Developing Good Work Habits

Writing, like any kind of work, requires a certain amount of discipline. However, unlike many sorts of work, pounding away at the keyboard is only helpful when you have ideas to get onto paper (digital in most cases today, but the idea is the same as writing in the past). In order to become more productive, you must develop good work habits. Part of the task is to base your work habits on the kind of writing you do, your personality, and the requirement to get a certain amount of work done in a given time. It’s also important to consider your work environment.

I normally work a 12 to 14 hour work day, but I don’t spend all that time at the keyboard. My work day is split into one hour segments with 15 minute breaks. The day always begins with chores and breakfast for me. After all, everyone has to eat. During my first segment, I’ll answer e-mail, and then it’s usually time to take a break. I get some cleaning done or get the wood stove ready for the evening fire. The point is to get out of the office for 15 minutes so that I can rest, but also remain productive.

During the second segment I normally write as much text as I can. Sometimes this means pressing pretty hard in order to get the task done, but you need words on paper to move forward. Last week’s post mentioned some ways in which I get the job done. This segment usually goes by so fast that it seems as if I’m just starting when my timer goes off. Yes, I use a timer on my computer to keep a routine in place. Pacing yourself is important. At the end of the second segment it’s usually time to check the chickens and get any eggs they’ve laid. A walk outside is nice too. Sometimes I play Frisbee with the dogs or do some cleaning or even just enjoy some sunshine while I read the newspaper.

The third segment sees me editing the text I’ve written during the second segment and augmenting it. I usually end up with half again the number of pages that I had at the end of the second segment. The point is that the book has advanced, but that the text is also in better shape by the end of the third segment.

Depending on how everything has gone, I can sometimes fit in a fourth segment that I use to research new book material. I write ideas for the current chapter directly into the remaining blank spots so that I can start working on them immediately after lunch.

Lunch is an hour long. Afterward, I check on the animals again, check out the orchards and gardens as needed, and generally get things cleaned up. You’ll notice I do a lot of little cleaning segments during the day. For me, it’s better than trying to clean the entire house all in one fell swoop. Plus, I like a clean environment in which to work, some people actually do work better in clutter. There isn’t any right or wrong to the question of environment, just what works for you.

The rest of the day goes pretty much like the first part of the day went. I’ll have a robust writing segment after lunch, followed by an editing segment, followed by a research segment. It may seem mundane and potentially quite boring, but it’s an efficient way for me to work. Of course, you have to come up with your own routine—whatever seems to work for you. Keep trying different ways to approaching your writing until you come up with an approach that’s both efficient and rewarding. Yes, I’m quite tired by the end of the day, but I also feel quite happy with what I’ve gotten done. Let me know your ideas on writing workflow at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Celebrating Labor Day

This has been an exceptionally hard spring and summer for us, so a time for relaxation is always welcome. Today I’m offline (I’m actually writing this on Saturday) and will likely barbecue something for my beautiful wife. We’ll play games and watch a movie (or possibly go for a walk should we feel so inclined). Today’s society is so high strung that it seems to be a requirement that people remain active all of the time, even when there really isn’t anything important to do. Yes, I could easily find something useful to do, but today I’ll relax.

I’ve written about Labor Day twice before: Labor Day, Time for Fun and Reflection and Labor Day, Eh?. Both posts expound on some important historical elements behind Labor Day. Unfortunately, this year I wasn’t able to find anything new to add to those two posts. I’m sure there must be something more to say, but sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction and I didn’t want to reduce the importance of those previous posts. Actually, I’d enjoy hearing anything new you have to add on the subject that I haven’t discussed already. Just contact me, as normal, at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com or leave a comment on my blog.

No matter what else you do today, I hope you take a little time to unwind and to think about why we’re celebrating this particular day. The history behind Labor Day is important, especially in light of what is happening in labor today with the economy. The struggle for obtaining just wages and good working conditions never ends because someone is always looking for ways to get more for less.

 

Labor Day, Eh?

Few Americans realize it, but Labor Day began as a Canadian celebration. That’s right, it was first celebrated in Canada in 1872 with parades in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work week. At the time of the parade, it wasn’t unusual for workers to work a 66 to 72 hour work week. Unfortunately, as I write this, many workers are still engaged in a 66 to 72 hour work weeksome work even longer.

The first celebration in this country didn’t occur until September 5th, 1882 when New York’s Central Labor Union marched into Union Square as a sign of solidarity and to focus on all the benefits organized labor provides to society. At least a few people credit the original Labor Day as another Irish holiday in this country. I probably wouldn’t go that far. However, the union leader was Irish. There is some confusion as to whether it was Peter McGuire or Matthew Maguire who led the union at the time. Labor Day began as a
festival for the unionized labor in this country and is supposed to
include parades and speeches centered on the importance of the union in
assuring worker’s rights.


The first federal recognition of Labor Day came in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland pushed it through congress after the devastating Pullman strike in May 1894, where many workers lost their lives after being shot by police, U.S. Marshals, and the military. The purpose of Labor Day is political—reconciliation with the labor unions. The president and congress hoped the holiday would help quell any further disputes. It’s a fact that many of the rights that workers enjoy today are written in the blood of laborers of the past who weren’t afraid to say no, even if it meant losing their lives to do it.

Today, the original purpose of Labor Day is all but forgotten. It has become a time for picnics, kids going back to school, the end of summer, and a time when women stop wearing white. (According to most sources I found, the rule against wearing white started in the early 20th century and has now mostly gone out of date.) I’m sure there will be a few parades and possibly a few mentions of organized labor, but many people will simply view it as a nice time to take a day off to review the summer before engaging in the work of the fall months.

It’s important, especially in these economic times, to consider the role of organized labor in establishing the lifestyle we enjoy today. Many Americans don’t truly appreciate how well we live, but we do live quite well compared to many other places on the planet. Labor, organized or not, has helped make that quality of life a reality. Where would we be without carpenters, plumbers, electricians, factory workers, and the like? So, while I’m taking Monday off to celebrate the holiday by smoking some meat (an all day event), I’ll give some thought to people like my father who worked in grueling conditions so that I might enjoy a high quality of life. Let me know your thoughts about Labor Day at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.