Improvised Life » productivity If you can't hunt with a dog, hunt with a cat... Wed, 10 Sep 2014 08:53:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Time to Take a Break…We’ll Be Back in September Tue, 12 Aug 2014 07:25:52 +0000

Ernst Haas

If we had to sum up the past few months with a single image, it would be this one. We’ve been roping a wild horse — life — and trying our best to go with it as we launched our Friends with Benefits subscription service and Improvised Life’s Store, saw a dear friend through a major health crisis, and navigated a recent, unexpected crisis with another. Many challenges to be sure.

We’re deeply tired and need to recharge and regroup. We’ll be back full of beans just after Labor Day as we put into practice an essential principle of an improvised life: (more…)

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To Be Able To Say Yes, You Need to Be Able To Say No Tue, 05 Aug 2014 23:00:14 +0000

Dominic Wilcox

We’ve come to love the word YES, and post it often as a reminder to embrace the opportunities that come along, and go with them.

But we realize that there is a very important other side to YES, and that is being able to say NO. (more…)

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The Time is Now…Stefan Sagmeister on Happiness Mon, 04 Aug 2014 22:43:10 +0000

Stefan Sagmeister

When uber-designer Stefan Sagmeister was asked “If you were to give advice on happiness—and I acknowledge that this is a tough question—is there one thing you’d suggest?”

Write down 3 things that worked for you each evening, things you might be thankful for. I started an ical calendar that contains this and I just spend 5 minutes each night doing it. This is an exercise from Marty Seligman, the founder of positive psychology. It works.

We notice he didn’t say “Write down three things that made you happy” but rather “Write down 3 things that worked for you“: a bit different. “What worked (more...)]]> 0 Intuitive Method for Organizing Stuff Mon, 04 Aug 2014 17:19:49 +0000

(Video link HERE.) I LOVE this video! Filmmaker/designer Casey Neistat describes his great Intuitive Categorization Method for organizing his tools and little stuff. I’m loving it especially because it showed up right on time, in time, this morning. (more…)

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Trees and Ideas (Why Not Plant One?) Tue, 15 Jul 2014 08:50:00 +0000

About the time we saw this sign at Hedviggen, we stumbled on an image of a tree growing at an extreme angle by Jaci Berkopec, in the School of Visual Arts’ annual student photography portfolio. (more…)

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Motivational Passwords Are Your Daily Digital Mantra Mon, 14 Jul 2014 08:21:19 +0000

Sally Schneider via Thich Nhat Hanh.

We often think of computer passwords as utilitarian, if we even think of them at all; they’re ugly, unwieldy little burdens that exist only to keep our information safe. Mauricio Estrella decided to shift his thinking and use his passwords as a message to himself that he must think about every day. (more…)

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“Do What You Love” Every Day in Small Doses… Tue, 03 Jun 2014 08:49:01 +0000

Recently, Sally showed me Gordon Marino’s NY Times article, “A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love”. The gist: the oft-repeated 21st century American mantra of following your true passions — instead of dull but reliable career paths — is misguided. 

There’s a hint of naïve entitlement to making “Do What You Love” the be-all-end-all answer to the workday blues, just as suggesting “Just move!” when a friend’s neighborhood turns dangerous comes across as simplistic and dismissive. Sometimes, you just can’t. At the heart of the matter is devaluing other forms of dedication, labor, work. Must we passionately love everything that we give attention to? Why?

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12 More Commandments Culled from Commencement Speeches Tue, 27 May 2014 08:11:56 +0000

NPR’S searchable archive of the best commencement speeches has been making the rounds on the internet. When you take a look at the most popular themes or take-home messages in th speeches, you end up with a list that seem like great additions to the “commandments” we started compiling the other day. (more…)

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37 Signals on the Value of Constraints Tue, 20 May 2014 23:00:27 +0000

S. Gross for The New Yorker

This New Yorker cartoon celebrates the benefits of constraints and limitations (even ordinary ones): those things that define a problem, that you have to work with in order to find a solution. We learned to LOVE them because they’ve usually led to our most creative explorations, as well as ordinary but useful solutions. We found some fine advice about constraints at 37 Signals’ (more…)

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Standards, a NON Digital Self Management System Thu, 01 May 2014 21:00:04 +0000

Jake Lodwick created an online-customizable, free-print-out management system called Standards. According to Lodwick: In a matter of months, you'll be a high-performing, self-directed Überperson – guaranteed!" We're gonna try it! ]]> 2
The Subversive Power of Post-Its Tue, 08 Apr 2014 08:25:26 +0000

Susan Dworski

It’s tough being a nouvelle fashionista with a sudden influx of clothes: the myriad outfits that can be created with a few well-chosen separates! After taking my nine-year old granddaughter Roxy on a surprise shopping trip to the mall, I found her under the covers at midnight with a flashlight trained on a pad of yellow Post-Its, scribbling away, making a graph to help her decide what outfit she would wear the next morning for a play date. “I’m a Libra, and I have a hard time making decisions, so I like to make charts to help me.” 

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Productivity Practice: Do 1 Hour of Creative Work Before Anything Else Mon, 10 Mar 2014 07:54:34 +0000

Recently, while skyping with Improvised Life’s web developer Jason Lange, he told us of a technique he had been trying out to keep work moving forward on Share, a film he was making. For months, he’d been getting side-tracked by “paying-work”, expending all his energy on it during the day only to find himself without any creative juice left for what was most important to him. “A writer friend suggested I try reordering my day; I’ve been doing it for two weeks now and it WORKS.” (more…)

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The Practice of Waiting is Part of Making Thu, 06 Mar 2014 09:06:43 +0000


Over the years, we’ve learned to embrace the practice of waiting — patiently — knowing that things will change and become unstuck, or simply are moving by another timing, that is not the one WE WANT. Sometimes, there is nothing else to do but wait.

Waiting is part of the many steps of making: a non-action that can very important action. But ‘non-action’ can be difficult to describe, since ‘doing nothing’ can be a time of hidden fermentation and unexpected ideas. So we looked up WAIT. In the definitions, we found words (in bold) that made a little poem: (more…)

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Why Movement is THE Best Productivity App Wed, 05 Mar 2014 23:30:50 +0000

Josh Eisen sent us a compelling Linked-In post by trainer Beth Kanter citing the latest in neurocognitive research that finds MOVING YOUR BODY is a great built-in productivity app.  She confirms what we’ve discovered ourselves as we sit for hours writing Improvised Life every day. Josh put it into words:

improvising to figure out supporting working rhythms, and the ingredients you’ve discovered for success: movement, stillness, eating the right things, exercise, good light, good sleep. Most importantly, how to listen and learn your personal rhythms which can, and do, change from day-to-day and seasonally… It’s all about finding a work rhythm from within (more…)

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