Tag Archives: distraction

What the Monkey Would Have Missed

So. Sunday, and the great “social media sabbath” experiment.

Contrary to some people’s beliefs (*glares at husband*), I made it through Sunday without social media… almost completely. That is to say that from 9:00 Saturday evening until about 10:00 PM on Sunday, I sent exactly one work-related e-mail. We’ll come back to that.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. Going a day without being “connected” is probably a regular thing for a lot of you, but for me, it’s really not. I’m on Facebook doing word sprints with writer friends, taking part in discussions on group pages relating to my work or my husband’s, talking to friends through chat, tweeting amusing things (okay, I find them amusing), and scrolling any time I have a spare moment, just in case something interesting/amusing pops up. I’m reading posts on KBoards and learning from other people’s publishing experiences, or reading blogs to keep up with news and friends.

Actually, we should talk more about that some day, because that last habit has been helpful to me, and finding a balance will be interesting.

But today we’re going to look at what I gained from taking a day off.

I put my phone away on Saturday after supper. I did allow myself one quick check at nine, just in case any last-minute messages came in from friends (nope), but for the most part it was a quiet evening. Since it was a Saturday, the kids had no homework, and we hung out. Normally I would have had my phone and been looking at that from time to time. This time, I sat on the couch, and my six-year-old brushed my hair while he sang me the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Kind of nice to just be present for that.

On Sunday morning I did my 20 minutes of breathing, I had coffee, and I read a book. Not a whole book. I read another chapter or two of Mistborn, though, and it was good. I still got the urge to be distracted, and still wasn’t truly immersed in the story, but that’s totally my distracted brain’s fault. It turns out that Brandon Sanderson is, in fact, as amazing a writer as I had been led to believe. Though the length of the book still intimidates me (let’s just not discuss how messed up my reading attitudes and habits are right now, okay?), I started to relax and enjoy it. Progress!

After that I did some other reading for a friend, made notes and answered her questions, and fired those off without so much as glancing at other messages (really!). And while I was doing that, I focused on it, and I feel like I did a better and more insightful job because of it.

So the morning was pleasant, and reasonably quiet. Quiet as it can be with two kids running around (not to mention the dog wanting out, the cats needing the litter box cleaned out, the TV on, and someone playing something on the iPad), anyway.

I think I’d have gone a little crazy on Sunday if we’d been stuck at home all day. As it was, my husband was working and we needed groceries, so the kids and I headed out to the “big city” (45 minutes away) to take care of that.

We went to McDonald’s for lunch. I almost pulled my phone out while I was in line and waiting for the food to be ready. It’s a habit, right? But I went without, and it wasn’t at all painful. Good lesson.

Instead of using my phone while the kids went off to play after we ate, I read that book. A high stool in McDonald’s is not the most comfortable place to sit, but I read a few chapters, and the kids were happy to have extra time to play.

Grocery store, Walmart, dollar store, Tim Horton’s… Not to dazzle you all with the glamor of my lifestyle, but we made some stops. And then we came home.

I couldn’t work with the kids around. I’m not watching any TV shows right now that I could throw on while they were awake. Couldn’t sit and read blogs, or look at KBoards, because that would count as social media distractions under my rules.

So I listened to podcasts, and the house got cleaned.

It burns me to admit this, but with the phone and work put away, I found that I did, in fact, have time to do housework. I didn’t have an urgent chat going on that I had to stop to respond to. My hands weren’t busy typing. I didn’t feel like I was doing something important for my job by reading up on writing/publishing.

The house got tidied, the floors got washed, I threw in some laundry (not so unusual here– it NEVER STOPS), cleaned out the front hall closet and the messy corner in the dining room, and remembered to put a nice supper in the oven early enough that it was ready at supper time.

For the record, I would go bananas if this were my life every day. For that to happen, for me to even come close to approaching June Cleaverdom, I would have to stop writing.

The horror.

But I will grudgingly admit that laying off of the mindless distractions (and even the demonstrably valuable chats with friends who I love), as well as not working for one day, did give me some breathing space to focus on other things that I’d been meaning to do and never seemed to have time for.

What else would my monkey mind have missed if I’d been too distracted to just be present at home? A couple of rounds of Candy Land with the kids, which I actually focused on. More hair brushing and serenading. An evening of TV with my husband during which I didn’t pick up my phone once.

And a reasonable bedtime. Because guys, cleaning is exhausting.

I let myself check Facebook right before bed so that I wouldn’t be tempted to check it in the morning–I wanted to get straight to work as soon as the boys were out the door.

Know what I missed while I was away?

Two friends saying they hoped I was having a wonderful day and that we’d talk on Monday. A metric crap-ton of notifications, most of which were noise. One non-critical post about *mumble mumble*. Two notifications from people who thought I’d cheated when they saw a new post on my author page, and who were fully prepared to slap me for it.

I love my friends.

(But for the record, it was a scheduled post that I set up the night before, just to keep in touch. Ha HA! Don’t think I’ll bother with that again, though. I’d rather post when I’m around to respond to people’s lovely comments. I want to be authentic, not automated.)

Yes, I felt a little lonely without the people I’m used to chatting with every day. Yes, my brain had trouble focusing on just one thing at a time, and I itched to pick up the phone instead of washing the floors.

But I gained so much from taking a “social media sabbath.” I was more present with my kids and my husband. I got stuff done around the house that I don’t normally have time for. I was less tempted to try to get some work done, for some reason. I read a bit more than I normally would have. And miracle of miracles, I found that on Monday, I reached for my phone less. I focused on my work more. I was better able to separate computer/work time out from “taking care of the house” time.

That’s not to say I’m cured. But I’m definitely a work in progress.

 

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HAPPY BOO JEER!

Wait…

*drinks coffee*

Happy New Year!

No, I wasn’t out partying last night. I spent a quiet night in with my parents (who are visiting), my husband and my kids. Also assorted cats and dogs, and friends via Facebook.

And that’s my kind of party, really. I’ve never understood why anyone would want to start a new year off with a hangover*. Also, crowds make me uncomfortable, so parties aren’t really my thing.

No, I spent the first part of my evening making grand and impossible plans in my new desk calendar, only somewhat disappointed that I can’t use all of my new highlighters until I have a better idea of when things are going to happen.

Still, pencilling things in was GREAT fun.

It’s time for a few more plans. Not writing and publishing plans. We’ve covered those already. I’m talking about other things.

Things like:

 

Reading

These plans never work out as I want them to, but it’s worth a shot. My goal for this year is one novel and one non-fiction book a month. Not much for some, but I don’t get as much reading time as I’d like. And within that goal, I’m setting another. I want to read more books about people who aren’t like me. More people from other cultures. More people of different genders, sexual orientations, and experiences. More memoirs and autobiographies from people who have experienced things I never will. More from genres I’m less familiar with, even if I have to approach them like a kid coming at a plate of broccoli, nose pinched shut and eyes closed.

We only get to live one life, but through reading we can experience more of the world, gain empathy for those with different experiences, and hopefully learn to love other people more fully.

Also, I just think it will be more interesting this way.

 

Blogging

I’m going to get back to WIPpet Wednesdays as soon as I can, and continue to avoid spoilers as much as possible. It might not be every week, especially through January and February, as getting Torn edited and out in March is the top priority.

I’m going to get to every post on those weeks I participate and read, like, and possibly comment. If I don’t have time to read, I don’t have time to participate.

I’m going to spend more time reading blogs, both those I learn from and those of people who comment here. You’re all important to me, and I feel like I’ve been so busy this year that I’ve done a bad job of visiting. I’ll be better about that.

I’m also going to start re-blogging some of my older posts that as still amusing, relevant, or worth reading. I now have several years’ worth of posts, and I don’t expect anyone to go back and find the good ones.

Should be fun. We might do that on Mondays.

 

Productivity

This is kind of work-related, but sort of not. My big goal in this area is to learn to focus on what I’m doing at any given moment. If I’m working, I want to be immersed in that, not jumping back and forth between that, Facebook, Twitter, doing the dishes, checking e-mail, etc. When I’m with my family, I’m going to try to focus on them, not on my phone.

I want to be present in what I’m doing.

Some of you know how hard this is for me. My brain seems to be wired to crave distraction. I can’t just be where I am. I have to be planning something for work, or imagining another time and place, or working through a plot issue, or considering the pros and cons of a book promotion. I can barely focus on a real-life conversation because I itch to grab my phone and check social media, even though I know there’s nothing there that can’t wait.

I would rather scroll through Facebook posts I have no interest in than do something productive. I feel anxious if I’m cut off from any of my distractions.

It’s not a fun way to live. It is an addiction, and I’m having a hard time breaking it. I’d go cold-turkey off of social media, but my job doesn’t currently allow for that.

So I guess I fight it. I put the phone away when I’m at home, and hope my husband isn’t trying to text me when I can’t hear it. I turn the internet connection off when I’m working, even though I find word sprints with friends motivating. I’ll set timers for tasks, and try to focus.

Maybe I blog less, because that’s the work I’m able to do when the kids are home.

I will *gulp* try to focus on playing with the kids.

I’m not a bad mom, but I really hate playing trucks. :/

 

Health

Yeah. Okay. I did better in 2014 than in 2013 or any year before that. Even in the winter, I got the dog out for regular walks when I was able. My bad back (and newly developed hip pain–yes, I am eighty years old, thanks for asking) made that impossible for weeks on end, but I always got back to it.

I can do better. This year I’m going to start waking up earlier to do yoga or pilates in the morning (the only things I can think of that don’t get me all sweaty. I hate sweating). I wake early anyway and generally spend 30 minutes in bed before I get up. That’s another bad habit I need to break.

Also… Ugh, I hate to think about it, but I’m going to go to the doctor. It’s been *mumble mumble* years since I saw anyone about my headaches. Back then, there wasn’t much they could do for me. My brain scan showed nothing (ba-dump-PSSSHT!), and migraine medications knock me out far more than is acceptable for someone who’s responsible for small children.

So it’s Advil, tea, naps, and not much fun.

But maybe there’s something they can do now. New drugs, or better yet, some suggestion on things in my life I can change as a preventive measure.

As long as it’s not cutting out caffeine, we’re cool. I’m scared that someone will suggest cutting something else out of my diet, but I’ll try almost anything.

I should also ask about why it frequently feels like there’s ground-up glass in my right hip, because that’s an almost-literal pain in the ass.

 

Moving

Yeah, I have to put this one in this year. My husband has a good job, but it does mean we have to move every 3-5 years. This spring will mark three years here, and it’s half-past time to scoot. We’re still waiting to hear where they’re sending us (NOT a fun wait), but it’s going to happen.

When the time comes, I’m going to be more organized about packing. I’m not going to freak out if we have to buy our first house**. Above all… I’m going to try to make friends.

After almost three years here, I have two local friends (for reasons not worth going into here). In our next community I’m going to reach out more to neighbours, get involved at the school… anything else will depend on where we are, but I’m going to make an effort.

It’s a start.

 

So tell me: What are your grand plans for this year? Any suggestions on learning to focus (without drugs that inhibit creativity, please!)? What’s on your reading list for the year?

 

 

 

*But hey, whatever floats your boat. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, have fun with that!

**Yes, I am. I totally am. Hold me.


Schedules, Habits, and Lying to Myself

Me: Well. Here we are again.

You: So it would seem.

Me: Indeed.

You: Yup.

 

Man, small talk is awkward. Let’s not try that again.

A while back, I started trying to schedule my time. It has not gone well thus far. When the kids were home during the summer, I was constantly torn between spending time with them and trying to get work done, and constantly feeling guilty about not spending enough time on either, or being distracted when I should have been _______. Working with the kids home just wasn’t working.

And now it’s September.

And they’re in school.

And I’m still distracted.

I swear my brain craves it. It wants to be distracted. It wants shiny bits of useless information more than it wants a book. Well, maybe not more, but I’m not good with delayed gratification, and a 100,000 word book is a bit of a long goal. Internet articles and blog posts and Twitter are immediate. Checking e-mail is fast and sometimes even rewarding. Chatting with friends is easy and almost always a good time.

There are days when I will read the back of a shampoo bottle instead of getting to work. Compelling stuff, that.

So here I am, trying again to find a way to stick to a schedule and make myself get the work done. I have big goals, which I’m going to share with you for reasons of accountability. Those goals are going to require that I be able to focus, which is going to be hard. And no, I haven’t talked to my doctor about medications to help with that, because I’ve heard they destroy creativity.

Not cool. Though some of the other side-effects sound kind of wicked.

So it comes down to a battle of wills, me vs. myself. All I have in my arsenal are a few techniques to try, a schedule and goals written on lined paper, a novel outline with plenty of wiggle room, and… well, a little help from my friends.

Here’s the plan:

Every morning, I get 3 hours to work (I take the kids to school and am back by 8:45, and I go to pick them up at 11:45). Assuming I get coffee, etc. made before work time, and accounting for bathroom breaks, I should be able to get 3,000 words out a morning if I’m drafting book 3 of the Bound Trilogy.

No, it’s not an impressive speed, but I need thinking time. And hey, it could go up. In the future some of those days will be for editing, revisions, and for other production-type-stuff when it gets closer to release time for book 2, but for October and November, it will be writing.

In the afternoon, I get 1.5 hours, and that needs to include walking the dog and any social media stuff. Because I’m not blogging or facebooking or tweeting in the mornings anymore, right?

Hmm. Jack might not be getting the hour-long walks he’s used to.

*sigh*

*sigh*

But I think that’s the key. During my work hours in the morning, I can only WRITE. No distractions. Facebook is only for word sprints with friends, not for reading or posting or chatting (good luck to me there). I have to train myself not to OOH, HANG ON, THAT E-MAIL MIGHT BE IMPORTANT.

We’ll see how it goes. If I can manage those mornings 5 days a week, I’ll have the first draft of book 3 done before the end of November. That leaves lots of time for rests and revisions before… well, I won’t get ahead of myself now.

GOALS:

60,000 words in October

60,000 words in November

Revisions on another project in December (for the 2 weeks  I’ll have before I get edits back on Torn, then a break for Christmas)

115,000+ words in January (editing, not writing)

 

Maybe if I write those goals on the wall, if I have a clock ticking come January (because there’s still so much work to do after editing, and no time to waste if we want this book out in March), if I put the pressure on, I’ll be able to turn away from distractions.

I’ve said that before, and it hasn’t worked out.

But maybe this time I’m not lying to myself. Maybe this time I kick procrastination’s ass, I find a way to focus, and I get stuff done.

We’ll see.

 


Fun with Skedjools

Or shed-yools, if you’re feeling fancy. I’m not, particularly.

The kids are out of school for the summer! Hooray! I’m not going to get anything done! Hoor– wait a minute. Ack.

New challenge, then. I have a book to revise this summer. I’d like to have it out to beta readers by the beginning of September, which means I have a LOT of work to do in terms of re-writes and self-editing. I’m looking forward to the work. This story is rather exciting, and I hope that will help me focus.

But that’s hard with “Mom? Mom? Hey, Mom? Look at this! Mom? No, look again. MAAAAAA!!!” happening all day long. I need a plan. I need…

A SCHEDULE!

*groans*

I don’t do well with schedules. I’m easily distracted, and I procrastinate. Following a schedule feels like some kind of temporal/experiential oppression, and generally, I won’t stand for it. But if I want to have this thing out on time, I might need to make that sacrifice.

Hey. I got Bound out in spite of a flooded basement, an evacuation, and the destruction of my office. I can deal with a few kids for this one.

So why am I talking about it here? Because I need to be accountable to someone. Specifically, to you. I’m going to report back on this once a week or so. This could be inspiring, or just really entertaining for everyone but me.

Here’s a look at the schedule as I doodled it up a few nights ago:

20140628-194505.jpg

I can’t resist the siren call of glitter crayons. :/

Yep, that involves getting up early and working. I have no idea how this will work out. My brain already wakes me up between 6 and 6:30, but I usually doze a bit, day dream, plot noodle, and generally laze about until I have to get up. This plan involves, like… getting out of bed. And using my brain before 7:00.

Ick.

But my body clock also makes me crash by 10:30 most nights, anyway, so staying up late isn’t really a better option. Besides that, I have my biggest kid husband around a lot of nights, and I like to hang out with him when I can. He’s pretty cool. So this is what we’ve got.

In theory, this gives me 2-4 hours of working time a day (writing and social media), while still giving me time with the kids and time for housework and like… food and stuff. And adventures in the real world. That’s important.

—–

Schedule:

6:00 – wake up. Caffeinate.

6:20 – *write*

8:30 (approx) – kids up. Breakfast. Housework. Family stuff. Errands.

12:00 – lunch

1:00 – write (or social media promo stuff if the kids are around and not easily distracted)

3:00 – do stuff with kids

5:00 – supper prep, supper

7:00 – clean up kitchen, tidy, read with boys or on own

9:00 – kids to bed. Hang out with AJ or work if he’s not home

9:45 – prep notes for next morning’s writing

10:00 – bed

——

I’m hoping that few minutes of pre-bed prep will help me focus in the morning. Normally I have to spend an hour a few minutes finding my focus. I’ll let you know if this helps.

Added rules:

  • no e-mail before noon (so if you don’t hear from me, I’m not ignoring you!)
  • no facebook/twitter during work time (except for word sprints)
  • read at least 30 minutes per day

Obviously this is all subject to change. It is summer, which calls for spontaneous trips to the beach and the walking trail, overnight visits to the in-laws’, a wee vacation trip, and various other upsetters-of-schedules.

But I’m going to try.

Wish me luck.

Have any tips or tricks to share that help you get work done in the midst of distractions? How do you stick to a schedule without going insane? Please share!


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