Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: But We Do Have Time

Thank goodness for Time Management Tuesday. This blog feature gives me a socially acceptable way to whine about the time crunch I've experienced this past month and a half due to family responsibilities. I've been working maybe three hours a week, not counting blogging, which I do in the evenings on a reduced schedule. I can't exercise the way I usually do, because so many days I have to be away from home for hours. I'm going to only half my tai chi classes, on the good weeks. I can't eat at my usual times for the same reason. Yes, yes, that's right. I eat at "usual" times. And often. Finally, flat surfaces in the house are covered with items I can't find the energy to deal with.

One day a week or so ago I was whimpering in my head about how I never can do anything for me, when I realized perhaps I shouldn't be dwelling on how much I'm not doing for myself now. Instead, what about how much I was doing for me, me, me before this summer's situation.

I've Done A Lot Of Stuff 

Not Writing
There have been times in the past when I've worked out an hour and a half a day. I know. That's ridiculous, especially when you consider what poor results I got for my effort. I did eleven years of taekwondo classes, sometimes twice a week. In the morning, prime work time. For three or four years now, I've been taking tai chi classes, jumping up from one class a week to two. There's
Not Writing
been a lot of binge cooking over the years. Then there's been all the biking and hiking. When my children were young, I spent years doing ten to fifteen hours of volunteer work a week. Volunteer work was a thing in my circle. Unlike in American Housewife, we were really into it.

I could go on, but I'd have to write about activities and interests I'd rather people didn't know about.

We Often Do Have Time

What I'm driving at here is that I've used a lot of time for what might be described as elective activities. So while I have written thirteen books, eight of which have been published, I have often had time I could have used to write even more, submit more, market more. I chose to use that time for something else.

Not Writing
My experience illustrates a point that some time management writers have made:  As a general rule, we do have time to do the things we say we want to do. We just choose to use it for something else.

Those choices are not necessarily bad ones. I'm not suggesting writers beat ourselves up for all the things we've done and enjoyed doing that didn't involve sitting at our computers four or five hours a day. But what we need to accept here is that we're not talking about not having time to write.

What has this acceptance done for me? Well, I'm not whining now, right? Beyond that, I'm not sure what this is going to lead to.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Gauthier Reading

Here in the Gauthier family, we have a young relative who is fond of a particular kind of book, and I've got him pegged. I always have some specially selected library books here for him.

Now, he always rejects them in favor of books he brought with him, books which lean toward being about trains and trucks. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but, come on. Trains. Trucks.

Needless to say, I don't get him those things. I can't read train and truck books. Yikes. No, I get him what he really wants to read.

Hidden Picture Books

His favorite books, though he may not know it, but lucky for him, I do, are hidden picture books. The last time I had one for him, he kept insisting he didn't want to read it because he had five train books lined up for reading. Then I waved a page in front of him and finally caught his attention.

And once we were reading Where Did They Go? A Spotting Book by Emily Bornoff, he forgot about trains and trucks. For a while, anyway. Every two-page spread involves repetition of some natural element, and hidden among them is an animal described in a short text. Sooo much better than trucks, and better, even, than trains.

Where Oh Where Is My Underwear

We've all been in poor Polar Bear's position, hunting madly for underwear. In Polar Bear's Underwear by Tupera Tupera, readers get to look for his underwear, by which, of course, I mean underpants, too. This is one of those deals where you find underwear for everyone but the polar bear whose underwear you want. You go through a lot of underwear in this book.

These two books made for some great reading. Then I had to go back to trains and trucks.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jane Yolen...Holly Black...Wonder Woman

Last night was writers' group (Yes! I did something work-like!), so no Time Management Tuesday today. Instead I'm going to direct you to Book Riot's Books to Read if You Like Wonder Woman. Not just because it's about, you know, Wonder Woman, though that is certainly reason enough. No, I'm directing you to it because this article includes:

Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen


The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

In children's lit, those authors are both considered wonder women.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Okay! Let's Read Some Mainstream YA!

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is sophisticated, mainstream YA. Probably a problem book, but not preachy about it.

Solomon Reed is a teenage agoraphogic. Lisa Praytor is a teenager with ambition--she wants a psychology scholarship and believes that "treating" Solomon will provide her with material for a foolproof essay to go along with her scholarship essay. Solomon feels bad about what his situation does to his parents, and lets Lisa into the house to try to ease their lot.

This book has great character motivation. Readers can believe that Solomon and Lisa could connect in the way described. I often talk about how writers should give characters goals. Lisa is one of the most obviously goal-driven characters I can recall.

The author also does something very different with the romance angle in this book. The male love interest has some, what seems to me, very logical motivation for his behavior.

So while the book is called Highly Illogical Behavior, what I liked was the logic behind the writing.

A good choice for readers wanting a break from YA genre.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: When You Can't Make Much Effort

How to Structure Your Day by Mike Gardner at The Time Doctor involves some interesting ideas about:
  • Classifying your tasks on the basis of how much effort they require and how much impact they'll have
  • Determining your daily high and low energy cycles
  • Structuring your day around your best times for doing high or low effort tasks
I'm going to put aside the whole finding daily high and low energy cycles business for the foreseeable future. I'll spare you the details of what my days are like right now. Instead, I'm going to focus on effort.

Effort And Impact For Your Present Situation

Gardner writes about four kinds of effort/impact pairings: Low Effort/High Impact Tasks, High Effort/High Impact Tasks, Low Effort/Low Impact Tasks, High Effort/Low Impact Tasks. Note that this is totally different from the traditional high to low priority rankings of tasks, because the effort involved is included. It's not about deciding which tasks are most important. It's about deciding what kind of effort is required for various kinds of tasks.

Gardner writes about structuring your day around your best times for doing high or low effort tasks. But what about using your knowledge of effort and impact to help determine what tasks you'll work on during weeks or months when you find yourself in situations when you can't work normally?

At those times, you can determine how much effort you can make and which tasks you have some hope of completing.

Hmm. This might be an example of getting the best bang for your buck.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Smekday Goes To Hollywood

Thursday night we saw Home, the film version of The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. One of the cable stations was running it over and over. I liked the book a lot, and the movie was pretty decent, mainly because I liked the animation for the main human character, Gratuity Tucci. We're talking a cartoon girl with incredible facial expression and body language. Also, I'd just like to point out that both Gratuity and her mother are attractive females with hips. Cartoon women usually have lower bodies like store mannequins and busts so big they look as if they're going to fall over.

For someone who read the book, the movie is interesting because of the changes that were made. I remember the book being a little scarier than the movie, for one thing. For another, Gratuity and her Boov buddy were headed for Florida (DisneyWorld, I believe) in the book. They go to Paris in the movie. This requires the car they use to fly, something that I don't recall in the book. Why Paris? Or, to put it another way, why not Disney? Were they hoping to attract an international audience, one that they expected to prefer a European city to Orlando?

The biggest change, though, is the title. Home probably refers to the fact that Earth is home to humans and the Boov were making themselves at home there. But viewers won't know that until they've seen the movie. So how is that title preferable to The True Meaning of Smekday? This book got quite a bit of attention when it was published. By changing the name, didn't the movie makers risk losing the book's fans?

I don't know how this movie did in the theaters, but I don't recall hearing much about it in my childlit circle.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

And The Winner Is...

Alexandra Johnston, a Connecticut library media specialist, won Original Content's May giveaway, Strange Fruit by Gary Golio.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Time Management Tuesday: Help Me, Writing Portfolio, You're My Only Hope

Well, yikes. Talk about a moment in life that is a perfect example of situational time management, meaning my situation has changed this past month. And the situation I find myself in right now is also an example of the thin and wobbly boundary between personal and professional life coming close to crumbling altogether.

The New Situation

My husband is two weeks into the recovery period for shoulder surgery. We're probably looking at close to a month and a half with him having limited to no use of one arm. I wouldn't be surprised to find out it will go longer. I expected time for nursing care and planned to limit my writing to a page or two a day, do some professional reading, make some submissions.

If you think that makes me sound like the pregnant women who believe that while they're on maternity leave they'll write that book they've been meaning to get to or find a cure for cancer, yeah, I couldn't agree with you more.

What's happened is that I didn't realize how much the surgical patient does around here, meaning I'm spending a lot more time doing his share of keeping our ship afloat than I foresaw. We knew an older family member was going to move sometime this year. Then a few days after the surgery we learned that...Surprise!...it's going to happen in the next month or so. Prepping for the move is taking a lot of time right now, and our elder is going to need a lot of support once the move is made. Summer is nearly here, and that's a rough season for work at Chez Gauthier. Additionally, the family is expecting a new baby this fall. The last time we had a new baby around here, between baby support and dealing with older relatives I ended up working only two days a week for a few months. Which, actually, would be a great deal more than I'm doing now. I can look forward to that!

How To Deal With This Situation?

Well, that's the question, isn't it?

Take a work break? I considered taking a work break and focusing on cleaning up the personal life. My theory was that if I could get everyone and everything working well in a month or two, it would be so much easier to get back to work. However, this personal life situation is going to go on, to one degree or another, for the better part of the rest of this year. Letting myself get out of any kind of work routine at all could mean that one day I suddenly realize I'm not a writer anymore.

Doing Less, Like Einstein. Instead, I'm going to focus on just one thing, like Einstein did. And what I'm going to focus on is my writing portfolio.

Planning My Time Around My Writing Portfolio

I have material ready to submit. One of my seven goals for this year is to submit completed work. My theory (like Einstein, I have a theory!): submitting work I've already completed will require less intense, long-term concentration than generating new work. So until family responsibilities let up, I'm purging my other goals, and concentrating on submitting.

That still means I'll have to knock off a number of objectives/tasks:
  • Research markets (I've already done some of this. I have a list somewhere.)
  • Determine which manuscripts can go where
  • Generate cover e-mails, maybe a (blech) synopsis. (I have some new material stashed somewhere to help with this)
  • Keep track of submissions
The above seems more doable in the odd moments I have to work than trying to continue working on the first draft of a novel I've started or getting started on new essays or short stories.

Evil Gail

My husband's surgery was relatively short, and he was sent out of the surgical center before noon to suffer at home. So I stayed in the waiting room that morning, and while I was there, I drafted two reader response blog posts and finished reading a professional magazine.

I'm not bragging. I feel kind of bad about working under those conditions. Not as bad as I feel about going window shopping while I was waiting for my son to finish his day surgery ten years ago, but guilty nonetheless.

I wasn't the only evil wife there, though, if that's any kind of defense. I know for a fact that another woman left and went grocery shopping while her husband's shoulder was being hacked up, because she told me so. Somehow scavenging for food for the family while a mate is enduring a physical ordeal seems noble while nursing a career under the same circumstances, not so much.

Honest to God, I also brought food. And I ate it.

Oh, well, you know what the Zenny ones say--Dwelling on the past can only lead to unhappiness. Sure don't want that.

Friday, May 26, 2017

June Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

We have a few authors in the state promoting new books, as well as a few reading from older work.

 Sat., June 3, Wendell MinorByrd's Books, Bethel 3:00 PM

Sun., June 4, Stacy Mozer, Barnes & Noble, Stamford 1:00 PM

Sun., June 4, Francesca Simon, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 2:00 PM

Thurs., June 8, Sarah Dessen, Fairfield University Bookstore, Fairfield  7:00 PM Ticketed event

Sat., June 24, Emily Arsenault, Book Club Bookstore, South Windsor 11:00 AM

Wed., June 28, Susan Hood, Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield 10:00AM

Fri., June 30, Wendell Minor, R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 5:30 PM

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TMT: Purging Activities So You Can Do More

Last week we talked about purging tasks so we could concentrate on just a few pieces of work, on the theory that productivity improves when we can focus our attention on just a few things. But when there are so many things that seem to need to be done, how do we decide what to purge so our attention isn't being diverted all over the place?

Situational Time Management

Life, including work life, is in flux. What tasks we can purge will keep changing, depending on our situation at any particular moment.

  • Are we under contract for a book, under deadline for an edit for a publication, or have a workshop commitment coming up?
  • Are we starting a new project?
  • Are we working a day job, full-time, part-time, or some other kind of time?
  • Is our personal life intruding into our professional life because of a family member's illness, surgery, life change?
Everything always comes back to Situational Time Management. Assessing our situation so we can determine what tasks we can limit ourselves to will determine what tasks we can purge.

And how to purge?

 Minimum Effective Dose (MED)

In medicine, the minimum effective dose is the lowest dose of a medicine that gets you the result you need. Taking more than you need either doesn't improve things or has the potential to make your condition worse. In terms of productivity, the theory goes that you can find a minimum effective dose--or the minimum amount of time/effort--needed to get the work result you want or require.

How might this work?

Well, take a blogger/writer, for instance. Writers need to be careful about blogging. Blogs have value, but writers have to be careful not to commit too much of their work time to them.
  • So what is the minimum effective blogging schedule? This will be different for every writer. When I first started blogging, my goal was three posts a week. Then I got into the childlit blogging world and was blogging like mad. For quite some time, I've been trying to cut back to three times a week, but I'm always stumbling upon something more I want to blog about. So I'm cutting down to two, with the expectation that some weeks I'll do more.
  • The MED for blog reader responses--It's not necessary for me to do a full post about every single book I read. When I post at Goodreads (which I like to do so someone is keeping track of how many books I read over a year), it's not even necessary for me to do more than a star rating.
  • The What Did You Do This Week? posts were fantastic for me as far as getting marketing done.  But if I'm only going to do two posts a week, that sure doesn't need to be one of them.
  • We're talking about the MED for a situation in which I'm generating new work. If I were in a situation in which I was marketing a new book, I might want to spend more time blogging and promoting the blog as part of a marketing plan for a book.
A nonblogging example--You're in a situation in which your professional time is cut down because of demands of a day job or an increase in family responsibilities.
  • What is the minimum effective dose of work you need to do to keep your mind in a big writing project you've started so you can pick up quickly when your situation changes? A couple of pages a week? Reading over some of your completed draft each day looking for potential changes you can make notes on? Some research?


Purge What Isn't Working

Pay attention to what kinds of results you're getting for various tasks so you can avoid continuing doing things that aren't helping you much just because you've been doing them in the past or because conventional wisdom says you should do them.

  • Marketing is an area where I often see writers assess and purge tasks. I've heard a few writers who have done blog tours in the past question whether they will do one for their next book. Blog tours are very labor intensive for writers because in addition to the soul-sucking chore of finding blogs to take part, there are often guest posts to write or interview questions to answer. It's difficult to determine a writer's return on investment for these things. I spoke with a writer this past year who was cutting back on store appearances. They involve time to set up, travel time, and the time in the store and can result in only a handful of people showing up and even fewer sales. Even though conventional wisdom suggests it's good to network with booksellers, the return on investment for these activities is difficult to determine.
  • For myself, I had a goal this year involving a new marketing push for Saving the Planet & Stuff. Given the return on investment of my marketing efforts in the past and some family issues that will require extra attention this year, I've decided to let that goal go in favor of spending my time on generating new work and submitting material.

Networking is another area where writers can assess what kinds of results they're getting for their efforts and whether or not some purging can be done there.


The Overwhelm

Help me!
Most of the material I read relating to cutting down on work in order to increase productivity suggested it as a way of dealing with feeling overwhelmed. Personally, I'd like to avoid being overwhelmed in the first place.




Nothing Is Set In Stone

Remember, we're making our purge decisions based upon the needs of our present situation. When our situation changes, we can pick up purged tasks again and purge something else.

What tasks can you purge so that you can increase your productivity by doing less?