A Recipe for Making Time – Guest Post by Jess Witkins

Photo from SriKumar.com

Welcome to Life List Friday here at More Cowbell! It’s going to be a day of inspiring posts for y’all. Life Lists just kind of work that way…

What? You’ve never heard of a “life list?” Click here for all the deets on mine.

In the meantime, I’m over at Lara Schiffbauer’s place talking about Blogging Your Naked Passion. (Are You Brave Enough?) Jess Witkins is holding down the fort here with the scrumptious post below.

Take it away, Jess…

A Recipe for Making Time
Be Advised:  Do Not Substitute Mascara for Mindfulness

There’s an awful lot of chatter today about how to maximize our productivity.  From large corporate sales firms to the average person’s day planner, we make goals and we get ‘em done!  We plan out what action we’re going to complete when and how.  And then we look at the person next to us, and wish we were accomplishing half of what it always seems like they’re doing!

Well, you’re not alone.  And to tell us more about that, I’d like to share the Queen of We Are Not Alone’s words of advice.  Kristen Lamb is THE social media expert for writers.  Her blog is a plethora of information on writing tips, social media, author branding, and publication advice.  Her books, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog?  It’s Me, Writer, web together a social community of support and success.

Recently, she answered a writer’s question of “How do you make time to write?” 

Whether you want to be a writer or not, I think Kristen’s approach is one way of making that goal list happen.  Please know you can check out the full HILARIOUS posting of this conversation at the Wordbitches blog, as shared by Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom).

Leanne writes:   

Kristen, I have a question, only semi-related to this post. I know you too have a lot of writing-related projects. How do you balance them all? I write a humor column, write for Nickelodeon, have guest posts hanging in the air, my own blog (plus once a week on Wordbitches and occasionally on Stuff Kids Write), and my manuscript. And I teach full-time.

My approach thus far is to try to keep one or two proverbial balls in the air and let the others roll away. Then I chase them later. I write well to deadlines…more external, than internal. I’m semi-successful with this method, but sometimes it takes me a while to unearth the balls that rolled away a few weeks ago. Anyways, you don’t have to answer this now, but I’d love to hear your thoughts someday.

Kristen’s fabulously funny and helpful response was this:

I need to get better at saying no. But I tend to be really ADD so I am good at balancing a lot of things. What I employ is called the Swiss-Cheese approach. I make a list of all the things that MUST get done for the day and then I “snack.” Say, I work an hour on a blog then for the next hour I tend house chores. So I can make the best use of this time, I use speaker phone and maybe call Piper and help her plot or do the next blog interview while I fold (and Piper types). So I am getting writing stuff done while I do dishes and clean. 

This way my house stuff gets done while I do other “writing tasks” verbally. Then once I have done so many chores, I return to my desk. Maybe I go post a lesson on the Yahoo loop and scan for any lost lambs who need immediate help in say, a blogging class. Then, before I go back to writing, I scan #MyWANA for anyone I can RT. If a blog looks interesting I click and leave it minimized until my next break. I look at FB and type a quick message or maybe even post the blog I just found on Twitter. I keep a master list to always keep me focused, but then I just nibble all day until they are gone.

So you always have your main action items visible.

Have 3 blogs loaded in queue and ready to post
Write background for protagonist
Load on-line lessons 3 & 4
Sort e-mail
Write sample chapter for new book

Finish laundry
mop floors
clean kitchen

Then you just take bites out of all these projects all day long until they are finished. This keeps me from sitting too long, but it also keeps me from doing housework at the expense of my writing. During breaks I can play with The Spawn, get on the Kinect to get my blood going again, or whatever. A lot of people sit and try to do projects until they are fully complete. This works for some people, but creatives tend to be ADD. When I look at my action items I ask, “What is ONE step I can do in less than 10 mins, 30 mins, and hour…that can get me to closer to completion on each of these?”

Also, I do think we need to lower our standards in some areas and raise them in others. As a professional author, it is critical to have excellent blogs, books and classes. It isn’t however, possible for me to have this standard with my writing and then also have a house that looks like it was decorated by Martha Stuart. I live in yoga pants and a scrunchee. I dress up for church and events outside the home. I no longer have pretty fake nails and I returned to my natural hair color (the darker blonde you see in my pics) because platinum was too high-maintenance.

I delegate, rely on a team and prioritize. I do a lot of multi-tasking and I work hard…six days a week. But, there is a reason this job isn;t for everyone, LOL. I do read a lot of self-help and success book and am always trying new ways of being effective. This method of just keeping my priorities where I can see them and then snacking at them has worked the best so far.

Did this help? …or make you want to drink heavily?

LOL See what I mean, don’t you love her?  What I think is great about this advice is how honest it is.  I’m a worry wart to the core.  I stress over everything and if it isn’t good or I didn’t get all the things on my list done, I feel guilty.  I know I’m not alone.  (There’s those words again!)  We all have goals we’re trying to accomplish and the ones that are most worthwhile, you know the ones in the DREAM BIG pile, may require sacrifice.  For Kristen, it’s spot cleaning her house and wearing a scrunchy.  For me, it’s using a dry shampoo and unearthing my desk/cleaning out the fridge once a month.

After all, who would want their mascara to get in the way of their happiness?  🙂

What do you think?  What ways do you make time for the many demands of life?  Wouldn’t it be a better world if we all could work in pajamas?

Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert.  She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it!  She deals with it all and writes about it!  Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining.

Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to. Follow on Twitter:  @jesswitkins

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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30 Responses to A Recipe for Making Time – Guest Post by Jess Witkins

  1. Pingback: Scams: A Guest Post by David N. Walker « Jess Witkins' Happiness Project

  2. Jess at Jenny’s! So cool. I’d leave a longer comment but I have 29 balls that are rolling away…. 😉


  3. Marcia says:

    Excellent, Jess! I think everyone must struggle with this issue. I like Kristen’s idea of ‘snacking’. I’m able to do that some of the time, but mostly I plow through one task at a time. That comes from years of working and being told, finish what you start before moving onto the next task. But that isn’t always appropriate for writers. Time for my mid-morning ‘snack’ and catching a couple of balls rolling in my path. 🙂


  4. Jenny Hansen says:

    Jess, I struggle with this too, so Kristen’s ideas were a big eye-opener. I mean look how much that lady gets done!


    • Jess Witkins says:

      Absolutely! And I was raised a lot like Marcia it sounds, cause I’m a finish your plate kind of gal too. But I always had more on my list. I like taking snippets approach, and honestly think it will help me with Marcia’s challenge to get more sleep and to play more because breaking up your day is a good thing for creativity!


  5. Sherry Isaac says:

    Hey Jess!
    The approach Kristen describes isn’t too different from the one I follow. I list things I must get done, and have a separate list–the extras I need to get done but not necessarily today. It helps me prioritize, but the second list also keeps me from twiddling my thumbs on those rare occasions when I get through the first list. I know what task to tackle next.
    WOOT! I join Life List Club in April.


    • Jess Witkins says:

      Holla!!! Welcome to the Life List Club…early! 🙂

      I’ve never outrightly prioritized my own to do list, so I really was enlightened at Kristen’s approach. My problem is I would totally dive into another project. Like don’t get me started cleaning my room, or the bed will be piled with sorting and donations and whatnot. Or I’ll find some old journals and waste an hour reading them. LOL. So I’m going to combine your approach with Kristen’s and see what happens…


  6. Hey Jess – love the approach and definitely see how the power of lists and snacking can help you stay on point and productive. Saying “no” more often and not giving into my TV addiction would help greatly as well. LOL!


    • Jess Witkins says:

      I try my best to be good like Kristen and use social media or TV as a reward. I’m better at moderating the social media. But movies are a total guilty pleasure of mine so I always trick myself into thinking I can multi-task and watch a movie and work at the same time. Yah, that so doesn’t happen. I need to learn to say “no” to others and even sometimes to myself.


  7. “Snacking” is a great idea, but I think I would end up rocking back and forth in a corner if I tried! When I need to get a lot of things done, I end up shortening sleep time, unfortunately. I’ve found, though, if I get organized, and set time limits for how long I think the task should take, I get a lot more done than if I wing it. Oh, and I’m with you on the worrying thing! How do you turn that off, I wonder? 🙂


    • Jess Witkins says:

      Time limits. Those can be good. Giving myself a deadline is usually what works best. And I think the work space is a big piece too. I get more done when I write at coffee shops cause I’m focused for a few hours at a time. My home distracts me with chores or entertainment too often.


  8. Jess, I keep running into articles on how we’re not functioning at peak capacity when we’re multi-tasking. Well, for some of us, it’s either that or nothing at all. Very often, I do my best work when I’m juggling five things.


    • Jess Witkins says:

      That’s a good thing to point out. And I don’t know how well I could really focus on my WIP if I was multi-tasking, but I do agree that stepping away to do something else can clear your head long enough to recharge and write something new and wonderful again. I mean how many times have you heard someone say they get their best ideas while taking a shower, cleaning, or going for a walk? LOL I know I do. I talk out loud in the shower, and while cleaning, and um…walking.


  9. I completely agree that working in our pajamas makes the world a better place… 🙂


  10. I love the idea of nibbling away at tasks until they’re all done. Much less intimidating than tackling everything all at once.


  11. Julie Glover says:

    Great advice. I’m a list-maker myself. If it weren’t for my lists (which I now keep on Cozi), I wouldn’t get through a single productive day. Checking things off as I get them done also motivates me to keep going.

    By the way, Jess, I would totally jump out of a plane, and I think it’s so cool that you’ve done it!


    • Jess Witkins says:

      I’ll have to look into Cozi, I’ve never heard of it before. I do get motivated by crossing things off my to do list though.

      Skydiving is amazing! If you’ve never done it, I say go! Pretty exhilarating experience.


  12. Thanks Jess for the suggestions and remiders. I totally am all over making lists. I just finished a class and am in the process of making one now. Thanks Jenny for having Jess today! 🙂


  13. Aloha Jenny,

    Found you via Lara’s Blog and wanted to say you have a new follower.

    I’ve blogged from the heart since Day I, (six months ago) and love being real 🙂

    It’s so much more fun than trying to put on an air or trying to be something I’m not 😉


  14. Karen Rought says:

    This is absolutely perfect. I used to do this (make lists), but haven’t in a long time. I think I know what I’ll be doing today!


  15. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    Great post, Jess! One of my balls is reading and commenting on blogs. This one always seems to get away from me. I think taking little nibbles out of it all week would work well. Maybe try to do three comments a day or something. Gotta go chase some balls now!


  16. hawleywood40 says:

    What a great post Jess, and I love Kristin’s advice and the fun etwway she shares it. I go back and forth between the “snacking approach” (like today, so far I’ve written a blog, researched a few publication leads, done some laundry, and caught up on blog reading) and diving into one project for a several-hour stint. But when I get into something for a longer haul, it tends to be because I’m really into it, things are going well, and I don’t WANT a break from it. That was last Sunday, when I spent all day with the book making some edits on what I’d written so far AND adding 3,000 words to the count : ).


  17. hawleywood40 says:

    Oops … you can so tell I’m still semi-new to “curled up on the couch typing” lol! “etwway” in the comment above is supposed to be “way” and I’m clues as to where the extra 3 letters came from!


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