Why I Write Pieces I’ll Never Publish

Sun setting over a Tennessee lake

The writing I do falls into three broad categories:  (1) blog posts; (2) pieces that might someday be published (personal essays, poems, fiction); and (3) things I write only for myself (and I suppose the writing I do for work is a fourth category, but that’s a whole different animal).  Today, I’d like to talk about the third category.  What’s the point of writing things that no one else will ever read?

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What I’m Doing to Increase my Focus and Decrease Distractions

A vibrantly colored abstract painting
Joy, 2014. For details or to purchase, please contact Alexis.

Lately, I’ve been trying to grow my attention span.  I get distracted easily, and having the internet at an arm’s length most of the day does not help.  But to be as productive as possible in my job, and to enter flow states and do good creative work, I need to be able to focus on one task for an extended period of time.

Like many people today, I’m a chronic multitasker.  In my free time, you’ll rarely find me doing just one thing.  I’m talking on the phone while driving, listening to an audiobook while gardening, watching a TV show while cooking, texting a friend while listening to a podcast while putting away laundry.  Though always doing two (or more) things at once may make me feel more productive, I know that it reduces the amount of attention I’m devoting to each activity.  I think multitasking too much can lead me to feel less calm, too.  My brain sometimes needs silence, and the chance to devote itself to just one thing.  So I’m making a conscious effort to do more unitasking (also known as monotasking).

It isn’t an easy change to make, and I frequently slip back into bad habits. I wrote down some rules for myself, and I review them regularly to help me stay on track. Here are a few things I’m doing to try to minimize distractions and increase my focus.

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The Power of “Can I Just…?”: Building New Habits, Motivating Ourselves, and Progressing Toward Our Goals

Close-up of a pair on sneakers on a trail through the woods
Photo by Will Shell

We all have things about ourselves and our lives that we’d like to change or improve.  A study published last year showed that less than three percent of Americans meet all four markers of a healthy lifestyle (regular exercise, healthy diet, low body fat percentage, and not smoking).  I would guess that most of us know we need to eat better, exercise more, and quit smoking, but change is hard.  Though setting ambitious goals might cause us feel energized at first, lofty goals can make change even harder.  We have an idea of where we want to end up, but we don’t know how to get there, or we get overwhelmed along the way and give up. Read more

The Weekend Listen – Series Finale

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

Happy Friday!  I want to give my sincere thanks to everyone who completed the reader survey.  Your feedback has been very valuable to me.  (If you haven’t taken it yet, the survey is still open.)

One of the things I learned is that most of you don’t listen to podcasts and don’t plan to start listening to them any time soon.  With that information in mind, I’ve decided to discontinue the Weekend Listen series.  A few of you commented that you do appreciate the recommendations and enjoy hearing about new programs.  If you’re in that camp, don’t despair — you can follow me on Twitter, and I’ll share some of my favorite episodes there.  Additionally, because the things I listen to inform my thoughts, I’ll probably continue to reference podcasts in my posts, using interesting interviews and discussions as launch pads for longer, more substantive posts.

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Understanding Our Beliefs and Forgiving Ourselves So We Can Move Forward Less Burdened

Pink sky at dusk with silhouetted trees

Maya Angelou gave a slightly different version of her famous quote in reference to her own past: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” This sentiment is key to forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. We are all works in progress.

I used to tell myself that I had no regrets in life because every experience was a lesson. While that’s a nice thought in the abstract, there are of course things I wish I had done differently, words I’d love to take back, and decisions I would revisit if I could. When I look at my life today, I see how my present circumstances are largely the consequence of past choices and unquestioned beliefs. I like my life, and I’m generally happy, but I’m also aware of missed opportunities. While I hope I still have a number of years left on this earth, the possibilities for my life don’t seem quite as endless as they once did. I sometimes wonder what my life would look like if I had studied a different major, lived abroad, moved to a big city after college, pursued a different career path, chosen a different law school, not gotten married right after college, or made better financial decisions.

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The Weekend Listen

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week.

My selection for this week is the Savvy Psychologist’s episode, Is Complaining Good or Bad for You?  In this episode, psychologist Ellen Hendriksen debunks several myths about complaining and offers some tips for curbing your complaining habit.

Have a great weekend!

Are you listening to a podcast I haven’t mentioned yet? Let us know about it in the comments!

The Weekend Listen

A pair of wireless headphones for podcast listening

I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week.

I try not to post about legal topics too often because I know most of my readers aren’t lawyers.  I think this subject will be interesting even to people who aren’t immersed in the law on a daily basis, though.  This week’s podcast recommendation is the ABA Journal’s Modern Law Library episode What Can Neuroscience Tell Us About Crime?  This episode is an interview of Kevin Davis about his new book, The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms.  He discusses how jurors perceive and understand science and the potential benefits and drawbacks of using brain scans in court.

Are you listening to a podcast I haven’t mentioned yet?  Let us know about it in the comments!

People Really Can Change (Including You)

Yellow flowers on a tree against a bright blue sky

You may have noticed that I often write about self-improvement topics.  I’m kind of a self-improvement junkie.  I’ve read many self-help books, and I find psychology fascinating.  (I’m currently reading a new book called The Craving Mind by Judson Brewer – you should check it out.)

Some folks take a cynical view of self-help books, and of their fellow humans.  How many times have you heard phrases like “once a ______, always a ______”?  When I encounter someone I haven’t seen in years, I sometimes fall into the trap of judging them based on things they said and did long ago without getting to know the person they are today.  I’m working to correct this thought process, because I certainly wouldn’t want everyone judging me based on the way I behaved as a teenager or college student.

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