What Drains and/or Blocks My Potential Productivity?
By Jeff Salter
Gosh, this is a deep topic… and to think, I was the one who proposed it (way back when). As our Friday Fox recently said (paraphrased), “I wish I could recall what I was thinking about when I suggested this topic.” Well, I suppose I ought to jump right in… and we’ll begin with the “drains” and/or “blocks.”
It would take a psychiatrist to parse out all my issues related to this malady, but I’ll just lump them together for the purposes of this blog. “My name is Jeff… and I’m a terrible procrastinator.” There, I said it —Step One of Twelve Steps. I’ll set out to do Task A… but somehow, before I can begin it, I get diverted to Task B. And I’ve hardly begun that before I’m distracted by Task C. And so on. By the time I’ve actually settled on ONE of those ever-spiraling spin-off tasks – and actually finished it (hopefully) – whatever available time I’d had is long gone and Tasks A and B (and possibly C) will just have to wait.
As our Monday Fox reminded us, we each have commitments to family, friends, organizations, etc. – not even counting JOBS (if not yet retired) – which can dominate our schedules to the point of exhausting all our energies. Medical issues – for those of us burn during Baby Boom years – can take an additional toll (whether it’s our own… or those of spouse and/or parents).
As our Tuesday Fox pointed out, the general state of our health is vitally important to productivity. If we’re slightly off kilter – whether by imbalance of vitamins, hormones, serotonin, or whatever – it can significantly impair our ability to function even in the most basic way. Forget about being creative — survival and self-preservation has to be dealt with first.
I’m drafting this before I know what the Wednesday Fox and Friday Fox have to say, but I’m sure we’ll find interesting and important points in their blogs, as well.
This deserves its own category because – in the broader scope of centuries of writers and authors – it’s a brand new phenomenon. If somebody had told me, prior to January of 2009 (when I joined Facebook), that I’d spend HOURS each day reading, commenting, “liking”, and creating my own posts… I would have laughed in their faces. Yet, somehow FB has weaseled its way into my daily schedule in a fashion that nearly dominates it at times. Yes, some of it is “networking” — which is necessary for me to stay in touch with author colleagues, publishers, editors, etc. And yes, some of it is “promotion” of the titles I’ve slaved over — which is essential since I don’t have an innovative NYC advertising firm at my beck and call. And some of it is keeping touch with relatives, friends (new and old), and other contacts related to everyday life.
And when the power goes out – which still DOES happen occasionally – or when FB is “down” or otherwise glitchy… it’s amazing how suddenly isolated I can feel.
Small Chunks of Time
In the realm of productivity killers, another biggie for me is that my daily schedule is often carved into snippets of time that I COULD potentially be creative. I realize that many of my friends and writing colleagues manage to successfully utilize a half hour here and a half hour there. But for me, to have 30 minutes available to work on something creative hardly seems worth the effort. I mean, it would take me nearly 10 minutes to drag it out, find my place, and remember what I was working on… plus almost 10 minutes at the end to do my saves and back-ups. Which leaves a net of scarcely more than 10 minutes in the middle of that period to actually WORK on the story itself. So what do I do instead? Get on FB and scroll through posts. LOL
Gosh, I don’t really know. More discipline is necessary — certainly. Setting time limits for FB and e-mail and Twitter. Better prioritizing is important — definitely. If I need to spend 90 minutes a day on a manuscript, I really ought to tackle that FIRST, before I turn to FB and e-mail. Establishing internal goals and deadlines would clearly help. When I’m “hot” on the first draft of a story, my goal is to crank out 2,000 words a day. I’m not crushed if I only get 1,000 words… and I’m elated if I get 3,000 — but I need to set that target of averaging 2K per day. [It breaks my momentum to have a day in which I was not able to get any work done on a W.I.P. … and each day AWAY from a manuscript makes it that much more difficult to return to it.] So, it’s extremely important for me to get SOME work done on the current story each and every day… if at all possible.
I’ve heard of authors who use some sort of “reward” system — you know… write a chapter and eat a bag of M&M peanuts. I’m afraid that wouldn’t work for me — because, as anybody who knows me already realizes, I’ll eat the M&Ms anyhow!
What about you? If you’re also a writer, what blocks or challenges your potentially productive time? Or, if you work in any other creative medium, like art, music, crafts, etc. — tell us how you cope.
[JLS # 433]