Clearing your mind and living in the moment isn’t about putting productivity on hold. You can be more profitable with less brain clutter.

If you are like me, you probably find yourself multitasking more, yet feeling like it really isn’t benefiting you. As a society, we’re stressing out about more and accomplishing less, adversely impacting both our mindsets and our productivity.

Most of us think of this as the new normal, and we’ve gotten used to juggling more. The begrudging acceptance of this attitude prevents companies from taking actions needed to keep workers focused and productive.

A stretched-thin, stressed-out workplace is not the workplace of the future. It falls on business managers to change this culture and promote focus and compassion—a concept making the rounds in workplace circles known as “mindfulness.” This is the technique of tuning out the noise and focusing deliberately on what is important.

Studies have found that mindfulness at work can increase engagement, productivity, innovation, and measurable business results. Here are three tips to increasing your mindfulness so that you cross tasks off your list and stress about them less.

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Ethiopia - Doing it the Japanese way

The Japanese workplace philosophy of Kaizen is sweeping all before it in factories and workshops in Ethiopia. The philosophy, developed by Japan after World War II to make the most of meagre resources through efficiency, seems to be a perfect fit for Ethiopia’s industrial needs. James Jeffrey made the rounds of businesses in Addis Ababa to find out how the idea works and with what results.

3 Tips To Be Productive Even When You're Not Feeling It

Today’s one of those days where I just don’t really feel in the mood to get things done. Often times, it’s hard to pinpoint the causes. We wake up and we just feel like doing nothing. Instead, we’d prefer to take a break off or just sleeping more. Today’s one of those days. It’s often hard to pinpoint exactly why we feel that way. We may be be tired from yesterday, burn out from repetitive work, discouraged, or even being hungry? It’s hard to know, but there are things that I found helpful for myself. They may be helpful for you too! 

1. Tell yourself to get even just a little done. 

Tell yourself that you know today’s not going to be a productive day but you are going to do the best you can. This helps you acknowledge the problem and forces you to be realistic. Sometimes, people feel ashamed of themselves for feeling the way they do; but if you can acknowledge your feelings then it will help you move forward. Hence, tell yourself “Yes, today I don’t feel like working because I feel overworked, but I will get as few things done as possible instead.” You may not get as many things done, but at least you will have something done. Getting something even just a little done can make tomorrow less burdensome for you and help you progress closer to your goals. Take baby steps because those baby steps make a difference. 

2. Get your favorite food or snack and put it in front your work place.

Maybe you’re hungry? Or maybe you’re just tired? Eating something you like can be a big motivator. Just having your favorite snack or drink in front of you while working can make you feel a whole lot better.

Right now, I am  staring at computer screen and having some of my favorite snacks beside me already makes me feel a lot better. It also serves as a reward and makes you feel less negative about having nothing good in your life. 


Fig: My Desk (July 30) with snacks :)

3. Plan out something fun that you could do later today; (aka: Reward Yourself)

Hopefully, you didn’t wake up too late that you will be missing out things that you could do for the day. Lucky for myself, I woke up just before 12 leaving me with at least 12 more hours to do fun stuff outside if I wanted to. There were past experiences where I woke up at like 5-6 pm and I felt even more groggier because I already lost most of the days. It felt even worse knowing that today’s not going to be a productive day and that I won’t even have time to do anything outside if I wanted to (since by the time I get my work done, it will already be night time and no places are really opened). If you can, force yourself to wake up just a bit earlier on days you expect to feel not good cause at least you can apply these steps above. 

Hope you guys enjoyed this article and me rumbling about my bad day. If you know more tips to help be more productive on bad days, reblog this and comment. 

Something amazing happens when the rest of the world is sleeping.
I am glued to my chair. I forget that I ever wanted to do anything but write. The crowded city, the crowded apartment, and the crowded calendar suddenly seem spacious. Three or four hours pass in a moment; I have no idea what time it is, because I never check the clock. If I chose to listen, I could hear the swish of taxis bound for downtown bars or the soft saxophone riffs that drift from a neighbor’s window, but nothing gets through. I am suspended in a sensory deprivation tank, and the very lack of sensation is delicious.

- Anne Fadiman

(by x)

back to school + journaling

Dear journaling enthusiast,

You’re here because you love notebooks. You love sturdy hardcovers and flexible spines, pages that crinkle when you turn them and fine-tipped pens.


You probably know the pleasure of curling up with only a notebook and your thoughts. You love to turn back through the pages, admiring your own handwriting and the narrative of your life.

But how often have you used your notebook as a force of positive change? Do you just write about your day…every day…or do you want to get something more out of it?

Journaling isn’t just a form of self-expression, it’s a method of vibrant growth, change, and healing.


Let me just ask you one thing: do you feel secure about the steps you’ve taken to achieve your personal and professional dreams? Are you confident about your ability to succeed?

If you’ve haven’t done everything you can…if you find yourself overwhelmed by all the things you want to do (but don’t have enough time for), then keep reading.

As we approach the beginning of autumn, we open ourselves to new beginnings.


The start of the school year is a blank slate upon which you write your hopes and dreams and wishes for all that you hope to succeed in the future.

But maybe you could write your hopes and dreams in your journal.

What if there were guidelines that would enable you to realize those goals and hold yourself accountable for them?

With just one notebook, you can set up an entire system for understanding, setting, and tracking your personal goals.


Imagine sitting at your desk at the end of the day. Your journal is open in front of you. You sip from a mug of warm tea between sentences.

There’s a stack of finished homework and completed projects next to you, and you’ve even had time to pursue some of your own personal goals.


Maybe in your free time you’ve been practicing an instrument, studying a language, or improving your art or writing. Maybe you’re training for a sports team, a marathon, or just trying to get fit and healthy.

Maybe you finally found the time to get caught up on your scrapbooking backlog or you had the energy to get motivated to clean your room from top to bottom, making it look as clean and chic as a picture in a magazine.

Imagine having one little notebook that you can carry around with you, filled with your own personal musings, goals, dreams, desires, inspiration, and success stories.


Imagine that at the end of the day, you write down a list of everything you’ve accomplished…and you have pages more in your journal, detailing the hard work you’ve done and the things you’ve achieved.

Whatever your hobbies, passions, and goals for the future — they can be achieved.

If you love to write, journal, create, explore, and set goals, then the productivity system I recommend in my ebook “Journaling Your Goals: Prompts, Motivation, and Advice to Help You Achieve Your Dreams” will definitely work for you.


If you track the #studyspo tag, love “productivity porn,” follow @writingnotebooks, or get a kick out of seeing other people’s notebooks, journals, and workspaces, then you’ll love “Journaling Your Goals.”

Here’s a bit of what you’ll get if you read JYG:

  • What supplies and tools you’ll need
  • How to format your notebook for optimal success
  • How to brainstorm and set goals
  • How to set and track challenges to push yourself to new levels of success (and fun!)
  • How to become obsessed with your projects
  • How to create a life wheel
  • How to use rituals and automate your routines to motivate you
  • How to figure out your values
  • How to visualize your goals
  • How to prep with a checklist


And that’s just getting started. JYG also includes sections on:

  • How to overcome crippling fear and doubt
  • How pop culture inspiration like Harry Potter, Supernatural, and video games can motivate you to succeed
  • How to be “YOU 2.0
  • How to associate hard work with good things
  • How to go “Adventure Studying
  • How aiming for rejection can make you a more confident person
  • How to find a mentor, a role model, and a support system
  • How to create a personal manifesto
  • How to celebrate your achievements

As a recent grad and someone who’s been journaling since childhood, I developed this system based on my own needs for personal motivation and goal-setting.

JYG is a four week program which includes:

Week One: Here and Now

Week Two: Reflect

Week Three: Act on It

Week Four: Moving Forward


With JYG, you get more than just writing prompts, inspiration, and advice. More sections include:

  • How to make a memory jar
  • How to set New Year’s Resolutions
  • How to nourish your soul through self care and spiritual routines
  • How to make a comfort box
  • How to reward yourself and enjoy simple pleasures on your path to success

However, this system isn’t just for students. It can be used by a wide range of individuals, from stay-at-home moms/dads to people in the workforce.


Even my mother, who got an advance copy of my ebook when she supported it in the crowdfunding stage, told me that she didn’t expect to learn anything new…but was pleasantly surprised to find lots of accessible information that she was able to apply to her own life goals.

If office supplies make your heart go pitter-pat…

If you love order and organization — or if you aren’t organized enough and need a system to help you structure your productivity…

…then you’ll love “Journaling Your Goals.”

The best thing about JYG? It costs less than the Frappuccino you’re going to buy at Starbucks when you sit down with my ebook and a fresh, blank notebook, ready to start applying the tips and techniques to jumpstart your goals.


And guess what? Journaling Your Goals is available on Amazon for only US$2.99.

Almost 30,000 words of handy tricks, life hacks, and inspiration. $3 value.

When you’re about to start buying school supplies, what is $3? It probably costs about as much as a school notebook. Less than the price of a pack of nice pens.

Don’t forget that you’ll have direct access to the author if you ever have any questions or concerns. I’m here at @writingnotebooks and my ask box is always open, so you can reach me at any time.


Do yourself and your dreams a favor by investing in “Journaling Your Goals.” Start the school year off right. Get organized and motivated for everything you’re about to achieve.

Journaling Your Goals: Prompts, Motivation, and Advice to Help You Achieve Your Dreams is available in the US and most international stores on Amazon.





Be well. Do good things. And best of luck. I believe in you!


(photos courtesy of my own self, @eighty-eightphotography, @thenotebookdoodles, @artistnicholerae, @justparis, @karyboo21, @succubus-studies, and more)

The most productive people work for 52 minutes at a time, then break for 17 minutes before getting back to it.

The employees with the highest productivity ratings, in fact, don’t even work eight-hour days. Turns out, the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a workday is not working longer—but working smarter with frequent breaks.


The makers of a productivity app examine their user data to extract “the rule of 52 and 17.” This, of course, is nothing new – previous productivity studies of elite violinists have found that the best of them work in 90-minute chunks separated by 20-minute breaks.

Pair with some handy tips on how to master the pace of being productive, but don’t forget that presence is a greater art than productivity

(HT Quipsologies)

Watch on

This is how I am going to organize everything from now on. It’s called the Bullet Journal method. Most if you probably already know about it but schools are starting (or have already started) and many are getting frustrated because they just cannot keep up with everything. So here is a flexible method which you can modify to your own taste. All you need is a simple notebook.

Productivity apps!!

I’m more of a pen and paper kind of girl myself, but I always have my phone with me, and these apps help me stay focused and organized.

1. Google Docs. Everybody knows what this is. The app has a really clean and user friendly interface and let’s you edit all your documents from your phone, as well as print or share.

2. Google Drive. This goes hand in hand with the first app, although is definitely less useful, in my opinion. You can view folders, but you can only look at or edit documents with Google Doc. Still, i find that it’s very organized, and again, clean and simple to use.

3. Wikipanion. Bla, bla, bla, don’t use Wikipedia, whatever. I personally like to use this app to introduce myself to something I’m unfamiliar with, whether that be a person I’m studying or a concept. It mostly helps me set up an outline for my rough draft notes so I have an idea of where to focus my studying on this specific person or concept.

4. Notes. Just the notepad that comes with iPhones or IPods, again very simple, but super helpful in keeping track of to-do’s or plans without having to pull out the planner.

5. Duolingo. LOVE this and you’ve undoubtedly heard of it. I’m using it to keep my German skills sharp. Paired with real-world note taking, this has to be the best way to learn a language, for free. 

6. SAM. SAM is an app that helps you take notice of and clear away symptoms of anxiety. Sometimes in class or when I’m heading to work, I get hit with strong physical pains, a symptom of my anxiety. Using any of the tools on SAM helps me placate these symptoms and move forward. There are exercises on how to relax your mind and body, motivational cues, all kinds of helpful stuff.

7. Calm. I also use calm for my anxiety, or to help me sleep. It’s very simple: a calming image paired with a gentle voice (think yoga CD) and soothing nature sounds. Good for those quick moments when you wish you could meditate, or for trying to calm down enough to take a short nap.

8. Wunderlist. I have a physical planner where I write my To-Do lists and responsibilities, but I find that it’s easy enough to ignore that little line that says “vacuum” or “organize notes” when just listed under bigger, more important things. Like I keep saying, most of us are always with our phones, and with Wunderlist, you can organize ALL of your tasks by category (mine are Family, Work, and School), set a date and time, and you will get a friendly reminder telling you to actually get it done. It’s basically a planner mixed with a nagging mom, which, ngl, can be helpful.

So that’s that! I also recommend you download the app for your personal bank. I know that has nothing to do with productivity (that’s why mine isn;t in this folder), but it’s SO quick and easy to check your accounts and keep an eye on your spending without downloading one of those apps that require entering all your bank information, something I’m very hesitant to do.

Productivity vs. Happiness: The Rest of Your Life

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about my life before The Center for Cartoon Studies, or, more accurately—my state of mind.  Before I moved to White River Junction, Vermont in the summer of 2011 I was living in NYC struggling to make ends meet and publishing my webcomic Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell twice a week.  A year before that I was working as an English teacher in Taebaek, South Korea (still publishing DCiGTH) and a year before that I was working as an administrative assistant at New York University just starting out on my long road to CCS.  I was to all intents and purposes a newbie—I had few pages of comics under my belt, virtually no readership, and (I think) I was happy.

The year following my graduation from CCS has been the most successful of my short career.  I had a comic included in Best American Comics 2013, I ran a successful Kickstarter for a book edition of Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell with my friend and co-author Jenn Jordan and I also pumped out a decent number of pages for an assortment of anthologies.  It was a red-letter year and yet I felt some of the blackest depression, stress and anxiety I have ever experienced in my life.  My days were busy and my to-do lists were never done.  I frequently felt isolated, angry and unproductive.  I distanced myself from my friends and family (some because of my perpetual bad moods, some through sheer neglect). Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

One of the benefits of entering a program like CCS is that it pushes you to excel in the quality and quantity of your art.  There are comics I simply would not and could not have made without the guidance, feedback and encouragement of my teachers and peers.  I am undoubtedly a better cartoonist for having gone to CCS and I do not for one minute regret my decision to attend that school.

Now that I’m a graduate though and am facing the long corridor of “the rest of my life” I feel it’s time to reevaluate some of the lessons I learned over these past few years.  Here are a couple thinks I have been mulling over recently:

1. You are Not Your Career

When you are a regular participant in the comics community it’s easy and natural to equate your value as a person with your value as an artist.  Comics are the air you breathe and the grounding for your relationships with your friends and teachers.  Failure to excel as an artist often feels like a personal failure.  “My comics aren’t good enough” becomes “I’m not good enough”. 

This leads to some questionable behavior and choices.  A balanced life that includes friends, family, physical health and leisure is no longer seen as valuable.  Productivity—pumping out pages, getting published, getting reblogged and liked and noticed—is of primary importance. 

I think those of us who are especially ambitious, who have always chased good grades and approval (and this certainly includes me) are especially susceptible to this.  It has taken me an entire year to see that the problem here is not that I am not productive, recognized or talented enough but that I see these things as more important then being happy.

2. No One is Watching

I have had numerous conversations with my classmates and friends over the internal pressure we feel to be “visible” online and in the world of comics.  If we are not constantly putting new work out into the world we feel like failures and no matter how much we try to keep up a steady stream of work it never feels like enough.

I think the reality though is that in all likelihood no one cares if you publish once a week, once a month or once a year.  Even if there are some readers out there constantly demanding more (and there are)… fuck ‘em.  We are the main audience for the dog-and-pony show that is our lives.  Please yourself first.

3. Success Does Not Equal Happiness

I’ve found the media circus surrounding Robin Williams’ death to be unsettling and I hesitate to add to it, but the lesson I’ve learned from his suicide is that all the success in the world can’t make you happy.  Happy is a state of mind—not of place or position.  You could be happy today if you wanted to—if you actually chose to seek happiness instead of the things we commonly believe are its harbingers: recognition and success.  Be happy today because “tomorrow” might never come.

In light of these musings I’ve made some adjustments in my life.  I moved from White River Junction, Vermont to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  One major reason is for the more affordable cost of living and city amenities but I was also eager to leave behind the pressure of the comics-is-everything CCS environment.  I’ve also made a pledge (to myself) to choose happiness over productivity and cultivate hobbies that have nothing to do with comics and enrich my life in other ways.  Finally, I will try to see my guilt and anxiety over productivity as the problem rather then the perceived lack of productivity itself. I am going to try to embrace the philosophy of “good enough” instead of chasing some unachievable ideal.

I hope that by sharing this I can find a few like-minded friends who have also struggled with these issues and that we can all move to a healthier place together.  I guess time will tell.


PS:  I in no way mean to blame the Center for Cartoon Studies for any of the above.  It’s a great school and I’m very happy with my experience there.  I think the pressures I’ve discussed above are the kind that can breed in any environment where a number of highly creative, ambitious and slightly unstrung people are all focused on a single absurd pursuit.

PPS:  I am not quitting comics!!!  I’m a lifer. 

  1. Be SLIGHTLY stressed out about not having enough time or money to eat a healthy lunch.
  2. Construct a very elaborate rationalization about how you can probably just skip lunch today and be fine. Like, you eat three meals a day. You’re eating constantly. Your body probably has so much energy stored up that it won’t even notice if you skip a meal this ONE time.
  3. Immediately regret this plan as soon as you catch even the faintest whiff of someone else’s lunch.
  4. Think about having a snack.
  5. Nah, you’re fine. Snacks are for weaklings.
  6. Be very unproductive for two hours.
  7. Well, okay. So maybe you’re a weakling. That’s fine! There’s no shame in that.
  8. That snack was NOT enough. But if you have more food now, you’ll ruin your appetite for dinner and then throw your whole eating cycle into chaos.
  9. Man, when did you become your mom?
  10. Notice that every task you have to do feels much…harder than usual. Answering an email from a friend? Jesus Christ, who are you, a PUBLIC RELATIONS MOGUL?
  11. Hmm. Weird. You’ve never noticed this before, but everyone you work with is sort of annoying.

Finish reading —> How to Drive Yourself Crazy by Skipping a Meal

I was recently listening to the “Hello Internet” podcast, hosted by YouTube video creators CGPGrey and Brady Haran. On this podcast, one of the hosts, CGPGrey, spoke about a to-do list which he created, on which he has a list of tasks he would like to complete on a “perfect day”.

I decided I would create my own version, and list the tasks I would like to complete in order to have a fully productive day. This is my list.

I created my list using an application called “Todoist”, which is an application that is available on all of the platforms I utilise, i.e. Windows, iPhone and iPad. 

I love this application, because the Todoist team send you a weekly summary of your productivity, which is great inspiration to get things done!

When your days already feel jam-packed, how can you afford to experiment with productivity? Get to the bottom of time-wasting habits.

It’s classic productivity advice: Match your most important work to your most productive hours. If you do that, you’ll get a lot more done.

But this advice assumes you know when your most productive hours are. Many people don’t, says Daniel Gold, a productivity specialist and author of Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Capturing Everything and Getting Things Done, among other life management books. “We’re too often stuck without thinking about the bigger picture,” he says. If you’re constantly in reactive mode, or your life features irregular hours or travel, you may not be familiar with your own internal rhythms. Getting there is “really just about taking that uncomfortable step inwards,” he says. Here are strategies for paying attention.

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