Category Archives: Advice

My Audiobook Discovery

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

I had never really been into audiobooks like some people. Sure a few were fun to listen to on long trips, but they didn’t seem the same as reading. Besides on my commutes I’d rather write (if I’m not driving) or listen to podcasts. Also hey, it wasn’t the same as reading – or so I thought.

However, a friend kept suggesting the books Indistractable and Atomic Habits, which you’re probably going to be tired of me praising. He mentioned he listened to audiobooks while exercising.

Eventually that settled into my head. I’ve been keeping healthy during the pandemic with a 60 minute walk early each morning (90 minutes on weekends). I also do 10 minutes of intense cardio each day (a mix of weight lift and high step and chair climbs as FAST as possible). Needless to say I couldn’t listen to podcasts all the time, and as some were serious content, they weren’t all realxing.

But books on productivity and cool stuff? Helpful and very relaxing!

So I tried it. Which is how I listened to both books – and it worked! I retained the information and enjoyed the experience. Sure for some books I buy paper copies for reference, but that’s a different thing.

A few insights.

First, I think though audibooks are worth exploring, each of us may have different experiences. I’m not sure if I’d enjoy fiction, but I definitely retained a lot from these productivity books. We may each have different experiences.

Secondly, I think there’s some books just not fit for audiobooks, like say a programming language book. You gotta be hands on obviously.

Third, I think some of this is great for people like me who maintain certifications. We can process vital information and useful books as part of our continuing education.

Fourth, there are a lot of ways to get audibooks, including libraries. Well worth exploring them to save money. Check out things like Libby (which does audio and ebook) and others!

So I guess audiobooks are part of my life now. And you’re probably going to get a lot more reccomendations . . .

Steven Savage

Regular Writing And Regular Contact

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

We’ve all heard the advice “write every day” and “write x words a day.” It’s easy for people to toss this advice off, and it’s equally easy for people to feel guilty they don’t do it, or for those that to do be self-righteous. Writing is a challenging thing, a personal thing, and guilt and self-aggrandizement help neither. I think the better idea is “stay in touch with your writing each day.”

See, I do try to write every day. It helps me plan ahead, make schedules, and make measurable progress. It’s not always the same thing every day, but it usually is. As of late, dealing with the Pandemic and all, I began to notice something.

Some days I’d write the same work for hours upon hours, and other times much less. But there were times when I had to take a break from whatever project to do other things – and when I took those breaks, sometimes something was missing.

I also noticed when I focused on a given project – up to a point- that it got easier to work on every minute I spent. I was getting “into” the work, getting in touch with it, getting to know it. Spending time on a project meant an increasingly intimate, inspired understanding of it.

Finally, I noticed when I wasn’t writing, but got inspired and jotted something down, I got the same rush as having spent, say, two hours writing the same book. That same fire was there.

This led me to an important conclusion: you may not be able to write every day, or write the same project every day. However you should try to “get in touch” with your project each day.

What do I mean by “get in touch?” I mean know your work intimately, be connected to it, feel it. You know, those moments you just “get it” like you get a good friend.

So each day, even if you can’t write, take a few minutes to review your notes, jot down ideas, or read a chapter you’ll be editing. Do something that connects you to your current writing project or projects so you have that vital, intimate feel.

Again, I do think writing every day is useful. But it’s not for everyone, and some people prefer (or have to do) large blocks of writing time. Just take time each day to connect yo your writing projects so you keep that fiery, powerful relationship going.

And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for what works for you.

Steven Savage

The Importance Of Not Doing

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

Do you have a schedule and plans? Daily plans? Weekly plans? Do you do them – them decide “well, I’ve got a bit more time” and go farther? Do you then realize . . . maybe you’re overdoing it?

Then do you try to not overdo it and still fail, going beyond your plans to do even more and burning out?

I had a realization about this recently as I was trying to keep up my daily schedule. I use schedules to keep myself focused during the Pandemic, and they’ve helped me “anchor” myself in these strange times. But I noticed on a day I was getting everything done, I asked what more could I do.

Then I caught myself. Why did I want to do more? Why couldn’t I stop?

Then I realized something. Schedules are not just ways to ensure things get done – they’re ways of setting limits so you don’t burn out. Part of the reason you have a schedule is to tell you what not to do or when to stop.

And of course, this ties into two parts of the Agile Manifesto. If you didn’t think I was going to tie this to Agile, you must be new here. Welcome aboard.

Anyway, in the Agile Manifesto, the tenth Agile Principle states “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.” I always liked this as it was a good reminder to avoid unneeded tasks and technology. But recently I realized this applies to your schedules and plans – there’s a time to stop and not do things.

This also ties into the eighth Agile Principle: “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

Good, sustainable work is at a pace you can keep up. This means not just being sustainable, but asking if you need to do something, removing things from your plans or not putting them in. Make a schedule that works for you, and remember that there is a time to not do something. Sure you may do it later, but you don’t have to do it now.

In fact, celebrate the fact you set limits! That should be one of your goals. Being able to not do something effectively is a success – you have time to rest, recuperate, and come up with the next neat thing to do . . .

Steven Savage