One of the challenges of being a professional author is that there are so many cool activities that look a lot like “work,” and actually they are a Procrastination Pixie in disguise. There is so much busy-work that can just eat up huge chunks of time, leaving us little meaningful progress to show for all our effort. As writers we must always be gauging what is really most important. Face it. We have a lot of essential tasks for our writing job alone—writing, reading, researching, marketing, promoting, socializing on FB, blogging, tweeting, editing, revising, plotting, planning, expensive therapy, etc. These are all jobs added on top of our day job, running a home, cleaning, cooking, laundry, fitness, and so on and so forth. All these tasks must get done. That is true. But, not all of them have the same priority .
There is a lot of emotional distancing when it comes to being a writer, especially when you are new. Our dream is new and shiny….yet often not taken seriously by others. Most of the time, if we aren’t careful, we won’t take it seriously either. If we aren’t mindful, we will allow busy-work to interfere with diving in and taking our dream by the horns.
Every day is a challenge for me to manage time, to learn to say no, and to focus. I am not where I want to be, but I certainly am not where I was. Compared to most people, I am actually pretty productive, so today we are going to talk about increasing productivity. Get the most output for the minimal time input.
Understand that there is a difference between activity and productivity.
One of the most common Procrastination Pixies falls under the genus species name, Activia Pixius Busyworkus. This pixie masquerades itself as a really great use of time, but, in reality, is a total time-suck that can have you scrapbooking by lunch. What does an Activia Pixius look like? The genus includes, but is not limited to, thank you notes three months after Christmas, watching old home movies, organizing baby pictures, and quality time with the Thigh Master you bought in 1994. Basically any chore that made you groan and roll your eyes until it came time to sit and write is guaranteed to be an Activius Pixius. You make a vow to write, and suddenly that junk drawer that hasn’t bothered you for the past six months is calling out to you like a siren. Strap yourself to the mast (office chair) and plug your ears. Your junk drawer has more layers than the Triassic Period, and I’ll bet there are a few stray Jelly Belly Jelly Beans sealed in amber below the napkins from KFC you are too cheap to throw away but never use.
Oh, wait…maybe that’s my drawer. You get the point.
Rare Photo of Actual Procrastination Pixie Disguised as a Hamster Cage that Needs Cleaning Instead of Doing Edits on Novel
I have to make a conscious effort to focus on the meaningful tasks of the day. If we aren’t deliberate, the Activia Pixius will whisk us off to a hall closet to sort Goodwill donations in three seconds flat.
At the end of the day you might be able to eat off your floors, but sadly, shiny floors do not impress agents. I know, I asked the one locked in my closet—ha ha ha ha! Kidding. My closets are way too cluttered to fit an agent!
Organized cabinets do not sell books. They might make more room for all the books left unsold, but that’s about it. A good way to avoid the snares of the Activia Pixius is to make goals. Real goals. FROG Goals.
Eat that Frog
One of my all-time favorite books is Eat that Frog—21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy. This is a really great book, not only because of the advice, but it is short…with big print. Easy read. Actually Tracy’s book changed my life. I know when I start using his methods I can take over the world in a day. Okay maybe not take it over, but at least give it a good pillow-fluffing.
Years ago, I would write my Things to Do list. I would write down everything that needed to be done, and would start with the easy things first. Right? WRONG! Brian instructs we do the opposite. Place your FROGS at the top of the page. Frogs are the tasks you dread. The bigger, the uglier, and the slimier that Frog is, the closer we need to put it to the top.
We do these FIRST. We must face our fears. Dive headlong into those tasks we dread. We are not allowed to do anything else on the list until we take out the Frogs with extreme prejudice. After the Frogs have been made into a green smear? Then feel free to do the dishes, read blogs, chat on Facebook, etc. All these other chores need to be done. Hey, my husband has grown kind of fond of eating and having clean socks. So have I. But I need to always be careful that I am not putting these tasks ahead of writing that must get done. And, actually, it is very liberating to annihilate your Frogs first. It takes away this giant anvil hanging over your head. Often the other tasks will go far quicker because now there is nothing to avoid, no Frog to make you drag your feet while folding the towels.
When we retool how we prioritize, the results are impressive.
He is mocking you.
What are some time-management techniques you guys use? Any suggestions? Advice? Do you have an infestation of Activius Pixii (plural for Pixius)? What form do they take? Maybe we can give you advice for safe removal with live traps .
Until next time…..
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