Category Archives: Time Management

The Time of Turtle Steps

For the past month, every time I sat down to write a major post about goals, productivity, and other topics of interest to me, I’ve ended up tossing out what I wrote instead of posting it. Too much of it read like boring platitudes.

I was probably spouting too many platitudes because there were a couple of life crises that happened during the last two months behind the scenes, and as a result I had to hunker down and focus on using what little time I had to just write. Everything else–blogging; getting the editing done on stories to be published as ebooks; marketing plans–got temporarily paused.

I now call times like these the “Time of Turtle Steps,” because even when I keep working, I feel like a turtle surrounded by hares. It feels like everyone else is racing past me while I plod along far, far behind.

And yet, I’ve now learned enough to know that I’m wrong. Those turtle steps add up over time if I keep doing them step by step by step…the hard part is to keep going. Too often we stop out of despair.

Let me give an example from my own experience. In October, a couple of crises hit at the same time.

I wasted a lot of mental energy in October beating myself up for my slowed pace in writing and in working on my career. There was little time to write, and my final word count for the month was 23,255 words.

In November, I decided that while I couldn’t participate in NaNoWriMo since I wanted to keep working on my novel in progress, I could at least change my attitude and stop beating myself up. The crises continued to eat up lots of time in November, but once I accepted that I was a turtle, I found I could mentally relax and enjoy the writing more when an opportunity appeared to grab an hour to write, and I passed the 50,000 word mark for November two days ago.

So my productivity more than doubled once I stopped beating myself up about my writing pace and lack of time to do career tasks.

There are times in our lives when a crisis hits and we have to jettison everything but the most essential tasks. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up for the slowed pace. It’ll just make it harder to get anything done.

Be a turtle. Do each step by step by step, and keep going…and you’ll be surprised by how far you can get in a month. I certainly was.

Welcome to the Era of Being Hurt by Too Much as Well as Too Little

After a long hiatus, I went to the movies this summer to see several films (Thor was very good), and I was stunned to notice how huge the sodas and popcorn bags are.

I’m old enough to remember when today’s “small” soda size was more like a  “large” back in the 1970s.

I wondered if maybe my memory was faulty, so I did some digging around, and found some outside sources that confirmed that this change wasn’t just in my head. Check out this portion quiz done by the National Institute of Health if you want to see how things have changed in the past 20 years. And here’s an article from several years back at USA Today that covers “Portion Distortion.”

For those of us in the U.S. with the money to pay for food, we can now literally eat ourselves into obesity and bad health if we aren’t paying attention to what is being served to us.  There are so many choices and the portions have gotten so oversized that we can literally eat our way to an early death.

And yet there are still people dying of famine and starvation in this world.

Welcome to the era of being hurt by too much as well as too little. And it isn’t going to just be too much food. It’s also going to be too much information, too much communication, and too many entertainment choices.

In the old days, most people could get away about not being mindful about what they were doing because either the choices were limited, the costs were high, or their disposable income was limited.

But prices are coming down and the technology barriers are falling. We’re about to have too much to choose from and deal with, instead of too little.  Think about it. Already there’s more blogs and e-books and video games than someone could  experience in a lifetime. Internet connections are on 24/7/365 through social media and cell phones, so that the communication demands never stop unless the person mindfully chooses to take a break.

Long ago, when I wanted to goof off from my homework by watching TV, I had only five channels to choose from. There were no VCRs. There was no cable. If I didn’t like what was on those five channels (which happened quite a lot), I was out of luck and had to find something else to do–like read a book, or stop procrastinating and finish my work.

Now I’ve got so much to choose from on my TV that I could spend my entire life on my couch watching show after show and never run out of things to watch. I find myself in an era where I have to make strict rules about TV usage (limits on the number of hours, and having to mindfully think about what I want to watch) or else I’d fritter the hours of my life away.

I’m willing to bet that time management is going to become a critical survival  skill. It was hard enough to manage time in the old days. Now someone’s entire life can easily disappear down a black hole of web surfing, social media, and entertainment, and the big dreams in life will never get done.

A big dream (for example, to become an archaeologist) requires long hours and hard work. It requires focus and dedication over decades. I find myself wondering how many people are going to wake up thirty years from now to discover that they’ve frittered their dreams away by not being able to manage the overabundance of having too much.

I speak of these things because I struggle with them on a daily basis. These days I must consciously remind myself to get off the internet, get away from the TV, or put down my e-reader. I can no longer rely on boredom to get me to stop an entertainment activity since the choices are almost limitless now.

I love it that favorite authors of mine are putting up their backlists in electronic format. I love being able to obtain and watch famous films that would have been unavailable to me in the past. But now I have think about what I want to do and experience, because the options are too vast otherwise.

I was told about Randy Pausch’s lecture on Time Management, which I watched and found a helpful introduction to various ideas and techniques. There are also books by Steven Covey and Peter Drucker that do a good job in teaching time management.

Through trial and error I’ve found one of the most useful questions for me to ask at the beginning of the day is, “When this day is over, what will I regret not getting done?”  Whatever things pop up become the major goals of the day and I do everything I possibly can to do them.

So let me leave readers with this question:

“When this day is over, what will you regret not getting done?”