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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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