How Twitter Helped Me Meet My Deadline

Hitting the Books

Twitter is often seen as a distraction – a place where arch procrastinators hang out and egg each other on to new and higher levels of avoidance. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the case. I have found some of the most productive people on the web through Twitter, and rather than encouraging my inner slacker, they actually helped me to meet my deadline for my thesis chapter, which, incidentally, was due in today.

So, having now finally finished my chapter (which is soon to be winging its way to my supervisor), I thought I’d share a few pointers on how you could also use Twitter to help you to increase your productivity, and meet your goals on time.

  • Accountability: Announce your intention and the time frame that you intend to complete it in. Once your time is up, report back on how you did. I found that when I did this, I not only made myself a promise to do the work, but I also promised my 162 followers. I also discovered that when I did announce my goal, I received replies wishing me luck, and when I reported back, replies of congratulations. Greatly encouraging!
  • Support: Of course, I didn’t always meet my goals. Sometimes life got in the way, sometimes I had a set back in the research, sometimes the words just wouldn’t flow. When I reported back that I’d hit a stumbling block, I was sent such wonderfully supportive tweets, that it became easier to forgive myself for my lack of progress, and to start anew the following day.
  • Called Out: If you have stated your intention and your time frame for completion, and then you loiter around, your followers will call you out. I actually so appreciated this, because as much as I know I’m capable of getting down to work, sometime I need someone else to nudge me into action. Actually, I know of no greater cure for procrastination than being caught doing something when you’re supposed to be working!
  • Downtime: I’ve heard Twitter being compared to a water cooler for those who work from home, and, when you need it to, it can certainly work like that for you. If you’ve been plowing through books of dense literary theory, as I was, it’s fun to drop in and engage in some light chitchat. In fact, I’d go further than that, and say it goes towards recharging the brain cells, and helps you to return to your task refreshed.
  • Celebration: Once you’ve achieved your goal, you get to report back the good news, and that, in many ways, is a great reward in itself. Reading congratulatory tweets was a lovely way to celebrate all that hard work 🙂

Now, of course, there are a lot of other offline supporters that have helped me get to my goal this week, and they know how much I appreciate them and their relentless encouragement. But with this post, I wanted to redeem a little of Twitter’s reputation as an instrument of idleness. Twitter is merely a medium – you are ultimately the one who determines how you use it, so make sure you use it well!

I also wanted to use this post to say thank you to the following folk from my Twitter network who held me accountable, gave me encouragement and support, and who have shared in my achievement: Joanna Young, Captain Stardust, Xarah, D Mcordell, Chris Garrett, PetLvr, Roland Hesz, Tom Breeves, Evil Angel 277, Nick Cernis, Karen Swim, Anna Lenardson, Linda R. Moore, Alina Popescu and WendiKelly. Thank you 🙂

What unexpected uses have you found for Twitter? Where do you find support online when you need it? Do you use Twitter to increase your productivity?

UPDATE: If you are new to Twitter, then you might want to check out my post on lessons from my first week of Twitter. Oh, and if you want to follow me, click here.

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March 31, 2008. Creativity. 14 comments.

There Is No Blue

Van Gogh apparently said, “there is no blue without yellow and without orange”. I took this photo of Grandma’s African Violet last week, and, after discovering Van Gogh’s colourful perspective, I couldn’t agree more.

African Violet

Who is your favourite artist? Who makes you see the world with fresh eyes?

PS Sunday was Van Gogh’s birthday, so to celebrate I posted some links, images etc. over at the Tumblr.

Painting details: Starry Night, oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh, 1888; in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

March 30, 2008. Creativity, Inspiration. 7 comments.

You’re Brilliant

Brilliant Raindrops

Now, perhaps this is because of my conviction that everyone is special, less ordinary even, but I genuinely think that brilliance is a quality that we all can claim.  Just as in this photo of the raindrops on the washing line, glistening in a stray sunbeam, we all come in different shapes and sizes, we all reflect the light differently, we’re all capable of brilliance.

How will you celebrate your brilliance this Sunday?  Will you blow some bubbles?  Go beachcombing? Wander round the museum? Commandeer the playpark?  What ever you do, be brilliant!

March 29, 2008. Inspiration. 12 comments.

Remaining Present

I was standing on the platform at the station waiting for the 15.17 to Glasgow yesterday. I arrived early, but not early enough to catch the earlier train. Reminding myself to be patient, I began pacing up and down the empty tracks.

I looked forward to the direction the train would take me:

Future

I looked back at the direction it would come from:

Past

I looked down at the tracks, at that spot in space where the doors would open and I would step forward:

Right Here

And then it suddenly struck me – I wasn’t in the moment. I wasn’t paying attention to the present. My mind was traveling with the train I was waiting for, or the train I had missed. I was watching the moment pass me by…

And then I looked up:

Present

The beauty of my surroundings overwhelmed me. The blue sky seemed bigger than it had when I first began to wait for the 15.17. The sun warmed my face as I lifted my gaze upwards and breathed in the cool spring air. My senses tingled. My mind cleared. My body relaxed.

I remained present.

When was the last time you reminded yourself to stay in the moment? What did you notice in that moment? What have you noticed since?

March 28, 2008. Environment. 15 comments.

Only Connect: The Essence of Authority

This post is an entry to the competition run by Chris Garrett to win $2000 of SOBCon and ChrisG consulting prizes. Details at the end of the post!
Only Connect
Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.
– E.M. Forster
For my 21st birthday my parents bought me a purple iMac. I had recently moved with my husband and my baby girl to the wild and windy north coast of Scotland; my nearest neighbours were 4 miles away, I couldn’t drive, I had no TV and I was 8 months pregnant with my son. By the time my birthday rolled around, my new baby was 6 weeks old, and I’ve never felt so isolated in my life. By giving me the gift of the iMac, my parents did more than give me a machine that I could write my essays on; they gave me the gift of connection.
 
8 years on and my connection to the internet is still of great importance to me, but things have changed somewhat with my introduction to blogging. Over the last 6 months that I’ve been producing Lives Less Ordinary, I’ve discovered that the connections that I’m involved in are multiple and wide-reaching. By posting images of where I live, coupled with my words and my thoughts, I have not only created a resource of beautiful photographs, a place where people can come and find inspiration, a corner of the internet where readers can enjoy an escapist moment out of their busy lives, I have founded a community of like-minded individuals. I am helping others to connect not only to their environment and to my environment, but also to each other and to themselves.
 
For me, this is the essence of ‘authority’ blogging: the ability to create connections.
 
As Chris Garrett states in his definition, to blog with ‘authority’ means to blog with a ‘friendly and open’ personality, to demonstrate ‘expertise, experience, knowledge or talent’ and to display an understanding of how to ‘develop visibility’. In order to demonstrate all of these attributes, you need to be able to make connections: you have to connect on a personal level with your readers, you need to connect your readers to ideas, information, and images that they’ll find valuable and will enhance their lives in some way, and you need to connect with all those you haven’t met yet, who you believe would appreciate your blog’s content. If I were to attend SOBCon 08 in Chicago, one of my main contributions to the event, along with my energy, my enthusiasm, my unique perspective, my creative approach (and my photos!), would be my ability to create connections.
 
What I would hope to gain from a consultation with Chris, from attending SOBCon and from meeting the other delegates, would be the opportunity to create connections to people, resources, information and advice which combined would help me put together a plan to make my next project a success. Yes, you read that right! I have another project brewing, which would, in some ways, be a sister blog to Lives Less Ordinary, as it would focus on one specific topic that I often engage with here.  I have big plans for this project, and I know that I can make it a success, but by attending SOBCon and by consulting with Chris, I would hope to gain the support of an amazing community, I would learn how to avoid some of the pitfalls which may slow down my progress, and I would learn how to refine the skills that I’ve been developing over the last 6 months. Attendance at SOBCon coupled with the consultation would be invaluable in helping me towards my goal of becoming an authority blogger.
 
It would help me to connect.
 
Now, if you fancy having a go at winning yourself the prizes listed below, you still have time. Follow the instructions on how to enter, and you could win the opportunity to attend SOBCon in Chicago. Trust me – you really want to be there!

sobcon08_logo189x60.jpg

Authority Blogger Contest Prizes and Rules

  1. $1000 budget to pay for SOBCon08 registration and travel expenses which also includes:
    • a copy of ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett
    • 60 attendees will get free design and SEO consults from Network Solutions experts.
    • a $99 lifetime hosting offer from THC
    • a pro account at E-Junkie
    • a free subscription to Blogger & Podcaster Magazine and a chance to join their new USA Today guide
    • a professional video interview on you and your biz for BlogTV sponsored by Fuel My Blog
  2. A hour of consulting with Chris Garrett, face-to-face if possible.
  3. The complete Authority Blogger online course when it launches.
  4. An introduction to all of the speakers at the event.

It’s a fabulous prize package!

To Enter:

1. Write a blog post explaining why you’re the best candidate to be the next Authority Blogger. What you’ll add to the event, what you hope to learn from a personal consultancy with Chris Garrett and the wealth of great business bloggers in that weekend in Chicago. Be sure to write with authority. Tell your compelling story.
2. Have your post written by March 31st.
3. Leave a trackback to this post or a link in the comment, so that we know you’ve entered.
4. Your post can include pictures, but should be no longer than 1000 words.
5. Liz Strauss, and Chris Garrett, that’s me, will select the winner on 1st of April.
6. In the case of a draw a representative from Blog Catalog will have the deciding vote.

So, how would you define ‘authority blogging’?  Do you agree that the essence of authority is connection?  What inspires you to connect with a blog’s community?

March 26, 2008. Admin, Inspiration, Uncategorized. 15 comments.

Scared Silly By The Fairies

1352030967_a391e17a0a.jpg
Spider’s Web At The Fairy Glen by donaldewart

When Shelly from This Eclectic Life announced the contest Scared Silly, my first thought was this post about my encounter with the fairies. Funnily enough, it is one of my most popular posts as it gets at least 5 people every day coming to it through the Google search ‘Are fairies real?’. Unfortunately, I think many must leave disappointed as I’m incapable of providing a definitive answer. But I’m hoping that everyone else who reads it appreciates it for what it is: a fun story about a time when I was scared silly.

While my husband was still my fiancee, we took a trip up to the isle of Skye. He had worked there for a while in the past, and I had never been, so we booked into the local youth hostel, hired a car and drove up for a weekend. As we drove, we planned out all the things we wanted to do when we got there, and one of the things that he mentioned was that he wanted me to see the Fairy Glen at Uig. I’d never heard of it, but I was keen to go and check it out! So, on the second day of our sojourn, we traveled up from Kyleakin to Uig to check out the Fairy Glen.

It really is an amazing place; these strange steep-sided hills are scattered haphazardly throughout the glen, with crystal clear pools of water glistening in the small valleys. It feels like you’ve wandered out of the ‘real’ world of traffic, technology and crowds, and into this sphere of calm, where the silence is so complete that you could be swimming underwater. Over dinner that evening, we decided that we would go back to the fairy glen under the cover of darkness, and see if we could spot any of the ‘little people’. I think we both knew that it was silly, but it can be such fun to suspend the soul-crushing disbelief in which so many live their day to day lives.

Anyway, we headed out to the Fairy Glen, and it was so dark. I don’t think I fully appreciated just how dark, until the car headlights were turned off, and we began walking between the fairy hills and passed the fairy pools. Pretty soon that darkness became that velvety blackness where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, and you have to keep blinking your eyes just to check that you still have them open. The silence was only disturbed by our own footfalls and, when we stopped, there was no noise at all. Deprived of two senses, I started to feel a small flutter of panic. I’m a city girl at heart, and so being outside in the dark was completely unfamiliar to me. Really in the world in which I live in there is no real darkness, no real silence. My heart started to speed up, my eyes kept straining to see some light, my ears to hear some sound. Nothing…. And then, somewhere about 20 feet to our left, someone coughed. I don’t think my body had ever experienced such a rush of adrenalin, either then or since, and, holding hands, my fiancee and I ran blindly back towards the direction of the car.

Throwing ourselves into the car and locking the doors, we both looked at each other, and started to laugh. Great belly laughs which seemed to shake our entire beings and made our eyes weep. We sat for a while, until we reined our giggles in, and then we sat a while longer waiting to see if anyone would follow us out of the glen. There were no cars parked there but ours, and no-one showed up, so eventually we started the drive back to the hostel.

Now, I don’t know if it was the fairies playing tricks on us, or someone out for a quiet stroll (in the pitch black?), but I do know that I’ve never ran so fast or laughed so hard as I did when I visited the Fairy Glen.

When were you last scared silly?

March 26, 2008. Inspiration. 25 comments.

The Loveliest of Trees

Cherry Blossom

 Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

By A.E. Housman

I just love the trees at this time of year.  The blossom appears like small fluffy clouds delicately shaded with the lightest of pink.  In Japan, I’ve heard that they actively celebrate the coming of the cherry blossom.  Wouldn’t that be a lovely tradition to follow?  It makes me wonder about what other changes in our environment should be noted and celebrated.  The first bumble bee sighting?  The turning of the leaves to red and gold?

What change would you like to see celebrated and why?

March 25, 2008. Environment. 9 comments.

Guest Post for Write To Done

Just to let you all know that I have written a guest post for Leo Babauta for his new writing blog Write To Done.  The post is called Stephen King’s Greatest Lesson For Writers.  Please do check it out and leave a comment!

Hope you all had a Happy Easter 🙂

March 24, 2008. Admin. Leave a comment.

A Spring Surprise

We took a trip today to New Hopetoun Gardens, and I was really surprised to see how far on many of the flowers were already. I’ve seen a lot of blossom decorating stark, black boughs. Daffodils are cropping up on grassy roundabouts. White and purple crocus are encircling the trees in the park. But at the garden centre the most beautiful, fully bloomed camelias, clematis, and hellebores could be found in almost every corner. Have a look at these photos to see what I mean:

Buttercream Camelia

Camelia Light

Speckled Helleborus

Backlit Helleborus

Clematis Stars

Pink Camelia

Springtime Woods

How is the change of season surprising you this year? What’s your favourite Spring bloom?

March 22, 2008. Environment, Photography. 5 comments.

4×4 Sources of Writing Inspiration: Imaginary Places

Before the Kids

The other day I was watching an episode of The Wonder Years with my kids, in which Kevin and his friends Winnie and Paul discover that the local woodland is to be torn down for housing. None of the adults seem particularly perturbed, and it is their reaction (or lack thereof) that cause the trio of friends to realise that it was only special to them, as it represented that part of their childhood tied to the imaginary and the magical. This got me thinking about those special places in children’s fiction, which evoke that part of ourselves we set aside in order to grow up. Here are 4 excerpts from some of my favourite imaginary places from children’s fiction:

  • “The island lay about a mile away towards the lower, southern end of the lake, its trees reflected in the glassy water. They had been looking at it for ten days, but the telegram had made it much more real than it had ever been before. Looking down from Titty’s Peak in the evening of the day on which they had come to the farmhouse where their mother had taken lodgings, they had seen the lake like an island sea. And on the lake they had seen the island. It was the island, waiting for them. It was their island. With an island like that within sight, who could be content to live on the mainland and sleep in a bed at night?” Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • “Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through -‘ She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a silvery mist. In another moment Alice was through the glass and had jumped down into the Looking-glass room.” Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol
  • “The sun was shining inside the four walls and the high arch of blue sky over this particular piece of Misselthwaite seemed even more brilliant and soft than it was over the moor. The robin flew down from his tree-top and hopped about or flew after her from one bush to another. He chirped a good deal and had a very busy air, as if he were showing her things. Everything was strange and silent, and she seemed to be hundreds of miles away from anyone, but somehow she did not feel lonely at all. All that troubled her was her wish that she knew whether all the roses were dead, or if perhaps some of them had lived and might put out leaves and buds as the weather got warmer. She did not want it to be a quite dead garden. If it were a quite alive garden, how wonderful it would be, and what thousands of roses would grow on every side?” The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • “The cyclone had set the house down, very gently – for a cyclone – in the midst of a country of marvellous beauty. There were lovely patches of greensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along the green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, grey prairies.” The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

What are your favourite imaginary places from your childhood? Do you have a favourite fictional place from a children’s classic? Neverland, perhaps? Or maybe, Narnia? Do you still find inspiration in the places in your imagination?

PS This is the 4th and final post in a series of sources of writing inspiration (the other posts being about populated places, unpopulated places and virtual places) as a contribution to a writing project being run by Joanna over at Confident Writing. Why not join in?

March 22, 2008. Inspiration. 3 comments.

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