Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to Switch Gears Cleanly

Zestful Blog Post #166

This I know: Your life is a lot like mine. You have too much stuff to do, too many projects on deck—work and personal—and half the time you feel behind. I hate feeling behind, hate that mental fragmentation that happens when I try to do or think about multiple things at once. Probably like yours, lots of my projects overlap, and I have to do parts of them, then wait to do other parts until something else happens, or I have to set them aside because some other thing has risen in priority. It’s easy for me to overcommit. I like to say yes to people and projects.

But as I’ve written before, time is a zero-sum game. Eternity is eternal, but we all have a lifespan. I’ve been doing two things to save my sanity.

The first is cutting back on my editing/consulting work. I’m looking into other ways to help aspiring authors; stay tuned for more on that.

Second, I’ve been doing a simple, but conscious, technique to help myself not feel mentally fragmented. When I’m not actively doing a task, or am switching between tasks, I try to blank out my brain. Which makes me aware of all the mental clutter that’s there! Then, with awareness, the clutter more or less disappears by itself. Like, when I’m opening my computer and turning it on, I don’t have to be thinking about five things I haven’t gotten done yet this morning. Blank it out. The crap goes away. Powerful. Then I find my attention better focused on the here and now. Oh yeah, I'm breathing! Right! My inner self is more calm. I’m able to switch gears more cleanly, without extraneous thoughts dribbling around. I guess it’s like meditation. Only without the label meditation, which always sounds like work to me.

So my advice to us today is: Don’t feel overwhelmed. Just choose not to feel that way. Just do stuff, one task at a time. Blank it out now and then, and see how you feel.

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  1. I really enjoyed this blog. I think this process of being mindful of one thing at a time and blanking the other stuff out works for me. I hope it works for the rest of your readers!

  2. "I guess it’s like meditation. Only without the label meditation, which always sounds like work to me." You are wonderful. And so is this. Priceless - sharing all over.

  3. My first thought was, "You're not like me. We're all like ourselves." Then I read the post and recanted. It's true. So many of us take on too many tasks and then find ourselves frantically trying to prioritize. I found myself flattered to be invited to judge writing competitions. I took the roles on one at a time, and then realized three major competitions running simultaneously doesn't work so well, especially when I also have editing and writing deadlines. This year I cut two out, happy to focus on only one. Maybe I'll rotate competitions in the future. This mentally freed me to continue on my other projects without feeling so guilty about falling behind in my reading for the competitions. You do always hit it right on the head.

  4. Color me intrigued, your new plan to help writers. During one of my can't sleep fits last night, (brain, please take a break!) one of the topics - why is it so many people think they have the chops to give others advice re writing when they barely grasp the process.

    There are so few qualified to carry the standard and you are one.

    Which oozes into another night ponder. re crit groups, a really smart guy recently said, don't be the brightest bulb in your box. Ouch! I count myself lucky I've got one person who kicks my rump around the block. Still . . . more would be oh so grand.

    EZ, how many first readers do you have (apart from agent?)

    Am at my 'mainframe.' Guess what's cover up beside me? "You've Got a Book."

  5. I had a mild panic attack when I read the bit about cutting back on your consulting work. I can't face the WDC without my coach.

    As usual, you are spot on. I sit down at the desk to write and I notice it’s dusty. Naturally, I can’t write if the desk is dusty, right? So I dust it. Since I’ve dusted the desk I may as well dust the entire room since I’m in here. I go to toss the dust rag into the hamper and it’s full. I should throw the laundry in. I bet I can get an entire chapter done by the time it’s finished. Since I’m now downstairs, let me take the dog out now because I’ll be tied up writing for a few hours. Wow…the grass is longer than I thought. Isn’t it supposed to rain tomorrow? Maybe I should mow. I’ll be able to concentrate more on the writing if I know the yard is done. Nuts. There’s no gas in the can. I should run and grab some. Since I’m going out I might as well get groceries. I’ll be able to focus more if I know that’s out of the way…

    Suddenly it’s midnight.

    Distractions: 1. Pages written: 0.

  6. Ona Marae, Phyllis, Veronica, Cordia: So glad you liked this! One is never sure if a blog post is going to be more hit than dud. Phyllis, thanks for sharing around! Veronica, you're dealing with some exact same stuff I've had to. Finally said no to all judging a while back. Although that door could open again, because I always learn so much when I judge a competition. Cordia, you are very generous with your praise. Marcia is my main trusted first reader, though this year I'm in a small critique group (5 writers total) and have shared some of my stuff there.

  7. Gosh, trying to keep up with these comments!! Fabulous to know writers are finding this helpful! Bev and Boyd, thanks. Boyd, don't worry. I'll shoot you an off-list email in a minute.

  8. Meant to add an LOL p.s. re: Boyd's comment. Talk about spot-on.

  9. It's awfully easy to become overwhelmed with a bunch of stuff and not pay attention to the things we should. Being mindful of what we are actually doing, one task at a time, is a great reminder.

  10. Thanks as always for reading and commenting, BJ. Have a great weekend!


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