Tag Archives: time management

Chill, Monkey Brain

 

Distraction.

We’ve talked about it here before, specifically in terms of me craving it. I can’t help it, you know? My brain doesn’t like to focus. Even when I’m working on something I’m excited about, it’s irresistably tempting to click over to Facebook every five minutes (no exaggeration), or to answer the ping of the e-mail notification just in case it’s a message that will grant me a hit of some feel-good brain chemical, or perhaps give me a novel (ha) distraction.

It’s not just a will-power issue, either. People joke about internet and social media addiction, but it’s not far off. I get anxious and irritable when I’m disconnected, even though I know on a rational level that I’m missing absolutely nothing of consequence.

Seriously, the pictures of my mom’s kitten can wait. He’s adorable… but will still be adorable after I finish working.

But even though giving in to temptation isn’t rewarding 99% of the time, I keep doing it, like it’s a compulsion. An addiction. I scroll through Facebook posts I’ve seen three times already, waiting to see whether something new will pop up. I read Cracked articles that are interesting or amusing, but make absolutely no difference to me in any practical way. My life is not better for looking.

It’s all distraction.

Well, I’m done complaining about it.

This morning I picked up a book called The Distraction Addiction [insert REALLY long subtitle here], by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. $14.99, more than I’ve ever spent on an e-book before, but as of 50% through the book, I think it was money well-spent.

It talks about a lot of things, in a semi-Gladwellian tone: Multitasking (good) vs. stitch-tasking (not at all good), the ways technology shapes culture, mindfulness, meditation, using technology instead of being used by it…

…and Monkey Brain.

From the introduction, emphasis mine:

The monkey mind’s constant activity reflects a deep restlessness: monkeys can’t sit still because their minds never stop. Likewise, most of the time, the human mind delivers up a constant stream of consciousness. Even in quiet moments, minds are prone to wandering. Add a constant buzz of electronics, the flash of a new message landing in your in-box, the ping of voicemail, and your mind is as manic as a monkey after a triple espresso. The monkey mind is attracted to today’s infinite and ever-changing buffet of information choices and devices. It thrives on overload, is drawn to shiny and blinky things, and doesn’t distinguish between good and bad technologies or choices.

 

Sound like anyone you know? Not a flattering comparison, but an unfortunately accurate one for me.

So as I read, I’m making some decisions. I want to chill my monkey brain. I want to use social media as a tool, not let it capture more of my attention than is healthy.

I want to change the way my mind works, not just fight distraction.

I want to use e-mail as a way to communicate with people who are important to me, not as a means to be fed more distractions.

I want Facebook to allow me to catch up with everyone… maybe twice a day, not every five minutes or when I’m in line at the grocery store.

I want to focus on my work for hours at a time, not in ten-minute bursts.

It’s not going to be easy, but here’s the plan as I see it so far:

  • Remove Facebook app from my phone. I can still access it via the internet, but it’ll be a little more difficult, and I’ll have time to think about why I’m looking. (Also, I can access my pages here and messages without a separate app. HA.)
  • Turn off the WiFi when I’m working.
  • I’m going to *deep breaths* not check e-mails until lunch time, giving me a chance to work without being side-tracked before I even get started. And no Facebook before getting out of bed.
  • Turn off e-mail and WordPress notifications on my phone. I’ll respond to them, but on my time, not my phone’s.
  • Get up early every day and try meditation. I expect I’ll be horrible at it, but it sounds like even a little practice at it really helps calm the need for distraction and helps with focus on practical and creative tasks. Ding ding! Just what I need, and this might be the key to the whole problem. And wasn’t mindfulness one of my goals for this round of ROW80? Hmm.
  • Stop carrying the phone around the house with me.
  • Stop notifications on Facebook groups that are just distracting me or (occasionally) stressing me out.
  • Put the phone/computer away when I’m with my family… and take a full break from the internet on Sundays.

 

  • And… okay, this might take a while. I’m going to break my habit of checking for reviews on Amazon, and I’m going to not check sales numbers every day. I’m turning my focus back on the work, on bringing my visions to life and putting my stories out in the best way I can, and I’m going to try to let go of the world’s reactions to it.

Whew. That’s going to be rough.

That’s not to say I don’t care whether readers are happy. I do, and I love it when readers are happy. It’s kind of why I publish, and why I do silly things like having an editor. But I don’t think basing my mood or my self-esteem on how people feel about my work (a thing that is not me) is healthy. Sure, good reviews make me feel good, but I can’t accept that boost without also allowing bad ones to make me feel crappy. I’d rather have good feelings come from flow, from focusing on something challenging and overcoming those challenges, from creating something worthwhile and beautiful, and then letting it go.

And also, it’s just another distraction from my actual work and life.

Know what this means for you guys? Nothing, unless you care to join me.

Okay, that’s a lie. It might mean a few, hopefully interesting posts here on how things are going with this. It might mean less angst from me over not being able to focus for crap (YAY!).

It will mean that when you e-mail me with a question, or comment on a post here, or say something wicked on my Facebook page (I do love when you do those things), that it might be a few hours before I respond.

And I hope (God willing) that it will make me a happier, less-distracted, more productive person. I hope it will mean better blog posts and better stories for you all. I hope it will mean a nicer, more focused mom for my kids, and my husband getting a wife whose mind is actually in the same room as him.

Because I’m going to be the boss of my technological extensions*, not the other way around.

Big dreams.

Let the experiment begin.

 

—-

*You’ll have to read the book for more on that.


Big Plans, Big Plans…

someecards.com - It may be the antidepressants talking, but I'm feeling somewhat optimistic about 2014.

WARNING: I am writing this on New Year’s Eve, while on drugs. Pain pills and muscle relaxants for my back, to be precise. This is not a problem for most people. I, on the other hand, feel like I’m viewing the world through a fluffy tunnel made of pink cotton batting. It’s happy in here, but somewhat confusing.

Also, I have a hot water bottle shoved in my pants that’s giving me a lovely Quasimodo look, and I’m shuffling around like my great-grandmother did when she was nearing 100. THIS IS SO HOT.

Still, I said I was going to do a New Year’s goal setting post, so here we go. If it doesn’t all make sense, well, there’s always tomorrow to revise.

Professional Goals

My word of the year for 2014 is going to be… (drumroll please): Decisiveness.

Is that a word? That looks wrong.

Decisive. Hmm. Spell-check is cool with it. Maybe we should go with “commitment?”

In the past (like, right now), I’ve been afraid to commit to anything serious. I don’t like taking risks. I like to know I can back out of things without too much fuss or embarrassment if I change my mind. Really, it’s a wonder I ever got married. If I take on a challenge or a big project, I do so fairly quietly. I try to keep my investment in most things to a minimum, and downplay their importance so as to avoid the pain of losing when I give up or fail.

I like to have an easy out, is what I’m saying.

This is going to be the year I get over that. I’m going to dive into the deep end. In March (and I have reasons for this timing), I will have reached the point of no return. I will change my Facebook profile name to match my professional name. If people ask why, I’ll tell them. And I’ll add a job to my profile there, and set up an author page (much good it’ll do me; Facebook seems to be making things difficult for pages, and I hope most people will add me as a friend as well as following that).

I will announce a book release date.

I will work my ass off and get a book out.

And another one.

Two books in 2014 is the goal. For some people, that’s nothing. Some people can release six or 12 novels in a year. I can’t, for various reasons. But two, both of which I’m already working on, seems reasonable.

I will manage my time, set deadlines, and get this done. I know what I want, and for once in my life I’m going to take some risks to get it.

(It’s kind of crazy how things change. Last night I was reading a journal entry from a year ago, when I was stressing about writing a perfect query letter and hoping to get an agent. Now my goals have completely changed, and I’ve decided that path’s not for me. Never would have called that. I guess in light of that, my other word for the year should be flexibility. It’s worked well so far, and in the changing and increasingly challenging landscape of independent/author publishing, it’s absolutely necessary.)

Personal Goals

I think my big personal goal will be to get organized. I probably said that last year, too. But I feel like maybe, if I can focus on work during half-days when the kids are both at school, I should be able to keep household stuff under control. My work time used to be whenever I could grab it, which meant I was always scattered, and always thinking I should be doing something else. Now there might be a chance of focusing, if I can break the habit of checking e-mail and Twitter, etc. every ten minutes.

Okay, every four minutes. Jeez, you guys see right through me, don’t you?

I’ll have three hours a day to myself when kindergarten is in morning sessions (January, March, May), one and a half hours when they’re on afternoons. It will take some planning and a lot of co-operation from the kids, but I should be able to get 8-10 work hours in per week, and then do groceries, exercise, meal planning, and house cleaning during the other daytime hours, leaving evenings to relax and do some research and reading of blogs and books. Work time will be writing, formatting, and other book-ish stuff, plus whatever promotional…

Ugh, I’m screwed, right?

Well, I wasn’t planning on making it big on my first book, anyway. In September both kids will be in school all day (but home for lunch), so I’ll be able to do more promotional stuff when the second book comes out. The writing part is more important.

Wait, this section was personal goals, wasn’t it? *scoops brain off of floor, puts back in head*

Read a novel a week, plus a business/craft book every two weeks. Plan all suppers, grocery shop once a week. Make time to help with the kids’ homework every day, and read them a story before bed. Learn to be more patient, somehow. Get into a routine. Keep the house clean. If I can’t get over my telephone-related anxiety, at least enlist help from AJ and get those calls made somehow. Get a chiropractor. Floss teeth every day. Spend less time on things that aren’t important.

Good enough?

My head is spinning. I’m not sure if that’s the drugs or the future. I’m guessing the drugs. I’m not drinking, but I may spend New Year’s Eve passed out on the floor after all. WOOHOO, PARTY!


Schedules and Goals

In support of Briana at “When I Became an Author” (and because I should probably be accountable to someone for this stuff), I thought I’d try to set up a little schedule for myself, see if I can’t become just a little more efficient in my time management (she said as she downloaded a Time Management game to waste time on).

Let’s see…

SCHEDULE

6:00 am- wake up. OK, this sounds gross, but for some reason my body clock is getting me up this early, anyway. Might as well make use of it, right?

6:15- WRITE. Easier said than done when I have blogs, facebook, twitter and e-mail begging for attention, but I can do this. I think. Dang it, I wish I had willpower!

7:15- Get kids up, actually start day.

…and that’s all I can really schedule. My husband is a police officer, he works shifts, everything else has to kind of work around him. Not that I mind; I love having time with him. But it does mean that when he works during the day, that hour up there is all the straight writing time I’m probably going to have, at least until September when my buddy Captain America starts kindergarten half-days. I’ve promised myself more writing time then, but we’ll see how that works out.

But there is one more thing:

10 minutes before bed- Figure out exactly what’s going to get written in the morning. Make notes to read over so I can jump right into it.

Well, it’s a theory, right? It might save time in the morning.

GOAL: 1000 words a day on new story, or editing as needed on Bound when I get back to it (which had better be soon. Holy crap I miss my characters and their story!). Plus more, if I have evening time available.

And what of blogging? That, I can do in little bits during the day. Don’t take this personally, but writing for you guys doesn’t require the level of concentration that writing coherent and interesting fiction does.

Anybody else have a schedule or tips to share? Something that’s working for you? Goals for the week or month?


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