Bookmarks

When it comes to bookmarks (and a few other things), I often find that less is more. The primary reason is that auto-fill has usurped its purpose. Typing the first letter of a website is always faster than mousing over to a bookmark.

But I do use bookmarks, on occasion. And I have them broken up by category. When I’m researching information for a project, I’ll save the links to a folder. When the project is over, I delete the link unless I think there could be a use for them in the near future.

I delete old folders to minimize the number of bookmarks I have to dig through. (The Internet is vast, but I’ve rarely deleted something I couldn’t find again, if necessary.)

In addition to research material, I keep folders for gifts. Whenever someone in my family mentions liking something, I hunt it down online and put it in that folder.

I also have folders for work and home office purposes as well as for my favorite websites. I don’t keep my most frequently visited websites in folders. Sites that I go to often are directly on the bookmarks bar⁠—to minimize clicking.

I might be underutilizing or even misusing the bookmark. The fact is I’ve caught myself doing a search for a website I already have in one of my folders. Is that lazy, or is it that bookmarks are unnecessary?

It could be that we should keep bookmarks where they belong… in a book.

photo: NordWood Themes

15 Minutes

Last year, I signed a contract to ghostwrite the first draft of a short novel. It was on a tight deadline, and I have a day job. So I knew I was going to have to maximize the way I use my time both before and after work.

I did this by breaking both periods into 15-minute increments.

While I was writing the book, I woke up every day at 6 AM and spent 15 minutes eating breakfast and drinking a cup of coffee. Then, I took a quick shower. By 6:30, I was writing and doing so for one hour. The rest of the morning went to a workout and a bit of straightening up or reading before heading out the door.

When I got home, more often than not, I went to work on the novel. That left me with some time afterward to take a walk, eat some dinner, and unwind before going to bed.

The best thing about this kind of routine was that I knew where I was supposed to be at all times. In other words, I didn’t have to waste time figuring out what to do next. I’d written down, so I just looked at the schedule.

But all was not bliss. This kind of efficiency is burdensome. The worst thing about it was that the routine made me feel a bit like a robot.

Ultimately, I believed I could do just about anything for eight weeks and knew it would be necessary to have this kind of structure if I was going to finish the project on time. This schedule helped me finish early.

photo: Veri Ivanova

Patience

Not everything in my life is the way I want it to be. In a few cases, my patience has been worn thin, and I’m justifiably frustrated. But, in other areas, I could use a little more tolerance for discomfort.

Ideally, I would approach scenarios that test my patience with a cool head. This might require a certain level of detachment, and while that could be healthy, I sometimes fear it can be taken too far. I want to feel free to express emotion–when necessary. And I would prefer to avoid self-imposed despondency for the sake of equilibrium.

To further complicate the matter, becoming unfeeling or unmoved by the things that make me suffer seems like an unobtainable goal. Life has brought me (like everyone) obstacles, and I have been able to achieve a level head regarding my plight, for the most part. The problem is that there is one major area of my life that brings me persistent and severe agitation. In this matter, I have no patience for my predicament and very little hope for the future.

The way to overcome my frustration may be to realize I’m no a soothsayer. I can’t tell the future, so I don’t know how my path will ultimately unfold. In other words, I may get what I’m after–just on a different timeline than I was expecting, which makes complaining seem a bit uncomely.

A choice I can make is to find reasons to be grateful regarding the present. And that’s why I try to keep a gratitude journal. But, honestly, it’s only been moderately effective in showing me how lucky I already am.

I spend too much time dwelling on my adversity. I’m particularly attuned to injustice and rubbed raw by it too easily. And it’s possible that if I spent less time licking my wounds, they would heal. In the end, I should work on being more patient, especially when I don’t really want to.

photo: Jeremy Thomas

Computer

I keep my computer desktop clean. By doing so, I’m treating it like I would my actual desk. My office desk has a lamp, a coaster, and my computer sitting on it. Of course, there are times when there are other things on my desk, like a pair of headphones, keys, or a wallet. But my baseline helps me avoid clutter.

When it comes to computer organization, I’ve read that keeping files off the desktop can help with RAM. However, with the amount of RAM available with even the base level laptops these days that may no longer be the case. So, I keep my desktop clean because everything on my computer has a place. If it doesn’t, I delete it.

I don’t look at a hard drive with a terabyte of space and think it gives me a license to store everything possible. I select the pictures I want to keep and discard the rest. I do the same with documents. The only thing I’m a little more liberal with is video footage. It can get pretty complicated sifting through these files. And if you delete the wrong ones, it can wreak havoc on your film project.

In keeping with my office desk metaphor, the file system on my computer is like the drawers in my desk. I keep the folders organized. I label and arrange them and create an “Archives” folder for projects and documents that are no longer current.

From time to time, I’ll scan documents, file them, and take that opportunity to put misplaced documents in the correct folder (including any stray file that may have made its way to the desktop). Then, I back up select data in the cloud, throw unnecessary downloads in the trash, and, finally, empty the trash.

As far as computer use is concerned, as often as possible, I try to make sure I’m working in only one program at a time. I save files and close programs that I’m not working in. To my knowledge, this is not a RAM issue. It’s just a personal choice. I don’t want to be distracted while I work.

Photo: Thomas Q

Complaining

I’d like to complain less. Well, it might not be that I want to complain less so much as I want to have less to complain about… But, seriously, I think there are two kinds of complaining. One is completely pointless–just a way for the complainer to vent.

But there is another way to look at complaining. Especially when it might lead to positive change. Think about Henry Ford’s first car. If no one had said, “This thing’s kinda slow, Hank,” then he may not have pushed to give the Model T a little more giddy-up.

So, if I do choose to complain, I want to complain effectively. For example, I was recently griping to a supervisor about an inefficiency in our system. After the meeting, I went and fixed it. I could’ve just fixed it quietly, but sometimes stating the problem helps me see the solution.

It’s good to have a team that allows this kind of exploration, but I would prefer to think through the issues that arise and find the solutions quietly whenever possible.

If there were an equation, it might look like this:

Discomfort + Griping = Problem

vs.

Discomfort + Thought = Solution

So, to improve, I will challenge myself to say less and think more in order to increase productivity. I will further strive to eliminate venting–a practice that often occurs in the presence of a person who isn’t listening in the first place. When it comes down to it, who really wants to blather on and on to someone who couldn’t care less?

photo: Kevin Butz

Coffee

I drink coffee to stimulate, inspire, or to soothe. On occasion, I use it like many others–while socializing in coffee shops. What might be different about my use of coffee is that I see it as a tool. It’s not just a routine Starbucks order. I try to consume it thoughtfully.

When I drink cold coffee right before a workout, it’s a stimulant. It acts to decreases muscle pain and increases my performance. This is especially beneficial for early morning workouts.

Coffee is my constant companion when I write. I find that it helps focus when I’m creating. I frequently write early in the morning, so I’ll prepare my coffee maker the night before. In the morning, I just flip the switch and brew.

I use coffee to soothe when I need to warm up or relax. I drink a hot cup of decaf on then evenings when I want to do some reading or to set the mood for a little downtime.

Black coffee is fine by me. I prefer it that way when it’s cold outside. But I’ll add a little cream for the first steaming mug full after I wake up. But no sugar.

At present, I rarely grind my beans. However, a future investment in a flashy coffee machine could change that. I’m not sure my coffee routine will rise to the level of ritual when that happens, but it could come close.

Obviously, I enjoy a good cup of joe. But I have to be careful. It may not be a drug, but, as you know, it’s a stimulant. And too much can cause me to experience the jitters or worse, anxiety. That’s why when I think I’ve had too much coffee, I make a pot of tea.

photo: Jo Lanta

Missing Keys

I’m not someone who loses his keys often, but it’s happened enough that I’ve decided to settle on one place to keep them. A hook in my kitchen, to be specific.

If I’m completely honest, I’d say that I like having a specific place for all my possessions. And this notion brings to mind a familiar saying of Benjamin Franklin: “A place for everything, everything in its place.” (Speaking of Franklin, he was an early influence on my writing.)

Whereas being tidy is essential, I believe there are other reasons to keep things in their place. Having a place for my keys, tools, or just a roll of masking tape, leads to efficiency in terms of putting these items to use. It might seem a little obsessive-compulsive, but for me, it’s more a type of situational awareness. The main difference is that I’m not aiming to survive an emergency.

Instead, I’m just trying to be a successful decision-maker. There are reasons I wouldn’t want to fail, right? And decision fatigue can happen, especially after a prolonged period of making decisions. This could be part of the reason we get so frustrated when we can’t find our keys. We decide they’re in our jacket pocket. Wrong. Then, we try the nightstand. Wrong again. Maybe they’re in our pants. And so on.

Finding your keys may not be an actual emergency, but when you’re running late to work, it definitely feels like one. And by the time you’ve checked all the likely spots and come up empty-handed, you’re exhausted. Not to mention even more late to work.

It’s better just to have a place for your stuff. It’s a lot easier–unless you want to make multiple copies of your keys and leave them everywhere you’re likely to look. That could work, but it seems like a lot more trouble than a hook.

photo: Chunlea Ju

Rejection

Between novels, short stories, and, now, a mini-documentary, I find myself submitting to agents, journals, and festivals almost continuously. This means that rejection is my constant companion. And it can be pretty hard to handle.

When I’m faced with a barrage of emails that say, “Not for us,” or “No thanks,” it’s vital that I keep a level head. Especially because rejection has several meanings, which I think tend to fall into one of the following categories:

  • Insufficient Quality
  • Excessive Quantity
  • Lack of Compatibility
  • Extreme Exclusivity

Admittedly, insufficient quality is a depressing reason to be rejected, but it’s not the most frustrating. If the work isn’t of a high enough quality, it can be improved, so there’s hope. All that’s necessary is more work. Sometimes years of work.

When it comes to issues of quantity, we can find that our work has been edged out by similar writing or a piece that has been written by someone of higher stature. In other words, the market is flooded.

If work is sent to an agent or journal (or any other entity calling for entries) and it’s rejected, it could be because of contradicting visions. There’s no compatibility in this situation. Sometimes it can be fixed, but often first impressions take precedence.

Exclusivity may be the worse reason for a rejection, especially if our work is of sufficient quality. This kind of pass could be the result of who we don’t know. An example of exclusivity could be an agency that doesn’t take on new writers.

Anytime rejection is encountered, we have to keep pushing ourselves and our work forward. Rejection is not an invitation to give up. However, it is an invitation to be honest with ourselves. Remember the first category. Is it a lack of quality? If it is, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and try again.

If it’s not, we should seek acceptance elsewhere or… try again. However, we should also exercise caution. It’s possible to start believing that the quality of our work is inadequate when it isn’t. Find someone to evaluate the work objectively. If it holds up, look to some of the other reasons for a no.

If you can’t place the piece elsewhere, then move on. This might sound radical, but try not to get too attached to a particular work, especially if it’s going to hinder what comes along next. Another project or opportunity may offer greater possibilities for success.

photo: Steve Johnson