Tag Archives: creative work

Hitting Pause or Stopping?

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to let go… of a creative endeavor, a personal goal, or a work project that requires effort and commitment. It’s not always clear when to quit it or when to stick with it. It’s not easy to choose between hitting pause (to get back to it later) and stopping (to perhaps never get back to it).

I have random questions come up when I’m at such a crossroad. How do I sort through what matters most? Does the dream of completing a particular project serve me or is it toxic to hold on to it? When is it more critical to rest and reflect, than to work harder and hustle more? 

In 2019, I took a long hiatus from blogging on personal productivity. This took a back seat to running my thriving law practice, writing commentaries on U.S. immigration topics, and coaching lawyers on legal ethics and wellness issues, as well as cultivating better sleep habits, connecting with friends, and spending quality time with my family (which now includes two very young kids, a 1st grader and a toddler). 

It was not until last month that I finally got around to publishing articles again on dyanwilliams.com. Besides this one, there are two more: Staying Solo Successfully and When to quit (or stick)

When I launched the blog in July 2012, I wrote and published a lot more regularly, sometimes up to four articles per week. Back then, I was not a parent, I did not have a solo law practice, and I had way fewer responsibilities. Those were the days when I practiced yoga for an hour and savored tea in the morning. Now I’m lucky if I get 15 minutes of yoga time before my kids wake up and a quick gulp of tea before we start the day as a family.  

Currently, I run three blogs. The Legal Immigrant is a lead generator that significantly establishes my authority, attracts ideal clients and ranks high on search engine results for U.S. immigration solutions. The Ethical Lawyer is convenient for housing articles that accompany presentations and talks I do on legal ethics and wellness issues for lawyers, which is a secondary practice.

The personal productivity blog is the one I hit pause on the longest because it’s more of a creative endeavor. And like most unnecessary creating projects, it often gets overlooked while I’m dealing with daily necessaries and things that pay and have target completion dates or strict deadlines.

Over the last couple years, I’ve thought about shutting down the blog. Or just forget about updating it with fresh content. But around this time of the year (fall season or the fourth quarter), I begin to really miss writing for the blog. Then I’ll put out a few articles and say to myself that I’ll be more consistent next year.

Unless I commit to a regular blogging schedule or somehow monetize the blog, there is unlikely to be weekly or even monthly publishing. I do, however, expect to keep posting articles here as long I have something helpful to say to subscribers and readers and I enjoy sharing my thoughts, ideas and observations through blog posts. Truth be told, I find this more fun and rewarding than binge watching Netflix shows.

In his first book, The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, Todd Henry discusses the value and importance of Unnecessary Creating. He writes:

“It’s tempting to resist this technique because we think it will add stress to our lives – yet another thing we have to cram into our schedule. But the experience of those who incorporate this practice is quite different. They find that it actually clarifies their thoughts, makes them more efficient, and reintroduces a level of passion for their on-demand creating. In addition, our Unnecessary Creating is often the best source of new insights for our on-demand creative work.”

As I write this article, I’m getting close to celebrating Thanksgiving Day and will soon begin planning for 2020 (the start of a new decade!). While there are work projects left undone and personal goals still unmet, I appreciate the deliberate choices I did make and the meaningful work I did complete. 

There are limits on your time, energy and attention. From a survival standpoint, it makes sense to prioritize the time-sensitive projects that pay the bills. But to truly flourish and thrive – after basic needs are met –  there has to be some unnecessary creating. Otherwise, you risk facing unbearable boredom or complete burnout.

You might not have a full hour every week to engage with your creative endeavor. But you can always carve out at least 15 minutes a day to get small doses or to make tiny progress. Or start with one minute and see where that leads. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make time for it right away.  You’ll eventually experience creative stagnation and will act on that not-going-away awesome idea, one way or the other.

When unnecessary creating draws you away from daily necessaries and serious projects, you put it in sleep mode rather than shut it down. You can hit pause for the time being instead of stop it altogether. Just get back to it, even if it’s only once or twice a year when you could really use a creative boost.

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Photo by: adonyig

The 3 Things I Like About Insomnia (or, How It Can Be Good for You)

Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. If you want facts on the underlying causes, health risks, long-term effects, treatments and cures, you won’t find it here in insomniathis post. (There are many other blogs, plus books and sleep clinics, for that.)

But if you’re eager to learn about the benefits of restless, sleep-deprived nights, every now and then, read on.

In the interest of full disclosure: I’m a light sleeper. I don’t need a full eight hours to feel rested (five to six hours are usually enough).

And despite practicing tips for sound, healthy sleep, I am prone to nocturnal awakenings (especially now, as an expectant mother). Yet rarely does fatigue set in. When it does, I call in sick. Except for the occasional chai tea latte, I stay away from caffeine and other stimulants.

So, here are the three things I like about insomnia (or, here’s how it can be good for you):

1.  Insomnia can prepare you for a BIG EVENT or BIG PROJECT that will require loads of your time and force you to reduce your sleep hours or sleep in shifts.

I keep hearing that being a first-time parent is a big event. Just yesterday, my husband Michael and I attended a four-hour prenatal class that began at 8:30 am. I was alert for the whole thing, despite having slept for just three hours due to a bout with insomnia.

We learned that newborns have very small stomachs and need to be fed every one to three hours (8 to 12 times daily).  Having some sleepless nights now is firsthand training for what’s to come.

Similarly, reduced sleep hours or intermittent sleep might be necessary to complete big, crucial projects. Regardless of your organizational skills, there could come a time when you need to push through the night to get work done or respond to an emergency.  Experience with sleeplessness enables you to pull unavoidable all-nighters.

2. Insomnia can be a WAKE-UP CALL to take action on important stuff.

The question “what keeps you up at night?” often carries negative connotations and presumably involves deep-seated worries. But it can also be taken as a constructive inquiry into the direction and meaning of your life. Approach it with curiosity and openness.

Insomnia frequently stems from unconscious emotions and unexamined behavior. Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings surrounding your restlessness, fear, anxiety or general angst, instead of suppressing them. Without labeling them right or wrong, use them to create positive change.

Are you way off course? Is there some self-destructive behavior that you need to stop? Is there an action step that you must take, but have been delaying? Do you tolerate unhealthy situations that you’re better off without? Do you need to modify your lifestyle or change your habits?

Don’t automatically reach for sleep-aids, meds, or quick, unnatural fixes for insomnia at the expense of tackling the root cause. Take note of what keeps you up at night. Initiate a plan to resolve it or make peace with it.

3. Insomnia can lead to your BEST, CREATIVE WORK. 

The next time you’ve tried everything to fall asleep or stay asleep, but just can’t, get up out of bed. Welcome your wakefulness.

The middle of the night or wee hours of the morning provides quiet, space and solitude that you don’t otherwise get.  Take advantage of it to ponder the big questions, brainstorm ideas, and make uninterrupted progress on highly desired goals.

Rather than pace the floors, toss and turn, or stare at the ceiling because you can’t sleep, get a head start on your day – and do your best, creative work.

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At a time when many are asleep so they don’t struggle to wake up on Monday morning, I’m completing this blog post. (It’s now three minutes before midnight on Sunday.)

While I need rest and rejuvenation through sound sleep, I can appreciate episodic or short-term insomnia – and make good use of it – when all else fails. And so can you.

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Photo by: Benjamin Watson