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Blog Like A Pro In Three Easy Steps: Assess, Decide, Do

Blog Like A Pro In Three Easy Steps: Assess, Decide, Do

    Many readers of Stepcase Lifehack are bloggers themselves and some of them are even making a (nice) living off of it. But, as fancy as it may seem, blogging is not an easy task. At least blogging for money, constantly, for several years in a row. I know it first hand, since I’m doing this for a good 4 years now.

    So, a management system to keep things from falling a part will become compulsory, at some point. For those of you who reached this point, today’s post describes a system that proved its efficiency in the last year for me. Oh, and for those of you too much into GTD, this will sound almost too relaxing to be true. :)

    The Blogging Buckets

    The first thing you should do is to mentally break down the process into 3 realms, or, in much mundane terms, buckets. If you used to do this process in a single chunk, just stop. Instead, imagine 3 big buckets called Assess, Decide, Do. In each of these buckets you will put some of the daily tasks you used to perform in a single shot.

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    In order to make things even easier, you could also make 3 folders on your desktop. Or 3 mailboxes on your mail client. Whatever place you’re using the most, slice it up in 3 parts, where you would drop the processed information, as follows.

    The Assess Bucket

    In this folder (or mailbox, or bucket) you should put every single idea you have about a future blog post. Even more, you should also put ideas about upcoming products, partnerships, blog enhancements and so on. Whatever crosses your mind, and it’s related to blogging, just put it there, as raw as you can.

    The role of this bucket is to capture everything that could enhance your activity. Just put it there and tweak is as much as you can. If it’s a blog post idea, add more stuff to it, spin-off other ideas or just evaluate if it would be a good thing to write or not. In this bucket, you’re not “doing” anything. You’re just capturing stuff and assess it.

    The Decide Bucket

    Once you can’t add something to an idea you assessed, it’s time to make a decision about it. That’s what you do in the Decide bucket. This is where you place the stuff you can’t Assess anymore. But you’re not yet doing it. You’re going to make a decision about it. Like signing a contract to do it.

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    That’s a good place to use a calendar too. Because what you’re doing in the Decide bucket is to plan and schedule what you’re going to do. Still, you’re not “doing” anything, you’re just deciding. There’s a trick, and you’ll see further down the road, that this bucket is going both ways.

    The Do Bucket

    This is where you actually perform stuff. This is where you write, publish, promote. This is where you interact, where you implement everything that was sent from Decide. The most interesting part is that you’re not supposed to “do” anything else, because… well, it was all taken care of.

    Whatever you have to assess about a blog post, you assessed, now all you have to do is to write it. You already scheduled time and place in your calendar (in Decide, where you actually signed the contract to do that thing) so you know nothing will interfere. But if it does, just move that item back to Decide.

    The Process

    Suppose you wake up one morning and have a lot of blog post ideas. Just drop them all in Assess, in raw form. Then, look over the other material you have there. If there are really some ideas that can be done, that cannot be assessed anymore, move them to Decide.

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    Once in Decide, look up your schedule and plan ahead. Some of the stuff you get in Decide will be from Do, namely, stuff that you have to re-decide upon. That’s what I wanted to say with “working both ways”. Decide is a turning platform between your Do and your Assess. You can keep stuff there for as long as you want, provided that: a) you can’t assess it anymore, and b) you don’t have yet the resources for it (time, energy). But once you’ll have the resources, you will look over the Decide bucket and take out whatever you can do in the next period.

    Then, once in Do, all you have to “do” is to focus on writing. Or on tweaking that theme. Or on creating some killer partnerships.

    The neat thing about the whole process is that sometimes you feel more like being in Assess than in Decide or Do. That’s ok. Just perform whatever your bucket tells you to do. In a very subtle way, even procrastination, which is something very common in Assess, could be incorporated as valuable work, using this approach. Or sometimes you just feel like planning ahead and allocating resources. Ok, just use your Decide bucket. And sometimes, all you want to do is write. Just open your Do folder and pick up some of the blog post ideas you already sent there from Decide.

    How Is This working?

    And, most important, why is this working? Well, it’s part of a life management framework I developed a couple of years ago, called, you guessed, “Assess – Decide – Do”. If you’re interested to learn more, there’s a direct link in my bio.

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    As a long time GTD’er, I eventually hit a roadblock, where something just didn’t feel well. Felt “robotish” while doing my weekly review and also felt completely at lost when I didn’t have my “GTD setup” handy. So, after a few ramblings and dead ends, I suddenly realized that we’re not designed only to “Do”. And I think this is the fundamental mistake we make when we embrace a productivity technique.

    We’re also designed to dream, to imagine things, without the pressure of a finished product (that would be the Assess realm) and also we’re designed to plan ahead, to arrange tasks in a future schedule and to decide whether or not are we going to do them or not (that would be the Decide realm). The last realm, Do, is the place for productivity methodologies like GTD, the place where we can draconically optimize the “doing” stuff.

    But we need to express each and every part of our being in order to be balanced. We need to allow ourselves to just dream (or even procrastinate) as long as we root ourselves in the Assess realm. Also, we should free to make decisions about each and every thing, either moving it ahead to Do, or passing it back to Assess, for further processing, as long as we live in the Decide realm. While in Do, well, all we have to do is Do, without the pressure of Assessing whether what we do is good or bad, without the pressure of an agenda (because everything was taken care of in Decide, right?)

    What will happen, if you truly implement this cycle, is that everything you will perform in Do will become smooth and with a touch of flow. You may not be the fanciest guy in the office, but you will do a lot more stuff.

    And, what’s even more important, chances are that you will even enjoy more the entire process.

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

    Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

    The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

    Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

    In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

    When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

    Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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    1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

    When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

    As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

    That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

    The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

    What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

    Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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    There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

    So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

    2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

    When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

    No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

    3. Move Your Body

    A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

    It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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    So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

    4. Connect With Another Person

    Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

    One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

    Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

    5. Use Your Imagination

    When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

    That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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    And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

    Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

    Final Thoughts

    Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

    Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

    More on the Importance of Taking a Break

    Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

    Reference

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