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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: time management for writers

Last Monday I posted a blog The Linchpin of ALL Success—Invoking the NO!¬†and I appreciate all the comments. Today I want to address some of what to expect when we make the decision to Invoke the NO, because when we are prepared for what likely WILL happen, we:

a) Will be calmer because we anticipate any attacks.

b) Can make an action plan.

c) Are able to arm ourselves with truth, which will cut away the lies we’ll will hear (from others but also from ourselves).

Why Invoke the No?

First of all, if you missed it, hope you will check out the first post on this. But let me lay it down for you this way to make the necessity of NO very clear.

Back in a time long ago before Amazon, HBO and Netflix, humans learned piling rocks around where they lived and slept was a primo plan for keeping out predators and bad guys.

In fact (in large part due to the lack of Netflix and HBO) humans dedicated a lot of time, energy and thought into better ways to do this rock-piling-thing.

At first they called it Fred, but that didn’t evoke the emotion they wanted to convey and thus Fred became “Wall”, which sounded a tad more intimidating.

Don’t argue. It’s “history.”

Anyway, walls became a HUGE deal. Cities who had them prospered. In fact, the bigger and better the wall, the MORE respect the city garnered from those around them.

Humans who dwelled in places with no walls had a far higher fatality rate due to invaders (human and animal variety), and their life spans were roughly 50.7% lower than those who dwelled inside the protection of a wall.

Those with no wall who did NOT die, had an 89% greater chance of slavery and reported a 99% lower “life satisfaction” rating.

According to my completely fictional yet historically “accurate” statistics, a person had a 76% greater chance of being devoured alive by a lion OUTSIDE a wall compared to those dwelling inside.

Outsiders knew better than to %$# with cities with high walls. Namely because %$#ing with people with high walls involved a 123% greater chance of having boiling oil, fiery arrows and diseased animals tossed on you from above.

Thus any strategist with the IQ higher than an eggplant could see that conquest, exploitation, and general naughtiness had a far higher success rate when no wall was involved.

Thus by analyzing the historical and scientific data one can hopefully see a clear pattern.

Walls–>AWESOME

No Walls–> PAIN, SUFFERING, LION FOOD

Shall We Mention Gates?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of chelmsfordblue

All great walls ALSO needed gates, which was why Og (the one who first came up with plans for a Fred), was promptly fired—as in literally set ON fire—when Og left out a simple but apparently vital detail—a way to get in and out of this new thing known as the newly renamed WALL.

****Upon later review the elders decided to deal more kindly with engineers and “firing” didn’t necessarily have to involve actual fire.

While walls were awesome for keeping out invaders, predators and door-to-door salesmen they also kept out vital ingredients for staying alive, like food, fresh water, and supplies.

Thus gates became an integral and critical part of the wall…but were ALSO fortified in new and improved ways over the ages. My resources indicate the portcullis was the brainchild of one too many family get togethers gone horribly wrong #RedWedding.

What Does this WALL Stuff Mean for ME?

From the beginning of time, those who lacked a boundary were preyed upon and enslaved to the agenda of others. This has not changed.

When we fail to set boundaries (a wall) others won’t respect us and we open ourselves up to being chained to the needs, wants, desires and drama of others.

No, we might not get ripped apart by lions, but the PTA is a close enough comparison.

If we previously did NOT have a wall, then decided to build one….

Those who’ve benefitted from taking what they wanted and shackling us to their whims will NOT be happy. Expect this. If we’ve trained others to treat us like a never ending vending machine (though note vending machines are paid money), these folks are NOT going to rejoice when we cut off their unlimited supply lines into OUR resources and energy reserves.

Thus today I am tossing down the gauntlet:

We can be popular or powerful.

Invoking the NO is building a wall, but any superlative wall design also comes with a fortified gate. We can allow folks in and out at appropriate times, meaning no we don’t serve 24 hour Make You Happy Meals.

Those who respect our time, energy, and resources can come and go and get all the goodies that go with honoring boundaries. Those who refuse to get with the plan?

Boundaries Benefit Everyone

Seriously, they do! Anything worth having is generally not easy. Boundaries and Invoking the NO! are hard but the rewards are priceless. How?

#1—Boundaries prevent conflict.

Why? Because there is a clear line. Like my house has doors and a stranger wandering into my house is legitimately viewed a home invader.

If, however, I dwelled in a lawn chair sheltered by a pool umbrella in the middle of a field, a passerby would have no idea he/she was crossing a boundary. Thus, me shouting I was a victim of a home invasion would be a tough sell.

Too many of us are being worn out over drama and conflict and being pulled at, yet we’re the person dwelling in a lawn chair with a pool umbrella. Sure we want to be angry at the intruder, but we actually are at fault for failing to make the boundary clear in the first place.

Set the boundary and we save precious time, energy and resources with a simple addition of clarity. Refuse to fight battles that can easily be prevented in the first place ūüėČ .

#2—Boundaries help others grow (up).

When we do for others what they are able to do for themselves, we stagnate their growth and can benevolently cripple them. Our “helping” weakens the other person’s ability to grow, mature and develop their capacity to handle and triumph over life’s troubles.

And it also wears us the hell out.

And sure, maybe the “offending party” is trying to offload something they can’t do for themselves, but if we step in and do it for them, they never have to dig deep and hustle to learn on their own.

Also (if you’re anything like me) for a long time I was stepping in and “fixing stuff” that only was broken because those around me made bad decisions…and KEPT making them *growls*

If I kept intercepting, protecting them from consequences of their own poor decisions, how were they supposed to learn to make BETTER decisions?

Like maybe you (my child) should not have waited until the night before the big science project was due to start working on it. #SucksToBeYou

#3—Boundaries force us to eschew what is easy and reach for what is best.

Many of the commenters on the last post expressed guilt over Invoking the NO particularly in regards to children. As a mother myself? I totally get it!

We often do hear the:

You are writing? OMG. You’re a terrible mother for not instantly fulfilling an impromptu order for a sandwich and Goldfish!

THIS is what your kids are going to tell their future (court-appointed) therapist. THIS is why they had no choice but to abduct hitchhikers…to fashion their OWN Mommy out of body parts.

Because YOU WERE NOT THERE! #MommyDearest #TheGoldfishMadeMeDoIt #Neglect

Here’s the deal, our job as parents aside from the whole food and shelter thing, is to train up healthy well-adjusted and kind adults.

If they cannot SEE it, they cannot BE it.

If all our kids see is Mommy (or Daddy) running around like a one-legged man at an @$$-kicking contest, people pleasing to the point of exhaustion…odds are we’re training our children to grow into one of two kinds of adults—doormats or users.

Either they will have no clue how to set a boundary because they’ve never witnessed this phenomenon in practice. OR they will learn boundaries aren’t worthy of honoring and anyone trying to enforce one a) doesn’t really mean it so keep nagging or b) they are personally attacking them by not instantly catering to their needs.

***Granted this is a broad spectrum, but still. Food for thought ūüėČ .

If we’re demonstrating to our kids that our goals and dreams aren’t worth protecting, how will they know (practically) how to protect their¬†goals and dreams¬†once they are adults?

We certainly weren’t hit in the head with a self-discipline magic wand, why would they?

And also, especially with children (but also friends, family, organizations) we can show them that we are saying NO to a frittering meaningless kind of engagement. This opens more time for the meaningful and memorable YES.

Like when Spawn leaves me alone to write and I get my work finished THEN I have time to go play with him at the park and be fully present. Thus my son (hopefully) learns the benefits of delayed gratification…BY EXAMPLE.

For instance, last week Spawn wanted me to hang out and watch Ninjago, but I needed to finish two major edits (WAY less fun than watching Ninjago), but alas I put a boundary….but then the REWARD!

Dunno, I think this time with Mommy playing her workout playlist for him to swing to is probably a memory that will have greater resonance.

We have to remember that kids (and adults) often won’t pay attention to what we SAY but will almost always pay attention to what we DO. When we say what we mean and mean what we say, this builds mutual respect (remember the wall–>respect thing?). Our words mean more because we are invoking the editor’s creed: SHOW DON’T TELL.

And yes it is HARD…at first. But it gets easier with practice and if we hope to be successful in ANYTHING, we gotta nail this boundary-setting thing.

Especially writers, since too many folks seem to think we don’t have a “real job.”¬†Well, maybe they are thinking that because of OUR actions.

If we drop everything to cater to others, that is NOT a real job.

No brain surgeon goes…”Sorry, I have to leave the O.R. My kid forgot his essay at home, so can you keep the patient stable for say an hour?”

No lawyer leaves a courtroom in the middle of a case to go pick up her mother’s dry cleaning.

Y’all get the gist.

What are your thoughts? Have you been taking the Invoke the NO! Challenge? Tell us your successes! Where you struggle. Maybe we can talk it out, war game some strategies? Do you struggle with discerning “helping” from “enabling”? I certainly do, but I am a work in progress TOO!

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!

What do you WIN? For the month of September, for 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).

Also in the spirit of making yourself a priority, I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below.¬†****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up!¬†We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you with boundaries and working smarter, not harder ūüėÄ .

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So…Kristen locked all the blog doors. She even locked the blog’s ground floor windows. HOWEVER, she forgot that I am a rock climber! I just did a little dyno, a little manteling, and a little down-climbing, and I was in. And she thought I couldn’t do this on a road trip!

*evil cackle*

Anyway, once I was in, past the lasers and over the alligator traps, I promptly went downstairs and opened the door for Kim, who will be here next Friday…since we now have a new feature: GIRL FRIDAY (well until Kristen figures out how to truly evict us. Squatters are crafty ūüėČ ).

For now, we are basically Girl Friday to Kristen Lamb to assist in her plans for global domination and after all the Wednesdays hanging out here, we got comfy.

I don’t have a picture of Denny Basenji today because I am (technically) on vacation. Which means, as a self-employed writing instructor, editor, and writer, I LAUGH AT THE CONCEPT OF RELAXATION! Let’s examine how I have turned two weeks at the beach in North Carolina into…

THE HOLIDAY TRAV-L-PARK WRITER’S CONFERENCE

Don’t hate me because it’s beautiful.

No, really, this is work. It’s like any other conference. For example:

The Accommodations. Trailer homes or BYOC (bring your own camper)
Shuttle transportation. And just like shuttles, zippy and tippy, depending on the speed and driver (*shifty eyes*)

Just like any conference. There’s a bar and a pool where you can hang out and network because we all know that networking is what makes drinking and arguing over whether zombies could take out Klingons a “work-related activity” #businessexpense.

The bar. If you want wine, you have to go to the expensive side of the convenience store.
The pool. And just like every crowded hotel conference, not a shade umbrella to be had…

I don’t know about you, but I always imagine I’m going to have SOOOO much time to work and write after the day’s sessions are done. I pack all kinds of notebooks, books, etc. in anticipation of enormous bouts of productivity. Yet, I always seem to end up dragged (okay, so, it’s more like static cling) into shenanigans that teeter on the edge of legal. For example:

I built a sand castle instead of reading background material for a WIP. BUT this wasn’t just any old sand castle! I put extra fortification around the foundations so it was impervious to sapeurs! #nerdatthebeach #youshouldhaveseenmyneolithicsettlement

There were some good moments of inspiration and crafting breakthroughs.

For example, I discovered how to do a travel-size version of my “Serial Killer Wall of Plotting.” The citronella candle is to keep away the mosquitoes who insist on texting during the sessions.

I’ve also made good progress on my TBR pile.

Missing one book. The cabana boy (erm, my husband) took one of the books with him to the beach.

One of the most enjoyable parts of any conference, however, is always meeting the fellow attendees and making new friends.

Yes, there is an indoor shower, but why not shower under the sun, sky, and trees…especially when you get to converse with…
This little guy! (I was in the middle of a shower, so I couldn’t get an actual photo of him). He was perched on top of my shampoo bottle and made some rather pointed comments about how I need to use more conditioner. (“Tree Squirrel Frog” Photo by duggiehoo on DeviantArt)

I also ran into an old friend, which one tends to do at these events.

Miss North Carolina Blue-Tailed Skink and I go way, way back. It’s always nice to catch up with friends you wouldn’t see anywhere else but at a conference! (Photo: Wikipedia)

Don’t forget the SWAG!

And they say I don’t think of you…

Finally, like most conferences, there’s always an element of dress-up and costuming.

Personally, I am jazzed for any occasion that allows me to break out my parasol.

In all seriousness, despite the books and notes and that my brain never shuts up with story ideas, getting away and out of the HOUSE is actually essential for creativity. No, we may not crank out two thousand words a day like we planned the day we left for the con, but that’s cool.

We gain so much more.

Friendships, XP points, and a little R&R goes a long way. Sometimes writer’s block might just be code for “Take a vaca. Like, NOW.” That vaca might be a beach or, if you are Kristen, an extra hour at the grocery store wandering the aisles in search of new GF foods.

Take a drive, a walk, or watch a movie in an actual theater. GASP! I  know, movie tickets are expensive but you have my permission to sneak in your nibblies.

Thing is, a break is a break and we need to snag ’em where we find ’em!

Trust me. Your muse will thank you.

Next week, Kim Alexander will be back and actually share some useful insights about writing as opposed to this brief yet colorful order to CHILL THE HELL OUT.

RELAX.

And enjoy your weekend. It is an order *stern face*

Oh and while you are enjoying your weekend, give yourself an additional challenge. REST. To parlay off Kristen’s last post, Invoke the No, this is a great way to exercise that flabby or maybe even atrophied NO muscle.

Say NO to the gazillion tiny demands of others, chores you will do out of mindless habit or spineless obedience. Tasks and chores you won’t likely remember by the next week.

Meaningful NOs free up space for the YES to something fun.

Which is hard. I get it. Baby steps. Maybe you can meet Kristen at the grocery store. She finds it relaxing…whatever *rolls eyes*

In the end, when we refuse to relax and have fun and chain ourselves to the “busy”…this is what we look like.

Actual Footage of Writers Who Won’t Rest…

Anyway, it’s time for me to head out to the beach…erm…I mean, another conference session *waves*

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Other writers frequently ask how I somehow manage to get a lot of stuff done, despite my having the attention span of a ferret…with a bad crack habit. Here are 10 ways to help you be productive even if OOH! SHINY!

…even if you tend to be a tad¬†majorly ADD. The following tips are what help ME stay focused. I am NOT a doctor or psychologist or ADD expert. I’m a Jedi master, warp engine inspector, and WRITER so you get what you get.

We’ve been talking this week about how to be able to do all it takes to not only be a digital age author, but to freaking ROCK IT while we are here. Truthfully, the explosion of social media is just proof to me that ADD people will rule the world‚Ķwhich probably explains all those “End of the World” prophesies.

In the meantime? We have dreams and deadlines and most of us have grown fond of clean clothes. Also, our family is all needy and whiny and says things like, “Mommy, why is there no food?” “Daddy, why won’t the lights turn on?” “Honey, why are there people living in our basement?”

*rolls eyes*

Can you say “high maintenance”?

OKAY, so tips…

1. Make lists.

I get distracted easily, so a list reminds me of what I need to get accomplished. I make separate lists—housework, fiction, non-fiction, business stuff, global domination using sea monkeys. Then, once I have the list, I do the hardest thing on my writing and business lists FIRST (housework can WAIT).

Like Covey says, Never mistake the urgent for the important.

I also add stuff to the list I’ve already done‚Ķjust so I can cross it out because it makes me smile and feel SUPER accomplished. Don’t judge me because you do it, too.

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2. Understand that feelings are narcissists and pathological liars.

Writing is a profession, not a playpen. Professionals ignore their feelings and do it anyway. Only children, amateurs and¬† The Long Island Medium listen to their feelings. Feelings are fickle, lazy, and secretly jealous of your work and a tad pissed that you no longer hang out with them as much as you used to. The secret to success is to work your tail off. Be willing get up earlier and stay up later than others. Be willing to do what others won’t.

But I wanna write books. I don’t wanna do social media, toooooo. It’s haaaaard.

Yes. It is. There are many reasons this profession is not for everyone.

3. Use The Force…of self-discipline.

Who cares HOW you get things done, so long as they get done?

I use the “Swiss Cheese” approach. I have my list and I take bite after bite after bite until the work is finished. Every book can be written in 250, 500, or 1,000 word bites. I CANNOT work linearly, so I don’t try and yes I was always in trouble in school but public schools were designed to train factory workers and corporate mind slaves, not people who get paid to play with imaginary friends.

4. Mix it up.

I am a writer, wife, entrepreneur, teacher, and mom who has yet to make enough money to afford servants (which sucks), and cats make lousy slaves. This means I get to do most of the cooking, cleaning, laundry and housework. Write your 200 words, fold a load of whites, empty the dishwasher, then write another 200 words.

5. Suck it up, buttercup.

Understand that sometimes we will have to sit for a long time and focus. It’s hard. Whaaaaaaahhhhh, but anyone who thinks being a writer is a fluffy hamster dream has been hanging out with their feelings…and feelings lie, sabotage and will talk you into living on ice cream and cookie sprinkles.

6. Make mean writer friends.

Yes, the Swiss Cheese approach works well for people with ADD, and yes, there are times we need to duct tape our a$$es to the chair. This is why I befriend really mean people who kinda scare me. On the surface they are funny and sweet and would do anything for a friend…but that’s the issue. They will do anything for a friend, including ordering a hit on my X-Box One.

7. Ditch loser friends.

We all have them or have had them. People who like to complain, make excuses, indulge in their feelings all the time. People who have a new dream every other week. I wanna be an astronaut, no a writer, no a vacuum salesman, no a journalist!

Ditch writers (and other people) who believe in luck, not work. Laziness, apathy, and whining are contagious. Treat excuses like EBOLA. A friend coughs blood excuses all over you, and, within two to three days, you start coughing up blood excuses, too…until your dream of being a writer liquifies and bleeds out and I hope you’re happy with yourself.

Killer.

8. Forget perfection.

Perfection is an urban legend, started by Feelings (because Feelings are a needy boyfriend/girlfriend who don’t understand the world does not revolve around them.) The world doesn’t reward perfection; it rewards finishers. Often we lose focus on what we are REALLY doing, because we are getting sidetracked with nitpicking.

9. Exercise.

Often ADD can be fueled by being too sedentary. Human bodies were not designed to sit on their @$$e$ all day. Ever have a puppy that chews everything and is into everything and short of strapping itself to a rocket is just being a GIANT PAIN IN THE @$$?

How do you get it to behave? Put on roller blades and run puppy until puppy wants to slip into something more comfortable…like a coma. ADD people are human puppies, so stop piddling on the carpet…I mean, go get a little exercise and your focus will generally improve.

Four times a week I go to Jiu Jitsu and roll around on the mats and inflict pain on large men. Sure, it is probably Freudian, but it is also fun and it helps keep the joints loose and the mind calm.

10. Drink lots of water. The clear stuff. That stuff from the faucet.

Human bodies are a hydroelectric system, and water enhances conductivity. Cool writer ideas/thoughts work this way. Muse Pixies of Awesomeness are conducted through your brain to your fingers and they bring the cool story stuff. MPAs like to travel via fairy, or ferry on WATER. They can’t travel if the waterways are too dry and moor them on a cookie sprinkle…and then you can’t focus.

It’s science. Don’t argue.

Must…get…off…Instagram…..

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BONUS TIP #11 MULTI-TASK YOUR A$$ OFF!

Some experts say multitasking doesn’t work and that is simply because they suck at it.

Multitasking is awesome for ADD people namely because by definition we need at least two simultaneous activities to talk our brain into cooperating. Why some people suck at multitasking is 1) they have a normal boring brain that needs time to buffer or 2) they pick the wrong activities to pair together.

BAD IDEA: Using a chainsaw to clear deadwood while doing baby-mommy yoga.

GOOD IDEA: Listening to soundtrack to American Horror Story while clearing deadwood and making mental notes of the feel of chainsaw for future use in stories.

I’ll give an example of a great way to multitask. As writers, READING is a huge part of our job. I can almost instantly tell writers who don’t read, mostly because their writing sucks.

Audio books are our friend. I inhale audio books while folding laundry or doing mundane but necessary chores like taxes dishes.

Thing is, pair one rote activity with one that you need to do that will engage and develop your creative brain. It’s about working smarter, not harder. And, since your ADD brain likes to paint the cat when you aren’t looking, giving it story time keeps it happy and engaged and out of trouble.

What about you guys? Those of you ADD folk out there who’ve paid attention to this point, first of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

…now back in your hole.

It writes the words or it gets the hose O_o.

What are your thoughts? Struggles? Tips? Words of wisdom. It’s okay. You have permission to get back in your hole after you comment :D.

It rubs the elbow grease on. IT RUBS THE ELBOW GREASE ON! *pets fluffy white dog*

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, 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.

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.¬†

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 7 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? ūüėČ 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?

Announcements:

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.¬†

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 10.33.50 AM

I know people are being polite when they begin messages/conversations with, “Kristen, I know you have been¬†busy but‚Ķ” Lord, I work hard not to be busy. I don’t believe humans are called to be busy, rather we’re called to be fruitful.¬†

Now, I’ll warn you. The world will relentlessly preach the opposite—namely because the world has something to sell to make us “more productive”…and then, when we have a nervous breakdown from doing a thousand things at one time, there are meds, vacations and Snuggies for sale.

The Hard “Science”

Laundry multiplies when left alone too long. My inside sources (The Dust Bunnies) tell me the dirty laundry, when left too long to their own devices start forming cults, particularly “The Whites.” According to The Bunnies, laundry apparently must sacrifice a sock to their god—Dry-Ur—every load so Dry-Ur will not smite them.

Um what else did you think Dry-Ur lint was made from?

With the proper sacrifice, the laundry can be fruitful and multiply. “The Reds” have been known to give a blood sacrifice on occasion. Yes, your husband’s undershirts will be pink, but the laundry is then blessed with more generations of progeny.

The Dust Bunnies swear on their lives this is true, so they’ve bought a little time. That and the vengeful monster-god Vah-COOM has been satiated with enough sacrifices of left earrings and Cheerios that he told me to take a day off.

Aside from the occult activities happening in your hamper and under your couch, there are a lot of other distractions in life. Namely? LIFE.

No one gets out alive.

Don’t you have days that you’re simply exhausted? You’ve been running, running, running all day, but feel you have nothing to show for it? There’s a difference between busy and fruitful. Here’s some tips for being fruitful.

Multi-Tasking vs. Multi-Focusing

“Experts” claim people can’t multitask. That’s bunk or no infant or husband would have survived the first generation of humans.

I do a lot of multi-tasking, but it needs to be one “thinking activity” and one “mindless.” We¬†can multi-task. We¬†cannot multi-focus.

I make the beds and pick up toys while checking in with my mother each morning. Relationships take effort, and so does keeping the bottoms of our feet from being shredded from matchbox cars and Legos. This is being fruitful.¬†Listening to a sermon or self-help podcast while dusting? Fruitful. Folding laundry while watching movies (good for writers–clean clothes and stories)? Fruitful.

When I get into trouble is when I try and do two “thinking” activities.

I once accidentally drove to Missouri. TRUE STORY.

I was in sales, and I did¬†a lot¬†of driving, about 1500-3000 miles a week. I had a nine-state territory and Northern Mexico, meaning I drove to Mexico about every six weeks. So I was on the road most of the time, and often quite tired (and bored). I had certain “routes” I drove. I’d drive to Wichita, Kansas, then work my way down. Next day Tulsa, next day OKC, then back to Dallas.

This particular day, I finished my morning appointment in Kansas and then my late afternoon appointment in Tulsa and ate dinner. By seven I was on the road. I was really fatigued, but I wanted to get to OKC by around nine so I could pass out and be rested for my early morning meeting.

Ah, add in a cell phone.

A customer called as I was headed for the Interstate and instead of waiting? I answered and was handling business questions while navigating. Once on the highway, I knew I was in for a long stretch of NOTHING, so after I hung up with my client, I called Mom. Unbeknownst to me, during that first critical interruption, I’d gotten on the turnpike going north instead of south. So I’m talking away for mile after mile then finally I see a sign, “Joplin 20 Miles.”

Joplin? Joplin, Oklahoma? That doesn’t sound right.

Since I was really tired, I said to my Mom, “Joplin? Joplin’s not in Oklahoma.”

“Baby, you’re in Missouri.” *head desk* #epicfail

I finally made it to OKC at 2:00 in the morning, since I had to drive all the way to Joplin to escape the turnpike and turn around, then drive from Missouri back to OKC.

Yes, I have peeled the banana, kept the peel and tossed the banana. I’ve put my cell phone in the freezer, my keys in the fridge. But accidentally driving to Missouri? I think I get bonus idiot points for that.

Multi-tasking is fine. Listen to music on a long drive. Muti-focusing? For the most part, it can just make a mess. So, yeah, fold towels while talking to loved ones…just don’t put the towels away. They could end up in the garage.

Make Lists

Write out a list of the most important things you need to accomplish. Lists help us focus. They also help us see the most efficient way of doing things. Can we pick up the cleaning on the way to pick up kid from school, then stop by pharmacy on the way to the grocery store, then swing by the post office on the way home?

Fruitful.

….And Goals

If we sit down and just write, that’s good, but word count or page count goals are better.

Set a Routine and GET SLEEP

When I get out of my routine, everything just seems to go sideways. I write at the same time every day. I find when I don’t stop working by a certain time, it affects my sleep. I refuse to look at e-mail after 5:00 P.M.

If I stick to my routine, I wake up refreshed. If I don’t?

This stuff happens.

I lost the nacho chips. Why didn't I think to look in the REFRIGERATOR?
I lost the nacho chips. Why didn’t I think to look in the REFRIGERATOR?

So WANA MAMA Says…

Eat good stuff, drink water, get enough sleep, multi-task away (but multi-focus at your own risk). Make lists so it’s easier to be efficient and prioritize. Otherwise, life will feel like you are strapped to Hell’s Tilt-A Whirl.

What about you guys? What are some of your multi-focusing mishaps? Bet you can’t beat accidentally driving to MISSOURI. What tools do you use to be productive instead of just busy?

Oh, and meet Vah-COOM…(there are kittens involved).

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, 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).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Back to School!

Upcoming Classes: NEW!!! Going Pro Series

 Going Pro Craft is CLOSED, but with the bundle you will get the recoding and notes in On-Demand format, then Going Pro SocialMedia/Branding ALSO CLOSED but also offered on-demand, and TOMORROW EVENING Going Pro Business September 10th, Going Pro All the Way! (ALL THREE). Use WANA15 for $15 off individual classes.

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.¬†