How To Stay Focused and Avoid Procrastination As You Write

When questioning whether writing is an art or a science, I can’t steer myself away from a conclusion stating ‘both’ in the boldest of typefaces. It is a craft multiple purposes, from educating and articulating scientific theories, to serving as a creative outlet. A similar multitude of skills and mindsets are involved. On one hand, you have adherence to formal rules of grammar and sentence structure, to certain tricks which distinguish compelling writing from bad, and on the other – an inner flame urging you to serve a grander purpose, whether personal, political or ‘art for art’s sake’.

Writing, regardless of the purpose with which you do it, demands an interaction between motivation and discipline. Dynamism and an engaging tone are difficult to achieve without a hint of adrenaline in your fingertips urging you to shift words from mind to page. When, however, a dent looms in your motivation and distractions saturate your immediate environment, discipline steps in and carries you to the end of your final sentence. Striking a balance between the two is the key to perfecting the efficiency of your writing process.

How to write productively

We’re all familiar with that worst case scenario: you psyche yourself up to start a particularly tricky article, create a new document, write the title. Suddenly, an email illuminates your phone screen. Unwilling to keep the sender waiting, you respond. In the meantime, three more emails invade your inbox and to avoid unintended favouritism, you pen three more responses. You may spend half an hour forcing out two hundred words of the article in between checking notifications and scheduling plans for the evening. Before you know it, a growling stomach lures you into the kitchen. You make a snack. You take the dog for a walk, run a marathon, learn a new language. You do everything except for writing the article, and when you return to the document, discarded mid-sentence, you forget what on earth you were talking about.

From speaking with people, including those who characterise themselves as writers by profession, I’ve noticed that writing is an activity before which the chances of procrastination are ubiquitous. There are many reasons for this: writing, first and foremost, is difficultinvolving both sides of the brain. Writers are vulnerable to perfectionism and dread the prospect of producing a puddle of incoherence as opposed to something memorable, enticing, rational. For this reason, you may find yourself taking longer than necessary to produce a written piece. Moreover, losing focus often creates a self-perpetuating spiral of doubt (the more you procrastinate – to either start the piece or reach the dreaded conclusion – the more you question your abilities) and writing lacking flow and/or a consistent tone. View Full Post

Find What Empowers You

Comparison permeates our society down to a subconscious level. We know measuring our own success or value against other people is unproductive, we set goals to focus on ourselves, we try to recognise the unique character of our pathways through life. Yet, this is much easier preached than put into practice. From bloggers who have seemingly mastered the Instagram algorithm to friends with enviable wardrobes and social lives, we find ourselves disheartened by our own relative ‘shortfalls’, because stepping back and observing the bigger picture – the futility of pursuing something superficial – on a day-to-day basis can be a tricky skill to master.

I’m all too familiar with this phenomenon and have been since a very young age. Growing up in Russia, every little girl aspires to be either a gymnast or a ballerina at one point, attending countless clubs and practicing for countless hours in her spare time. I did too, I tried my hardest and aspired to stardom, but just did not have the genetics nor an immaculate sense of rhythm, flexibility or grace required to enhance an audience – as much as I to this day am awestruck by anyone who does. Equipped with the power of hindsight, I know my talents lay in other areas which family members such as my mum and grandma tried to refine, but because my social circle measured appeal through your competence in the performing arts, the length of your hair, the size of your dad’s car, I started life feeling somewhat undervalued.

How to stop comparing yourself to others

Moving to England settled me in a society which is much more lenient, a meritocracy which emphasises social mobility and equal opportunities for everyone. It was a shock to the system. But, ‘young people culture’ is quite similar everywhere, in the sense that children and young teenagers champion certain traits and ostracise those who behave, look or speak differently. Beside the pressure of integration (learning a new language and customs from scratch), I saw myself as inadequate in comparison to people with enormous social circles and girls with a reputation for their external beauty. Once secondary school started, this atmosphere of competition became much more pronounced. I was neither a fabulous extrovert nor gifted with the voice or looks of an angel, and made myself miserable in the pursuit of happiness supposedly associated with such attributes. View Full Post

What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

‘Busy’ is a word many of us employ to describe our state of affairs. Some people complain about being busy, for others it is a source of pride. Between our obligations as either a worker or a student, which in themselves demand copious amounts of attention, we have to balance some form of social life, exercise, errands, the occasional bit of ‘me-time’ to prevent burnout. Life in the modern world is increasingly characterised by never-ending to do lists and a search for how to master productivity while leaving room to unwind and actually enjoy the human experience.

What to do when you're overwhelmed

Granted, I am someone who likes being busy. I like a clear goal, a multidimensional schedule that raises the significance of quieter moments. I think many of us can relate to the restlessness which goes hand in hand with unforeseen boredom. However, ‘overwhelm’ is also a phenomenon most of us are familiar with. It signifies the fine line between a healthy level of bustle, and our life coming apart into infinitesimal pieces, making us wish for the power to be in two places at once. You find yourself working 24/7, fuelled by four hours of sleep and oceans of coffee. You question: ‘why does nothing get done despite all of this effort?‘ Perhaps, you have a few projects scattered about, each half way to completion, and you spiral into the trap of trying to do them all at once. In the meantime, empty boxes desperate for a tick loom next to each item on your to-do list and your workload keeps piling up and up and up. Nothing you do delivers a sense of accomplishment or enjoyment. You lie awake at night, cursing the constraints of a 24-hour day and weeks that seem to conclude before they’ve even started.

How to not feel overwhelmed

At such moments, the risk of you burning out or voluntarily giving up is at its highest. Overwhelm is a common trigger of anxiety, insomnia, scenarios of failure and unmet deadlines rushing through your mind. Thus, I would recommend laying down a clear strategy of not only recognising spikes in your daily activity, but also preventing a normal level of stress transforming into something malicious and damaging. As I discuss later in the post, we must also acknowledge that we are susceptible to unnecessary pressure both from ourselves and society at large, learning to distinguish what genuinely requires a sense of urgency within a puddle of things the futility of which you may only recognise with the power of hindsight.

Overwhelmed what to do

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So, yours truly is here to share some of her wisdom, and a few honest tips that may help you plough through a period of overwhelm. Stress, while impossible to eliminate in its entirety (and, trying to do so is counterproductive), does not have to reach unprecedented proportions.  View Full Post

Bullet Journaling For Productivity – 5 Spread Ideas

Most of us have an ambiguous relationship with bullet journals. We love them because they enhance our productivity, give us a place to track our thoughts and tie our lives together in a visual formal. Yet, we envy the presentability and aesthetic appeal standards set by Instagram and Pinterest. For this reason, I would like to preface this post with a reminder: your bullet journal absolutely does not have to look pretty in order for it to be effective. In fact, 90% of my bullet journal pages (in particular, weekly spreads) are covered in unsightly scribbles and take under five minutes to configure in the first place.

The are a couple of reasons for why the bullet journal images you see on my blog linger above the threshold of presentability. Firstly, in light of a pre-planned blog post, I want to create a better experience for my readers. Secondly, hand lettering, doodling and implementing colour schemes on a couple of my bullet journal pages acts, for me, as a creative outlet, which is something I believe most of us need. My study notes or anything destined to remain hidden from public consumption paint a different impression. And as an inherently ‘messy’ person with handwriting that can only be described as abysmal, I need reassurance that I do, in fact, posses a hint of artistic competence (lol). In short: do not be put off from starting a bullet journal because an obligation to make it look objectively aesthetic does not exist, unless this is something you wish to do for your own enjoyment.

Now, this post is a collab with Mia, who runs a lifestyle blog called Beautiful, Inspiring, Creative…Life. Not only is she is a super talented blogger with a very unique style and content (featuring many things including productivity, fashion and life advice), but also the loveliest person with an attitude all of us can admire. We bonded over our mutual love for many things, bullet journaling included, and decided to share our favourite spreads used to further productivity and personal development. You can check out her post HERE.

And now, let us have a look at some of my ideas, which you may wish to try out if you haven’t already.

1. ‘Reading, listening, watching’

Five bullet journal spreads to use for productivity - inaccordance

(Gotta love my attempts to recreate my favourite ‘Brusher’ font, lol)

I know that many people often set themselves a goal of reading more books, whether fiction or non-fiction, listening to particular podcasts or watching interesting films. However, achieving this is tricky unless you are keeping yourself accountable. This is the main reason for why you may want to dedicate a page of your bullet journal to some sort of reading list, whether in the form of a space to jot down books you come across and may wish to read in the future, or a more structured ‘to read’ page with tick boxes next to each item. View Full Post

My January Bullet Journal Setup

I approach any trend with a degree of scepticism. I question whether it is right for me, just because it has worked for a seemingly large portion of the population (to give an example, I totally learnt the hard way that I do not suit Instagram eyebrows). That’s why, despite months of gawking at pages of calligraphy and daily tasks organised into immaculately drawn boxes, I procrastinated on starting a bullet journal.

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I feared regular journaling would become a waste of time without delivering any tangle benefits – after all, I am not too bad at organisation, and didn’t want to fix something that isn’t broken. I thought my Instagram was enough of an artistic outlet, and my blog – an ideal place to share my thoughts. So, what made me ask for my first bullet journal for Christmas and jump abroad the band wagon? Turns out, as with all occurrences throughout history (yes, I am convinced that Maria getting a bullet journal will be scrutinised by future academics and I am simply trying to facilitate their job), there are several reasons:

a) I want to spend less time on technology: at the moment, I rely on everything from Google Docs to various calendar apps to organise my life. While this gets the job done, I personally benefit from spending less time on digital devices, and find that physically writing stuff down helps cement tasks and intentions in my mind much more than typing.

b) I want to keep things in one place: to explain what I mean, at the moment I track the different aspects of my life in different documents and notebooks. The books I’ve read, the articles I wish to write, how much money I’ve spent… While I will keep this system because it allows me to explore these things in greater detain than an A5 spread, my bullet journal will provide an overview of my life at a glance, a place to jot down things before they escape my head. Plus, we all benefit from being concise on occasion, from focusing on the bigger picture as opposed to the finer details.

c) I want to overcome my fear of tracking thoughts, feelings and emotions: we all know that writing is therapeutic. But up until now, I have been writing as a form of distraction, not acceptance of how I actually feel. For example, if I am angry or upset, I will start doing an outline for an upcoming blog post or write a poem about a completely unrelated topic. I don’t think I have ever kept a diary for more than a couple of days. Honestly, my inhibition is a fear of saying something cheesy, and not having much to write because sometimes I struggle with articulating my emotions in the first place. However, in the absence of deeper sentiments to express, it doesn’t hurt to write an outline of my day before bed, and if being cheesy anywhere is acceptable, it is in a private journal firmly hidden from the public’s eyeshot.

d) Many moments in life are elusive, and with time seeming to move exceptionally fast as of recent, it is easy to forget the little things that happen on a day-to-day basis, the ones which make you smile before dissolving into the monotony of our daily routines. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember anything beyond the most significant of events. In December 2018, however, I want to be able to recall what made each month special and relive the moments I have managed to capture from each day/week.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic to discover this beautiful bullet journal from Leuchtturm 1917 among my Christmas presents and used it to pass the time while my delicious lentil and mushroom pie was baking away. And since then, I have been obsessed, creating a new board on my Pinterest to collect all of the wonderful ideas I want to implement into my pages throughout the year. What I adore the most is just how much you can personalise your journal. We all live vastly different lives, have vastly different aesthetic tastes, and we can tailor our bullet journal spreads to our preferences as much as we like. Thus, if you are new to this as I am, I encourage you to ponder deeply about what exactly you want to derive from journaling: is it organisation, a therapeutic effect, a place to keep track of thoughts and memories? What are the significant components of your life: your fitness journey, your blog, your career? Be flexible, and keep in mind that these may change in accordance with the constant meander of life.

(Just to give an example: I know I am a sensible spender, reserving not much more than a minute corner to track my expenditure, yet if you are someone who wishes to tighten their spending habits, setting up a detailed expense tracker may be beneficial.)

To save me from further rambling, let’s have a look at my bullet journal:

January Bullet Journal

Monthly bullet journal spread

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