Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Manage Your Time Effectively

Influence: Cin and Uri's playlist.
Away From the Sunlight” Tread. (Blood in the Dust, 2012)
Lost and Forgotten” Tsavo. (The Search, 2008)
The Only One” Evanescence. (The Open Door, 2006)
A Different Kind of Love” Tragedy Machine. (Pacify, 2011)
The Return” Tread. (Blood in the Dust, 2012)
My Surrender” Parabelle. (Your Starry Eyes Will Never Make Us Even, 2012)
Nocturn of Illusion” Tsavo. (The Search, 2008)
Turning the Page (the Secret Song)” Tsavo. (The Search, 2008)
Aftermath” Hurt. (Vol II., 2007)

What goes up, must come down.” Sir Isaac Newton.

Such is my writing life.

The holidays disrupts my very short window of writing time. That time when the house is quiet, there is nary a peep when everyone is asleep, including my cats is when I get the most done. But from the week before Thanksgiving until the new year, I spend my time cleaning house and cooking and gift shopping, gift wrapping and gift giving. Then once the sprint for the holidays is over and done, my sprint towards working on taxes and expense reports and provider agreements and W-2s is in full swing. I don't have a writer's life again until April. This cycle irks me. So I decided this year I would organize my life to better achieve my writing goals starting with how to relax and chill out.

I feel like I spend my life in a perpetual state of anxiety and full blown panic. So many things to worry about, so many things to accomplish in such a short amount of time. I run from one thing to the next. I juggle sixteen different tasks. My brain is always working, always recalling, always compensating for shortcomings. By the end of the day even my creative side is exhausted. The only way to fix this is to recharge before the free time begins. I feel like so rarely do we actually give our brains a chance to time out and recharge before we're off rushing to do the next task. No wonder we have frequent inactive periods where our characters are quiet and we're so frustrated that banging our heads against a brick wall is more productive.

Most people use their sleep cycle to recharge. I'm an active dreamer. In the few short hours I manage to pass out, my brain is filled with creative activity. My dreams are lucid and vivid and so real it feels as if I've never actually slept. Dreaming is where a lot of my writing productive occurs. I dream of my world and of my characters. I dream of the next sequence, or maybe the sequence that will happen in the near future or a scene I hadn't outlined yet. Some of my best creativity comes from when I sleep. I wake up in the morning, take a shower to digest everything that has occurred and I furiously write it all down in my notebook for further analyzing.

At nights, I come home and settle down. I do everything required as HBIC and as soon as I get that first chance to sit down and just breathe, I start detoxing from my day. I mentally count backwards from twenty. I lean back into my chair and take deep breaths to relax. I tune everything else out. The TV is ignored. The loud talking, the jabbering and carrying on is nullified. Just these few seconds to myself at the end of the night before I start writing helps me focus on the task at hand. Everything is shoved to the wayside. Anything I didn't accomplish before I arrived home is no longer my concern until 7:30am the next morning. Once 10:30 hits, I'm in writing mode. Writing is work. It deserves to have my full attention not me worrying about how much more time it's going to take to fix a tiny error on a tax form because I forgot to add in a month federal deposit into my final figures. There is no room for me to think about my writing while I'm fine-toothing a provider agreement and reading the teeny tiny fine print to make sure the DR won't get screwed some way by signing said agreement. Why should I be thinking about taxes and the office at home during my writing time? It's easy- I shouldn't.

A few years ago I attended a work conference and the lady giving the management class came to the front of the class right on the dot at eight A.M and said, “If there is one thing I want you to take from these four hours it is this- “When you walk through the clinic door everything that was outside the door stays there.” Remind your staff that the moment you step inside the office it's no longer play time. It's work time. They can leave all their non-work troubles behind and give you a hundred percent for their allotted work schedule and you'll do the same for them. Your office will run efficiently with minimal drama and your DR will thank you for it.”

Work stays at work. Home stays at home. Don't mix the two. This is not a simple matter of mixing business with pleasure. Treat your writing like it is the most precious of businesses that you love with the fiercest of passion and protect at all costs. You want to keep your business/writing flourishing and your clients/characters happy. Your characters will be much happier if you can focus on them instead of that report you're supposed to file at the end of the week you haven't started if you can just leave everything else behind and focus on the characters and story. I think this should be true even if you stay at home with the little ones or work from home. There needs to be a place that is just truly dedicated to your work. Once you walk into that room everything else melts away and you focus on the goal ahead- not on anything else. Not the screaming and crying over the remote control in the living room. Not the teenager texting while standing at the door asking you in a monotone voice if they can go to so and so's house. Not the husband/boyfriend/significant other tearing up the kitchen on the hunt for the last cookie. Not the dog horking up the pair of thongs you've been missing for a week. Or the cat shredding your last good notebook. The room where the writing happens. Or the corner where the writing happens. Designate a spot and do only that. Just write. No multi-tasking.

So I guess what you can take away from this is that minimize the drama in your business and you'll get a whole heck of a lot more accomplished in shorter amounts of time. And what better time of the year to start something new and excited as this than right now?

Tell me what kinds of advice do you adhere to regarding your personal/writing time? What can you add to my new writing philosophy that will help me start this new year off right? Anyone else feel like they're not accomplishing anything they set out to do at the start of the year?


Maureen said...

I applaud your efforts to focus on work at work, and home at home. Including writing! Drives me crazy that the DH brings work home, though I understand in his line of business, sometimes you have to work when Japan is available, or Germany, etc.

As for writing habits. I'm working on it! I don't have a particular place to write, other than Starbucks. But for me the biggest challenge is ignoring the internet and focusing on the writing.

As for not accomplishing anything yet in the new year? It's too early to feel defeat about that!

Sin said...

I always feel defeated in the early days of the new year. I think it's the job just beating me down. There's just no way to pace taxes. It's a constant race to get everything done and sent out. But once its under control, my life seems to settle down and it becomes easier to resume "normal" life.

I don't have Internet at home for that very reason. Internet is a distraction for any and everyone. Why talk to someone if you can be surfing the Internet mindlessly. Or in my case I'd spend all my time watching anime or reading manga instead of focusing on writing or prepping to write.

quantum said...

Miss-quoting Sir Isaac:
To explain the writing process (all nature) is too difficult a task for any one man or even for any one woman (age).

My only advice:
Relax Sin, Don't force it just think beautiful thoughts and dream beautiful dreams.
The rest will follow naturally, just as day follows night! *smile*

Sin said...

Of course when I thought of Sir Issac I thought of you Q.

I'm not the type of person who relaxes. I'm the type of person with no patience and moves at warp speed in any task. Except writing. My muse is very lazy.

Terri Osburn said...

This is definitely way too early to be beating yourself up. Clearly you're installing a new approach. Give it time to settle in and work.

I'm finding it's best to deal with distractions when they come. I bought a laptop about six weeks ago and was still running the trial version of Word. I kept getting the warning it would run out and ignoring it because (procrastinator that I am) I had more time. But it started to bother me so I spent an hour last night buying the package and figuring out how to upgrade. Then Another half hour trying to figure out how to make my quotes shift to "smart" quotes.

Never did get that to work but with the distractions dealt with, I was ready to write. And it was late so I only got less than 200 words written. But that's better than 0.

Sin said...

Stupid trial offers on new laptops. I had that problem too a few years ago when Windows 7 just came out on the market. I had a trial version of both 7 and Word. And I kept telling myself I was going to upgrade both and kept procrastinating. Word- I did something about that. I can't function without it. But I regret not keeping the Windows 7 upgrade. Stupid Vista.

How do you like the new version of Word?

MsHellion said...

Horrible at multi-tasking. *LOL* I do try to type whatever I handwrote the night before at lunch--and that gets my brain in the story and it can mull it while I'm doing folders and what have you. Then I print off the last page, take it home, and write all over it, usually. Sometimes I'll go home and type, but usually I do better if I handwrite for a while and then type the next day. *shrugs* It is what it is.

I like your meditation you've been doing. That's awesome!! I'm proud of you for carving out writing time in your busiest times of year and shutting off your monkey mind. :)

Terri Osburn said...

Word 2010 doesn't seem all that different except for this damn quotation stuff. All the setting say to change to smart quotes and yet, it still looks like the curly ones. Cannot figure that out.

But I also have Windows 8, which is all kinds of crazy. Used to have Vista at home and Windows 7 at work. Windows 8 nearly made me take my computer back the day after I bought it.

Marnee Bailey said...

I'm a creature of habit and routine. It wasn't a week after my oldest was born that I realized that if I was going to remain sane through the child-rearing years, I'd need to set up a schedule and adhere to it like a dog with a bone.

I do that.

I have stuff that needs to be done at certain times every day. I have a schedule to clean and cook and do all the other BS that needs to be accomplished to run this joint. I ride herd on the kids like a general in the field. I don't mean that I'm an unfeeling machine. I think it keeps us all happier, decreases drama. They know what to expect. I don't get fuss at bedtime because bedtime looks the same, starts at the same time, and proceeds exactly the same way every night. And I guard the routine like it's the last shred of my sanity. Because it is.

That said, they're in bed and quiet by 8:30. Then the hubs decompresses and I write beside him. It works for us.

We are a little more lax on the weekends and there are times that things throw us off our game. But, then we fall back into the routine.

I think your plan to set it up as a routine and guard it like it's your Precious and you're Gollum is a good one. Good luck getting it all going!!

Janga said...

I'm been getting advice about focusing from an unbelievable number of sources online and in RL this past week. Clearly I'm being sent a message that "focus" needs to be my verb for 2013.

For someone as easily distracted as I am, I know it's good advice. I was in research mode yesterday. My goal was to locate information I need for an article on a very narrowly defined subject, but one thing led to another and I had information on another ten tangential topics by the time I stopped for the day. Now I'm stressed because I have to finish writing the article today.

Sabrina Shields (Scapegoat) said...

Anytime I try to "manage" my time it becomes an excuse for me to organize, plan, etc - everything but writing.

So, I'm trying to be more free this year. I'm setting aside my lunch breaks again for myself. Finally. I'm taking them back.

And I've been writing sitting on the couch next to hubby. It's January 9th and I've written 7 days of the year so far! For me that is a big win.

Not a ton of words, but almost words everyday. Being not as regimented is working for me so far!

P. Kirby said...

Last year was a time of definite catharsis for me.

Anyway, one thing I realized that I've probably been doing for years, if not all my life, is trying to be perfect. I rip myself up over the teeniest, most insignificant mistakes, smallest flubs, infinitesimal slip ups.

How does this translate into a problem with time management and ultimately stress? Well, perfect people get everything done on time, and it's always done well. Hah!

A big part of getting my shit together last year (ongoing process) was NOT getting my shit together. Basically, I'm working on accepting the fact that I can't get it all done; mistakes will happen; it really doesn't matter.

Of course, this would seem to go against the natural impulse (and drive) to always do your best.

But the truth is that you (universal you) can't always do your best. Hell, somedays half-ass is just fine. And some stuff, really doesn't have to get done at all.

Hard lesson for me because I'm so habituated to making stuff perfect. really has helped free the muse.

Maureen said...

I find that so ironic, Scape! Plan less, write more! It goes to show that we all have our weaknesses.

I find with writing that if I plug in the music, I will write for a chunk of time, then reward myself with checking on email, etc. Sorta gives the brain a stretch.

I have windows 8 and it's taking some getting used to. For internet, etc, like it a lot. There are good things and bad things. I have the new word...haven't noticed any fights with curly quotes...but now I'm gonna get paranoid about it.

Terri Osburn said...

Pat, we can always do our best, but we have to realize is that our best won't ever be perfect. (Or rarely will be anyway.) Our best might not even meet others expectations. Doesn't mean it isn't our best.

And the best we can do this week might not look as good as the best we can do next month with the same thing. Life is flux and nothing is perfect.

I've been asking myself lately, "Is this so important you'd want it on your tombstone?" I can honestly say, the answer is almost always no.

Maureen said...

Pat, we are opposite twins. I almost glory at not doing it perfect and getting away with it. Though I probably just have my perfection gene's the not-ready-yet. I don't call it needing to be perfect.

But Ter is right, and it sounds like you've figured that out, just still fighting the magnetism.

Sin said...


I'm a hand-writer too. I'm a post-it note maker too. Any little spurt of an idea goes onto a post-it note for further thought later. Those ideas on post-it notes get written into my notebook (which is scribbled and illegible). When I think I have an idea of where I'm at in the story and general direction, I start typing into Word.

I've also start a fact finder notebook. I found when building Cin/Rylah's worlds I need to be able to flip back in my notes to make sure I'm properly describing something as I fully intended or I have the exact heritage or level of power. This poor notebook is stuffed with post-it notes. I think Post-Its should read this and supply me with a lifetime of LINED Post-It notes. That would be baller.

Just sayin'.

Sin said...


I'm not quite that good. However, you're amazing. I love to hear stories of mothers who stick to a tight schedule. Children do best with repetition and it makes an adult's life so much easier to handle.

Sin said...

Clearly I'm being sent a message that "focus" needs to be my verb for 2013.

The beginning of the year is the best time to start new habits. Or the best time of the year to break them. (This is the one I usually adhere to every year.)

Write needs to be my verb this year. Just write. No pressure. No excuses. No wallowing. Just write.

Sin said...


So awesome to hear you've been writing. How does it feel to just sit down and focus on something you want to work on and enjoy it? The Hubs doesn't interrupt?

Sin said...


I'm the worst about beating myself up over perfection. I want everything to flow, everything to read absolutely flawless and everything to be kosher in the story. But perfection is a myth. Just be the best you can be (which in your case is pretty f'in awesome). I have faith in you. I know you can do anything you set your mind to doing.

Sin said...

I'm sorry guys that I've been away from the blog all day. Busy season of the year for me (taxes, reports, inventory, blah blah blah.) On top of that crap I've got some kind of sickness. I've got tissue stuffed in my nose so that every time I look down my brain doesn't leak out all over my desk and I look like death warmed over. Always a lovely sight in a DR office when the staff looks like zombies.

JulieJustJulie said...

"What can you add to my new writing philosophy that will help me start this new year off right?"

I have a time saver ... Don't open any texts, emails, or strange packages from me?

JulieJustJulie said...

And Most Important ...
Don't get Me Started.