5 secrets to success

I guess you’re finally IN the blogosphere when you get tagged with a meme, and far be it from me to turn down my first. So Joe Taylor has tagged me on the “5 things you do everyday that make you successful” meme, which is rather flattering since it presumes that I’m successful and that I have secrets to that which I could share… wherein lie the difficulties!

I’ve been reading what some others say in response to this meme and it reaffirms my sense that I am so Not Highly Effective! I thought about presenting the idealized version (“I schedule my time to ensure that I get the tasks done on time”) but the truth is that one of the top things I do to be successful is:

1. I rag on myself for not getting more done, not being more organized, not being more efficient, procrastinating, etc: Guilt is not going to be the subject of self-help books (Making Your Guilt Work For You!), but if I’m going to be honest, the sense that time is running out, that I haven’t done anywhere near enough, that others are doing more, that people to whom I’ve committed are going to be annoyed and disappointed by me, and that piles are piling ever higher is often my most powerful daily motivator.

And then there are, it’s true, some healthier strategies as well.

2. I sleep a lot: I’ve seen curves of the average amount of sleep that people need, and I am at the outer edge of ‘need lots of it.’ I don’t push myself to keep going when I’m tired. When my eyes droop, I’m off to bed, and it’s guaranteed that after a good night’s sleep I can do in 10 minutes what would have taken me an hour when tired. I also firmly believe that during sleep the mind is working hard on all the things I’m thinking about and making more progress than my conscious mind might.

3. I follow my creative impulse whenever I can: I always have a to-do list with many tasks of different sizes and shapes. Everything from ‘schedule a meeting’ to ‘review a journal submission’ to ‘write that book I just signed a contract for.’ I have never been able to slot out times for different tasks, though I bet it works great and I wish I could. I sit down and work on the thing that catches my interest that minute unless I absolutely HAVE to get something done before a SERIOUSLY IMPERMEABLE deadline (like the students are going to riot if I don’t get the grading done). My philosophy is that work goes quickly and well when you’re ready, and slowly and inadequately when you’re not, and eventually it all gets done, so I try to work on the pieces that appeal to me that minute as much as I can, even if they don’t necessarily belong at the top of the to-do list. I guess I have a very intuitive approach to work in this regard, I don’t plan it all out ahead, I let it bubble up out of me and try to balance what’s bubbling with what Has To Be Done in ways that don’t kill the bubbling too much. So (almost) every day I spend time on work that I feel like doing, not just the work breathing down my neck. This keeps me in touch with my creative spirit, keeps the good ideas flowing, and keeps work fun.

4. I keep up as best I can — and this is a challenge. I spend a lot of time every day with email keeping in touch with and building professional networks, I skim my feeds several times a day. The longer I’m around, the more I realize that those things they say about ‘it’s who you know’ are true. I try to know good people and to keep up with them when they make their way into my path.

5. I step away from the machine. I don’t work out every day like many who’ve answered this, though I bet I’d be happier and healthier if I did. But I do make an effort to remind myself to stand up, walk around, go outside, put on some tunes and dance in the kitchen while cooking dinner, and, most of all, spend some time hanging out having fun with my super-cool kids and husband.

6. Since everyone’s doing more than 5, I’ll posit my last thing, which is one I’ve been using as a Daily Rule of Thumb since at least 7th grade: I try to be nice to everyone I encounter. I don’t always succeed, but I have certainly found that treating people kindly comes back in spades over time.

So now I’m mulling which bloggers might have secrets to success I might want in on, so I’m going to tag: Henry Jenkins (I totally want a piece of his kind of proclivity for brilliant productivity!), danah boyd (ditto, though I bet she’s too busy being successful to do memes!) Sam Ford, David Silver, and Intellagirl, who seems to be on quite a roll these days.

Comments (5) to “5 secrets to success”

  1. Your number 6 is very interesting to me. I had a dear and beloved friend and lover, who unfortunately is not with us anymore, and she once said:

    “I try to be nice to everyone I meet. If I just *can’t* be nice, I try to be kind.”

    Don’t know how you’re defining “success,” but you’ve been successful enough to get this old uke-phreak in Seattle to subscribe to and eagerly anticipate your blog postings.


  2. *Thank you*

    It does raise the question of how one defines “success.” And I do take tremendous satisfaction in being able to live a life where people actually read things I write. And come to my classes and write down things I say! Amazing, what privilege!

    On being nice. I was in a parking-lot-to-airport shuttle the other day and got into a conversation with a man who, upon discovering I’m a Communication professor, asked me how to improve communication in marriage (the conversations that happen in shared transportation!). I said it’s making a daily and moment-by-moment decision to treat one another with kindness and respect. Rules to live by #1.

  3. Nancy,

    Thank you so much for participating in the Simply Successful Secrets project!

    I didn’t make it any farther than your very first item before I recognized a powerful success strategy – that of constantly re-assessing where you are with regard to your goals.

    OBSESSING about it would not be a good thing, but being constantly aware of whether or not you are on track is not a bad thing – in my humble opinion anyway.

    I also love what you said about following your creative impulse, because I think that is a success strategy for life in general, not just for getting work done. If all we ever did was what we felt we were SUPPOSED to be doing, life would be boring!

    I agree with Joseph Campbell: “Follow Your Bliss!”

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom, Nancy!

  4. It’s more that i have no bloody clue and the most likely truth is “i have no life.”

  5. :) I don’t believe you :)