I’ve Got the Mind of a Monkey and a Monkey of a Mind

Remember how last Sunday I set some goals for myself in terms of stepping away from social media and getting more real work done?

I thought we might take a look at how that’s going so far.

It’s been… interesting.


The project did not begin well. On Monday morning I found that I couldn’t sleep in… and by “sleep in” I mean I was wide awake at 4:30 in the morning, and decided to give up trying to sleep at five. I got up to try the whole “shut up and breathe” thing (okay, so I hadn’t researched meditation much). I decided that before I started I’d clear some space on the iPad to make room for an app that times meditation and has nice bells to mark the time passing…

I accidentally deleted Minecraft.

DISASTER. My kids are really into Minecraft, especially my older son. He creates amazing things, including giant statues of his favourite characters. He had a world he’d been working on for almost a year, putting all of these guys in, creating maps relating to other games he’s interested in, experimenting and playing.

And I destroyed it. Once the app is deleted, all of that information is gone.

I was a wreck, and obviously couldn’t think of much else while I was trying to breathe and calm my mind. That, and thinking about getting down to edits later (terrifying, I’ll have you know). I acknowledged the thoughts and gently pushed them away approximately every five seconds.

In case you’re wondering, after hours of crisis after obstacle after frustration, I got the iPad restored from a week before via iCloud. I only managed it with a lot of help from… well, from people on Facebook, actually. Go figure.



I left my e-mail alone for 24 hours, letting messages accumulate to see what it looked like. I did check it, and answered a few (because guys, TORN COVER ART!), but I let the newsletters, flyers, notices, notifications, etc. pile up.

Know what I would have missed if I’d ignored it completely?

Just the cover art stuff.

Most of the e-mails I get are useless. They’re either information I don’t need, or things I could look up if I needed the information later.

(Would this be a bad time to plug my own e-mail newsletter? Yes? Okay, never mind.)



Not really. More like sensible options management. I spent a little time unsubscribing from all of those e-mail newsletters that I never read (but that I still have to take the time to acknowledge and delete, and that still pop up as notifications), and un-following some pages on Facebook.

None of yours, I promise. Just pages/profiles of people who I wouldn’t normally interact with and groups that I don’t need updates from. I’m not un-liking these pages or un-friending these people. I’m not even leaving those groups.

But a lot of what comes up in my newsfeed is noise, stuff I don’t care about. I will interact with those pages, groups, and friends, but when I choose to, not when Facebook tells me to.

I don’t want to be like this anymore:


Really, I just want to be my own master, you know?

So far I’m not missing any news I can’t live without. Go figure.



I was still meditating on all of these mornings. It turns out that “shut up and breathe” actually isn’t a bad way to start, as long as you’re focusing on the breathing and returning to it when you get distracted.

And man, do I get distracted.

My brain on quiet time: “I need to remember to do that blog post… what if I went back to chapter three and added a things where… shoot, I still need to get AJ to call the public health nurse about… I think I was supposed to plug the Kindle in last night… Crap, I need to fix those typos in the paperback, and I didn’t make notes. I wonder if there’s an on-line text comparison… what time is it?… Forgot to feed the cats… I wonder whether it’s going to snow… need to pay the credit card… Aren… What if Rowan… How could I make… What if… what if… what if…”

You get the idea.

But though the distractions will keep coming, I’m learning to acknowledge them and set them aside. And I’m calling that progress.



Suddenly* I found myself able to get more work done through the morning. Where once my work schedule was maybe 2 hours of actual work fit into five hours of distractions, I was now getting through the morning by focusing on 25 minute focus sprints and 5 minute breaks. Afternoons are still shot to heck, but I’m getting more done than I anticipated. 12 chapters down, lots more to go.

But the Facebook distractions caught up with me later. Instead of using my muzzy-headed afternoon hours to get housework done, I scrolled. Not so good.



With the kids home and my husband at work, there was no chance of me getting much actual work done. Plans to go to the grocery store went out the window when the weather turned snowy (do not get my started on the crappy job the ploughs are doing on the roads this year). I got some cleaning done, though, and listened to podcasts while I was doing that instead of darting back to check Facebook every few minutes. I also started reading Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (since I finally remembered to get that Kindle plugged in and had no access to it, and so went to the bookshelf to find something). It’s really good so far, which helps.

That’s right. I can’t even focus on reading these days.

It wasn’t a perfect day. I did a lot of useless stuff on the computer. My goal is to get to the point where I only need to feel connected to the outside world a few times a day, and can set the computer aside and use my spare moments for reading instead. As part of that goal…



That’s right. I’m not here. I’m typing this on Saturday, and setting it to post. Sneaky, no?

I’m taking a digital Sabbath.

No phone. No Facebook. No Twitter. No checking Amazon. No e-mail. No chats with friends (and this is what’s probably killing me right now, because I have some amazing friends who I only know through the interwebs).

If you comment here, I won’t respond. If I do, smack me. If you see me on Facebook, same deal.

That’s not to say I can’t deal with technology. Maybe I’ll watch a movie with the kids, or play Mario Bros or Just Dance with them on the Wii. I’ll respond if my husband sends me an emergency text from work. I might even get a little work done, if I have time… but I’m going to take the focus off of the distractions and put it back on the things that get me closer to my goals, whether they be a happy home, relaxation, or getting another chapter edited.

Wifi is off, folks.

I’ll let you know how it went, assuming I didn’t end up in a padded room.



*My editor says I’m not allowed to use that word.


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with five cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. www.katesparkes.com www.tanithfrost.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

9 responses to “I’ve Got the Mind of a Monkey and a Monkey of a Mind

  • madlaura

    Good for you. I turned off (permanently) all notifications from email and Facebook. Unless it’s a text or a real phone call,I don’t know about it until I choose to look. I started thar when I noticed that friends were stopping the car to check emails, or responding to a fb post in the middle of a conversation. I must say, I like fb much better when it’s on my schedule. Good luck, you can do this.

  • Charles Yallowitz

    I think I only really pay attention to the Facebook chat function these days. It’s become a rather useless medium for me since I found that most people weren’t seeing my posts. The algorithm they use now lets only a fraction of your friends list see a status update and then it gets moved along if those people interact with it. Something about people needing to interact with you to see what you’re doing too. Maybe we should create a name for social media sites that are steadily removing the ‘social’ part of the experience. Time sinks? Virtual high school?

    It’s really amazing how much social media drains our time too. Ever dream of a day where you can turn them all off, wall away, and not wonder about the lives of others?

    • Kate Sparkes

      It’s the “not wondering about the lives of others” part that’s the problem for me, for sure. I know the Facebook page isn’t a great promo tool anymore, but I do enjoy interacting with the few readers who have liked enough posts that they actually get updates from me (haven’t tried to promote since the new regulations… we’ll see how that goes!).

      For me, it’s the habit of scrolling and the time I waste commenting in groups. Getting into discussions, feeling like I have to correct misconceptions… even just wanting to be supportive of people and things is a big time-suck. :/

      And yeah, chat. I have exactly 2 friends I get to see in person on maybe a weekly basis. Everyone else lives in my computer.

      • Charles Yallowitz

        I hop on to do a promo every now and then. Mostly to see if anything happens. So far all I’ve done is continually gotten the attention of those people hunting for new authors to offer promotion services to. Makes me wonder if there was ever any use to FB as a promo tool.

        I was never that into discussing in the book groups. You say something, wander off to do an errand, and return to the discussion going on without you. At least that’s what happened with me. I barely do this with people on my friends list too. Too many are going on about politics, controversial topics, and simply want to debate the state of the world. Not a great mood raiser.

        • Kate Sparkes

          Ugh. NO POLITICS, thanks. I do find groups are good for certain things (making connections with people, sharing advice/experiences, and for support during tough times), but I really need to start looking at how much time I can afford to devote to that. :/

          • Charles Yallowitz

            I’ve found that I get more of that on WordPress, but that might be because of the groups I joined. My wandering off tends to leave me behind.

            So many people hate talking politics, so I wonder how it keeps turning up in conversations. That seems like a dangerous thought though.

  • sstamm625

    I applaud you, Kate! Congratulations on your progress, and good luck with your continued efforts.

  • Emily Witt

    This is inspiring, Kate. I need to work out some goals like these of my own.

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