How The Pros Do It: 10 Questions With Jessica Wildfire

The only way to reach your targets in life is to get to work. But it’s easier said than done. Only a fraction of people in life are actively working towards their goals. They know how to create and use the right tools and processes to generate progress for themselves. A lot of these people have a ton of interesting things to say. So I thought I’d interview them.

Most of my weekly guests created their own business, and they got where they are today by successfully implementing self-discipline in their life. To each one of them, I ask questions about their life, their learnings, their tools, and sometimes about which celebrity they would like to have coffee with.

There are no rules for success, only consistency in the work you do. None of the people I interviewed are super-humans. They’re just dedicated, and they have a lot of awesome things to teach us.

Let’s get to it.

My third guest for this weekly series is Jessica Wildfire. Jessica is, in her own words, a slightly disenchanted college professor who blogs while raising a family. She is the editor of Splattered. A top writer in Humor, Relationships, Culture, Mental Health and many more subjects, she loves writing and teaching people how to write. To discover her work, check out her Medium profile.

What is the number one habit/routine you attribute the most success to in your life?

My top habits include reading and exercise — nothing special, 40–50 pages of book and 45 minutes of cardio mixed with weights. I also binge on Medium. On weekends, we go for family hikes.

What is the number one productivity item you can’t live without?

I’m torn between a physical notebook/journal and a second computer monitor. Both are key to getting my work done.

The One Book you recommend for self-improvement and/or productivity?

I don’t have a single go-to book on productivity. But I would recommend writers like Darius ForouxBrianna Wiest, and Ryan Holiday— who all reference research on productivity, like the idea of fringe time. I’ve been using fringe time since my early 20s, but seeing it described that way helped me leverage it as a strategy.

On top of writing, you’re present on twitter. How do you tie the 2 platforms together, and without letting social media distract you too much?

It’s important to know why you’re on any social media platform — beyond just hawking your stuff. I go to Twitter for laughs. There’s a ton of funny people on there who say smart, pithy, and profound things. When you practice writing zingers, it feeds back into your writing and makes it 10X more powerful.

Can you tell us about your use of journaling and goal tracking?

Journaling has become so second-nature I hardly think about it. I’ve got a notebook by my desk where I write down all my ideas, and sometimes that turns into storming and drafting. I don’t transcribe what I write in there, but it usually produces a few key phrases that get me going. As for goals, I try to keep them simple: write, make money, write more. Stats are just a byproduct of engaging content.

How do you manage your time between working on your medium writing, teaching at university, and your private life?

I’ve found that if I get wedded to a fixed schedule, it kills my creativity and productivity. I’ve blogged at 5 am and 11 pm. I’ve blogged in hotels and emergency waiting rooms. My writing brain is on all the time, even when I’m folding laundry.

You don’t appear to have a website or a newsletter. Do you have a business model?

When you look like Wednesday Addams and talk like a Marvel anti-hero, you’re not conducive to conventional styles of marketing and promotion (I already tried). Instead of trying to reach people through a newsletter or a site, I spend almost all my time trying to live my best life and then craft a message from that — one that resonates. Fortunately, I found a platform where I fit — after a decade of trying and failing. Medium is a powerful player in the publishing world now, and it allows writers like me to focus almost exclusively on our content.

You recently wrote about mental systems to make better decisions. Do you have other mental systems you use yourself in your everyday life?

The simplest and most effective system I have is a notepad on my desk. That’s where I write down all the little reminders, like renewing my tags or reviewing reports for some committee I don’t really want to be on (but kind of have to). It’s exclusively for the little things I’m likely to let slip and forget about. You have to stay on top of the little things, and schedule time in the week to knock them out, so you can get back to the big things — the stuff that matters to you. When you’ve got a bunch of little chores and errands nipping at your heels, it’s hard to think clearly and do the deep work that’s going to move you ahead in life.

How important is time off for you, and what do you do when you take time off?

In my 20s, I was all about travel. New York, New Orleans, Chicago, LA, San Francisco, Boston. Lots of hiking and backpacking, too. That continued through my early 30s. I’m also a fan of micro-breaks — just watching some TV or a movie with my spouse, or even alone. You definitely need a few hours a week when you’re not actively on. You need to travel because it enriches your understanding of the world. Starting a family has tamped our travel a little, but we’re working on it.

If you could have a coffee and talk about anything with a personality (dead or alive) you admire, who would it be and why?

I would have to go with Lucy — allegedly the first modern human. She wouldn’t understand a word I said, and she would probably hate coffee, but I couldn’t think of a better use of that hour.

There you have it. I want to personally thank my guest for taking the time to provide me and my readers with insightful answers. I am really grateful to Jessica Wildfire. Thanks, and keep on keeping on!

And thanks to you for reading my content!

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