Tag Archives: Time Management

No New Bees!

photo: thewatermeloninc.com

How focusing on one task at a time can improve our writing and decrease our frustration with life in general.

When I was a kid, (and yes, even today) I had a weird eating habit.  I would eat in what my mother calls “courses,” meaning I would start with the vegetable and finish it entirely before turning to the protein, then to the potatoes, then to the bread.  It was even rare that I would even interrupt this process to imbibe beverages until they were up in the  rotation.

I also had this thing about food with different flavor profiles touching each other (please do not put the applesauce next to the spinach, for the love of Pete), but that’s an entirely different blog post.

The reason this is relevant, and I promise there’s a point here, is that I have come to realize that this is reflective of most aspects of my life, and maybe yours, too.  It’s very difficult for me to fully consume – or get good at – one thing while I am taking bites out of three or four other things. 

This is true in big and small ways.  Reading, for example.  Some people can read three or four books at a time.  Not me.  I read slowly and deliberately, soaking in every word, every nuance, every sentence construction.  I explore every elicited emotion I experience while I’m reading, and I can only do this with one book at a time.  Full immersion.  No distractions.

I won’t even talk about how this relates to my love life.

The point is that I can’t expect to get good at writing a blog or a book or a series of short stories if I can’t give these activities the proper focus they deserve.

I was talking with my friend, Lisa, while I was staying at her apartment in New York this past week (Blog Expo debriefing post on the way, I promise!).  She, of course, is going through the same thing in her life, because we are the same person, after all.  We are both very helpful, supportive people, with a lot of heart to offer to activities and organizations that make us happy.  This is an admirable quality.  However, we are also both people who have singular goals in mind that are wrapped around very specific passions which also require our time.  So, what happens?  At the end of these days full of helpfulness, we find ourselves completely pissed at the world.  Why?  We desperately would like to focus on “A,” but instead, we find ourselves splitting our time amongst a handful of “B”s.  Our “A” is sitting at home, waiting for our attention, but by the time we get there, all we want to do is crawl into bed mad because we haven’t had the time to focus on it.  Rargh!

So, we made a pact.  No New “B”s!  No New BEES!!  I joked that I would draw a picture of a giant bumblebee with a line through it and send it to her for her bathroom mirror.  We both knew it was a joke because I can’t draw.  (Thank you, The Watermelon, for creating an image representing your satirical rant on banning bee pollination!)

No new bees!!  Focus on “A.”  I stare at my dinner plate and think about how it all makes sense.  Commitment to our passions and to the goals we want to accomplish with our passions requires a giant scaling down of the activities and concerns that do not directly support this cause.  It seems so obvious now.  Eat your fracking spinach, Tiffany, I tell myself.

Stephen King calls this “writing with the door closed.”  To me, this now means turning off the phone, saying NO, and prioritizing the 10% when I can’t say no.  It’s not easy.  When someone calls to ask me to organize something or participate in something or volunteer, my heart aches to be useful.  But I exercise restraint, at least just for now.  For now, I eat my spinach.  For now, I write.

So, my message this morning:  Pick A.  Pick your spinach.  Eat it.  Love it.  Don’t feel bad about saying no to the bees until you’ve fully consumed the spinach.  It’s your time.  There’s nothing worse than feeling pissed at the world because you didn’t get to do A today.  Do A today.  Find a way.

That is all.

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The 10%

My morning desk

No, that doesn’t say 100% or even 110%.  It just says ten.  10%.

I was talking to my mother recently, and she shared with me a tidbit she had picked up from one of her many spiritually-minded friends.  It was about financial energy and it went something like this:  When you receive your paycheck every month, instead of sitting down immediately to pay bills, pay yourself 10% first.  The thought is that it says to the universe that your abundance is not all about what you are obligated to pay out to others, but rather, that that it includes enough that you can give to yourself first in whatever form you would like.

I thought about this for a minute in terms of time, specifically time spent on creative projects and time spent on “day job” projects.  More often than not, my time is first given what I have to do to earn a living.  Since no one has given me an advance for my novel (yet), I do other things like teach online.  The obligations I have to my students are extensive, and my strategy each morning is usually to complete the daily work for my classes and then, afterwards, to focus on my passions.

However, when I think about this energetically, it seems backwards.  I am basically announcing to the universe that my work obligations are the most important thing in my life by the way I prioritize them.  Plus, inevitably, I spend waaaay more time on work stuff than on my own creations, which is sometimes disheartening at the end of the day.  Creative energy can turn dark if it is untapped, and feelings of resentment and frustration stem from passion unexpressed.  Enter the 10%.

I still have to earn an income.  Those work obligations still have to happen.  But, what if my first priority of the day was to give myself 10% time-wise?  What would that look like?  For me, it would mean that before I start to grade papers, I would spend an hour or two journaling or blogging or writing 1,000 words or finishing that poem.  For me, it would mean that I could have coffee and create for a minute, rather than feeling the immediate need to put out all of the fires that might be happening with my stressed out students.  For me, it would mean I could prioritize my creative energy and designate it as something valid and worthwhile.

To others, it may mean something completely different.  It may mean taking the time for a long walk alone or an early morning surf session.  It may mean writing a letter or researching a trip.  Whatever it means to you to say, “This is my passion.  This makes me happy.  I can take 10% of my morning and devote it to exploring this idea inside of me.”  It is not selfish.  It is not irresponsible.  It is survival.

Of course, it also needs to become habit.  I am literally staring at 30 papers right now that need to be graded before I leave for the (insert reverb here) Bloooog Wooorld Expooo and I feel really antsy about getting them done.  But, I know it will happen.  And, I also know that I’ll feel better at the end of the day because I took 10% of my time this morning to blog about the 10%.  And, now that the universe is going to implode with redundancy, I will sign off.

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