Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How essential is your writing life?

I'm taking a class this month, WRITE BETTER FASTER, taught by Becca Syme on So far, it focuses on the psychology of what keeps you from meeting your writing goals and helps to identify your distractions and the key ways to keep them from derailing you. It's a month-long class and this is only week 2, but yesterday's exercise really resonated with me and I have a feeling it's going to be an a-ha moment for you, too.

Becca has asked us this week to keep a notebook, detailing how we spend our time. She's broken it up into:
1) Essentials; 2) Priorities; 3) Desires; 4) Nonessentials. Basically, Essentials are things we have to do -- like day job, feed the dog, wash the dishes. Priorities are things we don't have to do, but probably should -- vacuuming up the dog hair, talking to our spouse/kid/mother, etc. Desires are things we love and want to do, like social obligations, coffee with friends. And Nonessentials are things we may or may not want to do, and the world won't end if we don't do them. Like Facebook and watching Netflix.

So, revelation. On day 1 of doing this. Aside from getting The Boy out the door to school (which is Essential), my entire morning today was taken up with Priority items -- running, dog walking, showering, vacuuming up dog hair. By the time I sat down to write, which I consider Essential, as it's my JOB, it was 11:45. I *could* argue that dog walking is essential -- and running, too, for that matter because it makes a massive difference to my mental and physical health -- but is it really? If I were reporting to work in an office, would 11:45 be an acceptable time to show up? Um, probably not.

So why is it acceptable when I'm working for myself, making my own hours? Add to that an inadvertent software update (Essential, but I didn't mean to click to start it when I did) and going to see The Boy play football/soccer for his school team (Priority. They won in a sudden death penalty shoot out. It was crazy intense.), my hours spent on my actual job today are about...3. And that's generous.

Again, would this be acceptable if I were working for someone else in an office? Definitely not. Would it be acceptable if I were the boss and my employee was only giving me 3 good hours/day? I'm lenient, but not that lenient. Part of my motivation for writing full-time is flexibility, but managing my time well within that flexibility needs some serious work.

I'm going to continue to track my time for the next week, at least, to see if I can identify a pattern. I suspect it won't be that different from what I've noted today, which means I need to work on making those writing hours count or making more writing hours in the day. Or maybe even both?

How would your day look if you were to break it down the same way? And where does your writing fall on the scale from Essential to Nonessential in your daily life? Writing it all down is an interesting exercise, especially if you struggle with productivity, because the reason becomes glaringly clear. And proves that the struggle, although real, is sometimes mostly with ourselves.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I wish I was in this class. I went on a self-imposed Facebook hiatus because it was not only stressing me out, but keeping me from working. I didn't miss it, I'll say that much.

Brenda St John Brown said...

It's a great class and she runs is often. Would highly recommend so far. And yes, I find FB stressful, too. It's such a horrible time suck.

Carrie Beckort said...

I have a similar problem - I don't sit down at the computer most mornings until after 10am. Then it's emails and other distractions before I actually get to writing. It's my goal to work on that. I've stopped watching some shows (which was some of my 'downtime' in the morning while playing with the dog) but I still have a few things I can change.

Brenda St John Brown said...

I find actually closing my browser works wonders. Then if I want to go on FB or check my email, I have to go through the whole process. I'm lazy so I tend to stick with what I'm doing and save that stuff for a time when I'm likely to be distracted from writing anyway, like when The Boy is home. This is all experimental, of course. ha

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