Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Or Maybe We Should Be Practicing Mindfulness With Our Writing

Last week I wrote about what I called the racing-from-task-to-task method of time management and whether or not we could apply it to writing. I've also written about the Swiss Cheese Method of time management, which involves working for small chunks of time on large projects in order to chip away at the job and get it done. I have had some success with the Swiss Cheese method; I'm not so sure about racing from task to task. But I wonder if working like this hasn't encouraged what the Zenny ones refer to as monkey mind in me. I am easily distracted and all too likely to go off on tangents during what should be my work time, anyway, and this spring, after working on a minimum of eight different work projects (Wait! Nine, counting this time management project. Should I count blogging, itself? Then we're talking ten, at a minimum),  I've been feeling particularly "restless" and "unsettled" .

Meditation is the traditional cure for monkey mind. Unfortunately, I've thrown in the towel on meditating for concentration, which may explain why the monkeys are close to overrunning my mind. I have been wondering if there's a way to apply mindfulness to the writing problem, though. Mindfulness, as I understand it, is paying full attention to what your doing, staying in the moment. "When you eat, just eat," is something I've read a few times in relation to this. I can recall trying this while cleaning a shower once, concentrating totally on what I was doing. I think what I was trying to do with that one was make cleaning the shower stall more tolerable. Last fall, though, during one of our family's trying episodes, I tried applying mindfulness to cleaning a kitchen counter and then keeping some clutter out of my bedroom. I made a conscious effort to stop everything I was doing or thinking about and give my full attention to these things--at the point that I was doing them--and the order I was able to impose on my life by completing those tasks was worth the effort.

Can mindfulness be used with writing, which involves more thought than collecting the junk that's piled up on the kitchen counter? (Or maybe it doesn't. Hmm.) Well, I can't offer a definitive answer, but I can tell you that others have given the matter some thought. Ohio State University offers Mindful Writing Practice in the Classroom as one of its Writing Across the Curriculum Resources.  It says of mindful writing "'mindful writing' asks that we engage in the activity of writing, in the process of writing, with intention and calm attentiveness. Engaging in 'mindful
' means that we are present in the moment, not thinking about other activities or things we should be doing and not judging ourselves if we happen to be struggling..."  In California, you can take mindful writing classes. You  can also take them in England. You can read Mindfulness Tips to Energize Your Writing. We could have taken part in a mindful writing challenge this past January.

I am not at all certain how this can help professional writers in the long term. And how, you may ask, does it apply to time management, at all? Last month, a writer told me in a comment that she works around an hour a day. She has published several books with traditional publishers. She made me start thinking about efficiency--using time efficiently. What I'm looking for with mindfulness is making writing more efficient, which should mean that we can do it in less time.

Am I on to something with this?

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