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Where the Hummingbird Sings: Embracing Your Personal Work Style

Updated: Dec 10, 2022

By Brenda Riojas, I Start Wondering Columnist

When are you most productive? How do you tackle projects?

Call me a midnight owl. I find I’m most productive in the evening hours after everyone sleeps and phones calls and text messages cease. However, as I age and realize I need more sleep, I am trying to adjust my schedule, find other times in the day when my creative spirit can take flight.

Embracing our personal work style helps us understand how better to tackle our projects. It’s taken me a while–years actually–to understand and appreciate my own style, my personal process. Too often we try to fit to others’ standards.

A Unique Approach

Different projects call for different approaches. The seasons in our lives–where we find ourselves in a given moment–also influence our steps. We each have strengths and weaknesses. We need to recognize what they are and lean into the strengths.

I lean heavily in the direction of research, but that can lead me into rabbit holes that take me off course. I have too many interests, too much I want to do. Typically, several projects dwell in my orbit, each at a different point on the road towards completion. Like a hummingbird, I dart from one project to another. I may write a few lines of poetry, walk away, and stitch a few quilt lines and later return to the poem, delete a word, add another.

Rather than agonize over how much I have in orbit, I learned to celebrate the variety in my days. This allows me to build on each project when the time is right. Todo en su tiempo. (Everything in its intended time.) Yes, prioritizing helps, as do deadlines but sometimes a project needs to sit for a while. Perhaps we need to restore our energy, or maybe gather some additional information before moving forward. I delight when I see how one project informs another. Don’t rush. Enjoy the process.

Finding Proper Pace

Some projects need quiet and concentration; some call for a steady pace of movement. At times a project requires my complete focus. Everything else must wait. If we are not careful, guilt can cast a shadow on this process. As women, we have multiple responsibilities, multiple people relying on us. But we can’t let guilt pull us away from our work. Instead, we need to communicate to our loved ones what we need regarding space and time.

Virginia Wolf in her essay, “A Room of One’s Own,” wrote about what women needed to be creative – “a room of her own.” She noted the interruptions women contend with and advocated for time and space to write – to “let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.”


Creating Space

Recognizing our work style is a step in setting aside a room—or a desk or a worktable— of our own, a space where we can think and create. Naturally, the space we need depends on the work before us, our personalities, and our process.

As I am easily distracted, it takes me a while to get started on work that requires concentration and quiet, like writing and editing. Before I can start, I must take a series of steps. This includes designating specific times, gathering all my notes and materials, and distancing myself from distractions. It also helps me to light a candle and say a prayer. Interruptions frustrate the process and can set me back an hour or two, as I struggle to once again find my focus.

We each have different styles, different strengths. It’s best to experiment. Resources are also available to guide you as you find what works best for you. StrengthsFinders 2.0 by Tom Rath (rebranded now as CliftonStrengths) is a useful tool, especially when working with teams. As succinctly described on their website, “Your CliftonStrengths themes are your talent DNA. They explain the ways you most naturally think, feel and behave.” The book is available online and includes an access code in the back to the StrengthsFinder assessment and website.

Through a series of questions, it helps people identify their strengths which they break down into 34 different themes. For those who are curious, my top five themes are input, responsibility, connectedness, belief, and learner.

Bottom line, we need to honor who we are. St. Catherine of Sienna, a mystic and doctor of the Catholic Church, said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

By embracing your strengths and your work style, you will relish your creative journey.

I leave you with a poem from a collection in the works from my own journey.


by Brenda Riojas




a. In or through the position or interval separating.

b. Intermediate to, as in quantity, amount, or degree.

Crimson bottlebrush trees brim with nectar, the world brims with distractions. Tantas las preguntas in the space where not knowing and knowing meet, rumble, make up, where translations mix in the sweet of honeysuckle and sage.

My hummingbird self, bones into wings flapping, in-flight right, left, up, the direction changes, down, backward, upside down my days. Stillness chased as I hover for my fill tongue-tied in Spanish and in English. The taste of now and days is unknown. Mystery.

What is your work style? When are you most productive? How do you tackle a project?

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