How to Get Stuff Done

Because this is a serious subject matter.

Meh, I’ll just write this article later.

Just kidding. I was actually going to postpone writing this article, but then I defeated procrastination and decided to do it. So, what is the best way to defeat procrastination and get stuff done?

1. Plan ahead

Whenever you know you have to accomplish a certain something (for example, as a student, I get all my assignments on my syllabus during the first week of the semester), write it down in your agenda. If you don’t have an agenda or a calendar, use your phone. If you don’t have a phone, buy an agenda. Writing down your important tasks early on- and writing a reminder the week before- will ensure that you don’t end up with a last minute thing you had forgotten about.

2. Set your priorities

Only you can decide what your priorities are. And don’t lie to yourself. First of all, food and health should be on the top of that list- but hey, to each his own. Make a pyramid of the priorities in your life. Is it school? Your kids? Your career? A relationship? That long-lost novel you have always wanted to finish? SLEEP? Your plans of a professional gamer career? Anyway, keep your pyramid handy for this next step.

3. Plan your days

I’m going to bring back the agenda again. You don’t have to use an actual agenda- use whatever you prefer to plan your days. And again, everyone is different. You might not work well by planning out EVERY SINGLE DAY of your life. You might only need this when your days get really hectic. Anyway, if you do plan out your day, start with your top priorities- the ones you can’t go around- and outline them through your day. I will give you an example with a basic Monday of mine:

9:00- Go to class

11:00- Eat food

13:00-Class

15:00-

17:00-Eat food

19:00-

21:00-

23;00- sleep

So you see, these are the things I can’t really skip. I personally cannot skip meals, or I get shaky from lack of energy. I can’t skip my classes, because, well, I learn and stuff. I can’t skip sleep, because I would literally fall asleep in class the next day.

After you do that, you can add the things you know you need to do. These are important things that you don’t necessarily want to do, and that you can kind of afford to skip and push back to another time. DON’T. Set a commitment, and do it. You don’t have an excuse: you have time for it if you wrote it down. Remember those things you planned ahead for? It’s time to make time for them here. Once again, my own example:

9:00- Go to class

Read course material for one class

11:00- Eat food

13:00-Class

15:00- Work on research paper for an hour

17:00-Eat food

19:00- Work out

21:00-

23;00- sleep

In my case, I really want to get my workout done for the day, while getting course material read for at least one of my classes. I also know I need to put some time into that research paper. Because I am not doing my paper last minute, I can work on it for just an hour today, no more.

After you have made your list, look at the time you have left. What are you going to do with that time? Use some of it to do things you love to do. Take time to relax and wind down. I usually have 1 hour blocks in my agenda- I made two-hour blocks just to save space here. Usually, almost all of my hourly blocks have something written on them. For example, the above schedule I have made for my Monday can be filled out by things like: take a bath, play video games, read a leisure book, visit a friend, begin knitting a new scarf, etc.

This is the longest step, and a really important one, but the most important thing is to

4. Respect your schedule, but be flexible

Life happens. If something disrupts your planned schedule, just relax, take a step back, and adapt to what the day will bring you. The important thing here is to have balance between respecting your schedule and being flexible with yourself. Being flexible does NOT mean skipping your study session because you’re feeling a little tired. It does mean, skip your workout if you get the flu. Post-pone that paper if you get called up for a last minute interview. Take a break from your busy life if your friends call you up for a little get-together.

 

These four steps are how I get stuff done. Juggling artistic work with university and home-tending has forced me to adapt and become more organized. I am a naturally stressed person, and so I took the necessary measures to reduce stress as much as possible. This means no last-minute work, and plenty of me-time when I know I need it. 

The hardest stuff to get done is the stuff you don’t HAVE to do, like, oh, writing a BOOK. I won’t fail my classes or go bankrupt if I don’t work on my new novel project this week. I know, deep down, that I will be proud of myself if I work on it, and that I will enjoy the process when I actually get into it. Getting into it is the hardest part. But this is when you come in and question yourself. What do you really want? What do you really need?

And you know the only person you should NEVER, EVER lie to- even white lies are a big no-no- is yourself.

It’s Finally Here! (Plus thoughts on self-publishing)

This is it. Abiding Heart is now available through Amazon and the Createspace store!

You can order it here: http://www.amazon.com/Abiding-Heart-Charlene-Boutin/dp/148271342X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1382826359&sr=8-2&keywords=abiding+heart

Or get it on the kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/Abiding-Heart-Charl%C3%A8ne-Boutin-ebook/dp/B00G71HO6Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382826397&sr=8-1&keywords=abiding+heart+kindle

So now that the process is over, I feel I have learned a lot about self-publishing. For someone like me, who is a student and doesn’t have much knowledge in agents and publishing businesses and things like that, I believe it is the best option. Self-publishing does take a lot of time and effort, however. I’m lucky to have people in my life who are good English readers/writers and who can help me edit. I’m lucky to be good at grammar and spelling myself!

I chose self-publishing because finding an agent and/or sending dozens of manuscripts to publishing companies is, in my opinion, more time-consuming and complicated than doing the work myself. Createspace offers all the services needed to format the manuscript, create a good cover page (although the cover art was hand-drawn by me- some people might have to find another artist to do that part for them), and distribute work.

The part I’m worried about the most is the promotion. That is certainly one aspect that large publishing companies have that I do not. But then again, these same companies take most of your profit and place it into their own pockets.

What I loved the most about this process was that I could do things whenever I wanted to. I don’t have a time limit or a specific date to finish a step in the process. This enabled me to work on the book when I was less busy in my schoolwork and personal life.

I hope you can enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

My Next Project: Shark Academy

I wanted to write about the next big project I want to undertake once Abiding Heart is out of editing mode. This project will be for a slightly younger audience, but still interesting for older readers: think Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

As the title of the post says, it will be called “Shark Academy.” No, it is not an academy for sharks- if you are a shark, I am sorry to disappoint you. The name Shark only refers to the founder of the academy, Leopold Shark.

Here is the mythology of the story: the world is tainted with evil spirits that threaten to destroy humanity. These spirits are invisible to untrained humans, and therefore very difficult to stop. One man, Leopold Shark, realizes the potential power he holds and exploits it to become a warrior. He enrolls his family and friends; together, they build an academy meant to train kids to use their inner power, in hopes to have warriors capable of defending humanity.

Leo Shark is the first human to ever discover his power, and he is also the strongest; at the time of his death, he succeeds in keeping the energy of his soul together to remain a ghostly mentor at his academy for all time.

Today, if kids want to enroll at Shark Academy, they have to search for the enchantment that will bring Leo Shark to their door. However, the tale of Leo Shark is dismissed as a simple bedtime story, and almost no one really attempts it.

Every Shark Academy book will be made up of a few shorter, novella-sized stories. Main characters in one story may appear in other stories, either as another main figure or as someone in the background. There will be a main underlying conflict throughout the whole book. I’ll begin with one book, but the ending will always be open to expansion.

So everything I’ve written above is the basis for the background of Shark Academy. Eventually, I could write about Leo Shark’s life, but it would not make a good first book for this series. The actual character triggering the story will be fiery Elyssa Rodgers, a high school teenager who dresses to impress but doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. Her best friend, Theo Pinsent, is more on the shy side, but always follows Elyssa into her mischief. This is what leads our two young friends into summoning Leopold Shark.

But when Elyssa gets them into trouble beyond what they could ever imagine, it will be up to her to right her wrongs, even if that means risking her life and breaking even more rules.

That’s all I want to say for now! This project is still in planning mode, and so nothing is certain yet. Let me know if you have comments, questions, or suggestions about the idea 🙂

Midnight Writing Prompt Number 2- Two Seconds

So tonight I have written my second Midnight Writing Prompt that isn’t at midnight. I like to live dangerously, what can I say?

This one is less of a story and more of a question of “what if?” I have made it somehow short, but a more story-like, concrete sequel to this piece could be added later on. I might try that out when I do my next writing prompt.

 

Two Seconds

 

From the corner of my eye, I saw the woman, uneasy on her own feet. She held a very small child in her arms. This sight triggered the longest two seconds I have ever lived.

The woman’s foot slipped upon the wet limestone deck; the child, not even having time to flinch or scream or react in any way, dropped from the woman’s arms. My whole body awoke and screamed itself into action, and before that single second was over, the child fell safely into the arms of his father, who had been waiting in the pool.

That was the first second. It was quick, and to the observant eye, innocent and maybe a little amusing, but believe me when I tell you it changed my life when the next second came around.

All was well. My fellow lifeguard across the other side of the pool continued his watch. The woman had slipped and regained her footing. But my body was still on fire and my heart was about to give out.

A story began to unfold in my mind’s eye- a flash-forward one second film that I could not stop or rewind.

The child, a little girl, falls against the edge of the pool, just a centimeter away from her original destination; her head cracks open and bloody matter gushes out from the cavity, staining the floors and the water. The crimson colour begins to spread in the water, and little by little the swimmers begin to scream and rush away from the scene.

I, on the other hand, am frozen completely still. I know there is nothing I can do, and at the same time, my spirit buckles at the atrocity I have just witnessed. I fall to my knees, but it doesn’t even hurt. Nothing hurts more than this.

The film flashes; a mother, torn by the worst pain there could ever be, sits alone. I reach out to her, but I cannot reach. I could never reach. There is nothing I can do, now, and never before, either.

A multiplication occurs inside of my head, and the film is no longer a film, but rather an open window to everything I could ever see. For every person inside of the pool- no, for every person I have ever seen- I imagine a single slip, a false move of the body, a twisted decision that was not meant to be. This fate could be mine if only I rushed too fast to help one of these victims.

This fate could be anyone’s, anytime, any way.

The film stopped abruptly; I fell back into my own body, eyes open with shock. It took a long time for me to notice I had forgotten to breathe. Awake and aware, I toured the pool with my eyes and concluded that everything was under control.

“Get a grip,” I whispered to myself. I couldn’t go on daydreaming about everything and anything; I had a job to do. 

But those two seconds…

My mind seemed to be more open, somehow. Every action, every little piece of existence that changed around me triggered my mind to imagine, “What if?”

The Best 5 Fitness Tips I Know

Most people start off the wrong foot when they want to get fit. I was one of these people; I got ahead of myself and hopped into it without much research. For quick motivation and information, here are the top 5 most helpful tips I wish I had read before I began.

 

1. Start with your diet: eat whole foods

A good workout routine is not worth much without proper eating habits. It isn’t really complicated to clean up your diet if you mind yourself to it. Actually sticking to it is the hardest part, but it is key to health and longevity. Eating more fruits and vegetables and less crappy, processed foods is the most important part. Most people have already heard this a million times, but hey, it’s true. I wouldn’t have the energy to work out like I do if it wasn’t for my diet. I’m not over-the-top healthy, either: I don’t count my calories, I do treat myself with chocolate and such things, I eat carbs and gluten and stuff that is in natural food. I just make meals from scratch and eat my veggies.

 

2. Choose something you love

There are dozens and dozens of different workouts for all sorts of people. If you’re a gym person, you can do a heavy weightlifting routine or bodybuilding. Maybe cross fit or circuit training would be more your style. Or maybe you would prefer to build yourself a home gym and do all these things at home! Or, if you’re not a gym person, you have the choice between the following and a bazillion more things: team sports, running, biking, workout videos, dance classes, fitness classes, martial arts, or yoga (all of these choices have several sub-choices beneath them). If you start doing something and realize you dread your workout every time, then change to something else.

 

3. Start out small

If you want to start lifting weights, start with the empty barbell. If you want to run, don’t attempt a 5k on your first run. When you sign up for a martial arts class, do they ask you to do jump kicks and chop through wood on the first day? Of course not. Figure out where you are in your fitness level, and begin planning accordingly (see point 4). Otherwise, it will suck, and you have more chances of giving up.

 

4. Structure out a specific plan and set goals and milestones

If you just tell yourself, “I want to get fit,” it is difficult to track your progress and know where you are heading. Sketch out your route NOW so that you don’t get lost later. Write out specific goals, such as: “I want to deadlift 100 pounds by next month” or “I want to run a 5k in 20 minutes”. Do one goal at a time, and for that goal, set up some milestones. A good example would be like this:

Main goal: Do 50 push-ups non stop

Milestone 1: 20 push ups by next month

Milestone 2: 30 push ups by Christmas

Milestone 3: 40 push ups by February

Milestone 4: Final goal: 50 push ups by spring break

The dates are random, and you don’t have to set up dates, either. Don’t be harsh on yourself if you do not reach milestones as quickly as you would like. Just get it back together and keep going: you are still trying, and that makes you badass.

 

5. Do your research and build a support group

Research success stories and good workout techniques. Read articles about what interests you. And finally, get those around you involved! Let your loved ones know what you are doing, and make yourself accountable. Finding a support group online is also a great way to do this. You don’t have to be alone.