Why is it so Easy to Be Distracted?

Yep, this again. I’ve been working (a lot) on academic writing, specifically an article that a journal gave a Revise and Resubmit. While I’m excited about it, it is taking me SO LONG to get this done. There are days when I’m cranking along.

There are others where it feels like it’s easier to pull teeth. I think I would prefer to pull out my teeth.

That is when it’s easiest to “just check Facebook for a minute.” Jump to a news site (I’m a bit of a news junky). See what’s going on with Twitter. Clean the kitchen. Just do one thing for my biz (and there’s time scheduled to do the business stuff . . . ).

What on earth is going on?

I find that it’s easiest for me to be distracted when I’m writing something really hard. The analysis isn’t tight enough. The organization doesn’t make sense and I don’t know why. I’ve read the paragraph 30 times and it still doesn’t work.

When writing feels like a breeze, I’m far less vulnerable. I can focus until the cows come home.

How does this work for you? When are you most distracted when writing? If you don’t know, keep track for a week. I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

#WriteFor15

What on earth could this be about?

For those of us who do academic writing, the summer often presents a difficult time. Without our schedules including teaching, student, and administrative work, it can be hard to create the structure we need to get our writing done.

Poor us . . . we have days that go on and on without anyone but ourselves to manage them.

There are many ways around this, but I’ll just suggest one.

This summer, Michelle Dionne Thompson Coaching and Consulting kicks off the Write For 15 minutes campaign. If you are having a difficult time setting aside distinct periods where you will start to write, start small.

Start with writing for 15 minutes per day. Period.

Why you ask?

  • It’s such small amount of time, it’s hard to let social media distract you!
  • It’s enough time that if you have a juicy thought, you can bang SOMETHING out about it.
  • It’s enough time to short circuit any tendencies towards perfectionism.
  • If you start for 15 minutes with a juicy idea, you may actually sit down and write for longer because you’re on a roll.

So stop tormenting yourself with writing for 4 hours in a row. Start with 15 minutes. Set a timer on your watch or your phone (in airplane mode so you’re not distracted), get your work out, and see what happens. We’ll do this campaign until August 15 . . . because you know what happens then . . .

I would love to hear how this goes for you in the comments.

Reflections on Bar Prep

Above was the Bar/Bri logo when I took the Illinois Bar and then the Washington, D.C. Bar Exam. Now, I’m proud to say, this bag holds my knitting!

I can’t forget that time when I prepared for the Bar. I did temp work during the day and attended the evening classes because I had to pay for the Bar Exam and prep course with my temp wages. Not only that, I would have to pay for my move from Chicago to Washington, D.C., a move that included a moving truck and making sure I had enough to pay down my credit card to do it.

I don’t know that there was (another) loan to take out at the time.

This was a really stressful period.

I remember getting all of these materials and not really knowing what to do with them.

I went to classes and took notes from the lectures. I read the law for each topic point.

I was exhausted at the end of the day.

July 4th came along and I hung out with a friend of mine. I actually got really drunk that evening and woke up STILL buzzed on the 5th and realized that I was going to be late for the Bar course.

To make matters worse, I had to take the sample test that day.

Suffice it to say it didn’t go well. Neither did the Bar. But I didn’t know that until the following October.

Once again, I signed up for the Bar course, but this time, I was in Washington and had to work full time. I took one week off right before the Bar exam. I. Was. Broke. Drinking potato soup kind of broke.

Unlike my experience in Chicago, I had friends that gave me excellent advice and I had a community of people who rooted for me. My employer let me know that there was no shame in failing and that my job was safe.

As you go into this next month of preparation, know that this doesn’t define your life. It will not take away your accomplishments from the past. It won’t define what happens in the future. It won’t define who you are. At all. Make sure that you get your support system around you to remind you of your brilliance.

Who Gets Distracted?

I know, you’re thinking: “not me,” or “oh yeah, ALL THE TIME.” It turns out we all do.

We all have challenges with it. It’s how we’re wired as human beings.

For those of us who write frequently, it is the bane of our existence. I generally ban social media while I write because I start a sentence and then, FACEBOOK. I start editing and thinking about stuff and then I turn on the tv (because there’s LOTS of juicy political stuff happening every. single. day). I absolutely MUST be hungry (although I just ate an hour ago!)!

Do I just throw up my arms and give up because distraction is part of the human condition?

I am inclined to think there are ways I could put distraction in a box. If you are an (academic or legal) writer, welcome to this blog’s series on distraction (just one more thing to distract you from writing! 😈). So the first thought I have about it is . . . well . . .

This may sound crazy, but I’m thinking about scheduling some time to be distracted. Really. Put this time in my calendar.

I want to schedule some time to do nothing at all and see what my mind comes up with.

I know that sometimes periods of distraction are ideas waiting to see if I’ll pay attention. If I pay them no mind, they’ll move on to someone else.

Sometimes my mind simply needs a break. This means that I may take a nap. And I really like naps. Actually, this happened yesterday. I was tired and distracted and a nap was the perfect antidote.

Sometimes I can’t fight the demon, so I may as well schedule some time to hang out with it.

The dividends could be huge, right?!

Would this work for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

I Feel Like a Vampire!

Oh dear. That post-law-school-graduation-glow has warn off, hasn’t it. Gone are the glory days of celebrating with family and friends your incredible achievement. You earned a J.D. and you have a job waiting for you (no small feat in this climate), or maybe you don’t, but it’s possible you could nab one.

There’s just one thing that separates you from that job (even if you have an offer).

THE BAR EXAM!

Yep, you have another degree, but cannot yet call yourself an attorney.

That’s scares the crap out of you because, well, wasn’t that the point? You want to be a lawyer.

After all, that’s why you’re spending tons of money on your bar prep course, probably something like this:

BarBri

You have a ton of materials, outlines with the bar subjects, your outlines of lectures, practice books, all kinds of goodies that are supposed to help you pass. And likely they will. Really.

You may be in great shape. You may be in great shape, not know it, and are panicky (you’d be in good company). You may be in woeful shape (you’d also be in good company!). No matter, there’s a way you could emerge from this experience with a little more sleep and a way of approaching that tower of materials that won’t leave you like a zombie by the time you take the exam.

Register here for one evening to make sure you’re looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and not the oncoming train!

And if you know someone who is going through this experience, be a pal and pass this on to them. They need it!

Self-Care and Academia

As academics we tend to set big goals and accomplish them. However, we struggle with taking care of ourselves as we write dissertations, publish articles and books, and climb up the wrung to tenure or finding that tenure-track job. As an Academic and Legal Coach, not only am I amazed, but also heartbroken when I hear clients tell me that they were hospitalized on the road to tenure; I am heartbroken when I hear that they cannot figure out how to take time off of their work. I am also amazed and heartbroken about what I have done to myself as I teach, write, and build a business.

We do our work at the expense of ourselves.

“No wonder we often feel furious and resentful when our schedules are packed with everyone else’s priorities.”

The solution: self-care. Yet, this term, self-care, often seems unobtainable and meaningless. The real challenge, as I hear from people who attend my online workshops and people I coach, is setting boundaries, most importantly with their time. Self-care does not matter if you do not have boundaries around your time. You do not have time for self-care so you do not do it, but you desperately need it and you do not have time. Yes, it becomes a circular problem.

Self care 4

However, we schedule the things that matter such as when we teach, department meetings, and dates when we are fortunate enough to get them. Although the most important thing in order to earn the doctorate and tenure is writing, we do not schedule it! We hope for that block of time when inspiration might hit us and try to write then. We have the same hopes about eating well, getting exercise, and sleep. Because writing, eating, exercise, and sleep are not scheduled in our calendars, we do not do them. These are the first things to go when someone wants to talk to us for “just for a minute.” These are the first things to go when we are asked to join committee #5. These are the first things to go when someone else has an emergency.

Self care 7

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Sometimes You Have to Stop and Smell the Flowers

I’m on the last leg of my travel back from Chicago. Let me write a sentence my mother would hate. My mother has Alzheimer’s. That’s why I was travelling. And it was hard. And draining. You read about that last week.

I brought her to get a manicure. On the way back, she paused and pointed to the chrysanthemums and said “those are pretty.” She speaks with lots of these, those, and things because she’s lost many of her nouns.


And that’s really all it’s about. Those are pretty. And a quick moment of taking care of myself. 

I find myself obsessed with the Pentatonix version of Hallelujah (you’re welcome). It’s playing on an endless loop. The song reminds me of what is important. It is pretty. 

Paying attention to the present. Stopping and smelling the flowers. Savoring the song. 

All of this equips us to handle whatever challenges get thrown our way. I’m not too good at this yet. I suspect you could use a hand too. 

The articles will get written. So will the book. But 
Those are pretty.