Time Management—Are We Busy or Fruitful?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of elaueverose.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of elaueverose.

I do a lot of stuff. Actually too much stuff but I am totally woking on that saying “No” thing. Hey, I’m getting there. Two days ago I finally earned my fourth stripe on my white belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For those who don’t know, in BJJ, you are a white belt forever. It takes anywhere from a year to a year and a half to earn a blue belt. My next level is blue belt and I am stoked. 

In BJJ, the blue belt is almost as big of a deal as black belt because most people never get that far.

My Jiu Jitsu brothers.

My Jiu Jitsu brothers.

But I constantly hear people say things like, “Oh, I’d love to write a book. I just can’t find the time.” “Wow, I’d love to do Jiu Jitsu. If I could only find the time.

I am no angel. My life gets out of control, too. But, I can say that these periods are far shorter than they used to be because I have learned solid principles that work. When my life feels like it has been tossed in a blender? It means I am no longer in the driver’s seat. I am allowing other people’s agendas to bleed into my life and I am mistaking the urgent for the important.

Here’s the deal…

We live in a society that feeds us a lot of lies. The biggest one is about TIME. Oh, if I only had more time, then I could (fill in the blank). The truth is we are all given the same amount of time—24 hours a day. Of course the next big lie that’s easy to believe (and I’ve been guilty) is Well, if I only work HARDER, that will get me where I want to be.

That’s crap.

More time doesn’t equal MORE AWESOME.

Thus, today we’re going to look at some of the lies and time-stealers and ways to be masters of time, not slaves to it. We need to be vigilant and proactive so we don’t fall into Hamster Wheel Management. We’re called to be fruitful NOT busy.

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

We Can’t Find Time, We Can Only SPEND Time

One of the most common phrases in the English language? “If I could only find the time…”

Okay, sorry to break the news but time isn’t hidden in the couch cushions like loose change, Cheerios and that remote control we haven’t seen in a month. We can’t find time. We’re given time. How we spend it’s our choice.

Via Flikr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Via Flikr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Write a Clear Mission Statement of What We WANT

Feel free to have multiple mission statements: Faith/Spiritual, Family, Health, Finances, Work (Writing). For templates of how to do this, I recommend Habits of Highly Effective People.

Mission statements are a lot like the log-lines for our novels. No log-line for a novel—ONE sentence that clearly states what our book is ABOUT? Easy to drift off down a bazillion rabbit-trails because every wild idea that pops in our brain seems worth giving a try. In the end, we’re more likely to end up with a mess than a masterpiece.

Same in life.

Without a clear picture of what we want, it’s impossible to spot the time-wasters versus the sound investments.

Make at Least TWO Lists

We’ve talked before about the Pareto Principle, also known as The 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of all our decisions will have 80% of the most return. This is a fairly universal rule. If you have employees, 20% will produce 80% of the output. If you run a volunteer organization, 20% will do 80% of the work.

Conversely, 20% of employees (customers, friends, volunteers, family members) can create 80% of our headaches. Limit time with psychic vampires and focus more on spending time with those who add value. Even being alone is better than leaking 80% of our time on stressful, counterproductive people/activities.

With the 80/20 Rule in mind…

List #1—The Boulders

The boulders are the BIG stuff. These are the actions that will make 80% of positive impact. Being a career author (need a finished novel). Becoming debt-free (need a budget). Possessing a healthy spirit, family, mind, and body (need boundaries and rest).

With a clear action plan, anything that gets in the way of these big goals can be easily spotted, rerouted or removed. No plan? We are reactive, wasteful and spend most of our time treading water.

No item on the BIG LIST can be done in one day, but we can write out steps that get us closer to that BIG goal every day. Remember, small actions over time add up. Those steps to our BIG GOAL are what we tackle FIRST.

Every day, I have a list of 2-6 BIG things that need doing, often stuff I dread. But the day isn’t complete until these items are knocked out (so many pages of research, writing so many words, writing a critical e-mail, creating a spreadsheet, etc).

In the meantime…

List #2—The Pebbles

The BIG LIST are boulders. They will take steady chipping away over time. Between time? Pebbles are easy. Too many people focus all their time on pebbles—which NEVER go away—at the expense of a few whacks on the boulder. Or they focus all on the boulder, then wear themselves out and become overwhelmed and discouraged because they’re buried in ignored pebbles.

Or they ignore/avoid the boulders AND the pebbles with useless activities that will never bear fruit.

Pebbles are small, worthwhile tasks that take less than 20 minutes to complete (most about 5).

Every day, when my main blog is finished, I call my mother and close friends. I believe in healthy relationships. But, while on the phone, I tackle a bucket of pebbles (stuff on my #2 List).

I sort laundry (5 minutes), empty the dishwasher (5 minutes), put a chicken in the crock pot for dinner (15 minutes), tidy the silverware drawer (5 minutes), sweep (5 minutes), or wipe down a counter or two (5 minutes), and have great company while I work.

If I have to pay a bill and they put me on hold? I read research, fill the cat bowl, or jot down ideas for blogs. I know I can’t write 12 hours a day and that being active keeps the tendonitis away. So, I take Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Spawn. We get a good workout and Mommy-Kiddo time.

5 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 30 hours a year

10 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 60 hours a year

15 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 90 hours a year

30 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 120 hours a year

60 minutes a day reclaimed ADDS 340 hours a year

It’s easy to waste an hour a day 5 minutes at a time. Take those minutes back, and we can add 31.6 eight-hour workdays to our lives (Via The Art of Getting It DONE). And all this time we wondered where our vacation time went? 😉 It’s leaking away unless we are proactive at plugging holes.

I’m not here to make you guys multi-tasking robots. I’m here to help you invest in the future you want.

Time with family, naps, relaxation, downtime, vacations and rest are essential for genuine success (the kind that doesn’t have us living off energy drinks, Xanax and screaming at the kids). If we’re conscious to be fruitful instead of busy, we’ll find we accomplish far more with less effort.

Focus increases confidence, offers a sense of authentic accomplishment and relieves anxiety. Focus will also free up time for more fun stuff (and more writing). Activity can be diffused like white light, or it can be a laser.

Do you feel eaten alive by your life? Is your To Do List a Frankenstein monster wrecking your life? Do you feel discouraged and overwhelmed? Have you learned to prioritize and set boundaries? What are some tips that have helped you regain control?


Before we go, my log-line class will be TONIGHT  Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line . This class will include me gutting your log-line in class (or via e-mail if you’re shy) to make it agent ready. We should be able to tell others what our story is about in one sentence or odds are we have a big problem. Class is recorded and the recording and shredding are included.

Also, due to popular demand, I am rerunning my Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages at the end of the month and I am doing something different. Gold Level includes me looking (and shredding your first five) but I have added in some higher levels and will look at up to 20 pages. This can be really useful if you’re stuck. I can help you diagnose the problems. It’s also a great deal if you have to submit to an agent and want to make your work the best it can be.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). 

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Reblogged this on Chronicles of a Nerd and commented:
    Yep, there is no excuse. And may us writers always have the patience to gracefully handle every person we hear say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

  2. Hey! Congrats for the stripe, tough girl! 😀

    • Ann Massey on July 8, 2015 at 11:33 am
    • Reply


  3. Reblogged this on Charming Words by Sorchia D and commented:
    I need all of this advice and plan to put it into action this very day. You may have heard similar things before, but here it is in a compact and dynamic version. What do you think? How do you manage time? What are the time-wasters you need to ID and purge?

  4. Reblogged this on Thinking… Thought.

  5. Thanks for this wonderful article full of wisdom. Keep ’em coming.

  6. Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance and commented:
    Oh but this is such a timely reminder for me! Thanks Kristen, you rock as always 😀

  7. I have so much trouble focusing on those boulders compared to pebbles. My time management skills are so crap. It’s something I really need to work on because there are enough hours in the day to do tons of stuff – I just get overwhelmed thinking about it (and me + schedules = disaster).

  8. Am reading Rise of the Machines thanks to Nancy Rue. It’s been so helpful in building my author brand. I’m setting my goals and this will certainly be helpful.

    1. Awesome! Thank you ((HUGS)). And hugs to Nancy too!

  9. Time Management – we can never have enough of this and we can always improve. This particular article comes at a very opportune time in my life.

    I used to work with a very smart lady. When someone would say, they just didn’t have enough time, she often said… “We all have the same amount of time. What makes the difference is how we choose to spend that time.”

  10. Reblogged this on Swamp Sass and commented:
    We all have the same amount of time, what matters is how we choose to spend it. Great article that I think most everyone will benefit from reading.

  11. Reblogged this on writersback and commented:
    Don’t sweat the small stuff and do the hard stuff first when tackling a to-do-list has worked well for me. I learned the hard way, if I don’t set aside time for writing first thing every day, something always comes up. To achieve that; I get up earlier than the kids and sometimes when its still dark. You do what you have to do. Congratulations on the new stripe. You rock, Kristen! Cheers. Kat.

  12. I rise early, write early; that way I write every day.

  13. I keep a very tight budget with finances, but my time and energy budgets get out of whack. Thanks for the needed wake up call.

    • Lanette Kauten on July 8, 2015 at 2:58 pm
    • Reply

    Recently, I’ve had to make a complete change of what my boulders, my life goals, are. It’s daunting to go from homeschooling a kid while writing books and looking for agents/publishers to going back to college to get a degree in microbiology while continuing to homeschool said kid. But I’m learning to focus on tackling the small goals (re-learning quadratic equations) that will help my mid-range goals (complicated math and science-y courses) in order to accomplish the big goal (Get my MS in epidemiology and work for the CDC).

    I need to do this. I need to focus on a future in which I don’t have my husband to rely on while I write books. I need to focus on little projects, like re-learning algebra, to keep me sane while my husband suffers from terminal cancer. I need my goals because my goals make everything just a little bit easier.

  14. I realize I have no problem finding time to do a lot if reading (a good thing) & watching TV (a bad thing) these days, but cannot seem to find enough time for writing. I procrastinate all the while I’m trying to convince myself that I don’t have enough time. Reblogged on wandasparyla.com

  15. Reblogged this on WANDA S. PARYLA.

  16. I used to have a boss who said/asked “Are you busy or are you being productive?” Asking yourself that with every task you do at work is huge. Same thing with your writing – we ALL waste that precious writing time on email and BS that we could do at lunch, but we can’t usually write at lunch.

    That boss had a lot of good management tips I still use.

    • bethtreadwayauthor on July 8, 2015 at 3:41 pm
    • Reply

    Boulders are writing. Pebbles are fixing the website. Why do I need the site if I don’t write?

    Thanks for keeping me focused.

  17. Great Article that have useful information. Thanks I so needed a wake up call

  18. Reblogged this on Very Bree Verity. and commented:
    Kristen is one of my favorite bloggers. Not only is she hilarious, she often digs out the gems of writing and day to day living that make life (and novels) easier!! Look out for the pebbles, people, and chip away at them boulders.

  19. Reblogged to https://breeverity.wordpress.com/ with the comment:
    Kristen is one of my favorite bloggers. Not only is she hilarious, she often digs out the gems of writing and day to day living that make life (and novels) easier!! Look out for the pebbles, people, and chip away at them boulders.

  20. Oh, this is so good! I think I will not only reread it, but actually take your advice 🙂 and start making some lists and some log-lines for life.
    By the way, have you come across the book “Essentialism”? I read it recently – it’s good stuff!

    1. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that book. Actually blogged about it.

      1. The Power of Habit, which he mentions quite often, is pretty darn good, too. If only it were as easy to do as to read about!

  21. Reblogged this on Sharon Lee Hughson's World and commented:
    Too much busy-ness stealing your fruit? Here’s some great advice from my Social Media Jedi Master, Kristen Lamb.
    Go ahead! Reclaim your dreams…one pebble at a time.

  22. Yes, too much busy-ness in our world. Of course, it’s always nice when a boulder drops on your shoulder. Sometimes, we have no choice what we focus our time on, but on the average day, we make the list.
    Thanks for imparting another dose of sanity and wisdom.

    • Debbie Johansson on July 8, 2015 at 8:16 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for the article Kristen and congratulations on getting your fourth stripe – you go, girl! 🙂

  23. Another nice post. Thanks.

  24. Reblogged this on jaygeewrites and commented:
    I think, we all need to see this.

  25. Reblogged this on writeknit and commented:
    Want to be a writer? Read Kristen’s blog! Today she reminds us that time is ours to use or waste – your choice!

  26. I love the common sense approach on time management. Time is equally distributed to everyone – here today and gone tomorrow.

  27. Reblogged this on Tales from the WagginMaster and commented:
    How many times have you said, “If I could only find more time, I would …” (fill in the blanks). Time is precious here today and gone tomorrow. Time is never lost, only wasted.

  28. Great post. I’ve also found that the earlier in the day that I tackle the boulders, the better, as the pebbles only seem to mount as the day goes on. And writing first of all.

  29. Great post. I’m guilty of the “if only I had the time”-thinking even though I sometimes notice I’ve again spent hours doing absolutely nothing. I’ll have to give the two separate lists a try and keep an eye out for opportunities to multitask when I’m on the phone or similar.

  30. This is truly amazing. Thanks for sharing your insight. You are an inspiration.

  31. All of this makes perfect sense. I’ve been making an effort NOT to multi-task. However, it’s a great idea to multi-task when it does not mess up the effectiveness of either task, like talking on the phone and cleaning the kitchen. I loved hearing the specifics of your day really helps…thank you!

  32. You know, after reading this post I got to thinking. I’m thinking maybe I’m trying to do too much with my life right now and the reason why I’m not getting anywhere is because I’ve got way too many eggs in too many different baskets. One day I’m working on my fantasy novel, one day I’m tweaking my youtube channel, the next day I’m trying to look for a job and researching how to be an entrepreneur, and another day I’m working on trying to grow my blog. I really have no idea what to focus on, to be honest

    1. Not to try and hawk a book but in Rise of the Machines I lay out a plan where you could actually make all those horses pull on the same team 😉 .

      1. Hahaha hawk away. And you know what, I think I’ll go ahead and buy your book. I’ve got nothing to lose except a few dollars right (and I guess the time to read it)?

        1. Well, we cannot WRITE 12 hours a day so we have to learn to balance all these things together and make one activity feed the others like tributaries of the same river of creative flow. But the trick is to make all the small rivers flow in into the main body and that’s where a lot of people go wrong because they don’t have a good plan. Anyway….THANK YOU! ((HUGS)) I hope you enjoy it 😀

  33. Love this post! It hits right at home for most people like me! 😀 I’ve always known, yet only recently appreciated, that no time is never an excuse to do what you really want. If you want to get something done, you have to make time for it. In my life, I’ve come to apply the thought to two things–exercise and writing. I’m glad and thankful that you’ve taken the time to motivate others to spend their time more wisely. More power to you and your blog.
    As a favorite quote from Gretchen Rubin goes, “The days are long but the years are short.” Here’s to you making the most of the long moments! XD

  34. Yes I was just thinking this morning that I would like to live outside the notion of time. I just want to be. Not like in a meditative way but just be in the moment always, or don’t do the thing that makes me watch the clock.

  35. I hate sitting around on the job, waiting for more work to come my way. I always look around for something productive to do for a few minutes. (And I chewed on dessert while reading this. 😀 )

    • Kathy Jay on July 10, 2015 at 2:58 am
    • Reply

    Love this – “…time isn’t hidden in the couch cushions…”! Great post!

  36. I so needed to hear(read) this. Loved the Big Boulders and Pebbles analogy.

  37. Reblogged this on The Coconut Diaries and commented:
    Wise words.

  38. Reblogged this on amiecus curiae and commented:
    Reblog Friday – Great Article on Time Management. Whether you’re a writer or not, these tips are helpful.

  39. If you want to do something enough then you will find the time to do it, despite all the other claims on your hours. There are so many things we don’t need to do – watching endless rubbish on television is one. If you have a family, then young children can disrupt the best of resolutions, but time should still be laid aside for things you as a person want to achieve. Several years ago, there was a fad for talking about ‘me’ time. Really important whatever you do with it. That could also be writing time.

  40. One should focus on what he or she love.

  41. Reblogged this on Sunflowers for Moira and commented:
    Oh my gosh, this hits SOOO close to home.

    • Christie Wright Wild on July 29, 2015 at 12:22 pm
    • Reply

    I LOVE how you made the word “rest” bold. I’m constantly borrowing time from my sleeping hours. Yes, we all have the same amount of time, but it doesn’t necessarily feel the same to everyone. I’ve always heard of the big rocks (aka boulders) and the pebbles. I love how you illustrated that boulders must come first… and the reminder for us to take little steps daily. And how sometimes we get drowned out by the pebbles because they never go away. It’s all about balance and priorities, a hard thing for most of us to learn. However, I still believe that having more time will help. For example, if the boulders represent the big goals we have for ourselves (and some of those can even be comprised of multiple boulders themselves), then it’s important to choose what we actually want. I’m not talking about TV or vacation time, though those are nice on occasion and can fall into the “rest” category. Some of us only want one thing. Or two or three things. Whether you work full time outside of the home or not, three things is usually doable. However, some of us WANT way more than 3 things. And they’re all boulders. They can’t be accomplished in one day, or even one week, or one month. They’re all important esteemed life goals, but they all take a long time to accomplish. I know, I know, priorities. But I’m simply saying that some of us WANT more than we can manage. And you’re right, that’s when it’s time to prioritize our boulders and choose what’s more important NOW. When we accomplish one boulder, we can roll another into its place. But if we had more time, we could work on more boulders at once. Sure would be nice. Great post, Kristen! As always…

    • Kamil Rudnicki on September 14, 2015 at 6:57 am
    • Reply

    I manage my time using http://www.timecamp.com. I create a task for one week and than track their time in my mobile phone an computer. Very convenient solution. Have you tried this ?

  1. […] via Time Management—Are We Busy or Fruitful? | Kristen Lamb’s Blog. […]

  2. […] up, a post from Kristen Lamb on Time Management. I like to think most of what  I do is being fruitful. Though I imagine time is wasted in being […]

  3. […] Time Management—Are We Busy or Fruitful?. […]

  4. […] I haven’t come up with any tips for carving out writing time, but author Kristen Lamb has. And she wrote a post about it: Time Management—Are We Busy or Fruitful? […]

  5. […] Time Management–Are We Busy or Fruitful? […]

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