Tag Archives: distractions

Focus is not a Four Letter Word

Hey everyone. Casey here.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And while in my experience that seems to be true, it’s not always obvious that a behavior has moved over into the “insane” column.

ClockHere’s an example of what I mean. Between my family and my writing career, I manage several mailboxes (five to be exact, six if I count the day job). For the last four years, I’ve been deleting annoying and unwanted emails.

Every. Single. Day.

It had become such a habit that I didn’t realize I’d entered the insanity zone. I mean, did I think that by deleting them they would magically stop coming?

I dunno. Maybe.

Like everyone else in the universe, my time is limited and very valuable. So is yours. The world is filled with miniature, time sucking vampires like unwanted, unneeded, unread email.

Of course this got me thinking. What other subtle activities are robbing me of focus? And what can I do to get rid of them?

Do you have the same problem? I bet you do. Naturally, I have some tips:

1. De-clutter your inbox – i.e. stop receiving so many damn useless emails. Do you find yourself deleting the same kinds of emails over and over. Magazine subscriptions, sales at every store known to mankind: Macy’s, Land’s End, Kohl’s – you name it. Go to the bottom of the email and click unsubscribe then follow the directions. See? Easy Peasy.

One word of caution. Do not do this with spam. No, no, no. Actual spam (if it’s coming into your inbox) should be ruthlessly marked a such and sent to the spam oubliette where it deserves to rot.

2. Go to your social media sites and check your settings and eliminate all the needless notifications. Many social media sites send these because you fail to notice all those little check boxes when you first sign up. Or they change policy (looking at you, Facebook) and decide you need to know all kinds of useless stuff. Unless of course you like to know that your brother’s wife’s sister’s cousin has a strange alligator rash on her skin. Ewww.

3. Be in the moment. What does that mean, Master Yoda? It means don’t multitask. GASP. I know. Crazy, right? Believe it or not, it’s not really possible to write a book, talk on the phone, and make dinner all at the same time. Multitasking is a myth people! Focus on the task at hand. The end result will be better.

4. Disconnect. Yup. You heard me. If you want to get in your word count and you can’t stop visiting the world wide web – then turn off the wi-fi. Duh. Don’t worry. Your brother’s wife’s sister’s cousin’s strange rash will still be waiting for  you.

5. Unleash the hounds, Smithers! If your significant other or family can’t leave you alone when you need to work, then sorry, you have to let them know to please leave you alone. If escaping your house isn’t an option, might I suggest a pair of earplugs? They got me through years of younger son’s Call of Duty shouting matches with his friends.

That’s all I’ve got for today. If you have other tips, please share.

Remember to take time to enjoy the flowers.
Remember to take the time to enjoy the flowers.

Stop Thief!! Beating the Time Bandits

Happy Black Friday! Casey here.

Everyone knows there are only 24 hours in a day. And we all pretty much wish we had more time to get everything done.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t change the laws of physics. So unless you want to move to Venus (where a single day lasts 243 earth days not to mention it’s totally inhospitable), you have to use the limited time you have wisely.

You have to identify and eliminate Time Bandits. In order to do that, you have to be brutally honest about how you are spending your time.

Just like dieting, where everything you put in your mouth can land on your hips, every moment you spend playing on-line internet games, is one more moment where you aren’t writing.

Identifying Time Bandits can be tricky because it’s not alway immediately obvious that you are about to robbed of your precious writing time.

Here’s a real life example. This happens to me frequently on the weekends. It starts with an innocent question from my hubby – “Honey, what are we doing for lunch today?”

I look up from my laptop, where I am clearly at work, yet it is not perceived as work by anyone but me, and say, “I don’t know. Can’t you make a sandwhich?”

This response is met with a derisive snort. “How about _____ (insert, Chinese, Pizza, hamburgers, whatever)?”

Soon, the sons have emerged from their mini-man caves and start to chime in. Next thing, I know, I’m in the car on the way somewhere to eat. I have just lost, if I’m lucky, an hour of writing time.

Hold on. I know what you’re going to say – “just say NO.” And sometimes, I do. But, I also want to eat (hey, I’m human!) and I do like spending time with my sons (before they completely grow up and move away).

Clearly, for me, this is an area where I can combat the Time Bandit. In order to make up for lost time, I have to give up watching television (love that DVR) or not read before bed that day.

So how do you know if you are about to be hi-jacked by a Time Bandit? Please note, I am not adovocating that you must ignore all responsibilities or become a hermit.

1. Mundane chores are appealing. If you find yourself thinking that cleaning the tub (and you normally loathe it) then you have a Time Bandit. If you have teenagers, make them do it (bribes work better than threats) or learn to live with some dirt.

2. Social Media – I know this is obvious. But we’ve all experienced “the promise” where you swear to only spend a half hour and the next thing you know two hours have elapsed. Get a timer. Or in my case, I had to go nearly cold turkey to get back on track.

3. The Boob Tube – yes, I love it too. I have plenty of shows that will gladly rob me of my “precious” (writing, for anyone who doesn’t know who Gollum is). In the last two years, I have gone on a severe television diet. I avoid most shows that may tempt me and only allow a few favorites to DVR (any Haven fans out there?). I’m sorry to say, if you have hours and hours of DVR’d programs or are spending hours watching TV, then you have a Time Bandit.

4. Your family – see my example above. We all love our families BUT in order to be successful as a writer, you have to actually write. Sometimes, your significiant others don’t realize they are Time Bandits. You need to politely call them on it. Of course, there has to be compromise. Perhaps you can agree to have a nice dinner together instead of going out for lunch.

5. You – Yes, you are your own worst enemy. If you peel the mask off the Time Bandit, you might see your own face there (kind of like in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke sees his own face in Darth Vader’s mask). One thing I’ve learned is that if you are waiting around for the Muse to strike you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Treat writing like a job and write something, anything, until you get your brain in the place it needs to be to work on your latest WIP.

If you can write an entire book, then you can come up with creative ways to conquer those Time Bandits.

How about everyone else? Remember, the first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. Please share your Time Bandits or your suggestions for managing your writing time.

A Day in the Life of The Doubt Monster

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here. I’ve recently discovered evidence that the my sneaky adversary is up to no good. Look what I found!

To Do List:

5:10 am – wake up when Casey does. Whisper doubts in her ear about her WIP so she can’t fall back to sleep.

6:00 am – while Casey is doing her day job, read e-mail, catch up on latest DM news. Oh, look at the cute little puppy on Facebook!

8:30 am – Consider taking a class. “Character Assassination: 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Use Characters to Foster Doubt”. Or perhaps, “Your Author has been Published: New Fears and How to Foster Them.”

9:00 am – Decide to take both classes. More weapons in the arsenal of doubt are always a good thing.

12:00 pm – Lunch with fellow Doubt Monsters. Listen to endless complaints about how their authors have the delusion that authors and Doubt Monsters can be friends. Scoff at the idea. What is the world coming to?

2:00 pm – One more hour until Casey finishes the day job. Take opportunity to plant idea that time would be better spent on social media. And as a parting jab – remind her that she will never be free of the day job.

3:15 pm – Observe: Plan to steal Casey’s time with Facebook and lure of a higher Klout score appear to be working.

5:00 pm – Dinnertime. Torment Casey while she is cooking. Remind her that she’s been working on Mystic Storm since February. Ignore her counter argument that she wrote an entire book between May and June.

6:30 pm – Casey appears to be staring off into space. Her hands are on the keyboard but nothing is happening. Yes. Yes.

6:45 pm – Enlist aid of cat to distract her further. @#$@ Cat refuses to do my bidding.

7:00 pm – Uh. Oh. Casey finds my to do list. Yup. She’s making that super angry face. She flicks me away with rude gesture and bad words, then starts writing.Nooooo! Hey, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

9:00 pm - Am able to briefly tempt her away with a series of fun Facebook photos. But she soon returns to writing. Drat!

10:30 pm- Casey’s been productive despite my best efforts. Have no fear. Tomorrow is another day.

Yeah. Just bring it Doubt Monster. It’s on!

Anyone have a similar experience?