Creative Ways to Skyrocket your Productivity all Day

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There’s nothing quite like being in the zone. You know the place. When you’re undistracted and words pour onto the page like summer rain. All the world fades away and there’s nothing but your thoughts, the keyboard, and an increasing word count.

Being in the zone is magical. But all magic comes at a price. And soon your happy place turns into a black hole; sucking every last ounce of energy and imagination out of you until your completely drained and it’s not even 10 a.m.

All work and no play makes Robyn a dull writer. You’ve probably heard this a million times. Perhaps from friends inviting you to hang out after work or over a weekend. But the saying is not only true for “after hours”. It’s true for working hours too. Our bodies and brains need a break every now and then. To relax and reboot so you can end your day without feeling like your head is empty. Here are five tricks I use to sustain my productivity during a workday.

1. Go for short walks. A colleague and I usually go for a midmorning walk. Sometimes around the block. Sometimes we walk to the Company Gardens or we stop by one of the many coffee shops around the office building. The change of scenery, chitchat, and activity are like pushing restart.

2. Take coffee breaks. If coffee isn’t your thing tea or WATER work just as well. The aim is to put distance between you and your desk. Just standing away from your desk waiting for the kettle to boil offers relief to the tired worn out mind. It’s like coming up for air.

3. Do something else. For me, it’s admin. Believe it or not, organizing spreadsheets energize me. I don’t know why. So when I need a little boost after lunch I update one of my many trackers, my Goodreads TBR, or if I have nothing to update, I create a new tracking sheet. The break from whatever task you were doing gives your brain time to rest.

4. Stretch. Desk stretches are good for posture, meditation, and they reduce stress. Simple movements like stretching your neck or swinging your arms can help release tension that builds up while you work.

5. Check your phone. My last resort is checking my e-mails, messages, and Instagram. Remember to keep it brief though. The goal is to take a short break to boost your productivity for the next stretch. Or sometimes I type a quick note like this one. In fact, this post was drafted during one of my mini-breaks.

What are your goto productivity boosters? Do you prefer regular short breaks or one long break? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

From Cape Town with love

Robyn-Lee

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How to Get Better at Managing Your Blog

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The best plans are a wasted time if you don’t follow through. No one will make you do this.

We live in an exciting time where being your own boss is possible. Thousands have made successful careers as professional bloggers. And for many, the blogosphere has led to business opportunities that have changed their lives for good. Successful bloggers make it look easy. Think about a blog you follow. Have you ever wondered how they manage to publish interesting posts on a regular basis while juggling everyday life? I’ll let you in on one of their secrets: time management.

It seems uninspiring but if managing your blog seems daunting or if you can’t seem to find the time for your blog, assessing your time management skills could be the answer you’re looking for. Blogs are like babies. They need attention. If you neglect your blog by not posting regularly or not posting well-written content, your blog won’t reach its full potential. The truth is, if you don’t publish content there’s no reason for people to visit your blog. I struggled with this for years. I learned this lesson the hard way. And I realized that if I wanted my blog to reach its potential, I had to make some changes.

Budget your time

We all have 24 hours a day 7 days a week. But some people seem to accomplish more with the time they’re given than others. I used to say that I didn’t have the time to blog. But that’s not true. I make time for the gym, I make time for Netflix; so I should be able to make time for my blog. I simply wasn’t doing it.

Time is money. You can spend it, invest it, and waste it. Take an average day in your life and write down how much time you spend, invest, and waste. Be honest. It’s amazing how much time we actually waste. I used to waste hours on weekends instead of working towards my goals.

Next, re-assign your wasted time to your blog. Decide to be intentional with your time. For the past few months, I’ve had eight-hour rehearsals every Saturday. When I got home, instead of doing something constructive, I binge-watched series or fell asleep. Before I knew it, my weekend was over and I had accomplished nothing.

That’s not good enough anymore. I made a decision to repurpose my Saturday evenings so that I have space to work on my blog (since I’m too sore or tired to go out anyway). Once you carve out time to work on your blog, mark it on your calendar. Block it out and actually do something blog related during that time. For me, that includes reading books. Yeay!

 

Map your posts

Now that you have time for your blog, make the most of it. Mapping out my blog posts has helped me. Planning is my happy place. I love calendars, spreadsheets, to do lists, and all those organizational tools so this part is exciting for me. I found a lovely, user-friendly planner especially for blogs on Let’s Gab About Books. It’s meant for book blogs but its well-designed and functional, any blogger could use it.

Each month has a full calendar where you can plot post days. When I started using it I didn’t have ideas for all my posts but I marked the days I wanted to publish a blog post and the theme: is it a book review, a poetry review, something else? As I added the days. Ideas started to flow. I knew I didn’t want to follow the usual WWW Wednesday or Top 10 Tuesday memes that book bloggers usually do – it’s just not my thing. I wanted to write poetry reviews. I liked the idea of publishing fantasy or sci-fi reviews on a Friday (Fantasy Friday). And I realized that I needed something bookish that wasn’t a review (so I could actually read). That’s how the Behind the Scenes segment was born. Once you map out when you want to post you can play around with the what.

 

Write. Edit. Schedule.

If you’ve followed the process thus far, you should have a block of time devoted to your blog and you should have an editorial calendar. Now play around with potential topics. Think about the theme of your blog. What is your audience interested in? Sara Tasker gave a great tip on her blog Hashtag Authentic that I’ve found helpful. Look at your best post. This would be one of the highest views, likes, and/or comments. Then imagine your blog if every post was as good as that one. Use this post as your launch pad and then make a list of similar topics and add each topic to your calendar.

Writing down potential topics helps me focus. When it is blog time, I know exactly what I need to prepare for the following week. I might need to finish reading a book, write a blog post, or work on the images accompanying my post. Whatever the task is, I know my time will be well spent. Whether I’m there for an hour or 30 minutes, I can step away from it knowing I’ve accomplished something. And I can schedule my posts ahead of time so that they’ll be published on the right day, at the right time just in case life happens and I forget.

Next, be realistic about how much to post and how often. I know how much I read. Publishing a daily post is not practical. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself. Especially if you have other things to juggle. And all work and no play makes for a dull life. You don’t want blogging to become burdensome. Find a nice balance that gives you space to nurture your blog and attend to life’s other demands.

 

So your posts are mapped out. You know what you need to work on when. All  that’s left for you to do is to stick to the plan and follow through. The best plans are a wasted time if you don’t follow through. No one will make you do this. Sometimes we need to adult and manage ourselves.

I hope you find these tips helpful.

 

What tools or strategies do you use to balance blogging and life? Do share in the comments below.

 

From Cape Town with love

Failing Maths and My Other Crimes: A Review

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See how the grass grows, no matter

what? We grew up like that,

too.

– Thabo Jijana

This week, My Poetry Corner looks reviews Failing Maths and My Other Crimes. A debut poetry collection by South African poet, Thabo Jijana. The collection has been on my bookshelf for almost a year.

 

What I liked

Failing Maths and My Other Crimes read like a short story. Each poem weaved into the next, creating a storyline that allows the reader to journey with the character from childhood through adolescence to adulthood and beyond. His clear narrative and use of imagery create a world for the reader to live in. It felt authentic and touched on a variety of themes such as culture, politics, religion, manhood, childhood, parenthood, the deaths of Steve Biko and Brenda Fassie. It read really well from start to finish.

Jijana used a variety of styles in this collection. From shorter to long form, free-form and classic structured poems. His voice carried through each of them. One thing intrigued me though. I realized that the actual poems read like prose poetry despite the variety of structure and length. Overall a cohesive, captivating collection.

 

What I didn’t like

Although the overall piece was lovely, there weren’t enough stand out moments. Most of the poems blended into the overall story but weren’t memorable enough on their own.

 

Final thoughts

Thabo Jijana is definitely a voice I read again. He’s a captivating storyteller and uses techniques similar to my own. His style and clarity communicate his values and thoughts well. A good read.

 

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Rating: 3 out 5

About the Author

Thabo Jijana, born in 1988, was the 2011 recipient of the Anthony Sampson Foundation Award and the 2014 winner of the Sol Plaatje/European Union Poetry Award. In 2014, he published his first book, Nobody’s Business, a memoir. Born and raised in eNgqushwa, Thabo currently lives in Port Elizabeth, where he works as a writer. In 2016 Thabo Jijana was awarded the Ingrid Jonker prize for his collection Failing Maths and my other crimes.

 

 

Growing Pains: Starting a Book Blog

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“Start a book blog,” she said. “It’ll be easy,” she said.
When I discovered the wonderful world of book blogging, I saw a sustainable way to revamp my blog. After all, I enjoy reading and I’m quite opinionated. How hard can it be?

When I revamped my poetry blog to a book blog I had enough content. There were my Goodreads reviews and a few others that lay in the archives. I had also finished reading a few books which gave me some extra content but that soon dried up. It dawned on me that writing a review is one thing, reading the books is a horse of a different color.

Then life happened. My schedule filled. I was reading bits and pieces of everything without actually finishing anything which wasn’t very productive. I needed a plan. I needed a schedule. Off I went in search of advice and tools to keep my book blogging dream alive.

Along the way, I’ve learned that my blog can’t survive on reviews alone – I don’t read that fast. I’m not a fan of weekly – or monthly – tags so I need something else. Something authentic.

This month, I’ll be introducing a few new segments.

  • Behind the scenes: A look at my book blogging adventure. I’ll share tips, horror stories, and victories.
  • My Poetry Corner: A weekly segment where I’ll review Poetry books. My current TBR pile has quite a few pre-release titles which I’m excited about. Also look out for reviews featuring work by South African poets.
  • Fantasy Fridays: A weekly segment featuring reviews, opinions, and all things sci-fi and fantasy.
  • Soul Food Sundays: A monthly segment with devotionals, bible studies, Christian fiction, and non-fiction. I read a lot of Christian literature and when I find something interesting I’ll share it here.

I’m looking forward to sharing this with you and I can’t wait to read your comments and suggestions.

From Cape Town with Love.

P.S. What discoveries have you made recently? Share in the comments below.

Review: Eat.Pray.Hustle by Havilah Cunnington

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The only way to truly leave a lasting legacy is to live as a Dream Chaser. We can’t forget our dream is always connected to the big dream of God. God’s dream is for the family. It’s for lasting fruit, and He wants our story to be connected to His GREAT story.

It’s official. I’m a dream chaser. I’ve wanted to do the Eat.Pray.Hustle bible study since the first time I stumbled across the author, Havilah Cunnington’s YouTube page. Somehow, I never made it past the first week – until now.

Initial insights

eatprayhustlecoverEat.Pray.Hustle is a practical guide to creating a lifestyle that enables you to pursue your aspirations. This 20-day devotional tackles four aspects of dream chasing: being a dream chaser, discovering your dream, sabotaging your dreams, and protecting the dream until it is fulfilled.

What I liked

Havilah’s anecdotes give the devotional a personal touch. Drawing on her experiences chasing her goals, she provides tried and tested tips that helped me face my fears.

Each chapter is based on a section of Abraham’s life and she unpacks the biblical principles of dream chasing with clarity and simplicity. At the end of the chapter, Havilah recaps the main points and lists discussion questions that challenge the reader to delve deeper into their own reality.

The chapters are short and divided into four sections with five chapters each. That’s a perfect daily devotional for anyone who wants to do bible study but can’t find the time.

What I didn’t like

Personally, I’m a bit bias where Havilah is concerned since I enjoy shorter, practical devotionals. However, if you’re interested in lengthier theological discussions, this one isn’t for you.

Final thoughts

I’m glad I waited this long to do the Eat.Pray.Hustle devotional. It’s inspired me to take myself seriously, to set realistic goals, and to go after those goals. I’ll probably re-read chapters when needed.

Favourite quotes

“Part of partnering with God is doing your part well and leaving God’s part to God.”

“Everything we do is training.”

About the author

Havilah is a wife, mom, and author who has been in full-time ministry for over 18 years. She has travelled throughout North America and beyond speaking at conferences, retreats, church gatherings and events equipping the church to live with passion, purpose, and power. With their four young sons, Havilah and her husband, Ben, reside in Redding, California, where they currently serve together as the Directors of Truth to Table.

 

 

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Rating: 5/5

 

Buy this on Havilah’s website or on Amazon

 

Audio vs E-book vs Print

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​Some books, like Artemis Fowl, I need on my bookshelf. Classics with brilliant cover art that add to the splendor that is #mydustybookshelf.

Book lovers all have preferred formats. Whether it’s your Kindle collection, a bookshelf in your house, or listening to your favourite audio book. We devour our favorites in different ways.

 

Personally, I can’t follow along with audio books. My mind meanders and I often find myself three chapters later wondering what happened.

 

E-books are cheaper, of course, and convenient but I still find that there’s nothing quite like holding a copy in your hands.
My brother, on the other hand, loves audio books. He can listen while commuting, doing assignments, or coding. He can’t stand e-books or print.

Some books, like Artemis Fowl, I need on my bookshelf. Classics with brilliant cover art that add to the splendor that is #mydustybookshelf.

Which format do you prefer?

Fantasy Friday

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I am thrilled to be back in the Stillness.

My current fantasy adventure is with N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy. I started reading “The Obelisk Gate” earlier this week and am thrilled to be back in the Stillness. If you’re reading/have read any of The Broken Earth books feel free to share your thoughts.

Top 5 Tuesday: Childhood Favourites

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I came across this Top 10 theme on The Broke and the Bookish and thought it would make a nice “getting to know me” post. I started book blogging last month; it’s been different. As with any book, a new world is opening that I never knew existed. As my archives show, this blog has gone through quite a few changes. For the past 5-ish years I’ve been posting poetry, random thoughts, and devotionals. My poetry seemed to draw more attention so I stuck to poetry which was great. I’ve gained some great and supportive followers

For the past 5-ish years I’ve been posting poetry, random thoughts, and devotionals. My poetry seemed to draw more attention so I stuck to poetry which was great. I’ve gained some wonderful, supportive followers and I’m grateful for them.

Last year though, I decided to venture off in pursuit of publishing my poetry. Sadly, most of my favourite pieces are on this blog and publishers aren’t too keen on that. I took a break from my blog but missed it. And thus the book blog was born. I’ll still post poetry from time to time – Book Spine Poetry is a thing after all. I digress.

My Top Five Childhood Favourites

life expectancy#5 Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz: I enjoyed Velocity so much that I had to get another Dean Koontz read. Life Expectancy was intriguing.

 

 

 

 

 

velocity#4 Velocity by Dean Koontz: I had read way too many Sweet Valley High and SVU books. I needed to move on to fiction that was more substantial. I chose Dean Koontz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the children next door #3 The Children Next Door by Jean Ure: A story about a young girl who moves to a new town and befriends two mysterious children who live next door.

 

 

 

 

 

to kill a mocking bird#2 To Kill a Mocking bird by Harper Lee: Need a say anything. A classic told through the eyes of children playing their little games.

 

 

 

 

 

 

51t54wtqRVL._SX299_BO1,204,203,200_#1 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: Green Gables has always been my escape. I’ve read it countless times and always cry. Anne of Green Gables is the timeless tale of an orphan girl whose wildest dreams are coming true. Read it with a box of tissues.

That’s my Tuesday Top 5. What were your favourite childhood books? Have you read any of the books on my list? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the Comments below.

 

From Cape Town with Love,

Robyn-Lee

My Poetry Corner: In a Language that You Know by: Len Verwey – a review

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“I’d recognize you now

in an instant

yet I’d struggle to describe you to a

friend as you were then.”

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This week I’m introducing My Poetry Corner where I’ll review chapbooks, literary magazines/journals, and other poetry collections. And I might add one of my own pieces from time to time.

In this week’s Poetry Corner I’ll be reviewing Len Verwey’s In a Language that You Know which is scheduled for publication later this year.

Let me start by showing my appreciation to NetGalley and the Publisher for sending me a free copy of the book for in exchange for an honest review.

My initial judgment of a book is usually based on the cover. That’s what caught my attention as I browsed titles on NetGalley. The artwork was intriguing. However, I requested this one because of the title, In a Language that You Know AND because it’s part of the African Poetry Book Series. One of my reading goals is to consume more poetry, especially by South African poets. After all, great writers read.

Initial insights

In a Language that You Know is a collection of poetry that paints the life of a man whose life was shaped by his experiences in Southern Africa. I say Southern Africa, because several poems reference Mozambique. The poems are grouped by life cycle: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and adulthood. Collectively, the poems tell a beautiful coming of age story complemented by the author, Len Verwey’s, well-constructed prose.

What I liked

Verwey’s style, which is mainly prose poetry, gave the collection a narrative feel. The pieces flowed so seamlessly that at times I forgot I was reading poetry. I suppose that’s what prose poetry is meant to do. In several areas, he used titles to set the scene for the next section. Poems like Coast, Experts, Sunnydale, and 1999 ground the reader in the stage of life and era being discussed.

The poems about the Apartheid era are also different from others I’ve read. Verwey’s selection narrates someone who lived his life amid the civil war. He did what he wanted, other times he did as he was told, and in the midst of it, made money when he could. The love poems were sweet and definitely a few of my favorites.

I must say that Verwey writes great endings. There are a few non-rhyming couplets that were really captivating.

What I didn’t like

Although there were some lovely pieces, most of the poems aren’t the kind that stay with you long after you’ve turned the page. There were several moments when I got to the end of a poem and had forgotten what the poem was about.

The forms used are analogous, mostly because of the style. They are almost entirely prose poetry with variations of free form and a few other variations but for the most part, prose broken into verses. Personally, I would have appreciated more variety.

 

Final thoughts

In a Language that You Know was okay. There are one or two pieces I’d go back to and even recall from time to time but overall it was a nice story. Would I recommend it? I don’t know. Maybe. Depending on whether or not you appreciate prose poetry. I do think it would make an interesting mini-series or perhaps even a short film.

 

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Rating: 2.7/5

 

 

And that’s it for this week’s Poetry Corner.

From Cape Town with Love,

Robyn-Lee

Review: The Fifth Season: The Broken Earth (Book 1) By N.K. Jemisin

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“Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over with and move on to more interesting things.”

I’m reading The Broken Earth series with the lovely folks over at the Fantasy Buddy Reads Group on Goodreads.  Beyond Middle Earth and Westeros, I haven’t explored the world of fantasy fiction much. Nevertheless, since I enjoy the genre on both the big and small screens, I took the plunge. And am I ever glad I did.

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Initial Insights

The Fifth Season is the first book in The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin. In this epic dystopian fantasy, Jemisin narrates the events that led up to the end of the world and the effect it had on the inhabitants of the Stillness.

In The Fifth Season, Jemisin gracefully explores what it means to be human and how ignoring our innate worth can have severe consequences.

“That we’re not human is just the lie they tell themselves so they don’t have to feel bad about how they treat us.”

As a start to the series, it introduces the geography, history, and politics of the Stillness. The Fifth Season also shapes the main characters, giving the reader a look at their humanity and brokenness. It also provides an intro to orogeny which is a valuable but dangerous super power. By the end of The Fifth Season, the reader knows that the world has ended, who caused it and why.

What I liked

I enjoyed Jemisin’s narrative style – which switches between second person and third person depending on the POV. It reminded me of Toni Morrison’s style in The Bluest Eye, which I’ve actually missed in the books I’ve read of late. Jemisin’s ability to weave story lines and arc in an engaging way is remarkable.

Each storyline developed at a great pace filled with action, romance, and suspense. Each character developed through the challenges they faced and the secrets they discovered about the world, the Stillness.

The visuals were great too, from the obelisks to Yumenese and the islands, Jemisin paints lovely and gruesome pictures that allow the reader to escape into Stillness and experience life with the characters. The nature of orogeny and the extent of an orogene’s capabilities is revealed in stages, which lets the reader discover new capabilities with the character.

The foreshadowing in the novel is another well-written feature. There’s an appealing balance between what is revealed and what remains a mystery.

Alabaster was definitely my favourite character other than Syenite. Reading the Fifth Season was also fun because it felt African. The dreadlocks and complexion aside. For instance, there’s a scene where Damaya’s mother calls her “Dama Dama” and it felt like reading something homegrown. It was refreshing.

 

What I didn’t like:

It took a while for me to realize that the story is set in three eras. This made the geography confusing at times. I didn’t care much for the love triangle.

 

Final thoughts

The Fifth Season starts with the end of the world and then moves on to more interesting things. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the Stillness and its people, and Jemisin’s writing. The Fifth season is definitely making my top ten list. The Prologue was also confusing at first. However, when I finished I re-read portions of it and it made more sense.

 

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Rating: 5/5

 

 

Buy this On: Exclusive BooksAmazon

Favourite quotes

This read had so many memorable moments and tweetable quotes. Choosing my favourites proved difficult. But here they are:

“He takes all that, the strata and the magma and the people and the power, in his imaginary hands. Everything. He holds it. He is not alone. The earth is with him. Then he breaks it.”

“Nothing to do but follow your crazy, though.”

“The source of the glow is beyond the mountains, as if the setting sun went the wrong way and got stuck there.”

“neither myths nor mysteries can hold a candle to the most infinitesimal spark of hope.”

About the Author

N. K. Jemisin is an author living and writing in Brooklyn, NY. This is fortunate as she enjoys subways, tiny apartments, and long walks through city parks. Her short fiction has been published in a number of magazines and podcast markets, and has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula award. She won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award.