  5. How does this contribute to my life goals, even in a tiny way?

Personal Mentor Questions:

  1. If Leonardo DaVinci did this, how would he do it? (You can replace Leonardo with anyone).
  2. Who has met this challenge before and conquered it?
  3. Who can be my guide today? Who can I learn from?
  4. How would my mom or dad approach today? Do I agree with that approach?
  5. How would the smartest person I know do this?
  6. How would the happiest person I know approach this?

Did these help?

-Curtis


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