Thursday, August 12, 2010

Asking yourself the right questions

ROBERTA: Continuing our theme of procrastination (who knew we'd end up with a theme for the week?), we are lucky and delighted to have life and business coach Jill Crossland back to visit. She's been watching us this week and has some ideas and suggestions for more productive writing. Thanks for coming Jill!

JILL: Nice to be back ladies. I do pop in every now and then to see what you are all up to but if I read you every day well then I would just be procrastinating.

We all do it and there is no doubt that the internet has made it even more tempting. As noted in your August 9th post, some procrastination can be positive. This stems from the fact that the tasks are productive--and for some of you--on two levels. You walked, gardened (or pickled!) while ideas for your books where taking shape in your head.

As one writer put it ‘other things just slow me down’ and are therefore counter productive. These are usually the routine tasks; such as email and social media. They do have a place in your day but so that they don’t creep into your writing time they need to be scheduled. Most of you want to write first thing in the morning so the first email check could be 10 or 11ish with your coffee, then mid afternoon and just before you end your work day should be sufficient. If you are tempted to break the schedule ask yourself why or what are you expecting. While reading this you probably have your email browser open ‘just in case’. This is the another habit to break; keep the browser closed and get rid of that little sound or pop up that alerts you to new email. When you work and write from a home office blogs, Facebook and Twitter are all part of today’s connectedness with other writers, fans and friends. How frequently you post or respond to others posts should also be planned. It is in the randomness that you lose time.

If you are on the road promoting a book then yes keep the excitement up as you go from city to city. When you are in the process of writing you need to decide how crucial each of these media truly are. What results do you want from you internet presence and which one is getting you those results are two more questions. You may like your blog/website but reach a wider audience from say FaceBook so schedule accordingly. Make sure that your posts are interconnected or feeding into each other as this also saves time. You web person should be able to help you with that. While the ‘hold all my calls’ secretary isn’t feasible hiring a virtual assistant can make a difference in one’s time management. They can take care of administrative tasks for a few hours on a weekly or monthly basis and are well trained in the areas of newsletters, databases, email announcements and correspondence.

The Writers Challenge got a big response. What you offered was a goal and accountability; both of which are strong tools in combating procrastination. Every now and then we will always have one of those days when you cannot seem to settle down to do anything, those are often reminders that we need to spend some time with family, friends or just be by yourself without thinking about work.

ROBERTA: Thanks again Jill for your thoughts and tips! Jill is the editor of Timefinders Online Magazine and a women's business coach. You can find her at her website. Now the floor is open for your questions about organization, or procrastination, or setting goals????


  1. Hi Jill! ANd thanks so much (and I write in the evening, so no, I'm not procastinating!) And I have learned, as you suggest, to block out 15 minutes in the morning to check blogs and web--and then TRY to avoid it all til lunch break.

    I love your suggestion about asking "what is it I'm waitng for?" It's usually--jsut a free-floating curiously about what's gonig on. And true, if you find that out in an hour instead of RIGHT NOW, it usually won't matter. Now I'm trying to learn to ignore that niggling "usually."

    And I think that the Writers Challenge struck a nerve also--because we're all looking for someone to tell us the right thing to do. And suddenly, someone has. And now we can do it!

  2. Hi again Jill, since Hank mentioned the writers challenge, I've only been doing the "one page before email" for two days. I can see that getting up and checking email has developed into a very strong habit. It's not only reading email that's a distraction, it becomes a kick line of little tasks that need to be done, listservs to be read, links to follow...

    I'm sorry I didn't get Jill's website up in the blog--blogger was fighting with me yesterday! You can find Jill at

  3. There was a piece in Time Magazine back in March. It was about how the White House was trying to handle pr in today's 24/7 news world.
    The interesting bit was that the writer compared it to a cyclone with no beginning or end.
    That is similar to what you are saying Roberta. We open our computers to do one thing then all those other little tasks come into play and it is easy to get swept up into the cycle.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. HI Jill,
    Such great advice. I think one of the problems for writers is that we WANT to be interrupted. We come upon a story problem, and its much easier to shift into email or Internet. (and yes, I've already done my pages.)

    I love that you gave us a schedule and will try to keep to it. (Although I try not to check the first time until noon.) One thing I've learned to do is to remind myself that email is generally someone --usually Nordstoms - trying to sell me something. Or someone asking me to do a task. So I have a choice to act on my own, or react to a task request remains so'd think I was expecting a Publishers Clearinghouse check for a million bucks.

  6. Jill says: "While reading this you probably have your email browser open ‘just in case’." You must be watching me.

    Interesting piece in the paper today, a psychiatrist talking about how many people are coming to him because they compulsively check their email. We're like those pigeons that Skinner trained using intermittent reinforcement -- the hardest kind of break.

  7. Any advice, suggestions have to be refined to fit your individual personality types, lifestyle and schedules. That is the real secret to making it work.
    And I am not surprised by the psychiatrist's article, apparently FaceBook games like FarmVille are beginning to take some people in the same addictive direction.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Oh, gosh, so interesting. I mean--sometimes it's--shouldn't admit this--PHYSICALLY hard for me not to check my email.

  10. Slipping on my editor shoes for a minute. If any of you would like to submit a book excerpt for TimeFinders Magazine's Read, Watch, Listen section please email me.

    Also I am always looking for interesting women to interview for 'Conversations' page. It is a convenient email (!) interview process.

    Thank you:

  11. Jill, thanks so much for being here today and for your great ideas! I know you will have some takers in the excerpt and interview department.

  12. I treated myself to a netbook for my birthday and I'm developing a new routine: putting off Internet surfing until evening when I'm lounging on the sofa with whatever the family is watching on TV in the background. Yes, I can web surf and keep tabs on the Patriots at the same time.

    Ignoring the e-mail signal is almost impossible, but I'm working on it.

    Jill, I work from home, so I have that additional challenge of separating work time from household time from writng time--all in one place. Any suggestions?


  13. Wonderful ideas! Thanks so much for sharing them, Jill.

  14. Mo - here are a few suggestions

    1. Maintain office hours.Train yourself and others to respect your work time.

    2. The office is your space. Household bills & paperwork, kids homework, mail and flyers belong in a separate part of the house.

    3. Decorate it to reflect your work and taste. Personalized accordingly and indulge in flowers, favorite art, your awards etc.....

    4. Set up two separate email accounts one for business and one for family/friends and personal interests. That way if you are looking for an email from your publicist you won't get distracted by that sale at Nordstrums!

    5. Screen calls during office hours, don't feel obligated to answer personal calls they are distracting.

  15. Thanks, Jill! Great suggestions.