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12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You

12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You

Roald Dahl was one of the greatest children’s authors of all time. He was also an incredibly productive and creative person, who wrote dozens of books during his lifetime. Creative people can learn a lot from what Dahl had to say about growing up and becoming more productive and imaginative.

1. Have fun

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men” – Roald Dahl

nonsense

    Working hard is one thing, but it’s important to take a break and have fun. Intelligent, creative and productive people know that making time for an indulgence, a side-passion or even a little nonsense refuels our batteries and makes it easier to get back to work. Plus, if you’re not having fun then what’s the point?

    2. Draw on past experiences

    “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom” – Roald Dahl

    A Person

      During World War II Dahl became a decorated fighter pilot and intelligence officer for the Royal Air Force. Although he could have clearly pursued and succeeded at other careers after the war, he had a passion for telling stories. His success as a writer shows that our past interests and careers can inform our work.

      3. It’s natural to worry where your ideas come from

      “A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not” – Roald Dahl

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      a writer

        Dahl wrote dozens of short stories, books and screenplays during his life including the BFG, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even he worried about coming up with new ideas.

        If you’re involved in creative work, accept these fears as part of the process and then move past them. Just keep turning up and putting the work in.

        4. Routine is important

        “I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do” – Roald Dahl

        I began

          Dahl’s observation about having “very little original thinking to do” refers to less creative careers. If you are creative people and stuck in a boring job, you can still thrive. Just save your original thinking for the blank page or for a creative side-project.

          5. Writing takes discipline

          “The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody there to scold him” – Roald Dahl

          The writer

            If you want to succeed as a writer, you will have to become comfortable working in your own company and keeping your own hours. Unlike other professions, nobody is going to demand that you turn up every day and put the work in.

            Although this brings a certain level of freedom, it also means that you have to become even more disciplined and responsible about your craft.

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            6. Keeping a journal is a useful practice

            “Though my father was Norwegian, he always wrote his diaries in perfect English” – Roald Dahl

            Though my father

              Dahl wrote two autobiographies: Boy: Tales of Childhood and Going Solo. Both books have echoes of a journal about them. If you want to become a writer, keeping a journal is a useful practice that can inform your work. You can use your journal to develop ideas for future writing projects, to document the progress of your work and to mark your accomplishments and setbacks.

              7. Creative work is hard work

              “Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people” – Roald Dahl

              Completely drained

                Creative work is exciting. It can take you to another place and provide a refuge from the day-to-day world. It’s also difficult and demanding work that can leave you emotionally and physically drained at the end of the process. Tread carefully.

                8. Draw on sensual experience

                “Pear Drops were exciting because they had a dangerous taste. All of us were warned against eating them, and the result was that we ate them more than ever” – Roald Dahl

                Pear

                  If you want to become a writer, it’s important to observe and write about day-to-day experiences that others take for granted. You should record how things look, taste, touch, smell and sound, and then use these sense impressions to paint a colorful picture for your reader. This will bring your work to life.

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                  9. Write with your ideal audience in mind

                  “Had I not had children of my own, I would have never written books for children, nor would I have been capable of doing so.” – Roald Dahl

                  Had I not had children

                    Dahl is on record as saying that he wrote many of his books for his children and later for his grandchildren. He considered the people closest to him when he wrote and he created a world for them on the page. If you’re a writer, you should consider who your ideal reader is, what they want, what they like and what they dislike.

                    10. Have a place to work

                    “I go down to my little hut, where it’s tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight again” – Roald Dahl

                    I go

                      Dahl wrote in a hut at the back of his house for much of his life. Just as office workers go the same place every day, writers and creative professionals should also have a room to work in, where nothing else happens except their work. This makes it easier to create and reduces the chances of procrastination

                      11. Take advantage of the shrinking world

                      “Nowadays you can go anywhere in the world in a few hours, and nothing is fabulous any more.” – Roald Dahl

                      Nowdays

                        Dahl recognized that the world had become vastly smaller during his lifetime, and he lived much of his life in a time pre-internet and pre-mobile phones.

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                        Although this sense of fabulous may be lost, if you get into the habit of sharing your work, the idea of other people reading it doesn’t have to feel exotic. Today, you can create something, publish and share it with the world (on sites like Lifehack).

                        12. Be modest

                        “An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring ideas” – Roald Dahl

                        an auto

                          Lots of famous writers enjoy getting into fights with other writers or talking about how important or grand their work is. Dahl wasn’t afraid to put his profession in perspective and, even though his two autobiographies are anything but boring, he could hardly be accused of being self-aggrandizing or self-promotional.

                          He shows that writers and creative professionals should be more concerned with seeking out truth than they should be about explaining the importance of their work.

                          What are your favorite Roald Dahl books? Has he taught you anything about productivity, creativity or writing? Please let me know in the comments section below.

                          Featured photo credit: Cory Doctorow via creativecommons.org

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                          Last Updated on September 17, 2018

                          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

                          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

                          Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

                          Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

                          All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

                          Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

                          How bad really is multitasking?

                          It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

                          Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

                          This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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                          We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

                          So what to do about it?

                          Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

                          Now, forget about how to multitask!

                          Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

                          1. Get enough rest

                          When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

                          This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

                          When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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                          2. Plan your day

                          When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

                          When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

                          Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

                          3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

                          I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

                          I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

                          Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

                          4. When at your desk, do work

                          We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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                          Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

                          5. Learn to say no

                          Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

                          Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

                          By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

                          6. Turn off notifications on your computer

                          For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

                          Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

                          7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

                          Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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                          You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

                          The bottom line

                          Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

                          Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

                          Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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