Thursday, August 16, 2012

When the time is right

It is during January and February when I experience some of my most productive time when it comes to writing.  I am able to “stock-up” on essays for my blog, write reviews of books for my blog, and compose speeches and other items, like no other time during the year.  For example, since January 14th, 2011, when I finished reading page proofs for the 10th edition of my textbook, Communicating Effectively (McGraw-Hill), I completed more than 30 essays and nearly 25 book reviews.
This essay, however, is not intended to extol my successes or announce my writing projects.  There are at least 4 essential reasons for my level of productivity during January and February, and these four reasons can apply to anyone at any time when it comes to productivity.  That is, they have universal applicability.
The first reason or stimulus for my productivity is mindset — an habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how I will interpret and respond to situations.  For example, I know in advance that January and February are productive months for me (they always have been!); thus, I have a mindset already in place to accept and use this time productively.  Consequently, I not only look forward to these months, but I make eager and prolific use of them each year.
The second reason or stimulus for my productivity is attention, which is defined at Wikipedia as “. . . the cognitive process of selectively concentrating on one aspect of the environment while ignoring other things.”  There is too much going on in life to pay attention to everything, and with all of the new technologies that cry out for use, attention “implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others.”  What attention boils down to is choice: How do you choose to use your time and effort?
For me, attention to a report, examination, project, or paper — in addition, of course, to all the basic needs and necessities of living — is a key factor in getting things accomplished.  To what do you really want to give your attention?
When my wife and I lived in Amherst, MA, the local, weekly newspaper, the Amherst Record, had an ongoing contest called “Found Poetry.”  Each week they published readers’ discoveries.  Within each newspaper, you were to find sentence parts that rhymed or worked together naturally as a poem, and then submit this “found poetry” for publication.  It was a delightful exercise, and I was published on nearly a weekly basis.  The key was giving attention to detail, but what I quickly discovered was that just by reading the newspaper, these excerpts forced their way into my attention --- they jumped out at me without effort on my part.
While living in Massachusetts, too, our daily newspaper was The Springfield Union (out of Springfield, MA).  They ran a “Mung” contest which required readers to use a triangle as a basic art form, then draw all the various aspects of a “Mung.”  For example, I put onto the triangle waders, a fishing pole, a net for scooping up fish, for a “Fisher-mung.”  I drew a “Preacher-mung,” a “Sales-mung,” a “Post-mung,” a “Milk-mung,” and a “Professor-mung,” a-mung many others, and I won the contest.  Once again, attention played a significant role.
There is a third reason or stimulus for my productivity, and that can be summed up in the word passion — a strong or extravagant enthusiasm, or desire for anything  There isn’t much that I do in my life that doesn’t involve passion.  Perhaps that’s because I have an overall passion for life that acts like an umbrella that covers all that I do.  Maybe passion is the stem of the umbrella that supports everything else; it is certainly there as part of the umbrella!
Once I decided to become a medical doctor, I pursued it with a passion from 9th grade through my sophomore year of college.  When I changed to a speech-communication major, I pursued it with a passion.  I wrote textbooks (over 30 counting all editions), and students said they could sense the passion; I gave speeches (over 16 published in Vital Speeches of the Day) full of passion; I established a publishing company (And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.) designed to represent that additional element (passion); and I write essays (well over 350 now), with a sense of passion.
Passion is what fires the spirit, drives the enthusiasm, and supplies the energy to continue.
There is a fourth reason or stimulus, however, that accounts for my productivity.  It is relaxation or patience — quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.  Most of the work I do has to do with writing of some kind — as you can tell just from the examples cited above.  To write requires creativity — defined at as “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”
What I have discovered is that creativity cannot be forced.  You train for it, prepare for it, lay the foundation for it, and exercise it, and then you wait for it.  One of the most important and essential requirements for productivity is to wait until the time is right.  Now, I’m not talking here about procrastination, which is a negative, confounding, and unproductive force.  When I say “wait for it,” I simply mean that you maintain an alertness or sensitivity, a responsiveness or receptivity, or an open-minded flexibility.  
When I looked in a thesaurus for the word open-minded, the synonyms I discovered are revealing: unprejudiced, nonpartisan, neutral, nonjudgmental, nondiscriminatory, objective, dispassionate, disinterested, tolerant, liberal, permissive, and broad-minded.
You may have experienced the need for relaxation and patience yourself.  For example, if you have ever tried to think of a word, but you could not, then, when you were not thinking about it — perhaps thinking of something else entirely or just relaxing — the word suddenly comes to you unheralded, as if “out of the blue,” then you have a sense of what I mean.  If you have properly tilled the garden, and there is plenty of sunshine, water, and nutrients, the seeds you planted will sprout — just back off, relax, and be patient!
If I have the proper mindset, my attention is sufficiently focused, and I am filled with  passion, then I have happily discovered that with some relaxation and patience — perhaps even turning my attention to other things than the project at hand — I can accomplish what I need to do.  It is as if I am offering directions and guidance — albeit surreptitiously [acting with stealth] — to the behavioral centers of my physical being.  In the end (when the time is right), I am simply programming my self for productivity.
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Gabby Bugwadia has a great little essay, “How to program yourself for success,” at  She opens her essay saying, “Sure, we all want to be successful in every aspect of all our lives. We want to be successful as parents; we want to be successful in our relationships; and we want to be successful in our jobs and careers. However, how many of us are willing to pay the price? How many of us are willing to stretch beyond and go all out to do whatever it takes?”  In the essay she discusses attitude, believe, action plan, focus, visualize, and conclusion.  It’s a delightful, brief essay.

 At Gigaom Amber Singleton Riviere’s essay, “Improved Productivity: A 12-Step Program” offers the following steps: 1) Plan your exit, 2) Plan tomorrow, 3) Set your boundaries, 4) Honor a bedtime routine, 5) Start the day off right, 6) Maintain your boundaries, 7) Avoid or limit email time, 8) Avoid or limit news feeds and social networks, 9) Start with your list, 10) Check in often, 11) Work in blocks, and 12) Stay disciplined.    Great suggestions here in a very readable essay.
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Copyright August, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You so much for the exposure given to my article on Helium," How to Program yourself for Success.' I feel honored.

    Gabby Bugwadia


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