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Productivity Experiment Week 2 Baseline Results

Yeeeeeah.

Welp.

It was a week. That is a thing I can say about it.

I mean, it wasn’t all a bad week. It was a pretty reasonable baseline measurement week, actually. Between Monday and Friday I only managed to work 12 hours (mostly writing hours), but I added 12,829 words to my manuscript.

Not as many as I want to be adding per week. Not as many as some people add per day. But that’s not the point. Progress is progress, and I did my best every day.

I averaged about 3 hours’ work on days I was working… which did not include Thursday. Thursday was one of those days I mentioned needing to be prepared for. A migraine and back pain teamed up to leave me in a painkiller-and-brain-fog stupor, which in turn left me lying on the couch watching Roseanne all day.

I got the box set for Christmas. It is most excellent.

I watched more TV on that one day than I usually do in a week. I don’t feel bad about that. It’s not like I could work. So Thursday was a write-off.

And that’s kind of how things go. Sometimes my best is the 4780 words I wrote on Tuesday. Sometimes it’s trying not to feel guilty about taking a sick day.

So between that and my struggles with trying to get started on work in the morning (or like… any time), trying to fit yoga with my husband into our schedule, and having a regular school week to deal with, things were pretty normal around here. Score one for the baseline measurement!

And I got other stuff done. People got fed. No one was crushed under a pile of clutter or choked to death on litter box fumes. A kid had a friend over. I worked on a sample edit with a potential new editor and made last-minute plans to do a panel at Atlanti-Con. I helped with homework. I watched a movie. I waked my dog, and I found time to read. Stuff. Lots of stuff.

Judging by my notes from the past two weeks and my memory of how things worked last year, I’m calling this the baseline against which I’ll be measuring future results:

  • Work hours: 15
  • Words per writing hour average: 1200
  • Sleep: 8-8.5 hours per night
  • Energy: generally low, crash by 6:00 on weeknights

So what does wrapping the baseline weeks up mean?

It means that this week, I start the Godawful Early Schedule.

I’m more excited about it than that name implies. Yes, it’s going to be crazy hard to get up an hour earlier than I do now to fit in 90 minutes of work before I wake the kids up. I’m used to getting up early-ish, but I’m not exactly energetic or what you’d call mentally present in the morning. I may cry. I might not word good.

But if I can make it work?

If I can make it work, I could get a good chunk of my work for the day done before anyone has any reason to interrupt me. I could be alone with my work when I’ve just rolled out of dreams, before distractions have a chance to get to me. I could let ideas filter in the back of my mind while I get the kids up and out, and maybe have new ideas when I get back to writing. Or I could continue drafting in the morning and do edits later, using that natural schedule break to split my day and still finishing my work day by 12:30.

I could have afternoons free for napping so I won’t crash so hard at supper time, or to get a walk in to help me shift gears before home and family time. Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy my evenings instead of watching the clock to see if it’s bedtime yet.

That’d be cool.

We’ll see how it goes. My big plans might not pan out, but there’s always a chance.

(This Thursday’s post is going to take a look at the productivity tips and tricks that are already working for me, which will conclude this series of experiment intro posts. After that, I’ll post reviews of some productivity books, talk a bit about writing/being my own boss and productivity, and of course posting updates on the experiment. Let me know if you have questions/topics you’d like to see covered!

…Assuming I don’t fall down the stairs in a sleep-deprived stupor some early morning and find myself unable to post. It’s not unpossible.*)


 

*Unpossible is a perfectly cromulent word.

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Where I’m At Now (Productivity Experiment)

SUPER BORING POST AHEAD. Kind of. If you want to see how my days look, what my job entails, and what I need to work on, you can totally stay. But no pressure. I’m just putting this here so we have something to compare my experimental schedules to. There are probably more interesting Buzzfeed articles and kitten videos out there to fill your time.

Okay, then.

Here’s a look at the baseline schedule I’m tracking right now. This is highly variable, of course. Holidays, sick days, and snow days happen. Medical appointments and car repairs eat into work hours. Summer vacation is a total crapshoot. But ideally, this is my weekday schedule:

6:30 – wake up. Morning routine (wash up, let the dogs out and feed Jack, gratitude notes, tea and breakfast, meds/vitamins, reading, plan my day and note top 3 goals, and 10 minutes meditation + floor stretches (if I don’t get distracted)

7:30 – kids up, showered and dressed, pack lunches, make sure everyone gets breakfast, do last night’s and this morning’s dishes, get the boys off to school

9:00 – walk Jack, listen to music, finish up housework that’s likely to distract me while I’m working at home.

10:00 – work time

12:00 – lunch

1:00 – work time

2:30 – stop work

3:00 on – homework, housework, family time, errands, cooking, supper, read to kids, wash hair, whatever else needs to get done, relax

9:30 – kids to bed

10:00 – bed, maybe read a bit, maybe just crash

It looks so simple laid out like that. Maybe not quite enough work hours to do as much writing as I want and take care of the promotion I should be doing, but decent part-time work hours.

And at its simplest level, my goal here is just to make the most of all those hours. To figure out how to get my brain to stop freaking out when I sit down to write and just frigging do it, to switch gears when I need to let go of work and do something else, to learn how to relax in those unclaimed after supper hours and to enjoy the time I get with my family… and more importantly to figure out how to gain more energy and conserve it so I have something to offer myself and others later in the day instead of turning into an unfocused zombie (mombie?) like I did three days out of last week.

…plus organizing my time/energy/attention so I can tackle all of the tasks related to my job (story brainstorming/planning/beats, writing, revisions, editing, marketing, hiring and coordinating editors and cover artists, answering emails, writing short stories and posts for my newsletters, critiquing work for other authors, networking, doing live reading events, managing my social media accounts and facebook reader group, bookkeeping/taxes/finances, and keeping on top of ideas and news that are relevant to my job without being distracted my the insignificant things) and my home life (you can probably fill in the blanks there. Two kids, three cats, two dogs, one husband who works full time, blessedly few extracurriculars, no hired help or childcare).

Because in reality (and last week’s time-tracking-induced efficiency aside), that schedule usually looks like a chunk of Swiss cheese when you take out the time I spend chatting on messenger, checking my email, scrolling through Instagram for too long, getting lost in an irrelevant Wikipedia rabbit-hole, searching for papers I’ve misplaced, responding to crises I could have avoided had I organized things better, procrasticleaning, and giving in to the urge to do non-critical tasks instead of ones that are important but aversive.

I said I was going to be honest, right?

I’ll let you know on Monday how the second baseline week panned out on this schedule, and then we’ll take a look at what I’m already doing to plug those Swiss cheese holes.

For now, here’s a look at the work projects I’m going to be working on over the next few months. You might notice two things: First, that there’s not a lot of business/promo-type stuff listed. My focus right now is on handling all of the writing I need to do to meet a few firm deadlines I’ve got coming up, including having a major project ready for an editor who books a year in advance. Second, this is a lot to accomplish in <20 hours a week between now and mid-January, even if I’m using those hours consistently and effectively. We’ll see how it pans out.

  • finish drafting Phoenix project (YA Fantasy/Dystopian): ~60K words to go
  • Get Phoenix revised, self-edited, and ready for critique
  • prep Phoenix for editor (post-crit revisions + polish)
  • Fixes on pen name book 3 when it’s back from the editor, polish for beta read*
  • plan and draft pen name book 4
  • book 3 cover art (commission, brainstorm, supervise, approve)
  • proofread, format, and publish book 3
  • try to plan and execute book 1 promo surrounding release of book 3 to get the series selling

Time to get cracking.**

 


*For anyone who’s interested in my writing process, here you go:

  • initial idea, brainstorming, plot and character arc outline, story beats and basic scene outlines
  • drafting (I generally average 1200 words an hour with scene planning and no distractions, and I take revision notes along the way instead of halting my momentum to fix things. I do, however, do a lot of sentence-level second-guessing and fixing as I’m writing. I can’t just leave cheeseball dialogue or dead-end ideas sitting there until revisions. This is probably why I don’t hit 2K words an hour, but it also means my first draft is more polished than it would otherwise be.)
  • rest time (at least 2 weeks to give me some distance and objectivity)
  • read through, look for places I could take the story deeper or make it more interesting, watch for plot holes and character inconsistencies, etc.
  • revisions (could mean massive rewrites or smaller edits)
  • critique (one fellow author and two more casual but sharp-eyed readers read the story and point out flaws/opportunities I might have missed)
  • further revisions and stylistic polish
  • professional editing (up to 6 weeks for a novel, during which time I’m working on something else)
  • edits back, make changes and fixes
  • cover art (I always hire someone for this, but it does require my time and attention)
  • beta read (three or four more readers offer feedback on what should by now be a polished manuscript)
  • fixes and multiple proofreads
  • formatting for ebook and paperback
  • order paperback proof and read over one more time
  • publication

**It probably goes without saying, but I have a tendency to plan bigger than I can actually execute. I get really optimistic in the planning stage, ignoring my average writing speed or forgetting the time I need to plan scenes, overestimating my ability to focus, and not accounting for lost work time. Building those factors into future deadlines will definitely be part of this experiment.


Week One Baseline Results

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One week down.

One week of tracking (almost) every hour, working the bugs out of my tracking system, and getting back into the swing of things as school started.

I’ve gone from just colour coding my time use to combining that with a line in my notebook where I can record what I was actually doing during that time. Does “work” mean drafting a story, emailing a potential new editor, or making plans to sit on a panel at an upcoming event? Does home/family time mean homework, cooking, or going out for a birthday supper? And what did I do during that mysterious “personal” time? What about times when I’m doing two things at once, or those activities that don’t fit neatly into one category?

So notes are good. And I gave up on attempting to measure my focus. Instead, I’m making notes. How hard was it to start work? To become immersed in reading? How irritated did I get when distractions popped up? When did I feel tempted to procrastinate?

I’ve also decided to have my weeks run Saturday to Friday, which will allow me to look at results and write blog posts on Saturdays.

The results:

No major surprises so far, which I guess is good. The first two weeks are just to figure out  how well things are working before I start changing stuff.

As expected, the fact that I’m paying close attention to how I’m spending my time means that I’m wasting less of it than I did on this schedule last year–Thursday’s post will look at that schedule and how it usually pans out. I’m acutely aware of the time I’m spending avoiding the day’s work, so I’m fighting harder against procrastination. I’m also less likely to let myself off the hook when I do it.

So yes, that makes this schedule look more effective than it really is. It also shows that time tracking, while it’s a huge pain in the ass, does lead to more effective use of my time.

Monday and Tuesday weren’t work days. Monday was labour day and Tuesday was an admin day for both the kids’ schools AND my older son’s birthday. I generally went with the flow, checking everything off my to do list but not according to a strict schedule. The only work I did involved taxes (so stressful).

I drafted several blog posts on Monday and noted how easily I became absorbed in the task. My fiction writing is almost always a struggle for me, especially at the beginning of the day… and I think I know why. We’ll talk about aversive tasks in another post, and why it’s writing a book is so deceptively hard to stick with. On the surface, writing a blog post and writing a chapter look similar. Experience tells me they are not.*

My energy was good those two days, and fairly consistent until it started dropping in the evening. Light tasks, lots of reading, and few focus-intensive aversive tasks led to everything running pretty smoothly.

Wednesday was the first day of school. Back to packing lunches. New teachers, a new school for one of the kids. Much excitement. Also back to work for me. Thursday and Friday also offered, in theory, typical work days. No appointments, no errands that couldn’t wait until later. This means that in theory I had 5.5 hours to do what I needed.

It worked out to 3, 2.5, and 3 hours of actual work.

The first hour after the kids are gone (by this schedule) is for dog walking and shifting gears to get into work mode. I take an hour for lunch, partly because I don’t plan my lunches ahead and partly because decompressing is nice. So 3 hours of solid work really isn’t bad.

But I learned or remembered a few things.

  • Writing exhausts me. The human brain burns an insane amount of energy for its size, and mine is firing on every possible cylinder when I’m writing. I love this job, but it’s not easy for me. My scenes are planned in advance, but the paragraph-to-paragraph choices about word selection, character  movements and motivations, dialogue flow, and building tension require a lot of decision making. On another level I’m already assessing elements that will need to change in revisions, planning ahead for that and making notes. More importantly, I’m constantly fighting to keep my brain on task when it’s tempted to wander, take a break, or do anything that might offer the rewarding feeling of completing a task. Which means…
  • I am DONE by 6:00 PM on writing days. I can get through homework (another aversive task for everyone involved), housework, and making supper just in time to pass out in my food.** Much as I’d like to try running in the evenings or picking up a hobby, Zombie Kate is having none of it***. There’s obviously also no question of trying the “split shift” thing where people fit in another hour or two of work after supper. I can get a little energy boost if I fit in a catnap, which means I managed to bake cookies one evening and I’ve been reading with the kids before bed. So that’s something, even if it doesn’t really get me through the whole evening.
  • Attempting to start work makes me wonder whether I’m insane. I like my job. I love my stories and my characters. I cannot settle down to work like (I think) an adult should be able to during work hours. My mind scrambles for distractions, and it requires a ton of willpower to write them down and set them aside for later. I know what I should do. I know what I want to do, what feels like my purpose. I know I have limited time to do it. And I still feel like I’m ramming my head into a glass wall when I try to get there. (“Butt in chair, fingers on keys” might be a great productivity tip, but it’s not always that simple.)
  • Replying to a chat message, checking email, or posting on Instagram before work time are recipes for disaster. Just the possibility of responses is a massive distraction. Lesson learned.
  • Working outdoors in the afternoon is actually, surprisingly, okay. I feel more distracted, but when I look at my hourly word count it’s no worse than morning hours spent in my office. Plus, fresh air is nice. Thanks for giving me That Look and guilting me into it, dogs.
  • My attempts to break my social media/phone addiction are paying off. I’ll save that for another post, since we’re running long here. But I’m pleased.

So there were bumps and hiccups, but none of them were really surprising. And overall I think I did well this week. I generally used the work hours available to me. When a headache hit on Friday around noon, I fought the temptation to take the afternoon off and opted for a coffee, painkillers, and a catnap instead, and I got another 1300 words written before school ended.

I’m not getting as many work hours in as I’d like, but I’m doing what I can. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz reminds the reader to always do your best. That means not doing less than your best, but also not expecting yourself to do more.

I’m doing my best.

One more baseline week, and then we see how I can make changes that will give me the time and energy I need to make my best more productive.


TOTAL HOURS WORKED:  9 (1 business, 8 writing)
WORDS ADDED TO MANUSCRIPT: 11,000****

HOME LIFE: tasks completed, no one starved, hosted a sleepover, but too tired to function well between 6 and 10 p.m.

PERSONAL: Morning routine rocks my socks. Lunch date with husband was good, but probably doesn’t make up for the whole zombie thing. Read I Know How She Does It and started re-read of The Happiness Project. No fiction reading. Watched Baywatch. It was hilarious. Walked the dog 6 days, hit at least 10K steps 3 days (and 9K one other).


 

*this is part of the reason this project has to fall under Personal and not Work for me. If I let my brain think for a second that doing this is a valid way to use my work hours, I’ll never get my draft finished.

**Yes, this is with reasonable caffeine intake early in the day, eight hours’ sleep, multivitamins, daily exercise, and whatever healthy-ish food I can force myself to eat when I’m on a medication that makes food ew. I just burn out.

***Speaking properly is an issue. I tried to say “sausage pasta” the other night and the best my brain could do was “passage.” So close.

**** This looks high, given my usual 1K/hour average. I was occasionally able to edit parts of scenes from a scrapped draft of this book, which boosted my average. From here on out it should be almost all straight drafting.

 

 

 


The Problem with Productivity

Remember when I said I’d like to see information on productivity for those of us whose lives don’t look like the typical career-oriented person? Well…

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I’ll admit it. Planning and productivity are kind of a hobby for me. I have a planning system that works for me, but I still have a hard time resisting the allure of a new paper planner that promises to guide me in using my time better. And reading about productivity, brain science, and psychology are as entertaining for me as a good novel. It’s fascinating, and it leaves me feeling like the world is full of nothing but potential for reaching my loftiest goals.

I’m very aware that planning does not necessarily equal follow-through. There’s a danger of spending a whole lot of time researching/planning and none actually doing the parts that require work and sacrifice. But all told, this little hobby has done great things for me.

But as I noted in my last post, I have trouble connecting with a lot of advice.

In my reading, I’ve noticed that the subjects held up as examples don’t tend to have lives that look like mine. They’re men (mostly) whose lives revolve around a cycle of work and restoration. Even when it’s acknowledged that they have kids, there’s little indication that it affects their schedules or flexibility in a major way. I often see few women, and fewer who are balancing work with primary responsibility for a home and family*. Fewer still who are also dealing with mental or physical health challenges that can stop productivity in its tracks or whose lives otherwise include factors outside of the standard work/life balance.

And that’s actually fine. We all like to read about the massive successes, the people who organize and use every hour for peak effectiveness. The people who win wars, make half a million dollars a quarter, write multiple bestsellers every year. Of course we do. It’s fascinating. Inspiring, even, and that’s a valid reason to study them. I’m absolutely not complaining that no one follows someone exactly like me around with a stopwatch and a fMRI machine to study her brain waves, and I know stories like “Gina needed two hours to settle down to work and then wrote 1000 words before the school called to say little Jimmy was puking in the coat closet” ain’t gonna make for a productivity bestseller.

But what does it look like when people with different obstacles (or just making different choices) try to follow their example? Our stories don’t show up on those pages, but they’re ones I’m interested in reading.

I have factors in my life that affect my potential productivity. I don’t consider them all negatives by any means. Quite frankly, my life rocks my socks most of the time, even if I get frustrated by the amount of work I’d like to do but can’t/don’t. Some of them are generally negative, but even then I can often see a bright side.

Things like working only during school hours because me being available when the kids are home makes things run more smoothly around here (and because I find it less stressful to not have the office door closed when everyone is home). Being the primary caregiver for kids and the person ultimately responsible for most aspects of running a household (which I know I’m privileged to be able to do, but I find all of it mentally exhausting). Migraines that can limit my productivity to some degree for two weeks out of every month. Limited physical and mental energy. Issues relating to the ADD** I’ve dealt with my whole life but was only recently diagnosed with.

There are other factors that affect my productivity, but you get the idea. I don’t look at these as excuses for not getting things done, but variables to play with as I work toward doing what I want with my life. I also have a lot of advantages. I’ve been a SAHM since our second child was born (full disclosure: this was because I’m not qualified to do any job that would cover the cost of daycare), and this offered me a bit of flexibility when I started my work as an author. I’m naturally inquisitive and can learn quickly if something really catches my interest. I’ve only got a high school education (plus one year of university), but it was a good one. I’ve got a fantastic doctor helping me out. My family supports me. I’m my own boss, which is both a positive (unlimited sick days!) and a negative (nobody cares if I don’t get my work done!). Everyone’s life is a unique mix of challenge and opportunity.

And this can make it hard to get on board with a lot of the suggestions in productivity books. Reading them can actually be a little disheartening. I don’t have the resources I’d need to hire a nanny*** even if I wanted to. I can’t take off for a sabbatical/reading week/focused writing retreat just because It’s Good For My Career. Napping in the middle of the day probably isn’t going to happen, and my other responsibilities aren’t going to get out of the way so I can work during my biological prime time (which starts about 30 minutes before school ends). I have a lot of trouble switching gears, especially once I get really focused on a task, so playing Tetris with my schedule and fitting work in 20 minute bursts around other responsibilities hasn’t worked for me so far.

But like I said, I’ve learned a lot from my interest in productivity. The key isn’t trying to follow exactly in anyone else’s footsteps, but taking a few steps back and asking how an idea might be changed, adapted, turned on its head, mangled, or shifted to look like something I can use.

My time is limited. My focus is often crap (and when I do get into a really focused state, my schedule often limits how long I can stay there). But in 2010 I started writing. In 2014 I published my first book. Since then I’ve published five more (ranging from 53,000 to 192,000 words) and am happy to say that writing is, for now, my job. That’s not a lot of books by many people’s standards, but for me it’s a dream come true. I run a business, and even if I don’t do a great job of it and generally feel like I’m falling behind and always seem to be playing catch-up, I’m making it work.

I’ve managed it by making other people’s ideas work for me, and I know there’s more I can do with that.

So I’m not going to sit here and moan about why I can’t use everything I’ve learned.

Pfft.

No. What I’m going to do is an experiment.

While I was reading Rest (see previous post), I decided that I was going to try some of the ideas presented there and in other books, but I was going to try to fit them into my life instead of demanding that my life get out of my way.

And that to keep me accountable for sticking to the changes I was experimenting with and for tracking the results, I was going to post about it here.

For the next two weeks I’ll be working my regular schedule from last year (and trying to get back into routine after an August that didn’t include many solid work days), and I’ll post about the rules I’ll be playing by during the experiment. Then we’ll get to the good stuff: trying a major schedule change or two, then playing with other ideas to see what clicks.

For now, here’s my goal:

To experiment with productivity hacks and lifestyle changes in order to find a DAILY and WEEKLY ROUTINE that allows me to reach my personal best focus and productivity without leaving me burned out or forcing me to neglect my health, home, family, or the time I need to rest and pursue other interests.

Obviously it’s not a perfect or typical productivity experiment. My goal isn’t to maximize work productivity and squeeze every drop of get-er-done out of every hour of the day. It’s not to find a way to work 50 or 90-hour weeks with kids at home, and it’s not to find a way to publish six books this year and hit a bestseller list while I’m at it (though those are all awesome goals if they make your personal motor run). It’s to figure out how to manage my attention and energy during my limited work hours to make the most of them, to stop wasting time, and to stop feeling guilty about the things I’m not doing during those hours.

…and to stop feeling guilty about not working more. There’s a lot of guilt. That needs to go, too.

My goals, my methods, and my results aren’t going to be a roadmap for anyone else to become more productive. Even if you also happen to be a writer with kids, we’ve all got different challenges, advantages, and ideas of what a good life looks like. My stumbling blocks might even look like someone else’s dream life, and I’ll seem like a jerk for not appreciating them. But I hope my posts will present an example of adapting ideas about productivity to fit a life that doesn’t necessarily look like the ones in the books I get those ideas from. Along the way I’ll share my thoughts and ideas I’ve picked up from the books I’m reading, topics related to my productivity quest, and insights I run into. And my results will be focused on real work, not on hours spent on this project. You’ll see my hours, my word counts, my plans, my successes, and my slip-ups.

If that sounds like something you’d like to follow along with, stick around. It might be interesting, and I hope it’s going to be a lot of fun.

(And if you have any ideas you’d like to suggest/questions about what I’m doing, or want to point me toward a resource you’ve found helpful, feel free to comment any time!)


 

*That’s not to say there aren’t books out there with a different perspective. I’m reading (and will review) I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam, which looks at women with careers and kids. The focus is still on people who make $100,000+ per year and have things like daycare and nannies and business trips, but there are people out there looking at how parents are making things work for them, and that’s pretty cool.

**Yes, I know. It’s ADHD. I have a non-hyperactive subtype that’s common (and commonly undiagnosed) in women, and much of the reading I do about it refers to it simply as ADD. Doing so feels easier for me than clarifying the particulars of what I deal with, so that’s what I’m going with here.

***One of the books I’ve read on managing ADD (written for women) suggested hiring a babysitter so you could focus on getting the dishes done. Sounds swell, but again, not so practical for most of us.

 

 

 


Review- “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” (and thoughts on the productivity book I want to read.)

(cross-posted from my Goodreads review. You can check out the book here.)

Rest is well written, well researched, insightful, and interesting. I’m convinced. I need to learn to relax more, and I feel like I now have permission to make it a priority. Definitely worth reading.

But it was missing insight on something that might be outside of the scope of what the author wanted to do with this book, but that I would LOVE to read about some day in a book on productivity/work/creativity.

PLEASE NOTE: I understand that this book is “WHY you get more done…” and not “HOW to get more done…”. And I understand that this and most productivity books are assumed to be for The Professional Peoples With Big Careers, so the focus on them makes perfect sense. This is not a complaint, but a suggestion for something I really wish I could find more research/books on. This book absolutely achieved what the author set out to explore, but this review seems like a good place to mention a related issue.

Kay?

Kay.

We read here about a lot of people who are massively smart, successful, and dedicated to their work. It’s inspiring… but their lives look nothing like mine. Even in later chapters that focus more on people in more modern times, the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they were/are apparently able to focus their lives on a cycle of professional work and personal rest. People with servants, assistants, the means to take overseas vacations and sabbaticals… and even if not those, then these at least seem to be people who are not primarily responsible for household tasks and childcare in their homes. There are a few occasions when the author mentions “and this on top of children and responsibilities and…”, but we don’t get insight into how people achieve that balance or what that actually means for them.

The balance stated a few times in the book is between work and rest. But there’s another part of life that’s not professional work, but it also definitely isn’t rest, and it takes up a whole lot of time and energy if it’s primarily your responsibility.

I have so many questions about those people in the book who are acknowledged in passing to have home/family responsibilities. Do they have a spouse/nanny/servant/assistant who shoulders the mental load and most of the attention/time/energy burden for their home and family, allowing these creative types the freedom they need to achieve greatness through work and rest? Do they feel guilty about taking off for a solo sabbatical in the woods and have to make it up to the family when they get back, or is it assumed that the greatness of their career/genius justifies them taking on less of the burden at home? Or are they somehow working their four hours every day, getting in several more hours of reading/walking/napping and then having to cook meals, organize bath time, take the kids to baseball practice, help with homework, clean the toilets, make something for the class bake sale, and scoop out the litter box before they summon the mental energy needed for some deep play after the kids are in bed? (If it’s that last bit and they are doing all of that while writing brilliant novels or conducting breakthrough research, please refer me to wherever it is they’re mining their energy, because just typing that exhausted me.)

Basically I want to know how this applies to those of us who don’t have the freedom and support that these exceptional minds seem to have (and if not, that aspect of their schedule definitely deserves to be dug into a little deeper). Those who maybe started out as SAHMs or just aren’t the primary breadwinners but are trying to hone our productivity, do creative work, and improve our mental/physical health while doing that other work. Or people with chronic health issues, mental or physical, that interfere with the work/rest cycle. I need someone to refer me the research on how we do super cool stuff. Or not. Are we doomed if we can’t pass those responsibilities on to someone else? Is it either-or? (Honest question there)

*To be clear, my question isn’t just for this book.*

It’s just something I’m always hoping to see addressed and never seem to. I’ve read a ton of books on creativity and productivity, and none of them* have addressed the question of what happens when most of your schedule is dictated by other people’s needs. For example: Getting up early to work like the Dilbert guy sounds fantastic… except that in order to get up early enough to get an hour of work in before I have to get the kids up and off to school, I’d have to go to bed before those kids if I wanted to get enough sleep to not be a total zombie in the morning BUT HEY THE SPOUSE IS WORKING NIGHTS so that doesn’t work. Having a nap after lunch sounds amazing (and I’m super good at it, too), but I’ve got to get those four hours of work AND my walk in before the kids come home from school and we have to get cracking on their homework, so to fit that in I’d have to cut something else out. A sabbatical sounds AMAZING, but…

I’m not complaining, and wouldn’t trade my life for 52 sabbatical weeks a year. It’s just a different kind of challenge, and one I suspect involves different aspects of things like guilt/societal expectations than the workaholic trying to carve out time for rest. It would be cool to see someone explore productivity in that context, or just to see it acknowledged in books on productivity.

I’ll definitely be trying to work through a lot of the ideas in this book and to adapt them to my needs, and it’s given me some amazing ideas for when the kids are older and don’t need as much of my time. It’s also given me inspiration for a lot of things I’d like to do more research on just for personal interest (anyone seen a good book on Wilder Penfield? He keeps popping up in my reading). This was a very useful book.

But maybe an idea for someone to tackle in a future book would be to take a look at people who are achieving productivity and creativity under different circumstances, ones that don’t allow them to take up surfing or have hours of free time after work (any challenges, physical or mental or lifestyle-related). I’d love to read that.

—-

*Shonda Rimes did a fantastic job in her book of acknowledging that she couldn’t do the work she does without her nanny AND that she finds that when work is going well her home life crashes, and when her home life is going well, work suffers. Just her acknowledging that challenge was amazing and comforting and inspiring.


Taking a Break

…I know, I know. I HAVE been taking a break here. A big one, and if this is the only place you follow me, this will be a confusing post. The blog has been quiet because it doesn’t seem like this is the best way to communicate with readers anymore. I’m not sure anyone reads posts here, which means my words could be better used in books.

I have limited brain for Making Teh Werds, guys.

But I’m thinking about a far larger break from the world of Internet. It’s the perfect time for it. I’m between projects under my own name, and busy breaking ground on the project that’s due to my Bound trilogy editor in the new year. I’ve just released the second book in my pen name series, but I’m not planning any big promotion until the third book comes out in the fall.

I have my reader group on Facebook, but they don’t need me there to babysit them all the time. They’re a good crew.

…and honestly, aside from that group and book promotion needs, I’m beginning to realize that social media doesn’t do a lot for me. In fact, it’s become a constant source of stress.

That’s not to say social media is bad. Not by any means. Just that I’m realizing that I need to step away so I can keep it at arm’s length when I come back. I need to settle into my own life. I need to be bored enough that my work turns into play again, and I need to get out of the habit of framing experiences into photos or posts or tweets. I need to write without worrying that I should be marketing, and I need to reassess the f*ucks I really want to give about this business (to badly paraphrase Mark Manson*).

I need to turn my back on the courses I’ve signed up for on HOW TO SELL THOUSANDS OF PRE-ORDERS and HOW TO CRANK OUT SO MANY BOOKS YOU CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER WRITING THEM and take a few deep breaths so I can decide whether those are things I really want–and more to the point, whether I really want to sacrifice what it would cost me to do those things. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those goals. I just want a little space to decide whether they’re right for me. Maybe those are goals I want to embrace. But maybe I want to define success differently.

The point is that there’s so much noise out there that I don’t even know what I want and what I’m being told I should want, and I’m not good at moderating my exposure.

I get overwhelmed easily. I’m choosing not to drown.

So I’m going to give myself one more week before the break. I’ll wrap up my most recent paperback giveaway on Instagram (which ends soon, if you want to check it out). I’m going to start another one just for my wonderful newsletter subscribers, because checking email is a thing I need to do anyway. I might do another post here and on Facebook showing off the newly formatted versions of the books in the Bound trilogy. Might even share some pictures from recent trips around Newfoundland.

And then I’m going to try to disappear for a bit.

I’m going to check in with my reader group once in a while.

I’ll check for messages on Instagram and Facebook Messenger once in a while, but they’re not going to be daily things (and yes, I can already feel the FOMO).

I’ve turned off messaging to my Facebook page (which has been glitchy and ineffective for months, leading to missed messages and incredible frustration).

My pen name may have a few things she needs to do, but as for me… I think I’m just about ready for a break.

And I feel really good about it.

All of this is to say that I’m fine, I’ll be back, I hope to be feeling much brighter and shinier when I return, and if you need to reach me, please email. I’ll still be checking that every few days at least, and it’s always the best way to reach me.

*I may have recommended “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” already. If I haven’t before, I am now. I really enjoyed the audiobook–so much, in fact, that I bought the paperback so I could re-read, highlight, and lend it out.

 


Goodreads Giveaway!

In two days we’ll be celebrating Bound’s third birthday.

Bookday. Publaversary?

Whatever you want to call it, I’m excited! And I’m celebrating with a Goodreads giveaway. Want to enter to win a signed paperback copy of Bound? Enter here!

Good luck!

books

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