The Joys of Experiencing Nature From Your Cubicle

Katie Corbett holds the book "52 Small Changes"

By Katie Corbett

 

Winter in Wisconsin is a frigid affair. Temperatures regularly dip below zero degrees Fahrenheit and snow blankets the ground from December through March. Due to the lack of sunlight, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder during these freezing months, which makes me more prone to unhappiness at best and depression at worst.

 

One winter a few years ago, I read “52 Small Changes for the Mind,” by Brett Blumenthal, in hopes of finding a way to brighten my mood. I was working a job as a part-time writer and didn’t have much time to spend outside during daylight hours. I was also missing our family’s annual trip to Florida because I needed to work through the end of the year.

 

In “52 Small Changes for the Mind,” benefits of going out in nature are outlined. I wanted to incorporate nature into my cold days. I was really bummed about missing out on Florida sunshine and time at the beach. I read that even looking at pictures of nature and having plants in your environment can help boost mood and productivity.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m totally blind, so seeing pictures and plants don’t have the same benefits for me as they might for someone who can see. I wanted to find some other way of appreciating the great outdoors. Enter YouTube.

 

I decided to try listening to videos of the ocean. I wasn’t sure how it would help; luckily, it did. As I plugged away at spreadsheets and wrote articles, I listened to the sounds of waves, seagulls, and ocean breezes. On sunnier days, I made a point of stepping outside during my lunchbreak for some much-needed vitamin D. With a little creativity and curiosity, I was able to push past what might have seemed like understandable excuses and make my wintertime more cheery, or at least more bearable.

 

What are some ways you can incorporate nature into your workday? I’d love some more ideas, so let me know in the comments.

 

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Choose One Dream and Go All In: My Freelance Writing Career

Katie Corbett holds the book "Girl, Stop Apologizing"

By Katie Corbett

 

I am a person with many hobbies, interests, and goals. I have gotten some advice that will help me propel my dreams forward: Focus. Focus on just one thing and move forward on that. I recently tried this focus when developing my freelance writing career, and it has proven to be invaluable.

 

In “Girl, Stop Apologizing”, author Rachel Hollis suggests to pick one dream and go all in. I have found this focus helpful because:

 

  • Focusing helps me evaluate other opportunities to make sure I stay on track.
  • Focusing helps me decide what needs to get done and stay on task.
  • I can say no to other opportunities without feeling guilty if they do not align with my current focus.
  • It is easy to see areas for growth and improvement when I’m only focused on one area of life.
  • I can track my progress more easily.

 

Tangible results of this focus include working with three amazing clients and getting paid for my writing expertise in less than three months of starting my business. And the best part about running a business is that I can focus on one business, but end up wearing all the hats. This means there’s always something fun and new to try, from writing, to interviewing, to marketing and sales.

 

What can you focus on, to the exclusion of all else? Are you writing a novel? Starting a business? Looking for a new job? Raising kids? How would focus benefit you in your endeavor?

 

I’d love to hear what you’re working on, so let me know in the comments. Where will you be investing your time and energy?

 

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How Blindness Benefits Me: Asking for Help

Katie Corbett holds the book "Girl, Stop Apologizing"

By Katie Corbett

 

At some point, everyone who owns a business realizes that they can’t do it all. It is important to hire others who can do a task faster, more efficiently, or with better results than they can. Doing this frees up time to do the things a business owner is really good at.

 

In her book, “Girl, Stop Apologizing”, Rachel Hollis discusses the importance of asking for help and not trying to do it all yourself. Although I am an independent person, I find it easy to ask for help. I think my being blind has helped me with this in the following ways:

 

  1. I grew up knowing there would be things I couldn’t do myself, such as driving.
  2. My mom, and others who are blind who served as mentors for me, often discussed hiring readers and drivers.
  3. In college, I had practice hiring readers and in-class aids to describe PowerPoint slides and drawings on the board to me.
  4. Because of my visual limitations, I am more open to admitting other limitations, such as my lack of knowledge about legal affairs or my desire to hire a copyeditor.
  5. I see my blindness as an asset because it has given me an open mind to get things done that I don’t need to do myself.

 

What are your limitations? Do you have any limitations that might enhance your perspective about asking for help? Instead of seeing these as a hindrance, list the positives that have come from realizing them. You never know what you could accomplish when you realize you do not need to do it all and that it’s OK to ask for help.

 

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How to Track your 12-Week Year Progress

Katie Corbett holds the book "The 12-Week Year"

By Katie Corbett

Tracking progress is important. If you don’t, it can be easy to get caught up with all the little items that need to get done and you could lose sight of the progress you made on accomplishing your big goals.

Tracking is an important aspect of “The 12-Week Year,” by Brian Moran. He says that you can consider your week a success if you complete 85% of the important tasks on your list.

I track my 12-Week Year projects at the end of each day by writing in a small notebook set aside specifically for that purpose. The way you track could look quite different. Here are some ideas:

• You could get a calendar and put stars on the days you accomplished your 12-Week Year goals.
• You could record notes about your progress on a spreadsheet.
• If you want a portable tracking option, you could make notes on your phone.
• You could create a paper chain with links for each day or week, and tear off a link right after you did your important actions for that day or week.
• You could set aside a certain amount of money, say, a dollar, each time you complete an important task on your list, then reward yourself with something special once the 12-Week Year is over. (If you set aside a dollar each day, you would have $84 at the end.)

No matter how you track, it is critical to remember to do it consistently. After all, if you skip a day or forget to mark your progress, you will have little perspective about whether you are truly meeting your goals.

Try one of these tracking ideas, or, if you’re feeling creative, come up with your own. If you find something that works for you, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave me a comment.

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How to Decide What to Focus On During your 12-Week Year

Katie Corbett holds the book "The 12-Week Year"

By Katie Corbett

Focus is key to getting things done. I have found that it is easiest to focus for a longer period of time when I take action on only one thing. I used to try something for three or four weeks, not see the results I wanted, and give up. I would think of another thing I wanted to try, try that for a few weeks, and the cycle would start all over again. No longer!

In “The 12-Week Year,” Brian Moran encourages readers to pick an area of life where they desire to see improvement. Here is a question list to help you pick that area of your life to focus on:

• What do I want more or less of in my life right now?
• Is there a practice or habit I want to incorporate?
• Is there a habit I used to do that I would like to take back up?
• What specific, measureable results do I hope to get from my 12-Week Year efforts?
• Why do I want to improve in this area of my life?
• What is one action that, if done each day, will propel me closer to my goal?
• Does this action depend entirely on me, or does it require the help of others?
• Is it realistic, given my life situation and circumstances, to take this action each day consistently?

Jot down your answers to these questions and decide what you will do next. Making a concrete decision will increase your success rate, give you long-term results over an extended period of time, and provide a sense of accomplishment each day.

I hope that focusing on one thing pushes you further than you thought possible. I would love to hear what you plan to do. Let me know in the comments.

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How Productive can you Be?

Katie Corbett holds the book "The 12-Week Year"

By Katie Corbett

If someone told me that a book could help me be more productive, get healthier in mind and body, and provide more overall satisfaction in life, I probably would have laughed. I’m glad no one told me that, because it has been so enjoyable going on the journey and discovering it for myself.

I started reading, “The 12-Week Year”, by Brian Moran, and it has changed my life. Here’s the basic principle behind the book:

Step 1: Decide what is important to work on in your life right now. It could be eating healthier, reading more, building a business, or focusing on your relationships.
Step 2: Pick the most impactful action step you can take to move yourself forward in that area of life.
Step 3: Do that action step every day for 12 weeks.
Step 4: Track your progress each day.
Step 5: At the end, take another week – called The 13th Week – to celebrate success and evaluate the impact on your life.

That’s it. I’m winding down my third 12-Week Year and the results of taking consistent action are incredible.

I started my first 12-Week Year in August of 2019. The most important goal in my life was to decrease stress. I decided I also wanted to become more well-rounded as a person, so doing one hobby each day seemed like a great way to accomplish both objectives. I did hobbies alone and with friends. I tried things I had never done before, as well as hobbies I used to enjoy, but had abandoned over time. It was so fun to give my brain a break and relax.

For my second 12-Week Year, I decided to focus on my reproductive health. I did an acupressure routine each day to get my hormones in better balance. It worked wonders.

The 12-Week Year I’m currently finishing involves my commitment to brush my teeth twice a day and floss once a day. I had fallen out of the practice for the past few years, only brushing once a day and flossing when I felt I really needed to. It feels great to get back on the band wagon.

I plan to continue brushing and flossing once this 12-Week Year has ended, I still do my acupressure each day, and I participate in a hobby occasionally. I’m not sure yet what I will do for my fourth 12-Week Year, but I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book and give this productivity booster a try. I hope you are surprised and encouraged by the fruits of your efforts.

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Working Remotely: Secrets for Productivity and Success

Katie Corbett headshot

By Katie Corbett

Working remotely—usually from home—can seem like a glorious adventure. No commute, plenty of alone time, and the ability to work in your pajamas if you so choose. Thing is, if you’re not careful, it can be easy to get distracted by the dishes you need to do or the laundry piling up. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful to keep in mind whenever I work from home.

Listen and enjoy!

Creative Procrastination: Eat the Worst Frog First

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

Everything that needs to get done will get done. That, and “There is a right time for everything” are two phrases that used to stump me. If I’m not working constantly and trying to do everything, how will things get done?

In his book, “Eat that Frog,” Brian Tracy says to do the worst, toughest things first and ignore the little things. Eventually, even the little things will become truly urgent, and they will get done. That idea has applied to my blogging more than I might like to admit. Here’s how.

Choosing the Next Book: I like to buy my books in batches. (I read digital copies and then buy physical copies once I decide to blog about the book, so I have it for my blog photo.) Book selection occurs on a quarterly basis, as I reflect on the books that have made a difference in my life and career. I pick the top three and purchase those.
Selecting the Post Topics: Early in the month in which I plan to write about a specific book, I go through it and pick out the tips and ideas I have applied to my life and found success doing. I create files for each post and put the title, my name and an idea of what I would like to cover in the post. That way, I can start writing when it’s time to write.
The Actual Writing: Mid-to-late month, I sit down and start writing. Nothing need be perfect or final. As long as I get the ideas out, that’s the goal.
The Recording: I typically do my recording after this initial post writing is complete. All I do is think of a topic, write a list of things I’d like to talk about and press record.
Editing and Uploading: Sometime the week the first of these newly-written posts will publish, I do final edits, upload, and email my virtual assistant to get the photos up.

This creative procrastination idea applies throughout the entire process. Instead of worrying about all the little things that I want and need to do for my blog, I focus on the one important task of the day. One day, that might be selecting and ordering new books, another day it might be writing, and another day I edit and upload. If it seems overly simple, that’s probably because it is. And sometimes, even if you might not feel like doing the tough thing, circumstances will force you to do it. This blog post, for example, exists because my phone, laptop and portable book player all have dead batteries and are recharging at the moment. I didn’t want to sit near the outlet, so I’m writing this post using my braille display, even though I’d honestly rather do it tomorrow. It turns out that doing the hard things involves sitting down and, you know, doing the hard things. They’re called hard things for a reason, but it’s usually worth it to get them done. And, as with what happened to me today, sometimes life gives you no other option.

At the start of each day, I ask myself: What do I need to get done today for the day to be considered a success? I hope you start asking yourself that, too. It might be to apply for some jobs, revise your résumé, or do something kind for yourself or a loved-one. Whatever it is, I’d love to hear about the success you end up having, so leave a comment so I can cheer you on.

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Keeping the Mind Fresh: The Importance of Taking Breaks

Katie Corbett holds a book

By Katie Corbett

I recently rearranged my schedule from working five hours per day, five days per week, and am now working three eight-hour days per week. Since I’m working these longer days, I find it necessary to take small breaks to get everything done. What? Doing nothing helps me do more, you ask? The idea might seem counterintuitive at first, so stick with me.

Author Laura Vanderkam, in her book, “What the most Successful People do at Work,” explains that taking occasional breaks is a great way to stay fresh and keep your mind sharp. When I take a break, I do one of the following:

• Turn my chair away from my computer.
• Go say hi to a coworker.
• Grab a snack.
• Send a text message to a friend.
• Check social media for five minutes.
• Walk around the office.
• Step outside for a breath of fresh air.
• Make a cup of tea.
• Think about a word puzzle.
• Read a chapter of a fiction book.

My breaks usually don’t last longer than five or ten minutes, and they work wonders for my productivity. Writing is intense brain-work, so giving my brain time and space to think about other things ensures that I don’t forget an item on my editing checklist or miss an important idea or quote to include in an article.
Next time your brain feels stuck, try one of these break ideas. Even if you have a lot to get done, taking breaks will give you the mental space to do everything efficiently and effectively. Got an effective break idea to share? Feel free to post it in the comments.

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