How I get things done

The week marks what would have been the 72nd birthday of the Patron Saint of Capricorn Productivity, David Bowie, and the third anniversary of his death. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own creative work and how to sustain it.

A few weeks ago, I sat down and wrote up my New Year’s Resolutions for 2019. My underlying goal for this year is to supersize my creative output across a variety of media: more blog posts, at least one first draft of a novel, more podcast appearances, more consistency on social media. A lot of the groundwork for this was laid in 2018, so I wanted to share a few of the people and tools that have helped me become more focused and productive.

Kimberly Wilson

I started the year off by attending a New Year’s Salon in Washington, D.C., hosted by Kimberly Wilson. I’ve followed Kimberly’s work FOREVER — hers was the first podcast I listened to way back in 2006! I’ve also been fortunate to meet her in person a couple of times when she’s visited NYC, so I knew she’d not only assemble a fantastic group of women for the New Year’s event, but also provide helpful prompts and activities to help us set intentions for 2019.

Some of the activities Kimberly led us through:

  • listing 2018’s highlights, lessons, and challenges
  • choosing a word for the year (mine is peace — I aim to maintain internal peace and balance this year, regardless of what’s happening externally)
  • a journal entry dated January 1, 2020, where we wrote in present tense about all that we’d accomplished in 2019 and how we felt at the start of 2020
  • a wheel of life where we evaluated our lives in 12 categories, picked a few to focus on, and identified micromovements to begin improving them

My accountability partner, Ivy Jelisavac

One of the best things I did for myself this year was finding an accountability partner — AND I picked a really good one. Ivy Jelisavac is a director, screenwriter, all-around creative powerhouse, and the kind of friend who holds you to your commitments. In short, she was the perfect person to help me get things done. (Her funny, heartfelt, resonant TV show Relationshit comes out on February 15! Also she wrote an amazing amazing screenplay that I need to see brought to life as soon as possible.)

Ivy and I are on different continents, so every two weeks we hop on a Skype call for an hour to talk through our progress, goals for the next few weeks, and a bunch of other life stuff. I actually finished the first draft of a novel last year, and I absolutely would not and could not have done that without her influence in my life.

(Mini shout-out to Chris, through whose Goal-Setting and Accountability Class I realized I needed an accountability partner and decided to reach out to Ivy. If you’re trying to become more disciplined, or even just more thoughtful, I recommend following his work. It’s helped me a lot! If you’re still figuring out your goals for the new year, here’s a piece of his that might help.)

Caveday

I learned about Caveday through a Creative Mornings Field Trip I attended in November, and it has dramatically changed how I write. Caveday uses the principles of Deep Work, espoused by Cal Newport and others, to help people maximize their output, specifically with regard to thought-intensive work.

During that intro session, I discovered that when I cut out all distractions, including mental drama around deciding what to do, I can write up to 800 words of fiction during a 20-minute productivity sprint (Caveday calls them “Caves”). Since then, I signed up for a monthly membership, and during the three-hour remote session I attended in late December, I wrote nearly 5,000 words.

RYHSY Inner Circle

In October, I started a yearlong course with creative coach Tiffany Han called the Raise Your Hand Say Yes Inner Circle. I knew I’d be getting serious about my creative work this year, so when I saw that Tiffany was offering a course designed to help creatives get out of their own way to finally, you know, do the thing, I knew I had to sign up. (Note: This isn’t an affiliate situation; I’m just getting a lot of value out of what I’m investing in the course and wanted to share!)

What I get out of the course, literally:

  • An amazing workbook with activity prompts, worksheets, and space for notes
  • A private group on Mighty Networks where those of us in the course can get to know each other, share victories, bounce ideas off one another, and ask for help when we’re stuck
  • Monthly live video calls where Tiffany guides us through that month’s theme, worksheets, and activities
  • Monthly Q&A video calls where Tiffany answers questions from the group
  • A quarterly planning and co-working call
  • Recordings of all of these

What I get out of the course, spiritually:

  • The sense that I am working toward something in a structured way
  • A group of women with a similar perspective on creative work, even if we have different disciplines or life situations
  • A general feeling of being on the right path after years of struggling to get there

#1000wordsofwinter

I’ve written at least 1,000 words of fiction every day of 2019 to date thanks to novelist Jami Attenberg. (Her book All Grown Up was one of my favorite books I read last year; she’s the kind of writer who inspires me to work at the craft and improve.) During the summer of 2018, Jami started #1000wordsofsummer as a writing accountability project. For fifteen days, she sent out thoughtful missives via TinyLetter featuring advice and inspiration from her and other writers. This month, she launched #1000wordsofwinter with the help of fellow writers Rachel Taube and Rachel Yoder. Their generosity is what we should all aspire to.

What are some of the tools and/or people that help you get things done?

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