Recap(ish): How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

This is more a reflection inspired by this post from Wait But Why that gave the name to this blog post you’re reading now. It’s really long, but I recommend you read it if you haven’t and do your own reflection.

I’ve wanted to write for at least five years now, maybe even closer to seven. The quality and quantity of my writing was drastically different (see Deleted Drafts: The Etaloniy Story for a prime example of this). But I knew I wanted to write. Initially it was a vague, general desire to write and publish books. I only kind of knew what that meant, and didn’t know what that looked like.

As I grew, physically, mentally, and in this desire to write, I developed strong convictions about making money by making art. In traditional publishing, the author makes royalties from sales, but the publishing house makes a lot of money too. The author probably makes a certain dollar amount from each book sale. It’s also crazy hard to get into traditional publishing. You have to find someone who connects with your story and can see it making them money.

That’s not what I wanted. I felt very strongly that if I were going to put in the hard work to write a book (or other sellable writing) that I wanted to make the money from my efforts if there were any money to be had from them. It would be my intellectual property being sold, it belongs to me, therefore I should benefit from sales. Also, creative control over my work is important to me. The cover image and all the contents. I don’t want to cut or add scenes I don’t want in order to get published.

This lead to the conclusion that I would self-publish. Even if I sell fewer books as a result, even if I don’t become as widely known, I care about my writing being mine more.

I have such a compulsion to write, even if it doesn’t become my career. I will keep doing it. I want to make it my career, at least partially, if I can. To do that, I joined a freelance site, opened commissions, and next month I’m publishing a poetry collection.

Productivity, Recap, and Accountability

This is partially part of the series Recap, but only loosely so. It will not have the structured Notes then Response sections. Instead, it will harken unto my previous post on productivity and what I learned and am implementing from two recorded Praxis Group Sessions with Amanda Grimmett.

[I do have one note. I avoid swearing, but in this case it was in the name of the workshop.]

Maximizing Your Output:

Have a plan for the day to have more focus and structure. At the end of the day write down what you did and what the next step is to decrease ramp-up time.

Have a list of priorities to return to when you get pulled in different directions so you know what to do when you get back.

Dedicate blocks of time to projects.

Ask bosses when they need a requested task done so you can prioritize it.

Getting Shit Done:

Dump, sort, work. List everything that needs done. Then sort tasks into categories and prioritize them. Then get to work.

Recommended online tools: Wunderlist, Trello, Asana, Monday, Swipe

Implementation:

notebook.JPG

I have a large notebook I bought at Walmart for $4 or $5 bucks. I write the date and day of the week, today’s time-specific obligations, and tomorrow’s time-specific obligations. Then I draw a line and write my to-do list. Everything after the to-do list is notes on what I’ve done, notes on live calls for Praxis, or sometimes notes on recorded Group Sessions as well.

to-do-list.jpg

Additionally, inspired by the GSD workshop, I reached out to my cohort, the participants who started Praxis at the same time as I did, to start an accountability group. We’ll push each other to meet our Praxis goals, both short term weekly goals and the long term whole bootcamp goals. We’ll also keep each other accountable to other goals we set for ourselves.

Recently I’ve had a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed at almost the same time every night and getting up at almost the same time.

I don’t always approach my work in an orderly fashion, doing a lot of task switching. Not in the middle of a task, unless I get stuck or otherwise need a break. Once I get into a groove, I can bust out most of my to-do list before I head to Walmart in the early afternoon. By switching tasks I can continue working without getting burnt out or bored by continuing to focus on one thing.

For example, I’ll work on blog posts for a while. Sometimes this is as simple as editing the notes and response I wrote for some content I consumed, as for Recap, or it’s more complicated, like My Birthday: A Reflection. Then I might switch to check in with the Over the Invisible Wall team to remind them of work that needs done so we stay on track and taking care of anything that they need me to do. Then I’ll switch to working on my Praxis deliverables or giving feedback on my cohorts’ deliverables.

How I Work

Location: St. Louis metropolitan area

Current gig: Crafts or Toys associate at Walmart, blogging here and at Over the Invisible Wall

Current mobile device: iPhone 6s

Current computer: I’m not sure, but I run Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”

One word that best describes how you work: Prioritization

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Google Drive, notebooks and pens or pencils, Gmail, Facebook messenger, my phone calendar with notifications

What’s your workspace like?

Messy. Clutter tends to pile up as I prioritize my work for Praxis, blogging, and other projects over putting away the binder I got out two days ago and finding a more permanent place to store some other things.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Write down what is done and the next step before switching to a different task.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

My notebook and gel pens. I also have calendar notifications for hard and fast obligations for the day. I made a larger list of ongoing to-dos in a Google doc which I’m still refining.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Probably my fitness tracker, headphones, and webcam. If non-electronics count as well, my notebooks and pens.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Creative problem solving, thinking outside the “box” to find or make a solution that may be unconventional when the conventional solution is not possible or available.

What are you currently reading?

Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy. Other books I’m in the middle of: Eldest by Christopher Paolini, The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller, The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsburg, and How Could a Loving God…? by Ken Ham. There are probably others that I started reading and forgot about.

What do you listen to while you work?

I mostly don’t listen to anything while working because I find it distracts me more than it helps me focus. I probably just haven’t found the right kind of music for that, but I prefer songs with lyrics most of the time. I might try making a playlist of instrumental songs and listening to it while working to see if it is distracting or not.

I would welcome any suggestions for instrumental work music, leave your recommendations in the comments and I can make a follow-up post reviewing my experience listening to them while working.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I like to spend a lot of time alone and working on projects in my own space. I like spending time with people, but I get drained by long periods of in-person interaction even when I’m having a really good time and want to be socializing.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I stay up late and get up late, except when I have to get up early for a shift at my job. I tend to be up past midnight and get up around 9 am if the money making is in the afternoon.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The quickest way to improve at anything is to work at it every day, even just a little bit.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I consider how I make money work, my projects work, Praxis obligations work, etc. Anything I’m not doing “just for fun” is work. That doesn’t mean it’s unenjoyable or not fun, though. I spend the mornings before my shifts at Walmart working on my blog, Over the Invisible Wall, other projects, or stuff for Praxis. It’s work, but it’s fulfilling and satisfying rather than tiring and draining.

Praxis Module 1, Week 1 Review

In the same vein of the Praxis Pre-Program Review, I thought I would share what I worked on over the last week for Praxis.

I officially started the Praxis bootcamp last Monday. It’s been a wild ride so far, but I’m loving it and can’t wait to keep going.

I got to work immediately on the work for week one, watching the videos and drafting my Top Three Skills post and my Five People Experiment post. In addition to these activities, I went above and beyond by writing Recap posts for Episodes 9, 29, and 36 of the Forward Tilt Podcast.

On Wednesday, my cohort (a fancy term for the group of participants who started the program in October with me) had Orientation. It was a three hour Zoom call consisting of three sessions, Kicking Ass 101, Bootcamp and Placement Overview, and then a discussion with two Praxis alumni about their experience and where they are now.

As other people in my cohort shared their work in Slack, I got to know them better and practiced constructive criticism. We share feedback on at least two other participants’ deliverables each week both to benefit them and to give us ideas to improve our own work. (This works in other areas as well, which is why I’m always eager to critique other people’s writing if I know I have time available to do so.)

It’s been a great first week and I will be working just as hard through the rest of the bootcamp as well.

My Top Three Skills

I’ve cultivated various skills over the years from instruments to foreign languages to needlework to visual art. There are three skills, though, that are valuable and that I’ve worked hard to improve over the last year especially. These are my top three skills.

 

Writing

I am primarily a self-taught writer. In elementary school we had writing assignments, but then from sixth to tenth grade I was homeschooled and my mom isn’t a writer. Before I started dual-enrollment I had some tutoring to prepare me for writing college essays, then I was on my own again. On my own time I practiced creative writing like storytelling and poetry. I’ve improved with practice and by seeking out free online resources about my craft. In February my friend Justine and I launched the bimonthly blog Over the Invisible Wall and in July I started this blog.

 

Customer Service

When I began working at Walmart, I discovered a passion for helping customers find what they need and have the best shopping experience possible. It can be difficult to remain calm and collected with customers who are rude, but I do my best to smile, apologize for any trouble they’ve had while shopping, and improve the rest of their experience. The people who are kind and genuinely appreciative of my help make the frustration of difficult customers more than worth it.

For example, I recently had a customer ask my advice on spray paints for a project she was working on. I didn’t know a lot about our different spray paint products, but I read over the packages’ description of the product and asked questions about the project. I walked from Crafts over to Hardware to show her more options and help her find the very best option. I used information I had along with details she shared with me to give suggestions and improve her shopping experience and hopefully her project as well.

 

Initiative

I do my best to pay attention to what is being done versus what needs done and take it upon myself to complete the task. At Walmart, I’ve picked up the slack in my department that has come from being short staffed. We’re behind and need to work topstock, so I’ve made sure to spend some time during each of my shifts on that. I’m currently the only one who knows how to make fabric remnants, and I’ve cleared out the space under the table that was crammed full of them. Additionally, if I hear customer service paged several times to a department I have experience in, I’ll walk over to find the customer and help them to the best of my abilities. No matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, the customer comes first, and if the associate in that department won’t help them, I will.

The Five People Experiment

You’ve almost certainly heard that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. I was encouraged to think about five traits I want to develop in my life and compare it to traits that define the five people I spend the most time with.

Five traits I want to cultivate:

  1. Productive
  2. Focused
  3. Consistent
  4. Confident
  5. Healthy (in a general sense, both mentally and physically)

 

The five people I spend the most time with and one trait that defines them:

  1. My boyfriend, funny
  2. Justine, productive
  3. Jake, creative
  4. Dad, focused
  5. Mom, selfless

 

There is some overlap in the lists. I don’t only desire improvement in the five areas in my list, those are just the top five now. Humor, creativy, and selflessness are also important to me, so I can appreciate that they can be part of my main circle and influence me.

I’ll be spending more time with people in the Praxis community in the coming months, cultivating relationships with them and working with them as we move towards similar goals. This will help and encourage me in the traits I’m working on.

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 29

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

I’ve also responded to Episodes 9 and 36.

In Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 29, Two Parts Substance, One Part Style, Isaac Morehouse discusses how to maintain success.

Notes

This is a recipe to turn success into sustained success. You need the right ratio between substance and style to build brand, reputation,  and credibility over the long term. Isaac’s not saying not to market, have style, and flash — he firmly believes you should shout from the rooftops your abilities and skills and products, a lot, and signal who you are. However, you should have twice as much substance to back up the style. Have something you’ve done that you didn’t talk about. Twice as much value.

If you want to engage in PDPs and work on something everyday to chip away at obstacles and you want to build a signal, a digital footprint, do it constantly. For every one thing you share on Facebook have one thing you’re working on that you don’t share. You want your product to be so good it sells itself.

Response

I’ve sort of been doing this, but not always well. Years ago I was active on DeviantART, sharing fanfiction and poems I’d written. I’d also talk about projects I was working on and say “I’m going to ___.” I didn’t always do whatever that thing was, I just talked about doing it. I’ve gotten better now at not telling the whole world I’m working on something unless I’m sure I’m going to do it. I’ll still discuss the maybes with people close to me, but if I don’t have something to show for a project except an idea, that’s not enough. A “want to” doesn’t necessarily equate to a “will” or “have.” I’ve been public with the main projects I’m working on, but don’t share a lot about when or what I’m doing on them. When I have some progress to share, it has taken time and work to get there, work I was doing in the background.