Getting it done

On Thursday I finished up a short contract for a writing client that had found me through Upwork. The topic had challenged me. I had needed to do a quick turnaround literature search, read and understand concepts in a field that was unfamiliar, and produce some writing that made sense of a general audience without a medical background.

About half way into the project, I had some doubts. The material was dense and technical, a reminder of my biochemistry days in college. I remembered that brain-twisting experience of reading through research papers that were way over my head, trying to interpret them. It felt like a foreign language in a way, trying to understand complex mechanisms or experimental methodology that was unfamiliar.

But I remembered that there comes a time when focusing deeply on a topic and taking time to break it down pays off. It can take some time, depending on the topic of course. But after some time, getting to know the lingo, looking up things I do not understand, and making my way through some research review articles, the major themes started to click into place.

My brain, which had felt like mush a couple days before, trying to grasp a field which was new to me, finally began to grasp what was most important. I began to think through how to write the review document in a way that someone outside the field might grasp. 

I have to tell you though, getting it done was a relief. Focusing for this short project was a bit of a test to myself. Can I do this work? Will the client like it? Can I really make money as a freelancer? It appears the client is happy, and I expect she will leave a good review. 

Getting it done can be the best feeling. What are you most satisfied with getting done?  Can you make time to celebrate it this weekend? 

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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Back in the day…

Last night I needed to find a quiet place to work, a place where I could absorb literature related to oncology research and therapeutic potential for a certain plant compound. I worked in the morning at home well enough, but in the afternoon, I was unable to get traction on the work.

That sometimes happens to me. I try everything I know how, and still I am so completely distracted that I need to have a change of location (see yesterday’s post. Perhaps it’s why cube life did not suit me.). 

So I put my stuff in my backpack and headed off to the University of MN. Even though it’s been over a dozen years since I finished my master’s degree here, I love being back on a campus. I love the atmosphere of learning and growth. Even though the science library was far too crowded to find a quiet place to work, I walked around campus for an hour or so. 

The humanities library was much less busy. Ahem…

Well, let’s just say I was a science major in undergrad and a liberal studies major in grad school. My grade point was about 0.7 points higher in grad school. Also, my undergrad was at Swarthmore, where the motto was “anywhere else it would have been an A.” ‘Nuff said.

My study hide-away

As I sat in the quiet of the library, around dinner time (that must be the reason it was less busy, perhaps), I felt that familiar sense of focus and calm. I have attention issues (diagnosed late in life while I was working on the grad thesis) so focus and calm are not exactly my strong suits. Unless I’m under deadline, that seems to be a motivator.

There is something about a library, and the unquestionable nature of being here. Working at home, I always see the undone dishes, the piles of laundry overflowing, my cats that do their best to be adorable at the wrong times (like when I have a deadline). 

In the quiet library, in my study cube, there are no distractions. There is just the pile of research articles, my laptop, my water and a snack. 

Perfect environment for being on deadline with a topic that twists my brain in all kinds of fun ways.

What is your perfect environment for working?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Wellness Wednesday – step away from the desk

For those of you out there who work at “desk jobs” where you spend a lot of time at a computer on a typical day, this one is for you.

There are days when I am at a keyboard for a long time. Whether doing research for a client, or writing or emailing or on a teleconference, it can mean long hours of being in one position or just sitting. Most of the time, I am restless enough that sitting for more than 45-60 minutes is impossible. I get up, walk around, get some tea, stretch, take a few deep breaths.

It can be harder when you are in an office, or a space without as much privacy. When I worked at an office, there were long hallways where I could get up and take myself for a walk. I tend to drink a fair amount of water and tea in a typical day. So getting up to go to the bathroom could be a mini-break. 

Getting up and taking a break has some great benefits. For one, you will get some circulation to your brain and body. Sitting for long periods is hard on your body, so standing now and then is not a bad idea. Some people like standing desks, and I used to use one of these occasionally. For about half an hour twice a day or so I would elevate the desk (especially during conference calls, which could make me a bit edgy) and try to adopt a good posture for standing. Or I would pace a bit in and around my cube. Fortunately it did not seem to disrupt my coworkers. 

Another benefit is that you might use your break as an opportunity to make a transition between projects. I am typically juggling anywhere from 3 to 7 projects at one time. It can be difficult to pull my mind from one topic to another. So a mindful break for 10-15 minutes can be helpful to allow a “rest and digest” of the item I just finished before moving on to the next task or project.

Now that I work at home much of the time, I find that scheduling a mid-morning dance class or a mid-day yoga break can be a great opportunity to move and get away from the desk. I typically return refreshed and with new vigor toward whatever project I face. Getting out for some fresh air can be great: just a 10-20 minute walk has benefits. Since it has been a bitter cold in MN this week, I have not wanted to do that so much…

How often do you get up from your desk? Do you have particular habits that help you remember to do this at least once every 2 hours? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Post eaten

Hi folks,

My blog post I was writing last night appeared to be “eaten” by WordPress. It would not save and it would not post. And this morning, it is clear that it is lost. Ah well. Not all words are precious. There are more to be found and generated.

dog eating paper.JPG
Photo credit link

But that is okay. Pauses happen. Life does not always flow along without any glitches. Systems fail, and flat tires happen. The quality of our lives is determined by how well we accept and stay with the circumstances of our lives, rather than add suffering by wishing things had not happened.

Acceptance is the first step toward equanimity.

Hope you have a great day and week!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Making it up as we go

I have been experimenting with different titles on my Linked In page lately and the results are fascinating.

Recently it occurred to me that “researcher” describes a lot of what I do best and still love to do – constantly learning and taking in new “data” while evaluating and coming up with theories about how to apply knowledge in new ways. It made me giggle when I described myself in a new way on my page. I also added my company name (which is a little generic right now, a place-holder for the freelance LLC). I suddenly I had a lot of congratulatory messages on the new job. Ha, I thought. I am just making this up, people! 

No titles can ever encompass the totality of what makes you YOU in a professional or a personal sense. When you seek employment with a company, typically titles mean something specific, and have a particular job description that accompanies them.

researchers.JPG
Photo credit link

When you are a freelancer, or are starting a company of your own, nobody tells you what title you can have. A lot of folks like the “grand” titles: CEO, President, Creator, Founder… I like those too. But they imply a lot of things that I just don’t care to embody in my new venture. I don’t plan to have a slew of employees, so they do not apply.

I landed on “Principal Researcher” (for the moment) because it reflects a large part of what I truly enjoy, and I like it better than the generic “consultant.” But there are so many other phrases that could describe what I like to do – Creative Director, Facilitator, translator of cultural norms, etc. The “glue that holds a team together…” But since I am Minnesotan and we are taught not to brag, I’ll move right along. 😉

What’s great is that I get to make this up as I go along, and I can change it when I wish. There are NO rules! That’s liberating. I like to defy definition.  Of course, I am more comfortable with ambiguity than most, so that works for me.

What about you? What title would you give yourself, if you could just make one up? 

 

 

Sunday haiku – library

This Saturday’s fun:

Walter Science Library

Yes, I am a geek!

Walter library
University of MN – Walter Science Library

There is such joy in spending time researching in libraries! Endless information and treasure. I am grateful for my medical writing project which brought me back to the place where I earned my Master’s degree 12 years ago.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Saturday Share – Vita Brevis

Happy Saturday, friends.

I hope you are well. This week I recommend a beautiful poetry blog, Vita Brevis. It is curated by Brian Geiger. There you will find some lovely pieces by emerging poets, usually accompanied by artwork as well.

Vita Brevis
Taken from the About Page of Vita Brevis

In these days when reading time becomes precious to me, I appreciate poetry more and more. I love the magic of an idea or a scene expressed in the medium of poetry. It is a pleasure and a gift.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

How does Art help us live creatively?

It’s Friday, and Fridays are for fun, says my realtor friend Teresa. She has a beautiful photography blog at http://stpaulphotos.com/ in addition to her St. Paul Real Estate blog, also lovely with great advice.

I was reflecting on the past year and a piece of art which I acquired (~about a year ago, I think). I still need to frame it. It was in one of my favorite coffee shops in Bemidji and it caught my attention. I told my husband I needed to have it. The price was only 2-figures and I bought it as an early Christmas present for myself.

It reminded me of the creativity explosion that I had set loose in my life, once I decided that I could write every day for a short time, even if I had a full time job. Though I only gave myself 30-45 minutes a day to write (more on weekends), I found myself looking forward to it daily. I give Chris Guillebeau a lot of credit for this, since I learned about how easy it is to start a blog from his Side Hustle School podcast.

Explosion art
Art from Dunn Brothers Coffee (Bemidji) exhibit – I wish I had the artist’s name!

This art piece also evoked for me a feeling of that “spark” we get when a new idea comes tumbling out of our fingers onto a page. There’s juice to that feeling. It lights us up and allows for greater energy to attend to every other thing in our lives.

Today I celebrate my first project contract after leaving my corporate job – yay! Even though it is a small project, I trust it will lead to more work. I had such enjoyment working on it today. I felt profoundly grateful for the opportunity. I never really imagined I would be putting my science writing and research skills to good use (that voice in the back of my head said: do people really make money that way outside of big companies?)

So happy right now for all the little choices and decisions that led me to this place. What are you grateful for this weekend? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com