Of Wagons, Paths and Cliffs: Unstuck Productivity Post

Kellee Weinhold

By Kellee Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post and Podcast! Each Tuesday, I post a short blog post and recorded coaching session.  For earlier posts see this and this.


We all fall. It’s getting back up that tests us.

This past spring when as I was preparing to launch the UNSTUCK program, Karen and I decided to add a weekly Facebook Live session on productivity to our client engagement. (Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. Eastern)

Our motivation was twofold: We were looking for an efficient way to answer the endless questions about how to stay motivated in this “shit-shellacked era of epic stupid” (Doug Wendig) and we were looking for a way to introduce me and my coaching program to our readership in a way that showcased how I work.

Unlike Karen’s work with client documents, which is done entirely by email, my work with clients in Interview and Job Talk Interventions and One-on-One Coaching is all face to face. We meet. We talk. I provide feedback in the moment. You leave better prepared to face your next challenge.

Karen and I try to mimic that experience on FB: We show up. You show up. We do us. You do you. If we remain willing to listen, we all learn something. From our side of the camera, it is awesome! We love it.

So if something is good why not do more, right?

In July, we decided I should start contributing regularly to The Professor is In blog. The argument for this additional commitment? 1) New information on the blog. 2) More ways for readers to know who I am and how I work.  It would be simple: I would write a short blog post and record a short podcast based on that teaching.

That was in the short term. In the long term, I imagined the productivity posts would evolve into a full blown podcast. We would migrate our FB messages to an additional platform, with guests and coaching and interaction!

Are you noticing a theme here? In addition to having deep convictions (read: endless opinions) and a willingness share them broadly, Karen and I subscribe to the “Cool! That worked! What else can we do?” School of Life.

The whole thing was plugging along. I can’t say that it was my favorite thing. I don’t really enjoy writing or talking into space. I like conversation. But, I had a goal in mind. This was just a shitty first draft, if you will.

Then life happened. (As life so often does when we are just trying to get an idea up and running.)

The first week of August, I was on the Oregon coast with my parents to celebrate my birthday. I dutifully took my laptop and my microphone for recording my weekly commitment and as promised on Tuesday, August 2nd, I uploaded my post.

On Wednesday morning at 5 a.m. I heard my mother calling my name. She had woken up unable to move her right side. She had had a stroke.

And I haven’t written a column since.

Now, before you come over here in my lane and start telling me how it’s all ok, and you understand and I should have some grace with myself…. take a deep breath and let me handle it.

Don’t forget, I am a writer. I coach writers. I know all of the bullshit games we play. I know them because I do them and I see them.

I also know that no matter how good our plan is, no matter how much we have a goal in sight, life happens. We fall off wagons. We lose our way on our carefully planned paths. We fall off unforeseen cliffs into unknown terrain.

We do it for big, life altering reasons. We do it for small, petty, insecure reasons.

So the first lesson of today’s post. We ALL falter. If you think you are the only one, you are not paying attention.

Second lesson: When we falter, we all have the same two options. Stay down or get up.

Notice I didn’t say, return to the wagon, or the path or the top of the cliff. I don’t think we can go back. And I think the desire to “go back” to the time before we faltered is actually WHY we get stuck. It is the backward gaze, longing to erase the shame of not doing what we planned, that allows for more and more days to pass without writing.

Today, you are reading this productivity column on The Professor is In blog not because I went back to August 9th and wrote a column while supporting my parents, but because I am choosing to let that day be the past.

Just like I am letting August 15th — when we dropped the oldest at Berkeley for her first year of college — be the past. And August 22nd when I just could not manage one more thing on my to-do list and writing a column was not on it.

Those three Tuesdays are gone. There is no going back.

When I accept that there can be no other outcome for the those Tuesdays, I am also forced to accept that they were days I didn’t write.  THEN the work is accepting that that not writing is a fact, but it doesn’t have to be a failure. Now THAT is really hard to accept.

It is much more familiar (and therefore easy!) to carry those no writing days as failures. Rocks in my backpack that I can habitually pull out and pet like a beloved companion, all the while reinforcing my story that I “just can’t” write.

It takes a conscious choice to set the past down and face today for what it is: A blank slate where we get to choose: get up or stay down?

Today, I chose to write.

Next week, I’ll add a recording!

Final lesson of today’s post: Lower the barrier to entry. Do whatever you can instead of what you think you “should.”

About Karen

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions–University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I’ve created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don’t.


Comments

Of Wagons, Paths and Cliffs: Unstuck Productivity Post — 3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post! People don’t tell enough of the challenges in the road to success. It’s nice to see honest posts on productivity and the normal setbacks one experiences. It’s so easy to think you’re doing something wrong when you try to follow productivity advice and it doesn’t go well.

  2. This was timely advice for me, as I’ve been struggling with a family member’s cancer and commensurate hiatus in any observable progress on a dissertation. Thank you for writing this, for sharing, and for framing these issues in a productive way. It helps, it eases something in my chest.

  3. Kellee,

    I am sorry to hear about the health of your parent. This comment is to connect with how awesome this post was. This August I was relocating to a new city and state and for a few weeks I was off with my writing and feeling down on myself fro it. I’d open up a draft of something and play with it here and then, but never did the deep work I love to do… So your post here helped me realize LIFE DOES HAPPEN. Thanx again.

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