What’s Your Sign? (Or, a Magical Productivity System for People Who Have Trouble Finishing Things)

I don’t believe in horoscopes.

Not the “You’re this sign and therefore this exact thing will happen to you today/this week” ones in the magazines and newspapers, anyway.

But I do believe in astrology. I believe that the position of the stars and planets affects us.

I’m also fascinated by the cycle of moons and the wheel of the year, which I’ve been learning about this year

This stuff? Oh yes, I completely believe in it.

And I believe that the way the stars and planets aligned at our birth has an impact on our personality. I think it’s more complicated than your main sign, though…have you read your birth chart lately? A lot of mine is scarily accurate.

So, while I don’t believe what the magazines tell me about my future (can all Libras really have an unlucky/lucky day on the exact same day? And why do they keep telling me I’ll meet someone new when I’m happily married?), I do believe that my sign has a lot to tell me about myself.

For example: Libra. Scales. Balance.

Or…majorly effing indecisive.

Yup, that one rings true.

And so does this one: Libra. Air sign. Mentally oriented and often caught up in thoughts…aka easily distracted and not the best at following through on said thoughts with concrete actions.

This is SO me. Case in point: tiny plate syndrome, where I get distracted by the multitude of possible projects before me and forget the biggest, scariest, most important one.

Other case in point: the fact that on Monday, while I was thinking about my blog and business, I was suddenly seized by the desire to start a brand new blog. NOOOOOO.

Always starting, rarely finishing. That’s my M.O. And that’s why last weekend’s telecircle was such a huge triumph for me…sometimes it feels like I’m struggling against my own nature when I actually FINISH something and make it real (boy, am I awesome at starting things, though!).

Last week Matthew (bless him) pointed out during one of my panicky Libra freakouts that my air-sign mind was busily hopping from thing to thing to thing, but I wasn’t actually finishing anything. Again. And we talked about things I could do to cut that crap out.

Here’s the truth: not getting things done feels crappy, especially when you’ve got an overflowing to-do list. I’d like productivity (actual, results-producing productivity as opposed to frantic busy-work that leads nowhere) to be something that happens every day, not when I’ve committed myself into a corner and am completely panicked.

So I started experimenting with techniques that could help. And it turned out that the magic combination was in my mental toolbox the entire time…I just hadn’t realized it.

Here’s Meg’s Magical Productivity Combo for air signs (or anyone who’s having trouble getting things done).

1. MicroMOVEments

Oh man, I’ve known about SARK’s anti-procrastination technique FOREVER, but it never really stuck for me. Making lists of tiny baby steps with deadlines kind of felt like a giant waste of my time and just another thing to do before I actually tried to do the things on my…to-do…list.

But I was so very, very wrong. MicroMOVEments (or at least their babystep cousins) are what got me organized for my class on Saturday. Instead of a crazy-making, procrastination-inducing list like this:

-Plan class
-Test Vokle
-Send final newsletter

I created a list that went like this:

Plan class:

  •  Pick music
  • Write initial plan
  • Write detailed plan
  • Finalize
  • Practice

Test Vokle:

  • Set up camera
  • Test camera and sound
  • Test speaking over music
  • Test chat window

Send final newsletter:

  • take Vokle screenshots
  • schedule event and get link
  • write newsletter, include link, playlist, screenshots, link to world clock
  • test newsletter
  • send newsletter

You get the idea. Each step, which was initially too large for me to wrap my head around and thus led to intense procrastination and distraction, was broken down into its constituent parts.

It was great, because that way I didn’t forget anything, and I had all the pieces of the puzzle written down in one place, ready to check off. AND (bonus) each task was fairly easy to achieve in a short-ish time period, so I could check more things off as I went. My airy brain LOVED this.

2. The Pomodoro Technique

OK, I admit it, I’ve only tried this for about 36 hours. But I already love it.

If you don’t know what the Pomodoro technique is, the basic principle is that you set a timer and work for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Repeat 4 times, and then take a longer break. Etc.

Jamie Ridler has mentioned it a few times, and she recommended it highly. And now I know why.

I think this is going to really work for me. 25 minutes is short enough that I can keep myself working (as opposed to, say, checking Facebook), but long enough that I can actually get something done. On Monday night I managed three 25-minute sessions, and I checked 4 things off my list! On Tuesday afternoon, I did 5 sessions and completed a whole PAGE of babysteps!

The combination is perfect for me. I can’t get over how productive I’ve been!

And here’s the best part:

I’ve been thinking about my airiness as something WRONG with me, but I finally see…this isn’t about needing to “fix” myself. Being an air sign isn’t better or worse than any other sign…it just IS. It’s time to accept that I’m easily distractible and that ideas come more naturally to me than follow through…and it’s time to create some systems to help me balance out the airiness.

I think I’m off to a good start!

What’s YOUR sign? Does it have anything to tell you about the way you work?

Making Big Dreams Real: dancing with unfinished projects

For the past 4 days, I’ve spent 15 minutes a day reading Isadora Duncan’s autobiography. I’ve set my pink piggy timer, grabbed my book, my pen, and my post-it notes, and read until the timer buzzed.

This is very important.

It’s not important because I’ve been reading a non-blog for the first time in ages (I have). It’s not important because Isadora was such an incredible, fascinating person (she was).

It’s so important because this is my first step toward completing a project that has been in the back of my mind (and my laptop) for YEARS.

You know the projects I’m talking about: you get a brilliant idea and you maybe work on it a bit, but then life gets in the way (or someone criticizes your tender beginnings) and you just…stop. And that project sits at the back of your mind (or your closet or your hard drive) collecting dust and making you feel sad (or guilty or angry or whatever) every time you think of it. But you can’t seem to get started on the project, and you decide that it’s too late, you’re too old, or too busy, etc etc.

…but that project stays on your mind anyway And you feel like crap about it.

That’s been my life for a very long time now. And yes, I do suffer from tiny plate syndrome (a tendency to load up on projects and courses and things), but I’m willing to commit 15 minutes a day to making that nagging feeling go away. Hence, Isadora (more on that in a second).

pomodoro timers by psd on Flickr.com
Timers come in all kinds of adorable shapes! (Image by psd on Flickr.com)

A couple of days ago (well, four, actually) I finally got around to listening to a teleclass called “You and Your AMAZING Unfinished Projects” by Samantha Bennett. She made some points that really resonated for me:

1. Our unfinished projects are amazing because they contain energy. And you can tell that they contain energy because you still think about them, and they have an energetic effect on you when you do. (This is SO TRUE. That’s why we feel crappy when we think about the project(s) we’re not working on).

2. Spend 15 minutes a day of working on whatever your unfinished project is, and that energy will be freed up in your life. Things will start moving. And you will eventually get that unfinished project done. (Note: You could do less than this. You could do 10 minutes or 5 minutes or 3 minutes—whatever. All that matters is that you do something every day.)

3. Your work on your projects releases their energy out into the world…and makes room for more in your life.

4. My favourite: It’s not too late, you’re not too old, and yes, you do TOO deserve it. Your talent cannot be destroyed, even if your skills are rusty. (LOVE this one!)

It was a pretty incredible call. I recommend it.

I have two Big Unfinished Projects that have been gathering dust for years (three projects if you count Anthem, but I already wrote about that one). Today, for the first time ever, I am going to share them with the world. Because even though it’s scary, it feels like it’s time. And because I’m a big believer in the power of putting things out into the Universe.

1.  Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan.

My hard drive currently contains drafts of 13 poems based on Isadora Duncan’s life and writings. For the past 5 years, I’ve dreamed of writing more of them and creating an anthology of poetry, but life got in the way and I stopped working on them. Until now. 15 minutes a day with Isadora’s writing, marking promising passages as I go. One step closer to finishing my unfinished project.

2. Emily Carr’s Forest Dances

Seven years ago, I wrote and presented a paper on Emily Carr and Georgia O’Keefe at a Canadian Studies conference at Trent University. And as I selected images to write about, I got the idea of creating a series of dances, each of whose movements would be based on one of Emily Carr’s paintings. Then I discovered the work of Canadian composer R. Murray Schaefer, and his music fit perfectly with my vision. I was beyond excited. I had the music and paintings selected and matched up…

Then I shared my idea with a mentor, and she told me that it would be too difficult to create something like that. And I believed her instead of sticking with my gut. And I stopped working on it. Out of all of the choreography I’ve thought of but haven’t created, this one bugs me the most.

I haven’t spent any 15-minute increments on this one yet, but I am officially declaring my intention to do so. And my first 15 minutes will involve finding my notes about the piece and the paintings and music I intended to use. Even if this one has to stay on the back burner for a while until my tiny plate has cleared a bit, I say to the Universe, “Yes. This. I want to make this dream real!”

15 minutes a day is not very much at all. What kind of magic could you make with that time?