Musings of a part-time turned full-time PhD student on music cognition, MEG, motherhood and more…
When’s the last time you did something for the first time?
I’m not talking about deciding the learn a new language or a musical instrument or enrolling in an adult swim class – just something mundane, an everyday action for the very first time…
…. and using the ♥ on twitter for the first time doesn’t count
To my embarrassment, today was the first time in my whole life that I mowed our lawn; the first time I’ve ever even started the lawn mower. We’ve lived in this house for almost 7 years and it takes my husband 1 hour every fortnight or so to cut the grass (there’s quite a lot of grass), and yet never in those 7 years have I ever even attempted to help. It took his recent one week stint in hospital with pneumonia for me to actually realise it was time to take the plunge (since the dandelions in the front yard were so plentiful they were threatening to take over the grass).
And you know what? It wasn’t that bad – sure, I didn’t do it perfectly, but actually I was happy with how it turned out.
But as I mowed (and enjoyed the deafening noise yet simultaneous peace ….”sorry kids I can’t hear you – you’ll have to go and ask dad”…) I reflected on many of the first time things I’ve been doing lately.
I’ve been trialing a whole bunch of little things that have been making a clear impact on my productivity, so I thought I’d share them here to motivate others to perhaps try something new as well:
1. Write every day
Ever heard of 750words.com? 10 days ago I signed up and started my first burst of daily, spontaneous, unfiltered writing. Now I’m a convert. The habit of writing becomes addictive, especially if you are trying to write quickly within a time-frame and being sure that you are not distracted for more than 3 minutes. Once your 750 words is reached you can save your writing and see a whole bunch of analysis about speed and semantic content about it. The idea behind it is that writing 3 pages of unfiltered writing (~750 words) gets your distracting thoughts out onto the page so that you can then concentrate on your real work. Its meant to be done in the morning, but really, whenever you have the time it works. I’ve found it valuable in providing insight to my own thinking about a problem. Sometimes ideas for solutions have emerged from big tangents.
2. What did I learn today?
Its always a buzz to have that a-ha moment of learning something new. But if you think about it, we are learning new things everyday (potentially less monumental, but new nonetheless). I’m doing a PhD so I feel like I’m constantly on a steep learning curve.
But one of the ways I’ve started celebrating my learning is to keep a journal next to my bed and each night I write one sentence of something I learnt today. Its not always mind blowing – it could be that I discovered there is a special issue of a journal of interest that I want to make sure I check out; or I realised how to do something new in my analysis. But just by noting it down I can see that I am in fact making progress. Even if what I learnt was that method X didn’t work like I thought it would.
3. Starting a blog
OK so this is technically only my second blog post, but trust me, there is a lot I have gained from starting this blog from network connections, to confidence in writing – as well as the benefits from planning out future content. If you need more convincing then check out Dr Natalie Matosin’s (aka @postmortemgirl) article. If you are a regular blog reader but not yet a blog writer, I challenge you to take the plunge. Why not join the HDR Blogging Challenge #hdrblog15 (@debsnet) this November? Which is what motivated me to get started.
So there you have it. I mowed the lawn and lived to tell the tale (though I think next time I might try wearing earplugs). What about you? What new things could you try this week that could just end up being a new habit for a more productive you?