Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: Stress Is Harmful Vs. Stress Is Helpful

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a couple of mindsets in the Gauthier family. This week I'll cover two very general ones described by Kelly McGonigal in The Upside of Stress. Notice how they could impact writers.

The Stress Is Harmful Mindset

"When you view stress as harmful," McGonigal says, "it is something to be avoided. Feeling stressed becomes a signal to try to escape or reduce the stress...."

Writing can be stressful. Coming up with new material, revising a draft and having to come up with more new material is hard. Creating the perfect synopsis, the perfect cover letter, creates a lot of misery. (That can't just be me, can it?)

"...people who endorse a stress-is-harmful mindset are more likely to say that they cope with stress by trying to avoid it. For example, they are more likely to:

  • Try to distract themselves from the cause of the stress instead of dealing with it 
  • Focus on getting rid of their feelings of stress instead of taking steps to address its source."
  • And other things like drink, withdraw, etc.
Writers could distract themselves from their stress by addressing its source, meaning writing. But more often we don't deal with it, we distract ourselves instantly by going on-line. Social media may not have been created to alleviate stress, but it does a great job with it.

The Stress Is Positive Mindset

"...people who believe that stress can be helpful," McGonigal goes on, "are more likely to say that they cope with stress proactively...they are more likely to:

  • Plan a strategy for dealing with the source of stress.
  • Seek information, help, or advice."
  • And other things  
These must be the people who actually do their writing. But I'm just guessing.

More Mindsets Are Coming Up, As Well As Information On How To Move From One To Another

Maybe next week, maybe not.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Reading Is A Sign Of Good Health

After three days on an antibiotic that doesn't make me sick (so far), I am again sitting up and taking nourishment. In fact, I started working again yesterday and have done a little cooking.

I've also watched a lot of TV. Last weekend when the body aches hit, I added a Netflix app to my tablet so I could watch TV in bed, twenty-four hours a day. And that's what I did for several days at the beginning of the week. I watched two Katherine Ryan specials, the new Aziz Ansari special, all three seasons of Broadchurch, part of season one of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, and an episode from the last season of Episodes.

I would wake up and watch some TV on my tablet before I got out of bed. Once I was better, I moved out to the sun room to watch tablet TV. I'd go to bed and watch an episode of Broadchurch before I went to sleep. Except one night when I was running late, I watched that episode of Episodes because it was only half an hour. If I woke up in the night, I watched TV.

Those were all times when I used to read. I had no interest in it then. Kind of like I didn't have an interest in eating Saturday night into Tuesday.

Then one morning instead of watching TV in bed, I used my tablet to read articles. A number of them. Last night I ended up reading the first story in a Shirley Jackson book I've had on my Kindle for at least a year. Even though twice today I petered out and stretched out on the sun room couch to finish Broadchurch, it looks as if I'm back reading.

As I was writing this, I realized that my desire to read came back along with my desire to eat.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

What Are You Whining About Now, Gail?

Lyme Disease! That's what I'm whining about now. I'm being treated for suspected Lyme Disease, which is a hodgepodge of uncomfortable symptoms, in my case, anyway, and the antibiotics to treat it suck.

I added the Netflix app to my tablet, and now I can watch TV and movies in bed. If I felt better, I'd worry about never reading again. But instead I'm going to go watch another episode of Broadchurch.

And I mention this here, because I don't expect to be working this week. What energy I have is going to watching TV. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: How You Think About Stress In Your Life

Today I'm continuing my exploration of how stress affects the way we manage time, using The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal.

McGonigal writes about mindsets, "beliefs that shape your reality." The concept of mindsets isn't new. I've always thought of them as, say, a belief system that everything is filtered through. What is new is that McGonigal says that mindsets affect how we perceive stress and that there's a "new field of mindset science" that shows that one short intervention can change them.

I've only made it about 25% of the way into the book so far, and while I was in the early days I was thinking...Meh. Then I realized what my own stress mindset is. (Actually, McGonigal tells us in the book to do that, so maybe I was following instructions. I don't remember.) And very soon thereafter I happened to get an e-mail from a family member (not the archivist I wrote about recently, another one, a nurse) who had read my first stress and time management post and responded with what sure looked like her stress mindset.

A Tale Of Two Stress Mindsets

Gauthier 1. That's me. This is how my mindset about stress goes: I feel that I can only take on one stressful activity at a time. I can't take on Stressful Activity B until Stressful Activity A is over.  I can't even make reservations for a weekend in July until whatever issue is concerning me in May and June is over.

Gauthier 2. The nurse.  She thinks that stress is necessary.  She believes we have stress no matter what the circumstances, because we are so used to having stress that it helps us to get things done.   Feeling stressed gets us motivated to finish the things we need to do.  Otherwise, would we finish anything?

The Gauthier Stress Mindsets And Time Management

How do these mindsets affect how these particular Gauthiers manage time and crank out work?

Gauthier 1. That's me again. If the stars are lined up correctly, I can work toward multiple goals.  Not so much when stress raises its ugly head. In fact, during particularly stressful times, I intentionally narrow my focus to only a few things. Once I get something done, or get that stress behind me, I can take on something else. I can stay on task, because I limit the number of tasks I'm working on. I might, for instance, limit myself to work and family, and cut way back on social interactions and travel.

Gauthier 2. Gauthier 2, who is not me, remember, is able to work on more things over all aspects of her life. She manages work, family, a network of friends, travel, going to movies regularly, and hitting some Broadway shows when they came to Hartford.

Does what I'm describing here illustrate that fight-or-flight business we're always hearing about because Gauthier 1 appears to run for her life to escape stress while Gauthier 2 tends to go "@#!! it! We're doing this?" You'd think so, but McGonigal says that fight or flight is not the only stress response. More on that in another post.

Why Do People Develop Different Stress Mindsets?

Gauthier 1 and Gauthier 2 should have pretty similar DNA (Ancestry.com says so), and except for birth order and the Mom-and-Dad-liked-me-better thing, we had a pretty similar upbringing. So why such different stress mindsets? Is this something McGonigal will cover in her book?

If I had to guess...and this is my blog, so I do...our work situations are a factor here. Remember how I made a point of stating that Gauthier 2 is a nurse? She has spent years in a variety of increasingly responsible healthcare positions, keeping her under stress regularly during her workdays..

Gauthier 1, on the other hand, is a writer. I experience what might be described as punctuated stress. Stress shoots up when trying to meet a contractual deadline. It goes up when preparing for a professional presentation or having to make it. An editor leaves her publishing house. Should I follow her? Stressful. Cover letters for submissions require hours of stressful work, because a sentence phrased incorrectly could mean the difference between convincing an agent or editor to take a look or being passed over. Struggling to come up with new material for revisions? Stressful. But when those high stress moments are over, the stress is gone and I have long periods of working in comfort.

In The Upside of Stress, McGonigal says that "past stress teaches the brain and body how to handle future stress. Stress leaves an imprint on your brain that prepared you to deal with similar stress the next time you encounter it." "Psychologists," she says "call this stress inoculation. It's like a stress vaccine for your brain."  "...going through stress makes you better at it..."

So I'm making the argument that the kind of stress Gauthier 2 has experienced over the years has made it possible for her to better handle it, and her ability to handle stress means she can better manage her time and do more. Evidently my kind of stress has done nothing for me.

Monday, July 01, 2019

I Was Going On About Time Ten Years Ago

My family member the archivist tweets from his extensive archives regularly in order to bring some of his material to the readingpublic's attention. I have done that once in a while, but realized today, hey, I could tweet every day from the ol' Original Content backlist. So, tomorrow being July 1st, I thought, why don't I tweet a July 1st post from another year? How about from ten years ago?

So I looked at the July 1st, 2009 post and what do I see? Trying to Manage Time. I was on that ten years ago, two and a half years before I started the Time Management Tuesday feature.

I do think I've made a little progress since then.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Enola Holmes Movie Is In The Works

I am Facebook Friends with Nancy Springer (which means we're not actually friends or really even know each other), author of the Enola Holmes series, and so I've been aware of an Enola Holmes movie coming up, since Nancy has been passing on news as it became
available. Things really started popping this past week.

Earlier this year, Nancy announced that Millie Bobby Brown was going to star as Enola Holmes and act as the film's producer. (I've read that there are plans to film all the books.) I am not that big a Stranger Things fan, and Brown is my main reason for watching.

In rapid succession, we heard this week that:

  • Helena Bonham Carter will play Enola's mother.
  • Henry Cavill will play Enola's brother. (That would be Sherlock Holmes.)
  • And Fiona Shaw will play...well, no one knows who she's playing, but it doesn't matter because she's so great in Killing Eve.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

July Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar

Sun., July 7, Kati Mocker, The Storytellers' Cottage, Simsbury 3:00 PM

Sat., July 13, Abdul-Razak Zachariah, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison 10:30 AM 

Sat., July 13, Culliver Crantz, Barnes & Noble, West Hartford  12:00 PM

Fri., July 19, Joyce Lapin, Talcott Mountain Academy, Avon 7:30 to 9:30 PM Ticketed Event

Sat., July 20, Joyce Lapin, Elm Street Books, New Canaan 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM

Sun., July 21, Theresa Pelham, River Bend Bookshop, Glastonbury 10:30 AM

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Time Management Tuesday: The Impact Of Stress On Time Management

My family member the archivist has, for many years, been studying and preserving old television. For the last twenty months, he's also been the daytime caregiver for a baby, now toddler. Recently he said that he frequently can't work during toddler nap time, because he's worn out from the twenty-four hour a day stress of dealing with what a child should be eating, how he should be sleeping, whether or not he is sick, why he is crying, and keeping him safe and alive. When he gets a break because someone is napping, the archivist finds himself collapsing in front of the TV or with his phone. The stress of Dad Life often makes it difficult for him to take advantage of his small amounts of work time.

This was very interesting to me, because I had just experienced a drop in my stress level after many years of dealing with another family member's illness. I had less to do, less hanging over my head, and less to worry about. Was this new lack of stress, I wondered, going to have some kind of positive impact on how I managed my time?

What Time Does To Stress Is Not The Same As What Stress Does To Time

I went out looking for information on this situation and didn't find much. There's a lot written on weak time management skills causing stress, but far less on stress causing a collapse in time management. One article I did find, How Stress Affects Your Work Performance by Christina Hamlett at the Houston Chronicle's website, deals with stress in traditional work places. A couple of points that could pertain to people who work for themselves:

  1. Stress contributes to job burnout and strained relationships. What happens with people who work alone and have no relationships to strain? Maybe burnout was what was contributing to my family member collapsing during nap time instead of working. Or my struggle to get up in the mornings because here's another day of problems, what's the hurry? Or get up off the couch at night to go to bed.
  2. Stress affects ability to remember things, evidently both short- and long-term, and makes you easily distracted. Do I have any new followers on Twitter this morning? I should look again this afternoon. Have any of my friends posted pictures on Facebook? Oops. Gotta go check my blog stats.
  3. Stress pounds away at your health. It's hard to work if you're sick. Or going to the doctor. Or the pharmacy. Or using the Internet to research what's wrong with you, which kind of relates to what we were just talking about with being distracted. 


Some Why From The Time Management Tuesday Archives

Speaking of archives, as we were earlier,a few things we've talked about here at OC's Time Management Tuesday feature could relate to what's happening when we're stressed enough to blow up our ability to manage time.

  • According to our old friend Kelly McGonigal in The Willpower Instinct, people who are distracted have poor impulse control and are less likely to be able to stay on long-term goals. Stressors...hugely distracting. And then there is the What-the-Hell Effect. In the case of people under stress, the more worn-out they get and less they do because of it, the worse they feel about their ability to get anything done and...What the Hell? They might as well watch TV during work time. They might as well stay in bed another half hour.
  • Timothy Pychyl in The Procrastinator's Digest says that a big part of the reason procrastinators procrastinate is that they're giving in to the need to feel good immediately. Say what you want about social media, it can be an immediate feelgood. McGonigal also writes about how undermining feeling bad can be in The Upside of Stress. People who are shamed or frightened by their doctors over things like weight, smoking, or drinking, frequently engage in those behaviors even more, because now they feel bad. They're humiliated and frightened, and the quickest way to escape those feelings for them is eating, smoking, or drinking. Well, people under stress feel bad. Often for years, if the stressor is child rearing or eldercare. TV, bed, and the Internet are immediate feel goods. Work, not so much. This spring I've noticed people on Twitter tweeting that they're having a bad day and asking to see images of cats, because that will make them feel better. I'd rather look at celebrity gossip on my tablet while lying in bed in the morning or plastered to the couch at night, but to each of us our own immediate escape. 


So What?

Well, exactly. We've got some why, but can we do anything about stress's impact on our work time? I've got a couple of things in the OC archive that might help, and I've started a summer blog read,  The Upside of Stress, which I mentioned above. I know I've said I was reading it before, but I must have gotten distracted or stressed or something. I'm really reading it now.

More to come.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Magical Old People In Children's Books

Last night I finished reading a realistic middle grade novel in which an old woman appears way too conveniently in order to help our heroine with a far-fetched situation. She's what I think of as a magical old person, a secondary character in a children's book who appears for the sole purpose of helping the main character and providing life lessons. In my experience, most magical old people die by the end of the story, as the one in last night's book did. Because, you know, that's the very best life lesson.

Well-read child readers must catch on to the fact that if you have an old person in a book directed toward them, dollars to doughnuts you're going to have a death. Old people are like dogs in kids' books.

I want to write a middle-grade novel with an old woman who's a bitch-on-wheels. Not only will she survive the story, she may blow something up.