Tag Archives: productivity

The “I Want To Do It All” Syndrome

Last night I finished up a work deadline with a huge sigh of relief and anticipation – relief, because I’ve been busier than normal for this time of year this past month and anticipation because my next deadline isn’t until May (celebration time!).

But this morning I found myself doing some navel-gazing. Found lots of fluff, so to speak. The one big thing that’s been on my mind is this:

Why am I always bursting with ideas but never DOING much of anything with them?

You see, this is what my brain looks like every single second of the day:

A jumble of thoughts

That’s just each second. Imagine all those thoughts wiped out and replaced by an entire slew of new ones, and you’ll have a good idea of my thought stream throughout the day. (The image of my brain drunk on ideas is courtesy of doodling on the awesome, free Paper by Fifty Three  iPad app, by the way.)

I love coming up with ideas. I love playing with ideas, growing them, becoming very excited by them.

But the problem is, you wouldn’t know this to look at DONE side of my to-do/to-try list.

I get awfully mired in “non-doing”.

This is a serious, cyclical problem for me. I have a slow season every year work-wise (you’re looking at it right now) and really, that should be the perfect time for me to make all my ideas come alive. There are books to be written, posts to be blogged, artsy stuff to try out, new skills to be learned, blogs to be created, social media sites to investigate, apps to test out, information to be learned.

Why am I not doing any of these things?

So I was doing some serious soul searching this morning.

And then the answer came to me.

I’m getting overwhelmed with my ideas.

It happens all the time with my writing. I’ll be in the middle of a great story, when out of the blue, a character for another different, great story will come to me. And suddenly I’m torn.

Which do I work on now?

It’s clear to me now that I do this with everything, not just my writing. My enthusiasm for a new idea knows no bounds, but when you multiply that by ten or a hundred (usually a hundred), It’s like I suddenly run into a force field that reduces me to non-doingness. I’ll have a 101 things on my I-want-to-do list (this is all stuff I want to do, not things I’m trying to avoid doing) – and I’ll be at a total loss.

Basically, this is usually what I end up doing:

image

And, mind you, I think I do it awfully well.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Plants vs. Zombies. It’s my latest addiction and I find it to be a real stress reliever.

It’s just that I’m not really stressed these days. Except by the fact that I’m NOT DOING the things I want to do.

So yes, I have the “I Want To Do It All” syndrome. And it’s really bogging me down.

I’ve always found the best way to tackle problems is to just ask the Universe for an answer.

Universe? I’m asking! I’m even blogging about my asking! Please, send me an answer quickly. And if you could give me an answer that’s about a realistic way to actually do all the stuff I want to do, and not just tell me to pick one thing and stick to it until it’s done (aka “the stock answer”), that would be really fabulous …

Do you suffer from the “I Want To Do It All” syndrome too? Have you got any advice on how to cope?

Planning for 2012

planner

It’s that time of the year, when the new year approaches and you find yourself sitting back and taking a look at what you want to accomplish in the twelve blank, fresh-and-new months ahead of you.

Except that I normally don’t feel this way until I’m actually IN the new year. Usually, right around this time, I’m coping with burnout from too much work and the stress of not being prepared for the coming holidays.

Not this year. Yes, I’ve been crazy-busy. No, I’m not at all prepared for the holidays. I mean, I’m not even fully unpacked yet! You’d think I’d be too overwhelmed right now to be planning for the new year, but surprisingly, I’ve been feeling energized lately. I’m not sure why.

And I’ve also been realizing the aptness of that old adage, “if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.”

Our whole recent decluttering experience has shown me something really big: what I want isn’t more “stuff”. What I want is more time to do the things I want to do.

I’ve always been extremely resistant to the idea of getting my life organized. Resistant to the idea of having a day planner and to-do lists. I felt it was my way of being free. After all, I still got all my work done. I’m very good at meeting deadlines, which is probably the main reason I’m so busy with work around now, when the textbook publishing industry is finishing up books for the next academic year. And I do it all with a minimum of scheduling and no lists to speak of.

Sometimes, when you know yourself well enough, saying, “No, that’s not for me” is a really good thing. But you know what? Sometimes, when you step back and take a look at the strength of your resistance, and the reasons you’re resistant, you finally see that you’re pushing away something that might actually help you to get where you want to go.

I think that’s the story around my resistance to more planning, to giving myself more direction.

2012 is a big year for me. There are a lot of changes coming up – not just with my lifestyle, but also with my work and my writing.

Not only am I in need of getting organized and productive – I WANT to do it.

Yes, the resistance is gone. (I think …)

All of which is my really long-winded way of saying, I’m ready to plan for 2012. And so I’ve been looking around at all the ways I can do this. My options?

1. A conventional planner. Like one of the datebooks you can get from Staples. Or something like the Daytimer system. Or, if I wanted to go whole-hog, a Filofax system. (Believe me, I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the Filofax site …)

2. A DIY planner. There are all the wonderful free printable planner options at DIY Planner – if you’ve been thinking about developing your own time management/productivity/planning system, this is the site to check out. There are loads and loads of printables for you to mix and match to fit your life.

As you can probably tell, the more I looked into things, the more I was leaning toward the DIY planner idea.

But something still didn’t feel quite right:

First, I don’t like writing in a binder.

Second, I need a LOT of flexibility.

Third, I love Moleskines and I want a planner system that lets me use a Moleskine.

Fourth, I have a pretty unique life. I have to fit in freelancing elements, book writing and marketing, homeschooling and blogging. Not to mention all the things I want to do, like more writing, art, puzzles (yes! puzzles!), meditation, and having daily adventures. All of that requires a lot of customizing.

Fifth, the system I use has to feel creative. I’m not going to be happy just ticking off items and scheduling things in.

So I’m brainstorming a system that is absolutely and completely designed for me. And I think I’ve come up with something that just might work. It involves a Moleskine. The discipline of weekly planning. And yes, even some of the elements of the wildly popular Getting Things Done.

And despite all of this, it lets me be highly creative.

Which is one of the things I want to make time for. Creativity.

So I’ve ordered my Moleskine (I wanted a grid one, and all of my blank ones are either lined or plain). It should come in a few days. And if I actually go through with creating this perfect organizational system for me, I’ll post about it, with pics – mainly, to keep me accountable.

It takes 30 days (well, some say 21, but I’ll go with 30 to be on the safe side) to form a new habit. Accountability has always been something that helps me stay the course.

So there you go. I’m planning for 2012.

What about you? What are your plans for the new year?

May Intentions: Tackling Procrastination

imagePhoto credit: Darren Hester

When I first started writing this post in my mind, I filled it with the wide range of intentions I have for this month.

And then I realized something.

Every single one of my intentions has to do with tackling procrastination.

I am, I confess, a Master Procrastinator.

My main dilemma? I don’t just procrastinate when it comes to things I have to do. I also procrastinate when it comes to things I want to do.

It’s that last part I don’t like. It’s that last part that can make me feel like I’m getting nowhere when it comes to my hopes and dreams.  And it’s that last part I’m going to deal with this month.

The Things I HAVE To Do

You see, when it comes to the things I have to do, despite my procrastination habits, I actually still manage to get these things done. On time.

It’s because I’ve honed the procrastination of my to-do list to perfection.

Here’s an example: I’ve been very successfully self-employed for over 15 years. And I owe my success to one main thing. I am a pro when it comes to meeting clients’ deadlines.

So you’re probably wondering, how is it I’m so good at meeting deadlines when I’m also a Master Procrastinator?

There’s only one reason. I am very deadline oriented (I blame my legal training. In the legal world, a deadline is not something you take lightly. You miss a date to file something, your client suffers. End of story.)

My Procrastinating Mind deals with my deadline orientation like this: it automagically looks at the days leading up to the deadline, factors out time I won’t have available due to other commitments, tallies up the hours that are available, and then sets a start time for me that has me finishing the project right on time. When that start time comes, I get to work. And I don’t stop until the project is done.

Invariably, I’m able to email in the completed project right at the stroke of the due date. As you can probably see, this leads to a very imbalanced life for me. But it does work.

The Things I WANT To Do

Unfortunately, self-imposed, personal deadlines don’t work for me. Which is why I am woefully unsuccessful when it comes to all the things I actually want to do.

As in, all the things that are the building blocks to realizing my dreams.

Of course, the way I handle client deadlines and other things I have to do isn’t ideal and does need to be changed (despite it being so successful for me) but since I’m in my not-so-busy work period right now, the better thing for me to do is deal with my habit of procrastinating all the things I want to do.

Also, I figure if I can get into the habit of not procrastinating when it comes to what I want to do, this habit will spill over into my work life, too.

I have a lot of interests. There are a lot of things I want to do. Writing is one of them. It’s not the only thing, but it’s the biggest thing. But there are a lot of other things I want to do, too.

So if I can just get out of the habit of procrastinating, I’ll be much happier. Because I’ll actually be doing all the things I want to do with my life.

What Works For Me: Getting to the Doing

All those smaller intentions I mentioned at the beginning of my post? They were all ways I’ve been thinking about to entice me to start Doing. Doing, with a capital D.

I’ve noticed that it’s only the initial Doing that stops me. Once I start Doing, the need to procrastinate melts away.

What else works for me:

1. Getting organized.

2. Feeling the fun.

3. Feeling playful about something.

4. Feeling the ease.

5. Visual props.

And one very powerful tool for getting to the Doing: creating new habits, using the 30-day rule.

At the End of This Month

At the end of the month, I will write up a post that will tally up all the ways I’ve discovered to tackle my habit of procrastinating and start Doing.

I hope! As always, there’s nothing like setting out my intentions in writing like this, on my blog.

What are your intentions for the month of May?

On Writing: Getting Productive

It’s taken me a little while, but I’m finally recovered from my recent four months of nonstop deadlines.

And I’m ready now to plunge back into seriously writing.

I intend for this year to be a really productive year when it comes to my writing. Last night, I came across this post at Dean Wesley Smith’s blog: New World of Publishing: Speed, and I realized the fact that I write so quickly is something to celebrate.

So I’m celebrating! And coupling the celebration with a new intention: I’m going to see how many novels I can get down on paper (metaphorically speaking) this year.

I’ve written about 280,000 words of fiction in the past two years, 180,000 of which came about in spare bits of time, the other 100,000 during NaNoWriMo 2009 and 2010. This year, I will be setting aside longer chunks of time in which to write.

Yes, the 20-minutes-a-day goal did work well for me. I normally get down about 1000 words in a 20 to 30 minute period. But I want to do more than that.

So what could I do if I sat down and wrote for a couple of hours every day? A couple of hours at the very least? That’s the question I’m going to answer this year.

I’m also going to motor through what, in the past, has been a major stumbling block for me: the midpoint of each novel. There are a few things that might help me when I get to this point.

I don’t outline, because I really love sitting down and just writing and seeing what comes. Sitting down, and making things up as I go, works really well to get me to the midway point of a novel. But then I reach the middle, and it gets difficult to make myself sit down and keep writing.

I don’t want to start outlining. I’ve done it before, and it just doesn’t work for me.

So one thing I’m going to try is the method that David Morrell describes in Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His Craft (the updated – and available – version of this book is The Successful Novelist).

I just finished doing a quick reread of this book earlier this week, and this is what I posted to GoodReads:

Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at His CraftJust finished a quick reread of this one (I skimmed most of the chapters, but thoroughly read the chapters on getting focused and dealing with writer’s block).

The first time I read this book, I was really taken with Morrell’s idea of a written conversation with yourself about your book idea, rather than an outline or winging it. I’ve never tried his method, but the idea feels as fresh and inviting to me today as it did the last time I read the book.

I am still very taken with this idea of having a written conversation with myself about each book I write. It’s not the same as outlining, but I really feel it will give me the extra guidance I need when I reach the dreaded middle of each WIP.

All you do is sit down, with a new Word file in front of you, and start a conversation with yourself about the idea that you have. You keep yourself writing by asking “So what?” and “Why?”; by doing this, you explore all the avenues open to you, and you also capture in words the very essence of what it is about the idea that excited you in the first case:

Instead of waiting to write until you’ve thought through an idea, why not write as you think? The format is a conversation with yourself … It encourages you to delve below the surfaces of a conventional outline so that a richer book has the potential to be written. It provides a record of the psychological process by which you worked out the story, and thus, if overfamiliarity causes you to lose your enthusiasm for the story, all you need do is reread the document and reacquaint yourself with the chain of thought that made you excited in the first place. Further, it allows you to have a conversation about the story without the risk of your best ideas ending in the air or of your conversation providing a release that takes away the pressure to write, for in this case, the conversation occurs as you write, and the person you’re talking to is your alter ego.

This makes so much sense to me, especially the part about overfamiliarity causing me to lose my enthusiasm for the story. When I reach that dreaded middle of each WIP, if I could find a way to access that initial excitement I had, it would be easy to keep writing.

I know this, because there is another thing that works for me; it’s something I’ve been resisting doing, because I really love writing with absolutely no rereading of what I’ve written, not until I’ve finished the ms and put it aside to mature for a while. When I do this (well, okay, I’ve done it once), I feel like I’m reading the book for the first time (because I am).

But yes, I have succumbed, a few times, to temptation and read through what I’d already written, before I was anywhere near the end. And inevitably, I turn that last page and am so disappointed that I hadn’t written more, because I want to find out what happens. And when I feel like that, it is very very easy to go back to the computer and keep writing.

Of course, there’s one other thing that might work. It could be, if I stuck to my guns and wrote for two or three hours a day, I’d be getting the story down so quickly, there wouldn’t be any time for overfamiliarity to develop and drag me down when I reach the middle.

Hmmm. That’s a thought, there, too!

Not Sweating the Small Stuff

Thanks to a nice, long talk with a good friend of mine (she also does this professionally, if you’re interested in having a session to clear up obstacles in your life – I highly recommend her facilitation sessions), I find myself finally clear of the listlessness and lethargy that has challenged me for most of January.

And one of the first things that’s been happening as a result is that I’m no longer letting the small things in life loom large, the way they sometimes have a tendency to do.

It’s such a relief! I spent yesterday tackling all manner of small administrative tasks, and putting together a system that will let me clear the decks easily and effortlessly once a month in one area of my life – this particular system tackles monthly bill paying, something which needs to be done but which I always find myself putting off as much as possible.

The really funny thing is, the tasks were all so small, and I found myself wondering how I let them grow in size (energy-wise) so that they became big, formidable tasks that I felt I simply never had the time to tackle.

Having a system in place to handle one part of the small stuff feels really good, so I’m going to brainstorm more systems that will make other areas of my life much easier.

It actually feels fun to employ my creativity in this way!

I still have to clean my office, but I’m not feeling as daunted by the whole prospect as I had been. After all, it’s just a matter of deciding what to do with all the bits of paper that’s accumulated.

And if I can get a few more systems in place that will prevent the accumulation in the first place – well, that will more to celebrate!

These small administrative tasks aren’t the only small things I’m no longer sweating. I’m finding myself letting go of the small stuff in all areas of my life – it’s just that the admin stuff is the most concrete and quantifiable. It also makes me feel amazingly productive.

Most of all, letting go of the small stuff feels very, very good indeed.