Tag Archives: time management

Juggling Tribbles

Tribbles from ThinkGeek

Check out these tribbles from ThinkGeek!

You ever feel like sometimes you’re not just juggling too many things in life, but you’re juggling tribbles? You’re keeping all the soft, furry balls in the air, and then they start reproducing!

Then you think, that’s okay, I’ve got it, they’re so cute, I’ll get a little less sleep or do this other thing moderately well instead of super great, and I’ll have time for all my tribbles. I’ll be able to keep them all in the air. And then they reproduce again!

That’s how I’ve been feeling since early fall last year! I love my life and my job, but sometimes I wonder how I can do everything. As a self-published writer, I’m in charge of the writing, scheduling editors, planning book covers and hiring designers, picking photos from photo shoots, planning promotions, buying ads, organizing and ordering promo items like book marks, business cards, and banners, and so much more!

Then I also teach classes and workshops, speak at schools and libraries, help friends with self-publishing or writing issues (like they help me with mine!), plan blogs and blog tours, participate in industry organizations and events – and I’m writing two nonfiction books based on the classes I teach. That’s just what’s on my calendar for the next few months!

Sheesh!

I’m trying not to drop the fluffy brown tribble named “Blog” here, but I do hope you’ll forgive me if sometimes my posts are short and sweet. ūüôā

How about you? What kind of tribbles are you juggling?

Time and Project Management Class Starts Monday

j0227558Hello my friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s. I sure did. I’d planned since last Christmas to take two full weeks off and relax. Right up to the last minute, I was sure I wouldn’t “be able to” do it. But in the end, I did!

My workload piled up during the two weeks off, but I feel so much more relaxed and rested and ready for work! How did I manage to take so much vacation time when life has been battering me for the last couple of years? The primary reason is because last January I laid out a written plan for my year.

Granted, a LOT of things went wrong with the plan. I couldn’t have anticipated six months of unemployment for John. I made more money than I did in 2012, but it wasn’t enough to offset the costs of a few book-selling risks I took that didn’t pay off. Near the end of the year, I had to put my writing business on the back burner and work full-time at a temp job.

Calendar 2013But for the whole year, I could look at my writing plan and my calendar and I could figure out how each of my plans would be affected by the new turn life took. I could move the sticky notes on the calendar to change deadlines. I could cancel things that just couldn’t be accomplished now that the course of life had changed.

And I could do it all with more peace than usual because I had a written, changeable plan.

If you’d like to work with me over the next four weeks to get a plan in place for you this year, please sign up for my online class Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Due to popular demand, this is the fourth year I’ve taught this class, and there’s always something new to learn and share. I hope you’ll join us!

What do you want to accomplish this year?

Looking Back to Look Forward

It’s getting to be that time again. Even if you don’t do New Year’s Resolutions yourself, you know a ton of people who do. It’ll be all over the news soon about how we make goals and then don’t follow through.

Turn off the TV when they say that last part. You know that what you say to yourself, what you listen to and allow into your head, these are the things your brain and body will follow. No matter what time of year it is, you have to believe you can accomplish your goals to have any chance of doing so.

I find that the easiest way to figure out where I want to go next is to look back and see where I’ve been. Life almost never goes in a straight line (it took me awhile, but I finally figured that out), but the curves and circular routes will generally tell us something about ¬†ourselves that we can use to apply to the future, or to change.

As I usually do, I’m going to spend the rest of December thinking about these things. I’ll share my thoughts on what I find on Mondays. I’d love to hear what you discover, too. What have we accomplished that we want to do more of? What do we want to do less of? How do we want to grow, and what do we want to learn?

Most importantly, what two or three things will we focus on this year? If we only focus on a few things, we have a much greater chance of succeeding!

Let’s all think about it for a week and come back next Monday to share what we’ve found. I think 2013 is going to be an amazing year!

Gazelle Intensity

I almost can’t believe it, but I met¬†four¬†deadlines last month! I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my writing life. Maybe the only time I’ve accomplished so much in such a short space of time is for school/college. But the point is – I did it.

What I learned from that experience is that I can do more than I think I can. Past experience may tell me that I can’t – until I make an experience that tells me I can. What I have to be careful of is thinking I can always get this much work done. It would be foolish of me to think I can work 10-16 hours a day, six days a week, for an infinite amount of time. For one thing, there is no time for friends or family, little time for exercise or healthy habits, and almost no time for fun.

However, last month I reminded myself that I can work very intensely and accomplish a lot in short bursts. Life is a marathon, and the writing life is a marathon, but sprints are useful and appropriate. (In my half marathon training, I use short sprints in training.)

John and I are participating in¬†Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, a money management course designed to get you out of debt and keep you out forever. In one of the lessons, Dave shows a video of a leopard chasing a gazelle. Even though the leopard can run faster than the gazelle, the gazelle got away! Why? Because the gazelle could make quick leaps out of the leopard’s path faster than he could move to intercept. The gazelle only has to keep this up for a short intense period until the leopard gives up and looks for easier prey.

Dave suggests we use this method to get out of debt. A short, intense burst of effort to pay off everything from credit cards to student loans to the balance on your mortgage. I listen to his radio podcast and people call in saying they’ve just paid off their last debt. Dave asks them how much they paid off and how long it took, then they give their debt free scream. It’s very inspiring! People are getting out of debt to the tune of $20,000 to $158,000 (that I’ve heard) in 12-48 months. John and I will be right in that range, and it’s exciting to know it can be done.

That’s what I learned last month with my writing deadlines. I focused like I have rarely focused before on one project, then another, then another, then another. And I got them all done, on time. I had hoped that on November 2, I would be able to sleep in, read a little, take a deep breath, and go back to a more relaxed lifestyle. But I still have four more time-sensitive projects to finish. At first, that made me feel super tired just thinking about it. Then I remembered the gazelle intensity speech.

I can’t keep up this pace forever, but I can do it for four more weeks. As one friend reminded me on November 2 when I was trying to figure out if I could do all this, I can’t “catch up” on everything that didn’t get done over the last year. But I can pick the most important things to finish now, and re-schedule my other goals for 2013.

National Novel Writing Month is about gazelle intensity. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are finding it can work for their writing life. But it works in every area of life. What do you really need to get done? Not just urgent things, but important things. Piles of paperwork? Haphazard, overcrowded home? Behind in something you could finish if you just really applied yourself for a few weeks?

Think about it and decide what you’re going to do about it. In the end, you’ll not only have accomplished something wonderful, and maybe done something about those monkeys on your back, but you’ll find pleasure in your own personal growth as self-discipline blooms in your life.

I’m nervous about failure, about exhaustion, about missing out on fun things other people are doing, but last month I proved that¬†it can be done!¬†So I’m going to keep it up for another month. See you at the finish line!

[Note: If you want more encouragement and direction in planning your goals for 2013, join me for my online class¬†Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. Here’s to a fabulous and productive new year!]

Is There Something Between Us?

The last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about things that I might be allowing to come between me and God. Things that I might be holding as more important in my life than God. Things I spend more time and energy on than I spend time and energy with the Creator I profess to love above all things.

One of those things is time. I spend a huge amount of time checking the time, checking my calendar, hurrying to the next thing on my To Do list, creating more and more To Do lists. I count how many hours until I have to do this, how long until that happens, how much time it will take to do this, or how much time I might be able to shave off that.

It’s exhausting.

But I keep it up, rushing to try to catch up and break even. My hopes for getting ahead died months ago. And yet I feel more harried than ever.

Until it occurred to me that the very essence of time itself has become more important to me than the belief that God will help me make wise time choices, and that everything that doesn’t get done will not keep the world from turning. I know, because the sun has been rising on my unfinished To Do lists for years.

The other thing that I realized has been increasingly coming between me and my Heavenly Father is everything I think and feel about my physical self. My weight, what I eat, how much I exercise – these have all been causing me stress for years. A couple years ago I decided that how I treat my body is part of my stewardship.¬†Perhaps I’m more stressed about it all now than ever. I’ve been keeping score and failing to do what I say I want to do.

(I hear the echoes of the Apostle Paul here – I do what I say I don’t want to do, and I don’t do what I say I do want to do. Sigh.)

But the harder I try, it seems the worse things get. Despite the fact that I pray to do better every day,¬†I’ve lost what little peace about my body that I had a year ago.

When I had this little ah-ha moment earlier this week, that perhaps I’d allowed some things to have more of my energy than what I gave to God, my focus on my physical health was the other item that immediately came to mind.

The last few days, I’ve tried to change what my mind focuses on. I stopped wearing my watch and checking the clocks constantly. Every time I wanted to check the time, I just averted my eyes and asked God to help me focus on Him instead of how much time I had left.

When I thought about eating or drinking, whether for a meal or a snack, I tried to only eat if I was genuinely hungry, and not plan out what I’d have for the next meal or the next snack. I tried to put food out of my mind entirely until my stomach growled again. I haven’t gotten any extra exercise in during the last few days, but I decided to take a break from worrying about it. Again, every time I thought about any of these things, I tried to refocus my thoughts on God.

I quickly noticed that when I tried to do that, the verse from Matthew would come to mind – seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. It was comforting to hear the Holy Spirit encouraging me!

I don’t know what will happen in the long term, but I am pleasantly surprised to tell you that in the short term I’ve already felt less stress about everything I “have” to do. Things are getting done. Other things are not getting done. The sun still shines.

And God’s mercy continues to show up again every morning, just like He promised.

What Should I Work On Next?

On Wednesdays, I’ll cross-post my blog from Routines for Writers here…

This time of year I’m always thinking about what I’m going to work on next. Will I¬†sign up for NaNoWriMo? Will I write something new or edit something I need to finish? If you’re like my friend Betsy, you might be wondering if you should work on a new novel (she’s nearly finished with the latest one) or should she work on a nonfiction book idea she’s had for years?

As soon as she said “nonfiction,” I was all but jumping around in my chair.¬†I self-published my first novel and will self-publish more over the next few months. But I’ve also got a few nonfiction book ideas that I can’t wait to write and self-publish as ebooks. If you didn’t know it already, word on the ‘Net is that you can make more money with nonfiction books right now than with fiction. You can not only sell more copies, you can set a higher price point.

One of the books I want to write is how to properly run your writing business. And from a business standpoint, it would be a good idea for me to intersperse nonfiction books in among the fiction books in my product line. So taking my own advice, I should be thinking long and hard about writing the business book during NaNo.

Yes, it’s National¬†Novel Writing Month. But wasn’t the point to set aside time to do something we never take time to do? Something we want to do and believe we might be good at? Something we think we’d really enjoy?

Betsy hasn’t done NaNo before and she asked me how I make up my mind when deciding which project to work on. I told her about how much fun it is to get inspiring emails from famous authors every week, how much I love competing with my friends when I see they’ve only written a few hundred words more than me, and watching the little graph grow as I write more. The encouragement, and the worldwide¬†energy, those are the reasons I love signing up for NaNo.

So I told Betsy that she should write the book that she needs the most encouragement on. Work on the book that you most need that extra energy to get you through the first draft.

Remember my am-I-or-aren’t-I-going-to-move predicament? If you have something like that in your life, another way to decide which book to work on is to ask yourself which one will be less stressful for you. I don’t know how much I’ll get done in November if I have to move across the ocean. But one way or another, I have to keep doing all the business “stuff” that small business owners have to do.¬†Plus I’m teaching my goal setting and time management class for writers again in January, and I’m adding in information on running your small business. So making notes and writing about what I’m doing and what experts suggest will actually help keep me focused. It will help me to pull several similar strands together so that when I’m working on one thing, I’m actually getting several things done.

If I have enough time, I might just work on both books! I’ll write on my novel in the morning, and the business book in the afternoon. After all, small business owners learn how to multi-task in ways that work for their personalities as well as their businesses. Yup, the more I think about it, the more I’m considering that last option. I guess I’ll decide for sure when I know if I have to make time for packing, too! ūüôā

Routine of Rest – Guilty or Not Guilty?

On Wednesdays, I’ll cross-post my blog from Routines for Writers here…

I feel a little guilty even writing this post. We talk about how much rest we need to function most efficiently, but is it a habit we practice? Yes, I take a mid-day break to eat lunch while watching a recorded episode of my favorite TV show. But did I actually rest, or just change activities?

This question came to mind full-strength yesterday when I was on my way home from dropping my mom at the airport and realized that all I wanted to do was go home and lie down on the couch. But I didn’t really rest. I caught up on some taped TV, ate lunch, caught up on the last two weeks’ of newspapers, and then remembered I needed to write a post about writing routines.

I did all of these things from the couch. But I wouldn’t say I truly rested.

Am I guilty of not managing my time well? Yes. Could I be more efficient? Yes. Do I watch too much TV? Guilty, again. But do I routinely really and truly¬†rest? I’m afraid the verdict would be not guilty. And I think I should find a way to change that.

What do you think? When was the last time you felt well rested for even an hour or two?