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07/02/2016

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so true

Marcus,
This insight you learned about effective work habits is similar to the long standing concern with implicit bias. As rational agents, we think we know so much. In fact, to the contrary, much of our "common wisdom" is misguided.

Marcus Arvan

so true: I'm glad to hear you agree!

I suppose I would also just add that, in my experience, when one is struggling, one of the most counterproductive things one can do is simply "work harder." If one simply works harder at habits that aren't working, one is apt to get even more frustrated--as one may then just see all of one's hard work "not pay off", which is about as frustrating of an experience as one can have.

As the common [albeit admittedly hyperbolic] sayings go, "Work smarter, not harder", and "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If what one is currently doing isn't working, that is precisely the time one should seriously think about trying something different--and, all too often, other people's advice can help push you out of your comfort zone into newer, surprisingly more productive habits.

gradjunct

Marcus, could you clarify what is meant by "write before you do anything else."

Does this mean, before leaving for the office, before getting coffee/eating, before leaving the house, before getting dressed for the day...or does it just mean "first thing when you get to the office?

Marcus Arvan

gradjunct: Sure! It means write as soon as you reasonably can. In my case, I typically wake up at 8am, finish coffee/breakfast by 8:30, and get myself to the park [where I write] by 9am. I find that the longer I wait to get to writing, the less effective I am. So, I really try to get to it no later than an hour or so after I get out of bed.

I should also mention that I've found it can be helpful to experiment with writing in different environments. When I first got the dissertation book I refer to in the OP, my habit was to write outside at a coffee shop near my apartment. I finished the dissertation in just under 8 months. Then, however, when I got my first job, I tried writing in my office--and I got nowhere. It was only when I moved to Tampa, got a dog, and started writing outside again that my writing/publishing really picked up. For some reason or other, writing outside really makes a difference with me. The sunshine/fresh air/etc. really seem to put me in the right mental "place" to write effectively. In contrast, whenever I try to write inside, it feels like my brain tightens up and I'm nowhere near as effective. Writing outside at a park--where there is no internet--also diminishes potential distractions. Aside from brief breaks where I throw the ball for my dog, I do not check my email, browse blogs, etc. I find it helps a ton!

Finally, I also found--at certain points in the past, when I really struggled with perfectionism [though I don't do it anymore]--that it can help to write drafts with a pen instead of a computer, as it can force one out of the "edit the heck out of every sentence" habit that, in my experience, wastes a lot of time. I don't have to write by pen anymore, as I have gotten out of that perfectionist habit--but again, I found it an excellent exercise to get out of those inefficient habits.

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