Productivity

(All my posts are just for fun. If I talk about something medical, ignore it. Never take my advice on anything. Truly.)

Everyone has trouble focusing. We live in a world where there are numerous interesting things to do, and it only takes seconds to get access to those interesting things. As a chronic multitasker myself, I am completely guilty of separating my focus onto three different tasks at once. For example, the other morning I found myself reading, watching television, and answering texts messages at one time. I should probably have been ashamed, but I wasn’t. In fact, I was proud of myself. Here I was, maximizing my time, using different gadgets, and keeping in touch with my family and friends.

The truth of the matter is, we can’t really focus on that many activities at once. The television show I was watching, I had seen hundreds of times before, and the messages I was writing didn’t require much effort. You could say I was only really soaking in the book.

Being a graduate student has affected me strangely. Some mornings I get up, drink a cup of coffee, and immediately get to work. Other mornings, I sleep until 12 PM, go for a two hour walk, clean my house, and never once think about my thesis. (For all of you writing your dissertations, trust me, I understand that I have no right to bitch. But here we are.). It is infuriating, and I am scared every day that I won’t ever graduate or get my writing over with. My focus goes from place to place, and I never really seem to be able to grasp what I am trying to accomplish at any given point.

There are a couple of extreme measures I take to sit down and truly focus:

1. Throw my phone away. Or put it in another room. Whatever it is, I get rid of it. There are too many cool things on my phone: games, social media, good conversations, books, comics, and music. If anything is going to draw my focus away, it will be my phone.

2. Lock myself in the most boring room I can find. Honestly, this is usually some place in the library, or (no one tell my advisor) the archaeology lab in the evening. Unless there are people in the lab, in which case I hightail it away from there.

3. Never open an internet browser unless it is connected to JSTOR, some peer reviewed journal, or the thesaurus. NEVER.

4. If you take ADD medication, don’t skip that day. If you don’t take ADD medication, start taking it now.

5. Find something that relaxes you, yet keeps you productive. I have two go-tos. Incense and tea. I know, you all think I’m a useless hippie. But if your relaxing agent is saying “bro” out loud to yourself or chugging a 40 of Coors, go for it.

6. Don’t underestimate the power of taking a ten minute break. As long as you come back to what you were doing before, your mind can re-set itself, and give you a more long-term spurt of productivity.

7. Ignore your pets. This sounds cruel, but here’s how it goes in my house. I will be sitting around, playing on the computer all day. Or reading a book for fun. My cats will ignore me during this time- they will sleep or play with each other or run up and down the hallways. But the minute I bring up a Word document, they decide it’s time to get in my lap and be incredibly cute. And then I have to make the decision: do I pet them and immediately ruin my day of productivity? Or do I look into their sweet little eyes, pick them up, and throw them onto the floor? Damn them. Damn them to hell.

8. If you are having relationship problems (and I know you all are, so don’t act like this isn’t a thing) stop thinking about them for five fucking seconds. Jesus, as if you weren’t defined by more than just your pretty face and your inability to communicate with your partner.

9. Try to be excited about your work. Again, this sounds like a given, but there are times where I immediately sabotage myself because I am tired of what I am doing. Or I don’t see the point. Don’t feel bad about having those doubts, but try to remind yourself why you were drawn to the subject in the first place. How did you feel at the beginning of your project? (I know you had a schedule at the beginning of your project. How did that go……)

and

10. If you miss a day, don’t freak out. There is always tomorrow.

What are your productivity tips?

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Israel, Fantasy, Billy Budd, and Native Americans in NC

My total “goal points” still only equal 2 considering that instead of eating healthy food last night, I came to Raleigh to see my bestest friends and drank a shit ton of beer (the added point is for not watching any TV yesterday). Also ate something that was basically “bread with sauce” and can be considered the greatest invention in history. And, no, I will not retroactively add points for things I did last week (although I seriously considered it); I will be good, and honest, and um…I dunno…just not a shithead. Continue reading for more literary thoughts below: 

On a more productive note, I am spending my day reading, mostly because I don’t have a car now that someone has taken it to work…. and because I don’t have any money to go anywhere, anyway. My research at the Office of State Archaeology got pushed forward until tomorrow, so there’s no work for me to do today except read. 

I’ve been trying to brush up on my history of Israel before I visit the country, so the first priority is this:

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Which I have to admit is really wonderful book. It is easy to read, and starts at the beginning of the Zionist movement, meaning it encompasses almost all of Israel’s tumultuous history. My favorite part (of course) is that the book mentions key archaeological sites, and how they relate to the political climate of Israel through the centuries. I am still in the beginning stages of Palestine’s growth, but am steadily moving through the 1920s.

The second book I am reading is about the occupation of Native Americans in North Carolina. It is a famous book in my field of Southeastern Archaeology; mostly because it encompasses a long temporal range and, yet still is able to make the movement of people through North Carolina fascinating and easy to understand. This book is particularly for my thesis, but if anyone is native to North Carolina, it is a great way to start learning about its prehistory, and the archaeology associated with the state.

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So now for the fun stuff. I think I might have mentioned that as an undergraduate, I majored in English before I majored in Anthropology. I always wanted to be a creative writer (don’t judge me on these blogs- these are casual, assholes). I still creatively write, but if I am being honest with myself, what I really do is just…read.

As most English majors know, being snobby about literature is required as part of the curriculum. They beat it into you that only the studied, recognized authors are the ones that matter, and even as a halfway-independently-thinking adult, it is still hard to break the pattern of only reading classics. To be fair, I have always just enjoyed the classics more. Even as a kid, I read classics before the popular stuff. There are a couple of reasons for this. As a kid (and today), I am a morose. I am cynical. The depressing plots are the most interesting, and, dishearteningly, the most philosophically relatable. For example, I am now reading some of Herman Melville’s short stories, the most notable of which is Billy Budd.

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When Herman Melville wrote Billy Budd, he wasn’t just writing about the sailors on the ocean to stick with a theme. He was really writing about isolation, about being misunderstood and misconstrued and, eventually, forgotten. Melville had a good reason to be writing about this stuff, guys. I mean, he was basically booed from the stage for everything he wrote. Yes, even Moby Dick, that wonderful whale tale. He was constantly being criticized for his writing, and I think some of his friends were even getting sick of his brooding, sullen characters.

Who can’t relate to being poor Melville? Haven’t your friends cut you off for being brooding, sullen, and mad about your greatness going unrecognized? Okay, well maybe yours haven’t, but that’s just because you haven’t hit your mid-twenties yet. Don’t worry, it will come.

So, the last book I’m reading is kind of by accident. My friend lives in a house with roommates, and they have kindly furnished his room for him. In this room lives a tiny little bookshelf full of obscure science fiction and fantasy. I have recently been caught up in the genre entitled “Obscure Science Fiction and Fantasy” and was immediately excited about this find.

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Apparently, they have the whole series just sitting there, waiting for me to read it. Which I am certainly doing. The writing is phenomenal. And I don’t mean in a genre-y sort of way. This guy can write. His descriptions are rich and interesting, and I find myself finishing chapters without even thinking once about the time. Science fiction/fantasy is one of those genres that gets a lot of flack from the surrounding literary community, and as I grow older, I am constantly wondering why. Once I finish this series (which I think is like eleven books), I will definitely give a more in-depth review.

If anyone has any books they want to recommend, and I mean ANY! I am always up for something new. Feel free to post any in the comments.