Boundaries, Imperfection, Self-Care, Shame

Sixty Percent Productivity

A friend the other day said she heard Gregg McKeown say something like: Expecting people to be productive every minute of the day is unrealistic. You can only assume 60% productivity. 

As a rule, humans are pretty bad at estimating how long project will take. A rule of thumb in construction, as I understand it, is to estimate the amount of time a project will take then multiply by two. That math lines up pretty well with the supposed Gregg McKeown quote.

Which is all to say if you think you’re working at 60% capacity, you may well be  close to working at 100%. But more, we often expect and demand far too much out of ourselves and others. It seems that It’s only when we get really honest with ourselves about what we can do consistently, and plan for that, that we begin to approach what appears to be a superhuman 110%.  

Getting really honest doesn’t mean getting draconian, overbearing, and unkind. It means observing what I do and reporting on it without judgment. Seeing what my strengths are. Seeing where I could probably get more done by not attempting to do anything. And finally, doing what seems to be a kryptonite for me—asking for help when I need it.  


The Bird of Intent

The other day I wrote about starting intentionally (and stopping intentionally as well).

Today, I read this from Seth Godin’s Blog

Standing at my desk this summer, it had just turned 10 am, and I realized that I’d already:

Heard from an old friend, engaged with three team members on two continents, read 28 blogs across the spectrum AND found out about the weather and the news around the world.

Half my life ago, in a similar morning spent in a similar office, not one of those things would have been true.

The incoming (and our ability to create more outgoing) is probably the single biggest shift that computers have created in our work lives. Sometimes, we subscribe or go and fetch the information, and sometimes it comes to us, unbidden and unfiltered. But it’s there and it’s compounding.

One option is to simply cope with the deluge, to be a victim of the firehose.

Another is to make the problem worse by adding more noise and spam to the open networks that we depend on.

A third might be, just for an hour, to turn it off. All of it. To sit alone and create the new thing, the thing worth seeking out, the thing that will cause a positive change.

As I finished reading this, I flashed on the thought “That thing could be a song.” That’s when the magpies in my head started piping up singing; “Songs add to the noise!  Aren’t there enough songs already?” 

They’re right of course. There are too many songs in the world, a daunting desultory deluge of ditties. But one worth seeking out? One that will cause a positive change? That takes intent.   

Likely more than an hour of intent. But much like Anne Lamott’s famously bother had to work his project bird by bird, the hours of my intent have to perch themselves one after another to write a song which worth another’s seeking.

A song which will make a change requires intent.

Music Theory, Songwriting, The Muse, Writing

Saturday Songwriting: Caged Lioness

A few days ago, I was checking out Jake Lizzio’s video (from Signals Music Studio) looking at the chord progression of Bruno Mars’s “When I Was Your Man.” It’s a cool video, and the song has some great changes to explore. And like pretty much all music theory, it can be a little intimidating if you don’t know the jargon.   The cool thing is, BEAD Guides Chord Flow can show the principles guiding the song, no jargon needed.  

The Prompt:

Here’s a link to Stefano Bonazzi’s Art

The Musical Idea:

Jake Lizzio explains “When I Was Your Man.”

Here’s a downloadable pdf of the worksheet above:

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Boundaries, Imperfection, Practice, Resistance, Self-Care

Intentionally start and intentionally stop

I was speaking today with creative friends about out work today.  

We’ve each rolled around to where the work is a drag. One friend is feeling dried up. Another is struggling with back pain; it’s literally painful for her to sit. Me? I’ve been feeling worn down, dried up, and a bit overwhelmed.  

How to deal with writers block and dry spells is an age old question. The three of us met in a Seth Godin workshop. He’s in the writers write, plumbers plumb school on the subject—you won’t hear about a plumber having plumber’s block, why should a writer get to have writer’s block.   

That said, one friend pointed out plumbers take vacations. Plumbers take personal days from time to time.  

I think many writers get superstitious about taking days off. I know I often believe that one day off leads to two (months).  

The same friend suggested this: intentionally start and intentionally stop. As I’m writing this, those words seem to have all the punch of a joke you had to be there for. But the procrastination that keeps me from my work feels at best semi-intentional, and really seems to happen in a kind ritualized somnambulance. Intention feels like a real answer.  I could simply start with intention—then stop.  



The last two weeks have been riddled with distractions, or maybe just a distraction: the election. It’s been difficult to focus. Even famed time-blocker and Deep Worker Cal Newport has copped to distraction in the past week. (He said he scheduled for it).  

Frustration runs high for me when I’m not sticking to my schedule. I also know that frustration and self-flagellation are pretty unproductive, lead to shame spirals, and more unproductivity. None of that is new.  Here’s something that is: my distraction this past week gave me an aerial view on my current habits and work flow. Since I wasn’t nose to the millstone, I could focus on how I’m milling, so to speak.   

Looking down on my work, I saw places I could batch parts of my work together. I could aim to do a task like creating prompts once or twice a month, (instead of the weekly cramming session I’ve been doing). This should lead to a bit more efficiency, more free time, moer time to work on projects that require deeper focus.   

Which makes me think, maybe the distraction wasn’t necessary, but stepping back and assessing my approach to the work was.