At Freedom, we love our users – not just because they use our product, but because they’re cool – cool people working on cool stuff. Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, bestselling authors, editors, journalists, developers, illustrators, designers, academics, coaches, podcast hosts, comic book writers, explorers, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and passionate go-getters. We love to share their stories, advice, and process because how better to learn about productivity than from the productive?
Meet Jennifer Louden.
Jennifer Louden is an author, teacher, and personal growth pioneer who helped launch the concept of self-care with her first best-selling book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She’s the author of 7 additional books on well-being and whole living, and her latest book, Why Bother? Discover the Desire for What’s Next is scheduled for release May 5th next year. There are about a million copies of her books in print in 9 languages.
Jennifer has also spoken across the US, Canada, and Europe, and has appeared on hundreds of TV and radio shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show. As a teacher and coach, Jennifer has also been leading retreats and workshops since 1992, and creating vibrant online communities and innovative learning experiences since 2000. Her work focuses on helping women “claim and share their voices and tackle the scary sh*t” in their lives.
So this week we decided to sit down with Jennifer to learn a little more about how she battles digital distraction to focus on what matters most.
How did you know that you wanted to be an author and personal growth pioneer and what were your first steps in making this your career?
I started off wanting to make films – write and direct – and ended up attending USC film school in the early ‘80s. I discovered what I did best was screenwriting, but not too long after graduation, writing away, I found myself seriously depressed. Part of it was not being good at Hollywood politics and having unrealistic expectations of how fast I could sell something, but I wasn’t thriving as a screenwriter either. However, quitting was terrifying because becoming a successful screenwriter was my whole identity — I was all of twenty-five. In the midst of this dark lost time came the title for my first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, in a truly out-of-the-blue, hear-a-voice kind of moment. And when that book became a word-of-mouth bestseller, well, suddenly I had a career.
At what point did you realize that tech was taking a toll on your productivity, time, and relationships? When did you know that you had to do something about it?
When email became commonplace. My daughter was about four years old and I remember running to my home office all the time to check it. I was instantly addicted. I regret doing that to this day. My daughter is twenty-five now and I won’t ever have those moments with her again.
How do you prioritize what gets your time and attention each day?
I’m writing a new book so that gets top priority every morning. Usually a couple of hours without interruption, but with coffee. Coffee makes everything possible.
How do you stay focused and motivated on a daily basis? Do you have a routine, ritual, or process that helps to get into a productive flow?
Besides the coffee? I teach a concept called Conditions of Enoughness which is deciding what will be enough for you to do for a given project or day. It can’t be dependent on how well you do something or if someone else is happy with your efforts; it has to be dependent only on you. For example, “Write 500 words before checking email or the news.” You can do that and you know if you did it. “Write 500 brilliant words before checking email or the news,” not so much. “Write 500 words that go viral,” well you get the picture.
We don’t realize how little time we spend determining what is enough based on our values and desires. Given that we are hardwired to care what other people think about us and that we live in a world that is always pushing us to do more, faster, better, bigger, it behooves all of us to think about what is enough in a simple, granular way.
It’s not that we stop caring about what others think or wanting to perform well but we mentally take back choice and agency.
The other “stay motivated” practice for me is writing on my to-do list only what I can actually do that day. Aspirational to-do lists are terribly demotivating, but finishing everything on your list (most days) makes me feel like a god.
How do you optimize your environment for productivity and focus? How do you incorporate Freedom into your schedule?
After I make my latte (there’s that coffee again), I head upstairs to my office where I have Freedom programmed to start at 6 a.m. Viola, I can’t go anywhere but into my book. I also think about what I am going to write the night before or I leave myself “bread crumbs” from the day before, which is just an idea or a place to start the next time I write. One reason writers procrastinate is we collapse thinking about our writing with producing words. It’s super helpful to separate the two.
What is the most difficult or challenging aspect about your work or working process? Do you have any strategies that you use to help overcome these challenges?
I often have one too many projects on my plate and then I overwork and become very grumpy. I’m a classic minimizer and when my husband hears me say, “Oh honey, that won’t take long,” he knows to try to get me to reconsider what I’m adding to my project list. It doesn’t always work but I’m getting better every year.
What projects are you currently most excited about?
I’m most excited about my new book and the fact that I am self-publishing it. The title is Why Bother? Discover the Desire for What’s Next and it’s about the times and situations in life when we’ve lost our way, we don’t know if we have it in us to change our lives, or we’re hobbled by comfort and routine, or we’ve never claimed our own desires. It’s my first book in years and it’s full of stories of “why bother?” times from myself and other women, and how to turn this question into a life-giving one of discernment and renewal. I plan to have the book in the hands of readers May 5, 2020.
Where are you currently based?
In Prospect, a new urbanist neighborhood on the southern edge of Longmont, Colorado where the Great Plains meet the Rockies in the Left Hand Creek watershed.
To learn more about Jennifer or her work, you can visit her site at JenniferLouden.com