Jen, I really admire your energy and ability to be so prolific and efficient! I also really admire your no-holds-barred attitude. Any advice on how to maintain high energy levels and be productive on a daily (okay, mostly daily) basis?
Hi there, and thanks for the excellent (and flattering) question. I definitely don't feel jazzed up and super full of energy all day long -- that's just not sustainable for long periods of time. It's more that I've just cut a lot of crap out of my life. I don't have TV at all, and I don't hang out with groups of people (it's just pointless; meaningful conversations almost never happen in groups of more than two).
My deadlines for TheGloss and The Grindstone keep me on a writing schedule (I make a point to plan what I'm going to write the night before, and then sleep on it), and I add a lot of other deadlines to my calendar to make sure I keep producing. I haven't yet figured out the holy grail for doing big projects that need to be scheduled in many small modules, but I do manage to slam out all kinds of day-length projects.
I think it's also important not to be crippled by perfectionism. Sometimes I feel stuck, and I say, "Okay, this article's going to suck, but I'll just write something that sucks and then try to fix it up if I can." When it's done, though, it almost never actually sucks (well, at least I think so). And if it did suck, well, a first draft is way better than no draft (and that's true for lots of things other than writing).
I'm also able to get more done by automating the less important parts of life. I pick one healthy meal and make the same thing over and over for a couple of weeks until I get tired of it and switch it up (right now, egg whites with black beans and peppers). I would never, ever in a million years waste an entire day on "errands." I can't understand people who do. I can order everything on the Internet and save an entire day in exchange for modest shipping fees. I love Freshdirect. I always buy things in bulk even if there's no discount for doing so, because it saves my time (and also, sometimes, shipping fees). I own two years' worth of trash bags. I buy eye makeup remover in cases, from a beauty supply store. Etc. These things seem trivial, but they add up.
Finally, sometimes I feel tired, stupid, or just plain terrible, just like everyone else. It might be obvious from my last several columns that not everything has been rosy for me. But, if you have a lot going on, then you can easily say, "Okay, I'm not going to do any of these big-thinking tasks right now, so what's on the I'm-stupid-right-now list?" And then I clean the bathtub and print and collate worksheets for my students and follow back a bunch of people who followed me on Twitter and a bunch of other stuff that would bore the living shit out of me if I were on top of my game.
Life usually hands you less than ideal circumstances, so it's important to move forward under duress. You will usually be under some kind of duress! You don't need to feel guilty about it; it's the human condition. Some not-very-glamorous scheduling techniques, as above, can keep the engine running when life has given you the proverbial lemons (or cramps, or hangovers, or breakups, or pink slips).