I’m writing an introductory AWS (Amazon Web Services) book with a technical book publisher, and hoping to have the first draft in mid-2022. I have severe executive function disorder because of brain injury caused by brain surgery 10 years ago, which is a blessing and a curse. I’m able to mostly compensate for my executive dysfunction and attention deficit with tricks, tools, and apps, but I still struggle from time to time, especially when it’s something difficult or new. Like writing a whole entire book.
I consider myself a “sprinter” and not a “marathon runner” in terms of being able to commit to long-term projects. When I’m in flow, I’m able to churn out an amazing amount of fairly high-quality work. When I’m not, you get absolutely nothing out of me. I’m trying to level the “absolutely nothing” period into “somewhat productive” so that I can at least produce something whenever I need to, regardless of what my brain says.
I’m able to do short-term projects, but being able to keep up long-term commitments like YouTube Video or Blog schedules is just not in the cards. It’s something I’d like to work on, but at the same time, I don’t want to force myself because the moment it becomes an obligation, it becomes a source of stress, and then I start feeling anxious.
I spent the past month writing the first chapter of my introductory AWS book with Manning. While I began writing in the early spring, thanks to some medical setbacks (I had a miscarriage mid-summer), and a lot of confusion on the vitality of the project itself, this is the first month I’ve been down to business with 100% commitment to finishing a chapter.
Over the summer, I wrote chapter 2, and it was sent for review. That chapter took 3 or so months to write. In October, I was asked to write chapter 1 in less than a month. I had my doubts, but I decided I might as well try. Any pages written is that many pages closer to being done!
Month 1 Reflections
Month 1 of writing is over!
October went by like a flash… I do honestly feel like time is speeding up. I read in some book that the reason why time seems to speed up as we get older is because the daily routines become more and more… well… routine. Time “slows down” when our brain is processing new things, which means that the more routine your days become, the quicker time runs away from you. So to “slow down time” to enjoy it more, you need to be mindful of incorporating novel experiences every day into your life. Or something like that. Makes a lot of sense to me…!
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Things I tried, What worked, What didn’t
- Broke down the necessary research and sections of the chapter to be written, and created tasks in TickTick with relevant research, thoughts, and links embedded into teach task to minimize having to rummage around for resources or ideas.
- ✅ Since I was able to keep my notes/thoughts/outlines/links in relevant locations, it minimized my mental overhead, and helped me organize my thoughts.
- ✅ Having very well-established tasks allowed me to worry about just one task or section at a time, freeing my mind from anxiety about having such a huge project to tackle.
- ❌ The time necessary to complete certain sections didn’t go as planned, so I had to move things around a lot and create more time slots. Good thing I planned for that, and had a week leftover at the end to collect the slacks!
- Blocked out Mondays and Tuesdays for writing, as well as at least one weekend day every week. Day blocking helps me feel less anxious about the workload and enjoy my “days off” without worrying about having enough time to finish my tasks.
- ❌ Personal training got scheduled in for Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of just Thursdays. I scheduled them in for mornings, which I was hoping will allow me to start the day feeling energetic, but as of now, it’s having the opposite effect of making me tired and unproductive after the session. May need to re-evaluate the Tuesday situation and switch the time to later in the day after my writing?
- ✅ Now that I can drive, I take myself to a local cafe every few days for more focused writing. On the weekends, I go to the cafe with my husband after brunch for me to write and him to study, which is a nice bonding activity (kind of) on our mostly autonomous lives.
- Moved my work station to the dining room table overlooking the lake because I focus better on a small screen for writing over large monitors.
- ❌ As creative as we got with rising the dining room table and utilizing laptop stands, I ended up screwing up my lower back, and had a lot of back pain over the month. I bought a new mattress topper that helped a lot with back/shoulder pain, but the lower back pain was probably due to the way I was sitting on the chair.
- ✅ Bought nice butt cushion for my chair that everyone was raving about. Now I’m raving about them too. Most of my pain is gone! (Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion and Lumbar Support Back Pillow are my 2 new best friends. But if you’re only getting one, get the seat cushion.)
- ? Moved back to my office, but may end up working at the cafe full time, as I do much better in isolated settings where I have some sort of time constraint. Half considering bringing my butt cushion with me everywhere and be THAT person in the cafe ?
- Here’s Tama, “Helping” me work at my dining room table:
- Started personal training again (lifting), and my sleep schedule is fairly regular (I get a lot of sleep). I also allow myself to give up and take naps when my mind is feeling cloudy instead of trying to push on. I think one of the core tenants of productivity and having a clear mind is health and sleep.
- ✅ I’m sleeping pretty well, and keep a pretty regular cycle. For possibly the first time in my life, I wake up feeling refreshed, and before 8am without an alarm clock.
- ✅ Most of my pain is now the “good kind of pain” from lifting, though sometimes there are still weird pains (like my lower back pain).
- ❌ As mentioned above, I’m kind of useless after lifting, so I may need to reevaluate my schedule, because I find myself most productive first thing in the morning.
- ✅ I’ve been randomly needing naps, which is strange for me, because I never take naps. But taking naps seems to really help with fatigue and the brain fog, so I’ll continue letting myself nap whenever I feel foggy.
- ✅ I read “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker few months back, and it scared the bejeesus out of me. Since then, I’ve been trying to sleep more, and to get more high-quality sleep. So I try to leave my cellphone in other rooms/floors to charge overnight instead of at my bed stand, and do 1 Sudoku game every night before bed.
- ? Continue sleeping, continue napping, continue working out.
- I started reading for 30 minutes with coffee before getting down to work in the morning.
- ✅ I do get a lot of paper book reading done, which is harder for me (I do 99% of my reading via audiobooks because I’m such a slow text reader). I got through Estate Planning 101 this month, which I’m happy about. Now I’m learning about Taxes.
- ❌ Wondering if I’d be more productive if I just got right down to work instead of the morning routine. Some people thrive on morning routines. Me, I’m not sure. I feel like I use up some of my mental energy and momentum when I start the day with reading.
- ? Considering starting the morning off reading on days I am not writing instead of on mornings I’m writing.
- I left my phone in other rooms or floors to minimize distractions.
- ✅ This worked when I did it, and didn’t when I forgot to. It’s amazing how just not having it at hand’s length made me completely forget my addiction. Having my iPad in the room with me saved me from missing Facebook Messenger calls in the rare instances when people were calling me.
- ❌ Harder to do at cafes, so considering turning my phone off when I’m at a cafe, especially since the only person who calls me is my mom, and everyone else can use Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, or email me.
- Logged out of Twitter from my computer, and it has authentication turned on, so it’s harder for me to log back in (especially if the phone is in the other room). Desperate times call for desperate measures!!
- ✅ Kind of works when I remember to do it. I don’t log back in until my quota for the week is finished. But I have Twizzle installed on my computer, which allows me to DM and Tweet (no timeline though), so while I don’t do mindless scrolling, I’m still distracted. Creating a new user profile on my laptop and blocking Twizzle might be what I have to do… Ah, the amount of work I have to put in to bypass my brain’s attempts at distracting itself…
- ❌ I’m still logged in on my phone, so I’m still Tweeting, and find myself scrolling my timeline on there… So I need to remember to leave my phone somewhere else/turn it off…
- Streaming study/focus music playlists on Spotify that I’ve been listening to since I was working in corporate. Noise cancelling headphones help isolate me from my surroundings to make it easier to get into flow. Supposedly. It’s still hit or miss at the moment.
Other Thoughts, Ideas, and Musings
- Since I’m this close to purchasing a low-grade laptop so I can focus 100% on my writing instead of being distracted by other things, will create a brand new profile in my MacBook to use as a “new laptop” with only the bare minimum apps installed and websites logged into for productivity.
- My kitten, Tama, has been keeping me company when I write in my office now that I open my window a bit to let the fall air in. He really enjoys perching on the window sill and bird/dog/people watch. Super cute.
- TickTick, as always, is the MVP for project management and calendar management. The ability to create tasks, have them show up on calendars as blocked off time, and then easily manipulate the event to change the time/days/etc. is invaluable. The notes function is fabulous to collect research and links.
- Still need to establish the optimal “work” vs “rest” schedule on my writing days. With my executive dysfunction, it’s unreasonable to expect myself to be head down, in the weeds for 7 hours. But I find myself distracted way too easily and often and what should take me 15 minutes end up taking me hours.
- I want to figure out how to turn off notifications on my MacBook. I think there’s a “Do not Disturb” function now, which I need to utilize.
- I want to minimize my wasting time on YouTube. November, only watch YouTube when eating (I know, I know) and exercising??
- I need to eat better, lose fat, and gain muscles. I got protein powder, and will try to eat healthier! Healthier diet, sharper brain! I hope! I mean, ok, I don’t know, but nutrition can’t hurt, right? (My personal trainer recommended Isopure Protein Powder because of the zero carb, if you’re looking for one. I got the vanilla, and it’s definitely doable. With some additions like fruits, I think it could be super tasty.)
- The 80/20 principle (80% of the work is done in 20% of the time) is very much in play with me. I’d like to start shifting that so I’m more efficient with my time. I want to find the optimal balance between “work” and “play/life” scheduled in my weeks so that I can stop wasting time and energy “trying” to work when I’m not producing anything.
- Read “Happiness by Design” and “The 12 Week Year” to help me reorient my thought processes and how I work. Still haven’t really implemented much, but looking forward to planning in 12 week span instead of 1 year (like I mentioned before, I’m a sprinter, not a marathon runner…)