work

Let’s get Productive: 4 tips to get to it and get shit done

This is a post in my dildoholiday series. If you’d like to read the whole shebang of what happened while we were out there, you should totally start out here.

Moving right along.

Day 2 in the #dildoholiday household started at a reasonably late hour, with a few cautious tweets from a couple of us around noon. As we stumbled about in our sleepy bodies, we found the Cherub of Shame juding our food choices from inside the refrigerator. Jerk.

Photo by Girly Juice

Photo by Girly Juice

The day had one main topic to be touched on at some point: productivity. Trouble was, we’d all stayed up so late being excited and settling in to the house that we’d all barely slept. I’ll touch on why that’s shitty for productivity later, but I imagine you can draw a correlation in your own life beteween those nights that we get 4 hours of sleep and the amount of work you (don’t) get done the next day.

We all eventually gathered around the big kitchen table with our laptops and ideas, and Girly Juice led us in a chat about productivity. Her output is amazing, and we all particularly adore her for it. Her dedication to a regular release schedule, and the amazing content that she throws out shows that not only does she write a lot, but that she does work to make that writing turn out so well.

Look 'ma, we got off the couch!

Look ‘ma, we got off the couch! photo by Reenie

So, without further ado, here’s Kate’s tips for productivity, inspired by #dildoholiday and Girly Juice:

1) Make more effective lists

I live by lists. I can’t concentrate on any one thing for longer than half an hour generally, and so I really need to write down all the shit that I need to get done in a day or none of it will happen.

I also know how I handle stress, and how I let myself get defeated by tasks. For example, if I have the list item “Clean your office”, I might start that task but will quickly get distracted and move on to some other thing that is either on my list or just something shiny nearby that catches my attention. At the end of the day, my office still looks like shit and my list has just as many things on it as it did before, since I didn’t really finish cleaning my office.

So instead, here’s an example of my lists:

-Pick up papers off bed and sort them
-wrangle sex toys
-dust desk
-take out the garbage
-replace bag in the garbage bin

Can you see the difference there? I’ve made all kinds of little list items based around cleaning the office, but I get to check off way more shit way more quickly. It really helps me to manage larger tasks by listing the steps involved.

The exact same thing goes for work tasks. For example, I’m in the middle of planning an East Coast screening tour with a colleague on Evernote (which is great for coworking). Obviously the list could include something like “Get venue”, but there are so many steps hidden in that one step. The list, as it stands, for the venue in each city contains the following types of steps:

-research venues via locals
-find contact person
-email re regulations on screening nudity
-settle date
-book venue

Break it down into small, manageable tasks that you can check off easily and, more importantly, keep track of super easily.

2) Make yourself get out of your comfy spot

I never do anything but this in bed.

I never do anything but this in bed.

I have a super comfy spot on the couch in my living room, and also I have my bed. I’ve spent a long time perfecting both of these spaces so that everything around them calms me and makes me think gleefully of the past, present, and future. While that’s awesome, I often find myself just sitting there, thinking, for literally hours. I can’t be stopped.

I like to physically put myself in a space that is built for my productivity, or in a space that is quite simply not my fucking couch. While my couch is great, it lacks a place for me to put my mouse and use it in any useful capacity. Most of the work that I do require some serious mouse use, and I primarily work from a laptop since I travel so much.

All of that said, your space to work in should be comfy. My office in my house is a space that celebrates the accomplishments of my reasonably short time here on earth. I keep framed copies of newspaper articles about me, awards I’ve won, etc, all around just to remind me to keep at it. But it’s a space that’s specifically meant for work. The couch was not meant for work, for me. If it was for you, then by all means work on the couch. But try to separate your comfy relaxing spaces from your work spaces, whatever they look like.

3) Get fancy

Here I am, getting fancy for a day of productivity.

Here I am, getting fancy for a day of productivity.

This tip definitely won’t be the same for everyone, and I understand the classism inherent in getting fancy for business. But this element really works for me, so I’ll talk about what it means to me in the context of my own experiences.

I started to like “dressing up” around the age of 24. I had previously been a very jeans and a t-shirt kind of person, and didn’t really do the femme thing. I think I owned two pieces of what I’d call makeup, no nail polish, and maybe one dress. I also didn’t have much disposable income. But even back then, I remember that getting up, putting on whatever made me feel good, doing my hair (it was short, easy to do, but even just the act of *doing* it was important), and sitting down to work on whatever was in front of me really got me started.

Since then, I’ve amassed a lot of “fancier” items, but the ritual itself remains the same. Now it includes things like earrings and fancy nail polish (I cut the waiting time involved in this by using Julep’s Polymer Topcoat, which dries super fast). The trick is to get a bit fancy, feel good about yourself, but also not spend the entire morning/afternoon/whatever getting fancy. I try to limit myself to about 20 minutes, and I should also note that the idea of getting dressed is actually a thing that motivates me to finally get out of bed. Maybe this is a way that I can pitch to myself that buying all the clothes I buy is actually an investment in my business. Yeah.

For me, it’s a dress, earrings, brows, lipstick, putting my hair up, and a nice set of underpants. For you, it could be your best sweat pants and a top that makes you feel awesome about yourself. The idea of the whole thing is to make yourself feel really good about yourself before you start working. As a few #dildoholiday participants pointed out, feeling good about yourself can also mean feeling *super* comfy. Harness the power of clothing, however you like!

4) If you work from home, try leaving home every now and again

It's my laptop working on things from a college campus in Winnipeg.

It’s my laptop working on things from a college campus in Winnipeg.

This is more important than you’d think. Getting out of your space can stimulate creativity in ways you didn’t know it could. Being in a new environment kicks you out of your habits and into new ones.

I tend to either rent space at 245 McDermot, which is a coworking space in Winnipeg owned by ACI (Creative Manitoba) that rents hot desks for $30/day, go to an hOffice, or go to a local haunt that serves frosty beverages, since I don’t drink caffeine at all. I have a magical productivity spot that lives around 1.5 drinks and then sharply drops off, and so I do have to make sure that I pace myself with great discipline. I imagine this is the same for coffee drinkers. (and please don’t think this means you need to consume alcohol or caffeine or any other drug in order to be creative or to focus)

Stay tuned for the next episode of #dildohoilday on my blog, where we’ll talk about making our own glass dildos!!

And if you haven’t read part 1 of the #dildoholiday series, go read it right now!! 

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The road.

I’ve been working in travel since I was 20 years old. This year, I’m celebrating my 30th birthday.

I’ve spent 10 years of my life on the road, and it’s definitely catching up to me. Think about that a bit. 10 years of my life, I’ve been nomadic half of the time. Sleeping on trains, airplanes, in hotels, on couches, air mattresses, and quiet corners of airports and bus terminals.

I can't actually sleep on airplanes. Even with first class upgrades (bring presents for your flight crew, kids).

I can’t actually sleep on airplanes. Even with first class upgrades (bring presents for your flight crew, kids).

The half of the time that I spend at home has always been treasured. I live in a small(er) city in the middle of a vast country. We’re essentially cut off from the stress of big(ger) city living. If you don’t know about my 700,000-strong hometown of Winnipeg, you can read all about it here on the internet. Our housing prices are reasonable, and so I am a homeowner without having to sacrifice lifestyle or time dedicated to my hobbies (like the pornz).

My home has always had to be the most comfortable place in the world for me. Back in 2005, when I was getting started on this whole travel gig, I was single-ish (one of those relationships you know isn’t going to be super long, but it’s nice at the time), and coming to grips with leaving town for 5 days about 4 times a month. And then I worked my first trip. I was an attendant on board the Canadian – the transcontinental train that goes from Toronto to Vancouver. We worked 18 hour days while we were working, with 6 hours off in which you were to wash yourself (even just a bird bath), sleep, and then also get ready in the morning. All in these wee tiny on board compartments. Sometimes you’d get a bigger compartment to sleep in, but that was rare. It was usually a 1-bed room (and when the bed is down, that’s it, there is no more room) or a berth with a curtain separating you from the rest of the train.

One of the times I had a larger compartment. And some trees. They look like the ones around Jasper National Park.

The beds weren’t that bad, honestly, and I got used to the gentle rocking of the train putting me to sleep. I kinda liked it. Pair that with the fact that I fell asleep with headphones in listening to Radical Face, and you’ve got a pleasant sleeping locale. The trouble was the length of time we were allotted to sleep. At best, for years, I’d get 5 hours of sleep. Usually, it was the kind where you close your eyes, completely exhausted, and open them again to find that 5 hours have passed and your alarm is going off. I would routinely pass out on a milk crate in a locked kitchen somewhere.

And so home has always had to be exactly what I needed it to be. I bought my single ass a fucking amazing king sized bed for those days that I was at home. Is home really still home if I was spending 20 out of 30 days of the month on a train? Yes. So much yes.

This was home.

 

I lived by myself in a 1-bedroom apartment in the French quarter (I am a speaker of the French language and a haver of the heritage) – the third floor of a three-storey walkup. At 20, this was my third apartment, and the first that truly felt like home.

This little place on Enfield. I was almost never there, but it was where my favourite memories were made.

This was the first place I’d felt comfortable enough to call home. 

And there in that comfort, my story really came together. I made Cherrystems on that shitty folding chair on a computer I spent most of my life away to afford. We shot almost all of the early sets in that living room, or kitchen, or bedroom. I met Aaron shortly after moving in, though I decided to take some of his friends here for some nights before considering that he could be every single thing I needed in a partner. He moved to Malaysia for a while, where he worked for a women’s rights organization as a developer, I kept falling home here and cultivated a small following of amazing folks ready to change the city. Amazing how a space can sit empty for so long, but mean so much.

I continued to drag all my luggage up that three-storey walkup for four years. But I wasn’t happy just being away for 20 days a month. No, sometimes I’d end up with a week off near the end of the month, and I’d get my ass back on the fucking train and go as a passenger. They fed me there, and I had a place to sleep, and I was out and experiencing. I went to Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, and stops in between – all before I was 22. I scattered myself out as far as I could, letting home be a place that I still had. I can’t tell you what a privilege that was and is. Without even the concept of that place, I don’t know how I would have held my shit together.

They don't have these in the prairies.

They don’t have these in the prairies.

The train was mostly full of older folks from around the world. I learned from them constantly. I learned the good things, I learned about the people I wanted to become, and the people I learned the most about were the ones whose stories repulsed me – racists, bigots, etc, etc, etc. I spent 5 years at that job, being a tour guide for Canada, telling the real stories of Canada’s colonization, even if it was uncomfortable for 65 year old Europeans to stomach.

Things changed slightly when Aaron and I decided that we would become a partnership. We decided we’d move in together, but both our places were too small. We moved. I left the place that I felt at home in. We spent two years in a place I hated. During that time, however, I also switched jobs. I left the train behind and took to the sky.

My travel options increased drastically. Suddenly, a two day trip took two hours. The world opened.

A bestie of mine joined me on a 3-day layover in Barbados.

A bestie of mine joined me on a 3-day layover in Barbados.

One of the wonderful things I’ll say about the relationship that I have with Aaron is that I have always worked on the road while dating/living with/being married to him. We have never known life any other way. Other people I would date would take it personally when I got called out to go somewhere. They’d feel jilted that I was never in town, and I completely understand that. I was off having adventures while they were “stuck” at home. They were travellers too, but couldn’t do it nearly as much as I was able to.

My layovers were never, ever, spent in my hotel room. I learned the layouts of cities. I am proficient in the transit systems of Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna, Prince George, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax, New York, Washington, Boston, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Nashville, San Francisco, LA, Seattle, and the highways of countless other places where I’ve rented a car because of lack of transit services. I’ve driven the interior of the US and been to fucking weird little motels that wouldn’t let me stay there because I wasn’t married to my partner.

I climbed a hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and met a person that became a great friend. He also worked in travel in a way – for a traveling acrobatic circus called the Cirque du Soleil. I’ve met people on hills, in bars, on bikes, in seats, and learned a little bit from each one.

This is backstage at a Cirque du Soleil show in my hometown. A direct result of climbing Signal Hill in St. John's, Newfoundland and making a friend.

This is backstage at a Cirque du Soleil show in my hometown. A direct result of climbing Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland and making a friend.

There’s honestly no lesson to be learned either way from my life. I managed to get a Bachelor of Arts somewhere in all the mess of not being home, but I managed it.

Glamorous Prince George, BC. I actually fucking love it there.

Glamorous Prince George, BC. I actually fucking love it there.

I’ll post more individual stories about the people and experiences I’ve had along the way, but for now, this post is probably long enough.

The Polyphonic Spree was playing while I was on a layover in Vancouver.

The Polyphonic Spree was playing while I was on a layover in Vancouver. So I went.

Is there anything you’d like me to address, cover, or recount? Let me know in the comments and I’ll think about it. When I’m home.