My Favourite Things From Around The Web This Week (8th-14th September)

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It’s been a busy week here at Korsten HQ, but not too busy to spend spend some hours browsing l’internet. Here are the posts that stuck with me:

1. How to Write a Book: 5-Draft Method by Jeff Goins (Goins, Writer). Jeff Goins’ blog is an invaluable resource for writers – especially those who are choosing to be proactive in building their writing careers. If you want to write a book but don’t know how to see the process through to completion, this post is for you!

2. When We Come Alive by Jon Foreman (Huffington Post). It’s no secret that I’m pretty crazy about everything that this man writes. His blogposts, like his songs, never fail to be insightful, thought-provoking and poetic. This article raises the question of what it means to be truly alive. If you love wrestling with existential issues, you’ll love this post.

3. Love People, Not Things by Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist). There is so much truth contained in this post. I recommend it to anyone and everyone who needs a reminder as to what it really means to love selflessly (and if you’re already clear on that but could do with some encouragement, I recommend it to you, too!).

So there you have it – my favourite things from around the web this week! It’s not a very long list, but I think you’ll agree that quality is more important quantity!

 

Photo courtesy of duncan c on Flickr.

Ten Ways to Increase Productivity When You Work From Home

Working from home is awesome, but it can also present many challenges which, if not addressed and overcome, will hamper productivity. Here are ten tips for maximising your output and avoiding common pitfalls:

1. Make your bed. Start your day as you mean to continue. If you make your bed as soon as you get up, you’ve accomplished something before you’ve even had your morning coffee! This will have a powerful effect on your self-belief and will leave you feeling more motivated and able to conquer the tasks you’ve set for yourself.

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2. Get out of your pyjamas. When you work from home, it’s super tempting to allow a dressing gown and slippers to become your daily uniform. But in my experience, this makes work extremely hard. PJs and the like make you feel relaxed and cosy in a way that is not conducive to getting stuff done. Get dressed in the morning will make you feel good about yourself (which is conducive to getting stuff done) and is a great way of reminding yourself that you mean business.

3. Don’t put off completing quick yet important tasks. If I leave dirty dishes in my sink, I can pretty much guarantee I’m going to have an unproductive day. Why? Because washing the dishes is a quick and important job that I feel should be taken care of before I get stuck into anything else. So, if I delay washing the dishes, I tend to delay everything else too. Keeping on top of them throughout the day frees me up to focus on other things without being distracted by the nagging knowledge that there’s a sink full of dirty plates waiting for me. If there are simple chores that you know will weigh on your mind, commit to getting them done as early in the day as possible.

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4. Plan your days. Having a daily schedule can help keep you from slipping into unhelpful habits such as spending three hours on breakfast, getting sucked into YouTube marathons, forgetting to eat, etc. It’ll also help you to stay accountable to steps 1-3. Decide in advance how much time you will dedicate each day to different activities (including breaks and leisure time), and stick to that plan as closely as possible.

5. Have a To-Do List. So simple, yet so effective. When I have a clear outline of the things I want to achieve each day, I am so much more productive. Having a to-do list will help you to prioritise the more pressing tasks, whilst remembering to make time for the jobs that might be less urgent but still important. Being able to see the day’s goals at a glance will make it harder to procrastinate, and the satisfaction of being able to tick a completed task off the list will serve as extra motivation. (I use the Wunderlist app to manage my to-do list.)

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6. Log out of Facebook and Twitter. Because let’s face it, it’s just too tempting to scroll mindlessly for hours on end. Instead, schedule your social media time and leave yourself signed out the rest of the time. (Obviously if your work is based around social media then this doesn’t apply to you. Just be sure to log out of any accounts that aren’t relevant to the specific job at hand.)

7. Have a designated work space and use it. The bed and couch are really not great places to get work done. Not only is it harder to motivate yourself when you’re sitting in a space intended for relaxation and sleep, but it’ll make relaxation and sleep harder if you’re constantly bringing work into those spaces. If you don’t have the luxury of a home office, a small desk and chair will do the trick, and can be set up in any room. The important thing is to create an element of separation between work and leisure.

8. Schedule outdoor time. Not leaving the house for days on end is surprisingly easy when you work from home, but it’s not the smart choice for your mental or physical health (both of which are important factors in productivity). Whether it’s going for a walk, playing with your dog, or just having breakfast on the porch, resolve to spending a minimum of 30 minutes outside each day.

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9. Down tools at a designated time every day. The boundary lines between work time and personal time can get seriously blurred when you’re self-employed and/or working from home. Without a pre-determined end-time for your work day, you’re more likely to fall into bad habits such as postponing tasks, working late into the night, and over-working (which will lead to burnout). Decide in advance what your working hours will be and stick to that.

10. Wind down. Make sure you allow yourself enough time each evening to relax and disconnect from work. Have a bath, read a non-work-related book – whatever helps you shift into sleep-mode. I cannot over-emphasise the importance of a good night’s sleep. You simply cannot function optimally in any area of your life if you’re chronically tired and under-slept. Make sleep a priority, and do whatever it takes to get quality shut-eye every night.

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Do you work from home? What are your tips for greater productivity? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

Photo Credits:
“New Furniture” courtesy of Becky McKimmy
“dishes” courtesy of Olga
“5/4/2010: To-Do List” courtesy of john.schultz
“99/365: Relax” courtesy of Andrés Nieto Porras
“Gidleigh Park spa suite 2” courtesy of Victoria Winters

 

 

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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I’m generally reluctant to jump on bandwagons, but sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me and I have to see for myself what all the fuss is about. Such was the case with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

While I expected it to be an easy and engrossing read, I’ll admit that I didn’t expect to love it. Here’s why:

1) It’s classified as Young Adult (YA) Fiction. Prior to reading TFIOS, I hadn’t really read any YA novels since I was about 13, because a) I hated being a teenager and would prefer not to vicariously relive that period of my life, and b) I just assumed that any book aimed teenagers would be shallow and simplistic. (Side note: Remember that saying about making assumptions? Yeah, that.)

2) Sometimes I feel that writers exploit cancer by using it as a tool for guaranteeing a strong emotional reaction from their readers, because they know that nearly everyone has had some kind of experience with it, either directly or indirectly. Of course, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to write about heavy issues that we can all relate to, but I did wonder what TFIOS could possibly have to offer that hadn’t already been covered in the array cancer-centred fiction that preceded it.

3) The bandwagon thing. I’m way more critical of things that everyone loves (probably not my best quality, but anyway).

Thankfully, my slight skepticism came back void. Here’s why:

1) John Green doesn’t patronise his audience. He seems to operate from the perspective that teenagers are intelligent and do concern themselves with some of life’s more profound questions – questions that the majority of people will continue to wrestle with for their entire lives. There are also lots of cool (but not immediately obvious) symbolic themes and metaphors running through the book, for those who enjoy a little artistic excavation. Plus, the lead characters do NOT talk like real-life teenagers. This actually irritated me a little at first, until I heard Green explain that the dialogue was not supposed to be an accurate depiction of teenage discourse, but had been intentionally stylised in order to show what the main characters might think/hope they sound like.

2) Although the central story is a romantic one, Green doesn’t romanticise cancer itself and offers a pretty accurate and gritty depiction of its many ramifications.

3) Sometimes bandwagons become bandwagons for a good reason.

So, count me among those who are aboard the TFIOS bandwagon! I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone looking for an easy yet thought-provoking read. The writing style isn’t at all taxing, yet there are enough layers to keep the reader engaged from beginning to end. The first layer is the love story. The second layer is the issue of mortality and how scary it is to be confronted with death in a real and immediate manner. The third (and my favourite) layer is the greater question of what constitutes a meaningful life. (There are probably many more layers that I didn’t uncover in the first read.) I love that John Green has encouraged people, young and old, to think deeply about these questions, because questions are the beginning of discovery.

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

Photo of books courtesy of L on Flickr.

Genie, I’m Gonna Miss You

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I don’t often publicise my thoughts and feelings on the deaths of famous people. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, I don’t want to perpetuate the myth that the death of a celebrity is somehow more tragic than the death of an “ordinary” person. Two, I know that whatever sadness I may feel pales in comparison to that of the family and friends who are dealing with the very real loss of someone they loved dearly. That said, I have been struck by the outpouring of gratitude for Robin Williams’ life that has been flooding my various social media feeds since the news of his death was made public, and I am compelled to issue my own thank you note to the man whose voice is deeply embedded in the consciousness of my generation.

Laughter is an amazing gift. It lifts the soul, nourishes the mind and even boosts the immune system. Robin Williams punctuated our lives with many beautiful moments of sweet laughter. He brought lightness to many heavy topics (such as divorce, love, death and loss) without belittling them in any way, and in doing so helped many of us to deal such issues in our own lives.

Life is both a comedy and a tragedy – it is comprised of both laughter and tears. Williams always brought a deeply human element to even his most comedic roles (amazingly, even when playing non-human characters). His voice alone could clearly convey a broad range of human emotions. And although Mrs. Doubtfire is a movie that is widely noted for its hilarity, what sticks in my memory is the earnest, teary-eyed expression of a man who is brokenhearted at having to live apart from his children. This, I believe, is what made Williams so unique and so beloved – his ability to make us both laugh with joy and cry with compassion.

Thank you, Robin Williams, for the laughter. A major component of our collective grief is undoubtedly the wish that we could’ve returned the favor and given back to you in kind. Thank you also for the tears, which can be just as healing as laughter. That the world feels your absence so profoundly is a testament to how many lives you affected through your art.

Genie, I’m gonna miss you.

 

Image courtesy of scarlett1854 on Flickr.