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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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time management

My Happy List

This blog post could alternately be titled: Why I Don’t Write Every Day. I know, I know. Writers are supposed to write every day. Most books on writing, writing teachers and even other writers will tell you to write every day. Write when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it. Pick a time, preferably the same time every day (to train your muse as to when to show up), and just do it. Well, I’ve tried, and dammit, I give up. I’m tired of trying, and failing, to find enough time in the day. I’m embracing my inner lazy person and letting it go. I’m officially letting myself off the hook. No guilt.

What prompted this revamping of my schedule is a post on Facebook. (Facebook is a major time-waster that should probably be re-prioritized by many of you, myself included, though it did inspire this blog.) Anyway, here’s the post.

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1. Make a list of the things that make you happy.

2. Make a list of things you do every day.

3. Compare the lists.

4. Adjust accordingly.

Brilliant. And so simple. I’m sure my cousin, who originally shared this basic wisdom, will be pleased to know I’ve taken it to heart.

So, what makes me happy these days? Taking care of myself. Being and staying healthy. As a result, I’ve decided my time at the gym or time doing yoga is time well spent. I also really enjoy walking Frankie. Which is fortunate because he really needs to be walked once, sometimes twice daily. It’s usually an hour long affair with several stops in the shade where I can listen to the birds and think of nothing while he pees and then kicks, pees and kicks, pees and kicks in the grass to his heart’s content. See, it makes him happy too. So, it’s a win-win. And lastly, I love being involved in a good book. So, reading makes my list. Oh! And I almost forgot – Mom! (How could I forget with the coming Mother’s Day weekend?) We really do have fun together when she’s not driving me crazy. (Sorry, I know that’s kind of a back-handed compliment.) So, there’s my happy list. Taking care of my health. Walking Frankie. Reading. Spending time with Mom.

And I’ve been making adjustments, or re-prioritizing, based on my list. Like last week, I dropped everything to sit on my deck and enjoy the beautiful weather we’ve been having in Jacksonville while reading a book. Or before that, I left dirty dishes in the sink and, still  in my pajamas well after noon, went out back to sit by the pool with Mom. The choices are easier. Dirty dishes? Getting showered and dressed? Hey, not on the list.

You’ll notice writing didn’t make the list. Not that it doesn’t make me happy … Well, wait. Who am I kidding? Show me the writer who joyfully sits down to write every day and I’ll show you a writer with an open bottle of scotch on the ready and a drinking problem. For most of us, it’s torture. The idea of being a writer makes me happy. The idea of writing every day? Not so much. There’s a difference.

I’ve decided to look at it like author Patricia Cornwell, who advised, “Treat your writing like a relationship, and not a job.” I’ve been doing it all wrong. I’ve been punching a clock. And, hey, if that works for you and makes you happy – then punch away. There just aren’t enough hours in my day. If I view it as a relationship, it becomes less like work and more about maintaining that connection. I’ll always come back to it. I’d miss it.

I’ll even take it one step further. My writing is like a marriage. I’m ready to make that serious commitment. To vow that writing will always be a part of my life. Just not my daily life. It’s like my husband lives out of state. Or we have separate houses. But we talk often.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been writing all day and a certain somebody needs a walk.20150315_121425

The Importance of Proper Sleep

131123_0006This is what good sleep looks like.

It’s 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning and although someone in the house is sleeping soundly, it’s not me. I’m doing it again. Taking on too much and striving to find the balance. I’m still looking.

Ever since completing my book, I’ve been under the impression that the pressure I felt to be writing would ease up a bit. Not so. The self-imposed finish-the-book pressure has been replaced by the similarly self-imposed get-it-published pressure. There are queries to write, agents to contact and publishing houses to research. There’s also new writing to submit to my writer’s group, proving to myself and to them, that a writer without a book idea is still a writer. And let’s not forget the commitment I have here. To this blog and all of you. Though as my friend Mary puts it, no one’s holding a gun to my head.

I’m just as busy as I’ve ever been, if not busier. So why did I decide this would be a good time to start a new business? Either I’m glutton for punishment or a closeted martyr. Maybe I thrive on complaining about how busy I am, all the while piling on paperwork like I’m striving for a promotion. Maybe I’m out to disprove the theory that disabled people sit around all day and watch television. Maybe, I just didn’t think.

See, I got sucked into the same business I wrote about my friend having. The business that’s all about making your home smell great? Well, lately my home smells like warm apple pie, but I’m half asleep and there’s a mountain of dishes in the sink. And I say “got sucked in” because I’m kind of run by my emotions. I liked the products and the marketing. It’s called Pink Zebra and there’s this adorable little zebra mascot. When I joined the team of independent consultants, they welcomed me “to the herd.”  I’m a sucker for that stuff. And when something feels right, I throw myself in — all in. But again, no one put a gun to my head. My life is busy because I keep it that way — I have to face that.

But something’s gotta give. Especially after the holidays, when I (and the rest of the world) head back to the gym. For right now, that thing is sleep. I’ve been hitting the pillow far too late each night and waking around 2:00 a.m. when Frankie wants to go outside to do potty dance circles for a half hour. That or I wake up with a start, unable to move, pinned in my too-small bed by a dog on one side and a cat on the other. And I can’t go back to sleep. My mind is racing with new business ideas or I’m crafting sentences in my head for my next story. Some people call it the witching hour. I call it the genius hour.

So no, this post really isn’t about proper sleep at all, except to say I’m not getting any. A friend and I noticed that I tend to write about the things I need to work on. It’s not that I’m so great at being healthy, letting go or getting organized (well, I am pretty good at that,) but I try to inspire myself, too. And in case you were really looking forward to reading about the benefits of obtaining a full eight hours, I’ll tell you that chronic lack of sleep can lead to excess weight gain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Plus, sleeping feels good. Especially on these cold nights and rainy mornings.But don’t take my word for it, I wouldn’t know. You can ask Frankie. After he wakes up, of course.PZ-logo-main

Checking It Twice (Okay, 11 times)

It happened week before last. The thing that prompted this whole “get-organized” endeavor. I lost a computer file of pictures. Important pictures. Pictures for my website, my author bio. A full-fledged hunt ensued. I clicked on the wastepaper basket. It had recently been automatically emptied. If only the real trash would take itself to the curb as efficiently.

Enough was enough. I had to take back control. I am an organized person. Just ask anyone who knows me. My writing group is still freaking out over a confession in one of my stories that my frozen foods are arranged left to right, top to bottom. (How else are you supposed to read the labels?) But, things had gotten out of hand. A typical case of having too much to do and not enough time to do it.

So, I did what I always do when faced with a daunting new task. I bought a book. Getting Things Done by David Allen. Armed with this book, Internet research and tips from organizational guru Stephen R. Covey, I learned a few things. This week, I feel a lot better. And that’s what it’s all about, after all. Feeling less stressed. Continue reading “Checking It Twice (Okay, 11 times)”

Big Rocks First

I would like to dispel this notion that disabled people sit around all day and watch daytime television. When I worked full-time, I would long for a sick day to sleep late, stay in my pajamas and watch The Price Is Right. I still have that dream. Just because I don’t receive a paycheck doesn’t mean I don’t get stressed or have a problem with time management. I do. Okay, maybe I watch an episode or two of HGTV’s House Hunters over lunch, but that’s it. I wake at 5 a.m., “quit” at 5 p.m. and still feel I don’t have enough hours in the day or days in the week.

The problem became apparent in the last few weeks as I tried to juggle writing a weekly blog, finishing a book and walking Frankie every morning and evening. And let’s not forget that when you’re disabled, everything takes longer. Getting a shower, fixing a meal, transferring to my power chair with an excited pooch at my feet. Everything. I can spend a half-hour pecking out just one email!

So, I started researching organization and was introduced to the concept of “big rocks”  from Stephen R. Covey. He wrote the widely popular The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989. That’s right — 1989. And I’m just now learning about it. Ironic that I never felt the need to be even slightly effective before becoming disabled. (I’d argue that being productive and successful matter more when you’re doing something you love, but that seems like another post.)

Anyway, the idea is to prioritize. Your big rocks are what’s important to you in the overall scheme of things. The big picture. It’s personal. Maybe it’s time spent with family. Maybe it’s giving back — a charity or other service. The point is to get the big rocks in there and not squander away your time on hold with the cable company or reading email jokes.

One of the concepts I picked up during my web surfing is this: you have to follow your compass before you watch the clock. In other words, before you can manage your time, you need to know where you’re going, your priorities and goals. Instead of focusing on what’s urgent, learn what’s important to you. Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going. Think of the Titanic.  

I thought about my big rocks and came up with three non-negotiables that I simply must make time for. Frankie (if you’ve read some prior posts, you know how much I get out of his walks,) my health (maintaining my current mobility is crucial to my continuing to live independently) and my writing (my passion and purpose.)

As it turned out, that covered two of the seven habits. I don’t know the others yet, so I’m only mildly effective. Habit 3 is putting first things first or prioritizing. In Habit 7, you focus on finding balance between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of your life. This jives with my big rocks. Physically, I’m taking care of my health and exercise. My mental rock is my writing. And Frankie is a two-for. I cover my emotional needs by having social and meaningful interactions with others (just today I ditched my planned routine and went down to the local coffee shop with him at the invitation of a friend.) I think I successfully cover the spiritual side of things when I commune with nature on our walks and meditate seaside.

What are your big rocks? Think about your compass. And next week, I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the clock. For now, I’m running out of time to post this.

Keep It Simple Stupid!

 Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.  ~Lin Yutang

I have no idea who Lin Yutang is (or was,) but he’s a wise man (or woman.)  You see, I created a lot of pressure for myself in trying to write both for my blog and my book. I haven’t figured out how to do both.  When I’m concentrating on one, the other suffers.  So last week, when the juices started flowing for the book, (which I confess, they haven’t done in some time,) I wondered how on earth I would get it all done.

Then my friend (and fellow writer,) Mary, suggested I focus on the book and forget the blog.  At first my inner type A was indignant.  It scoffed at the idea.  And then I thought, yes.  Why not?  Will I get scads of angry e-mails from hundreds of disappointed readers?  I don’t flatter myself that there are that many.  Besides, the purpose of the blog is to familiarize people with my writing so they will buy my book.  So, I finished another memoir chapter and I’m writing this in the final hour.

So much of our stress is self-induced.  Feeling short on time?  Do you really have to make that yoga class a third time this week?  If it’s stressing you out just to get there, you’re kind of defeating the purpose.  Will you or your family have to go naked if you skip the laundry this weekend?  Throw in a load of socks and underwear and be done with it.  Let it go.  You may find, like me, that once you let yourself off the hook, things are much easier to accomplish.  Sometimes it’s not the items themselves on the list that cause the tension, just the fact that there’s a list in the first place.  I’ll try to remember that next week.

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