Posted on April 15, 2013
Life happens. Plans get disrupted. Things we don’t expect (or we do expect) happen to sabotage our writing intentions.
Least that’s been my situation for the last month.
Everyone faces times where no matter how well we plan, we cannot stop unpredictable days from occurring.
You probably ran into at least a couple of days with unexpected roadblocks last week. I’m sure we’ll all have at least a couple of unpredictable days this week.
And every week for the rest of our lives. That’s how life works.
So how do you to stick to a daily plan when unpredictable things happen?
Unpredictable stuff can’t be avoided.
If bad stuff happens two days out of the week, it’s OK. Three off days isn’t a tragedy either. In fact, statistically, three unpredictable days out of seven is about normal for most of us.
What I’ve discovered is that I can usually count on having at least one extremely productive day a week. In one excellent day when life cooperates, I’m always surprised how much of my week’s work gets done.
Problem is I never know in advance which day will be excellent, and I can’t let that stop me from planning what I’d like to accomplish daily and weekly. If you missed my blog about how I plan, here’s the link: http://judythewriter.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/failure-to-plan-is-planning-to-fail-a-plan-for-success/
But I digress, we’re discussing unpredictable days.
Days when something goes wrong are always going to happen, however those rare days when everything does go well can make up for all the rest.
I find I can whip through my daily list at light speed when everything goes right, and that means I can check things off my weekly list.
In fact, I’ve learned if I have TWO or more great days in a week, I complete just about everything off my weekly list.
Impossible? No. And there’s a way you can test my theory.
Tryout this experiment from Randy Ingermanson’s The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine.
- For the rest of this week decide what you want to accomplish for the week then make daily lists. (Writers that means a writing goal for the week then daily ways you’ll reach that weekly goal.)
- Keep the daily lists for five days and, at the end of each day—even the unpredictable days, count how many things you accomplished.
- On the fifth day, check those daily lists against your weekly goals.
I’m predicting, even if you didn’t have a single “successful” day where you accomplished everything on your whole daily list, you’ll find you have at least one or two highly productive days in which you made huge progress toward your weekly goals.
You might discover that even if every day is “unsuccessful” the week as a whole is a SUCCESS just like I do.
“What,” you say, “how can five bad days add up to one good week?”
According to Randy, the reason is that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can do in a week.
Now test Randy’s theory and my results by doing the experiment yourself, and I think you’ll see Randy and I are correct.
Posted on April 12, 2013
A guest blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara
We are currently integrating two new flocks into our chicken family.
One is the group of chicks Rachel purchased and the other is the group that hatched at the beginning of March. They are currently in the side of the chicken yard with the Bantams until they get big enough to join the big girls.
Seeing her clinging to the fence reminded me of a song – imagine that!
I found this one in a packet I received at a music teacher convention in 1993 – Chicken on a Fencepost.
Here is the music so you know I’m not making this up.
To make the chicken sound, you pull a damp sponge over the string at the top.
The kids love it.
Who would have thought in 1993 that I would actually have a chicken on a fencepost at my house?
Life sure is interesting – even stranger than fiction.
Posted on April 10, 2013
Today is One Word Wednesday, but I have not one word today, but two author’s words to inspire a writer.
These quotes from Kipling and Michener resonate with my writer’s soul, inspire me to write.
YOUR TURN: Do you have a famous quote that speaks to you?
Posted on April 5, 2013
A Guest Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara
Matt Damon bought his zoo on purpose, but I live in a Zoo where I never know what will arrive next.
Guinea pigs in the girls’ room.
Chickens way out there in the backyard.
Bearded dragon in the front living room behind glass.
Quail in the garage, growing up fast.
Goose eggs, hatching.
Big dogs in the back yard, where they belong.
It’s fun to live in zoo. Most of the time.
This morning Matt yelled on his way to the kitchen, “Mom, there’s a snake on my floor!”
Word must have gotten out that we have our own farm aka zoo, and all animals are welcome. Well, that’s not entirely true and someone forgot to tell the snake.
It was only a small rough earth snake and Beekeeper Brian came to the rescue.
I do wonder where it went when Brian let it loose outside.
I don’t want to hear, while fixing coffee in the morning, that there’s a snake in the kitchen.
That’s where I draw the line for living in a zoo!
Posted on April 3, 2013
Today I’m sharing word cloud generators. Word cloud programs make it easy to create your personal word clouds.
A Google search will list many. Tech&Learning offers a review of ten sites here.
I’ve selected three sites that I’ve had fun with and all three are easy to use.
Word clouds are great for promotional materials and presentations. I also create clouds to help me visualize characters and settings.
I used Wordle to create word cloud above. Wordle is the king of word cloud generators and produces awesome results with full editing capabilities. No log-in or email are required. Program allows printing, in order to save right click on Wordle picture and save as a jpeg and or make a screen print.
ABC Ya created this cloud. Final results that allow for font change, color change, and a randomized layout. Save options are in jpeg format and there are print options. It’s an easy application that kids will enjoy using.
I created the word cloud on the right with Tagxedo, a beta-released word cloud application that offers various cloud shapes. The only way I could get it to print was using Print Screen then pasting into Paint. Not a big problem because the shapes are fun.
Have fun creating your own personal word clouds. Click on the program names to link to the sites.
YOUR TURN: Can you think of ways to use word clouds?
Posted on April 1, 2013
I’ve always had a decent volume of email. Once I published The Pendant’s Promise that decent volume increased dramatically. After all, I had a book to promote.
I started a blog, signed up for FB and Twitter, and reader sites like Shelfari and Goodreads. As my visibility online grew, it compounded incoming mail.
Type A that I am, I felt obliged to stay “on top” of these emails and be responsive to my readers and community members.
Things quickly grew out of control. Then I discovered 900 emails in my inbox, I knew, clearly, it was time to tame the dragon.
Here are the six steps I’m taking.
How much incoming email am I receiving daily? What types of messages? How urgent are these emails, really?
As I studied my avalanche of email, I concluded:
- Total messages per day was close to 200.
- Few emails contain truly urgent information.
Armed with these insights, I began to take action. My first course of action was to stop email at its source.
Over time, interests and needs change. Yet I continue to subscribe to dozens of newsletters and blogs that aren’t pertain to my current activities.
Systematically, I evaluated those newsletters and blogs I receive and unsubscribed to those that no longer provided information I need or want.
The result: my volume of email shrank.
Besides news and blog emails, I also receive a ton of social-media notices. LinkedIn sends an email each day. Facebook notifies me every time someone replies to a comment I’ve left or a friend updates his or her status. Each tweet also means an email.
Each notification brings the temptation to waste time on social media sites. I’m rethinking those daily notifications. I generally visit the social sites at least once a day anyway.
3. Read the subject-line
Instead of opening every email and reading a bit before deciding whether to delete, I now read the subject line, and if I suspect it’s something I don’t need to read, I delete it right then.
We all have favorite blogs. I’ve come to realize I don’t necessarily need to read every post the bloggers put up.
I used to save emails automatically because they were from X blog or newsletter. No more.
For the majority of the 900 emails I had accumulated in my inbox I sorted by sender, read the subject lines, and simply deleted whole clumps of emails. Bye-bye — zap! — gone.
Immediately, I felt a 100-pound weight lift from my shoulders.
5. Set Rules
Most email programs offer an option where the user can set up rules to automatically route email to an appropriate folder. This saves time because only important emails show up in your main inbox.
- Caveat: This doesn’t work for me. I have a basic distrust of letting computers think for me. What if some time-sensitive email went to the wrong folder?
I have all emails come initially into my main inbox. I employ #3 above and, if there is something I want to save in a folder for future reading, I move the email into folders I’ve created, same as I used to do when I was a Department of Army Civilian secretary.
6. Use a Timer
FlyLady says, “A kitchen timer is our friend.” She’s correct!
I used to set my kitchen timer and limit my email time to fifteen minutes a.m., afternoon, and p.m. Mary Buckham’s comment suggestion on last week’s blog reminded me I needed to apply the timer again.
My goal is to spend no more than an hour a day checking email. I want to delete, file, or respond to each message and move on to writing.
Will these six steps completely de-flame my email dragon? I don’t know, but I do know applying them seems to be bringing him under my submission.
YOUR TURN: How about you? What ways do you keep email under control?
Posted on March 29, 2013
A guest blogger by Chicken Wrangler Sara
I spent one week in south Texas away from home, without my chickens.
After only a couple of days, I spent another week away from home.
This time heading north to Colorado to help my parents make a permanent move there. With snow still on the ground, I didn’t expect to see any chickens.
However, the wild turkeys paid a visit.
Turkeys aren’t the same as chickens, but they are fowl and, in a pinch, provided my chicken fix.
The mule deer looking for food also provided a delightful diversion. We threw bird seed to supplement the slim pickings on the frozen landscape. The turkeys didn’t seem to mind sharing.
But I think I’ve solved my problem of missing my chickens when I’m away from home.
At school this week, the younger classes celebrated Easter. Of course, no elementary school party is complete without decorated cupcakes. A top each cupcake was a different Easter trinket.
I chose one with a chicken ring.
Now I can have a chicken with me wherever I go. Fortunately, I don’t plan to go anywhere for a while.
Back to adventures on the Miller Farm next week.
Posted on March 25, 2013
For two weeks we’ve packed, hauled away unwanted stuff, shared last-time-living-in-the-same-city meals with family and friends, packed our household, loaded a trailer and a U-Haul, and drove one thousand miles to our new home.
There was no time to spend on the computer checking email. Conversations were via text or cell phone.
I did skim email for personal correspondence, but didn’t stop to read or delete all the other email that came in. Every day I watched the total grow.
When I checked today, I have over 900 emails in my inbox.
I can’t believe it. I’m drowning in email.
The whole situation makes me realize I’m handling over one hundred emails per day. That much email reading has to be cutting into my writing time and productivity.
I think it’s time to analyze my email. Something I’ve never done.
Do I need to be receiving that many newsletters, blogs, group digests, and notifications?
I’m not sure.
I am sure that culling through all the emails I’ve accumulated will take time even if it’s time pressing the delete key.
Time I don’t have with all those boxes to unpack and a deadline looming.
Email has got to be tamed.
What about you? Does your email cut into your productivity?
Next Monday, I’ll be sharing some tips on how I plan to wrestle my email situation into submission.
Be sure to stop by and, in the meantime, if you have any tips, please share.