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Productive Interview Series: Michael Leddy

Productive Interview Series: Michael Leddy

Productive Interview Series is a quick four questions interview, targets on productive people who have been changing their work/life style with life hacks and self-development tips. It’s my pleasure to interview Michael Leddy, who is our monthly contributor at lifehack.org and the blogger at Orange Crate Art. His articles in here have helped thousands of students around the world.

Michael Leddy

    Who are you?
    I’m a professor in a college English department, teaching mostly poetry, modern American literature, and classics in translation. I’ve done much writing for small specialized audiences (literary criticism and poetry), and for the past two years I’ve done a lot of writing on my blog, Orange Crate Art. Aside from literature, my main interests are musical, mostly jazz and blues. I’m married to Elaine Fine, a violist/violinist and composer.

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    What have you done to increase your productivity?
    Without a datebook, I’d be nowhere. For many years I used Quo Vadis, but for the past two years I’ve used a homemade datebook, a pocket Moleskine notebook with two days per page. (I wrote in the dates for both years.) The Moleskine is like a Swiss Army knife in book form: mine holds schedules, ideas for writing, a paper ruler, a Band-Aid, blank Post-it Notes, some useful quotations. When I’m working on a project or heading toward a crucial week or two of work, I’ll supplement the Moleskine with index cards or a piece of paper. Right now, with final examinations coming up, I have the next eight days worked out on a page from a yellow legal pad.

    As these references to Moleskines and legal pads suggest, I am devoted to “supplies.” I think that using well-made tools can bring some small or large inspiration to one’s work. Most of my writing begins with a fountain pen and a pocket Moleskine or a legal pad. When I grade papers, I use Zebra ballpoints. If I’m writing a draft at the computer, the text-editor Notepad2 (not Word) is my tool of choice. And FlyakiteOSX makes everything on my Windows laptop a pleasure to look at.

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    To counter creeping monotony, I vary my place to work. At home I usually work at a large table that I use as a desk, but to read, I’ll often sit on the floor, up against the side of our upright piano. I also work in the college library, and once in a while I’ll work in the library of the college where Elaine teaches. I have an office, but like many people in academic life, I don’t get much done there.

    What is your best life hack?
    I often use a kitchen timer to implement the 45/15 rule: work for 45 minutes; take a break for 15; repeat as necessary. That’s my variation on 40/20, which I read about on MetaFilter, via a post on lifehack.org. When I’m grading 25 or 50 papers, knowing that a break is coming helps to alleviate the feeling of endlessness.

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    What are your favorite posts at lifehack.org?
    In addition to the post I just mentioned, I’d single out 8 Life Hacks for Health, Wealth and Happiness and the recent Quicksilver tutorial. (There’s a Mac in my future). And I like any post that reminds me to keep doing what I’m already doing.

    Are you confident on your life being productive? Have you applied lifehacks, tips and tricks that help you get through procrastination or any parts of your life? Send us an email – tips at lifehack.org, I am happy to help you to share your experience.

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    Previous Productive Interviews: Henrik Edberg, Andy Mitchell, Patrick Rhone

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    Leon Ho

    Founder of Lifehack

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    Last Updated on July 9, 2019

    How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

    How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life

    It is hardly a secret that the key to successfully accomplishing one goal after another is staying motivated. There are, of course, tasks which successful people may not like at all, yet they find motivation to complete them because they recognize how each particular task serves a greater goal.

    So how to stay motivated most of the time? Here are 5 simple yet effective ways on how to stay motivated and get what you want:

    1. Find the Good Reasons

    Anything you do, no matter how simple, has a number of good reasons behind it.

    You may not be able to find good reasons to do some tasks at first but, if you take just a few moments to analyze them, you will easily spot something good. We also have many tasks which don’t need any reasoning at all – we’ve been doing them for so long that they feel natural.

    If you’re ever stuck with some tasks you hate and there seems to be no motivation to complete it whatsoever, here’s what you need to do: find your good reasons.

    Even when you set goals, there needs to be reasons behind these goals. They may not be obvious, but stay at it until you see some, as this will bring your motivation back and will help you finish the task.

    Some ideas for what a good reason can be:

    • A material reward – quite often, you will get paid for doing something you normally don’t like doing at all.
    • Personal gain – you will learn something new or will perhaps improve yourself in a certain way.
    • A feeling of accomplishment – at least you’ll be able to walk away feeling great about finding the motivation and courage to complete such a tedious task.
    • A step closer to your bigger goal – even the biggest accomplishments in history have started small and relied on simple and far less pleasant tasks than you might be working on. Every task you complete brings you closer to the ultimate goal, and acknowledging this always feels good.

    2. Make It Fun

    When it comes to motivation, attitude is everything. Different people may have completely opposite feelings towards the same task: some will hate it, others will love it.

    Why do you think this happens? It’s simple: some of us find ways to make any task interesting and fun to do!

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    Take sports for example. Visiting your local gym daily for a half-an-hour workout session sounds rather boring to some. Yet many others love the idea!

    They like exercising not only because they recognize the good reasons behind it, but simply because it’s fun! At certain time of their daily schedule, they find going to gym to be the best thing to do, simply because nothing else will fit their time and lifestyle so perfectly.

    Depending on how you look at it, you can have fun doing just about anything! Just look for ways of having fun, and you’ll find them!

    A simple approach is to start working on any task by asking yourself a few questions:

    • How can I enjoy this task?
    • What can I do to make this task fun for myself and possibly for others?
    • How can I make this work the best part of my day?

    As long as you learn to have the definite expectation of any task being potentially enjoyable, you will start to feel motivated.

    Some of you will probably think of a thing or two which are valid exceptions from this statement, like something you always hate doing no matter how hard you try making it fun. You’re probably right, and that’s why I don’t claim everything to be fun.

    However, most tasks have a great potential of being enjoyable, and so looking for ways to have fun while working is definitely a good habit to acquire.

    3. Take a Different Approach

    When something doesn’t feel right, it’s always a good time to take a moment and look for a different approach for the task.

    You may be doing everything correctly and most efficiently, but such approach isn’t necessarily the most motivating one. Quite often, you can find a number of obvious tweaks to your current approach which will both change your experience and open up new possibilities.

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    That’s why saying “one way or another” is so common — if you really want to accomplish your goal, there is always a way; and most likely, there’s more than one way.

    If a certain approach doesn’t work for you, find another one, and keep trying until you find the one which will both keep you motivated and get you the desired results.

    Some people think that trying a different approach means giving up. They take pride in being really stubborn and refusing to try any other options on their way towards the goal.

    My opinion on this is that the power of focus is great, but you should be focusing on your goal, and not limiting your options by focusing on just one way to accomplish it it.

    4. Recognize Your Progress

    Everything you may be working on can be easily split into smaller parts and stages. For most goals, it is quite natural to split the process of accomplishing them into smaller tasks and milestones. There are a few reasons behind doing this, and one of them is tracking your progress.

    We track our progress automatically with most activities. But to stay motivated, you need to recognize your progress, not merely track it.

    Here’s how tracking and recognizing your progress is different:

    Tracking is merely taking a note of having reached a certain stage in your process. Recognizing is taking time to look at a bigger picture and realize where exactly you are, and how much more you have left to do.

    For example, if you’re going to read a book, always start by going through the contents table. Getting familiar with chapter titles and memorizing their total number will make it easier for you to recognize your progress as you read. Confirming how many pages your book has before starting it is also a good idea.

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    You see, reading any book you will be automatically looking at page numbers and chapter titles, but without knowing the total number of pages, this information will have little meaning.

    Somehow, it is human nature to always want things to happen in short term or even at once. Even though we split complex tasks into simpler actions, we don’t quite feel the satisfaction until all is done and the task is fully complete.

    For many scenarios though, the task is so vast that such approach will drain all the motivation out of you long before you have a chance to reach your goal. That’s why it is important to always take small steps and recognize the positive different and progress made. This is how your motivation can sustain in long term.

    5. Reward Yourself

    This is a trick everyone likes: rewarding yourself is always pleasant. This is also one of the easiest and at the same time most powerful ways to stay motivated!

    Feeling down about doing something? Dread the idea of working on some task? Hate the whole idea of working? You’re not alone.

    Right from the beginning, agree on some deliverables which will justify yourself getting rewarded. As soon as you get one of the agreed results, take time to reward yourself in some way.

    For some tasks, just taking a break and relaxing for a few minutes will do.

    For others, you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and even treat yourself a dessert.

    For even bigger and more demanding tasks, reward yourself by doing something even more enjoyable, like going to a cinema or taking a trip to some place nice, or even buying yourself something.

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    Your progress may not seem to others like anything worth celebrating but, take time and do it anyway! It is your task and your reward, so any ways to stay motivated are good.

    The more you reward yourself for the honestly made progress, the more motivated you will feel about reaching new milestones, thus finally accomplishing your goal.

    Mix and Match

    Now that you have these five ways of staying motivated, it is a good moment to give you the key to them all: mix and match!

    Pick one of the techniques and apply it to your situation. If it doesn’t work, or if you simply want to get more motivated, try another technique right way. Mix different approaches and match them to your task for the best results.

    Just think about it: Finding good reasons to work on your task is bound to helping you feel better; and identifying ways to make it fun will help you enjoy the task even more.

    Or, if you plan a few points for easier tracking of your progress and on top of that, agree on rewarding yourself as you go; this will make you feel most motivated about anything you have to work through.

    More About Staying Motivated

    Featured photo credit: Lucas Lenzi via unsplash.com

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