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A publication from Medium on personal development.


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A strategy for when you’re feeling depleted

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Lately, I have been almost completely out of ideas. To most people, this might not be such a big deal, but it’s my job as a writer and editor to synthesize what I notice about the world into narratives that are fresh and interesting.

I know I’m not alone here. Friends and colleagues tell me they feel like they’ve forgotten how to talk to other people, how to make connections. It’s not just that we’re out of practice—I think our mental pantries are depleted.

What’s a mental pantry? It’s the part of your brain you rummage through when you’re trying…

How to apply the creative process to your professional life

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The next time you go to Target, Wal-Mart, or any other huge, air conditioned, and sterile store, turn the drudgery of picking up detergent into a contest. Challenge yourself to spot something weird amidst the aisles.

That’s the premise of Big Box Archeologist, an activity included in Rob Walker’s book The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday. Perhaps you’re thinking, the world is on fire and, allegedly, 95% of us are considering changing jobs. Why should we distract ourselves with strange games while we run errands? …

👟 Tip: Talk into a voice transcription app while you walk.

If you’ve been staring at a blank page on your screen for longer than you care to admit, one of the best things you can do is put on your sneakers and flee. That is, go take a walk. Turn on a voice transcription app (here are some options) and, if an idea strikes, start talking. On Medium, Emma Pattee explains that she wrote most of her novel this way, carrying her newborn in a baby wrap or pushing him in stroller. …

Complaining about small talk has become the new small talk

Photo: David Pinzer Photography/Getty Images

On my morning walk, I wave to my neighbor and ask how he’s doing. “Oh, just waiting for the sun to come out,” he smiles, working on his truck. It’s been two days of gray, damp weather, but it feels like weeks. I tell him this. He agrees. Looking up from the hood, he squints and points to the hills in the distance. “I’ve lived here for twenty years,” he says. “Watching that sunset never gets old.” We exchange a few more pleasantries, and I’m on my way.

Maybe it’s a year of being in quarantine, but I miss talking…

With ‘Four Corners Journaling,’ there’s no fancy lingo, no obscure writing prompts, no fluff

Photo: Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images

I’ve heard that journaling is rocket fuel for self-improvement, which is why I tried to start the habit while I was unemployed during the pandemic. One night, I brought out a small notebook and jotted down my thoughts. I will never forget what happened the next morning: I woke up in an extraordinarily good mood!

It was easy for me to journal religiously — until I started my new job. My days quickly filled up with work, chores, exercise, and writing. With less time and energy, it became difficult for me to take the time to sit and reflect. …

🖌️ Tip: Make one thing in the morning before doing anything else.

It’s way too easy to do: Wake up, check your phone, and be alerted to the dozens of administrative tasks you must tend to. You start moving on them but soon enough, it’s 1 p.m. and you feel like you haven’t accomplished anything meaningful. On Curious, Tim Denning shares his rule for counteracting this depleting habit: Make before manage. That is, create one thing, big or small, before doing anything else. “When I make something, I gain momentum,” he writes. “I then funnel that energy into the tasks…

📋 Today’s tip: Replace your notebook with notecards.

Everyone has creative ideas, but, unfortunately, many of us also have an inner censor that likes to yell at us about how dumb all those ideas are. Over on Creators Hub, book author Charlotte Bismuth reveals how she outwitted the harsh internal voice that had her destroying her own notebooks for much of her life. Her solution is surprisingly simple: “I’m delegating some work to index cards instead. The drawback of notebooks, of course, is that it’s hard to turn back the pages or work with the contents in a dynamic way.”…

How data distracts us from feeling joy

Photo: Hybrid via Unsplash

How much? How many? These are the questions our gadgets answer for us all day long: We see how many steps we walked, minutes we spent tossing or turning overnight, hours we started at a screen. But technology can’t measure everything. Other, more nebulous concepts, like happiness, creativity, and pain, are harder to translate into data. And yet, we humans love to try.

The United Nations, for example, puts out the annual Happiness Report using a scale called the Cantril ladder, which asks citizens of each country to “think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being…

All you have to do is cooperate with a demon

Illustration by Draden Ferguson

Sometimes hard work pays off, but sometimes it makes things harder. If you’ve ever struggled to fall asleep, you know what I’m talking about. It’s always easier to fall back asleep when you stop trying so hard.

Writing can feel that way, too. Sometimes I brainstorm, I outline, I edit, and I end up with a blah draft. So I brainstorm and outline and edit more, and the second draft is a little less blah, but it still needs work. I continue this process until I have a draft that’s pretty good — or at least not completely terrible. …

✍️ Today’s tip: Copy out a passage by your favorite writer.

You know who knows a lot about writing? The bestselling author and New Yorker writer Susan Orlean. And you know what she suggests doing if you want to get better at writing? Flaunting the code of grade school conduct and being a total copycat. Orlean writes on Medium: “When I first started writing professionally, I copied like crazy. Not literally copied — I didn’t lift sentences or ideas — but copied in the way an apprentice woodworker might copy a master woodworker, following the curves, mimicking the cuts and…


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