Monthly Archives: October 2016

Batten Down the Hatches. The Squirrels and Pigeons Have Taken Over.

But we’re going to finish this post series.

I said we would talk about the things I do to help myself get something productive done during a work day. And I will. But first, I want to be completely honest.

I have days when none of it works.

This week, for example. I’m having a rough time because it’s a bad week for migraine symptoms like brain fog and confusion, and it’s a bad week for inattention. Blame hormones, blame the moon, it happens every month. And it costs me massively in productivity. On Monday I couldn’t do anything because I couldn’t string a coherent sentence together. Tuesday I kind of made up for it with almost 6,000 words in revisions. Wednesday was a write-off again. And today I’m struggling through the fog. Part of the problem is that I need a new scene, and my brain isn’t capable of putting one together. It’s a whole different ballgame from rewrites.

But we’re not here to talk about brain fog (though if you want to know how I deal with that, I’ll put my new video at the bottom of this post). We’re here to talk about the good days. Days when I can get things done in theory, but my pigeon-filled brain is scattered and I’m distracted by everything from an election I can’t even participate in to squirrels to “hey, I haven’t had poutine all week, is 10 AM too early?”

And again, please know that I am not good at following my own advice. At best I might manage to use a few of these tips and get some stuff done and feel guilty for not doing more.

We all do the best we can, right? And hope the little habits build into big success.

Here we go.

  1. Plan my day the night before.

I do this in my bullet journal pretty consistently. I don’t handle surprises well, and need to know what’s coming. Also, being able to look at my page, see what’s planned, and get into it is way more streamlined than trying to figure it out before coffee and then deciding to aim low. Some people might be fine with just writing down their top three goals for their work day, knowing they’ll remember other stuff. I, on the other hand, plan it all out. What my kids are doing. Who has gym tomorrow. Whose laundry needs to get done. Check-boxes for feeding the dogs twice, taking my medication, taking my vitamins, checking the mail. What scene I need to plan. What I need to do after that. What I need to plan for the next day.

When I know I’m going to be scattered (like this week), I’ll go so far as to create an ideal hourly breakdown of what I should be doing. I never achieve it, but it removes the need to decide what I should be doing, and that reduces my anxiety a whole lot.

2.  Leave social media alone.

I was doing SO well with this for a while, and it made a huge difference. I stopped using my phone as an alarm clock so I wouldn’t be tempted to check it first thing in the morning. And I still do that. It charges downstairs overnight. But though I find I’m far more productive if I don’t check facebook, email, etc. until after work, I’m a bit addicted. I get twitchy if I don’t check. My brain craves the distraction even though I know I’m not missing anything important (sorry, friends). I try every morning to leave it alone, and I usually fail. But it does work when I succeed. I’m more focused and more productive if I’m not waiting for people to respond to something I posted.

I do have a better option. I have a morning routine that involves meditation, reading, breakfast, and stretching before the kids get up. It’s lovely, and my brain never lets me stick to it. Work in progress, right?

3. Music.

I know most people recommend classical music for focus, and that does help me sometimes. But if I’m drafting, I actually find that I need something loud and heavy, complete with lyrics. It’s like my brain needs stimulation that it can drown out, and somehow that lets me focus on work. This is not a tip that will work for everyone, but if you’re not finding that ambient/classical/whatever is working for you, why not give it a shot? I’ve been enjoying Google Play’s Top Charts > Metal. Not my favourite genre, but maybe that’s why I can tune it out.

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Someitmes I get this weird feeling like Sum 41 has a new album out.

4. Timed sprints.

Sometimes the idea of just sitting and working is overwhelming. Breaking the day into short work sprints is sometimes the only way I can get started. A goal of 4,000 words can seem huge if I’m staring at a blank screen, but I can make myself write for 25 minutes. And if even that seems overwhelming on a bad day, I make it ten. Or five. But once I get the words started, they usually want to keep coming. This works best for me in the draft stage, but I have used focus sprints to get me going on edits, brainstorming, etc. Not much luck so far using them on things like taxes and emails, but maybe that will come.

4. Writing down distractions.

This is one I came up with myself, though I’m sure I’m not the first to do it. I keep a stack of post-it notes on my desk. When a distraction pops up (gotta check facebook, crap I forgot to change the filter in the Brita, I really need to get those last Christmas decorations put away, better call about that appointment I’ve been putting off…), I write it on a post-it and stick it to the wall. Right where I can see it. Does that sound weird? It works for me. See, if I just write it down and put it aside, it will keep bugging me because my brain is all WHAT IF WE FORGET?!! But if it’s visible, it’s acknowledged. It’s a thing I’m saying I will get to, and it loses some of its power as a distraction. Then, after my word sprint is done, I’ll pick one quick thing and do it. Kind of a reward (though social media is a dangerous one).


5. Just get started.

I waste more time at the beginning of my day than any other. Maybe I’d be better off if I could just get out of bed, make coffee, and work, but my day starts with other stuff. Get the kids up, make breakfast, make lunches, yadda yadda… I’m primed for distraction before I sit at my desk, and then it’s hard to get any kind of focus. But if I can turn off the baddistractions (leave the phone upstairs, close browsers) and get into the good ones (music and putting those notes in view), I might find my flow.

So there we go. On an ideal day, I would get up early and not touch my phone. I would do my perfect morning routine to focus and inspire me, have a coffee and a healthy breakfast, enjoy time with my kids, send them off to school, and slip into my office to get straight to work. On rare days when that has worked for me, I’ve had amazing results.

So why can’t I do it every day? Ask my brain. I have no idea. I don’t choose to do less than me best, man. But I accept that I am a work in progress. And every morning I have another chance to try again.

Any tips to add? Thoughts on productivity that work for you? I’d love to hear them!

Here’s that video, if anyone wants it. It’s long. I couldn’t brain, so there are awkward pauses and stalled sentences… You can see why writing r hard on these days, but this is how I cope.

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Flash Sale! Bestselling YA Fantasy, Romance, and more!

I’m celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with a sale!

Well… not really. I’m actually celebrating the fact that I was invited to do a joint sale with some other fabulous authors. But either way, here we are!

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If you missed the sale in September, this will be your last chance for quite a while to grab Bound for 99 cents. It’s a great time to start the bestselling YA Fantasy trilogy if you haven’t already, to surprise a friend with a gift via Amazon (did you know you can send an ebook as a gift from .com? Pretty nifty!), or to share this post or image wherever you please.

But the sale ends tomorrow!

If you’re seeing this post tonight (Sunday, October 9), come on by the facebook party where we’re celebrating the sale. Plenty of books to check out and authors to meet! Here’s the link. I have no idea what anyone else has planned, but I’ll be doing a few ebook giveaways and some fun stuff during my time slot.

See you there!

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No Squirrels Today

Actually, the squirrels are abundant. The biggest distraction I dealt with today was actually a TV show. One I watched the first season of last night (not hard when there are only eight episodes at 20 minutes each) and then had to watch most of  with my husband again today before he went to work.

Had to. Not optional. Had to.*

Anyway… We were going to be talking about my work habits today, but obviously I’m in no position to talk about those. And I’m a bit busy for it. In spite of all of the time I continue to waste and today’s flat-out failure, I am busy drafting book one for my pen name project series. And I really shouldn’t be taking too much time for blogging.

I mean, bless the handful of you who actually read these posts, but this site ain’t paying any bills, you know? 😉

But I can’t leave you with nothing. So here are a few photos from a recent autumn morning in Newfoundland. A magical morning of mist and fog and frost. Like… THE BEST morning. Pictures don’t do it justice. You can click the photos to enlarge.

No filters, of course.

Enjoy!

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*The show, for anyone who’s curious, is Galavant. I don’t enjoy TV most of the time, but this one is just delightful. Music and humor and anachronism and witty dialogue and more humor and beautiful people and more music. Love it.

It’s on Netflix. So good.


Romancing the Rock EXPOsed… Exposed

I know. I should have posted this last week, right after the event, but better late than never, right?

For anyone who’s as late as I am to the party: As I mentioned in a post here and on my YouTube channel, I was involved in my first live event as a professional author last weekend. Like, LAST last weekend. That’s right. I’ve never done so much as a book signing or a reading at the library. This was a first for me.

And I was… well, I was a bit nervous, as you’ll recall from the video I posted here the day before the event. I don’t like having to mingle or make small talk, and all of that pales in comparison to how much I hate having to talk about my work or (heaven forbid) SELL IT TO SOMEONE.

And yet I agreed to this.

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But the event was good. We had 13 authors from Newfoundland, mostly dealing in romance of one sort or another, under the lovely roof of Magnum & Steins in downtown St. John’s. We each had a table in one room where anyone could come in, talk to the authors, and buy some signed books.

We also had the option to pay $10 for access to readings by several of the group’s authors and four panel sessions on writing and publishing.

And we had a great turn-out. This was the group’s first event, and it went very well. The people who attended the panel I did with Candace Osmond on self-publishing had lots of questions that we were happy to answer, and it sounds like the other sessions were just as great.

Here’s my video recap of the day and my reactions to it. And below that is the link to the CBC story where I WAS ON TV GUYS WHY DID THEY DO THAT.

Here’s the CBC story.

Kind of nifty. ^_^


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