Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Distractions, distractions....

One of the things my adWiser suggested (or sort of told me, actually) that would be essential in executing Plan A--turning in a full draft by Jan. 15--was to work on eliminating distractions. Hmmm. Yes, that certainly would help. I nodded, said, "yes, that certainly would help," and smiled tentatively. "I'm serious," she said. "Do you know how much time you spend NOT focusing on this because it is very easy to focus on things you think are important, but are not?" Yes, I do. "Yes, I do," and I smiled tentatively. That conversation happened 10 days ago.

Since then, I've been feeling good about my writing and researching progress, and have been scrutinizing my days, what I "do" in them, and how to clear the clutter. In these 10 days, several things have crossed my path that make this notion of "streamlining" very do-able.

To help spur the above conversation along, my adWiser posed, "For example, I know you love your life in Buffalo and are very busy, but have you had conversations with the people close to you about how your time is going to more focused on YOU for the next three months, and that there may be times you are "unavailable" for various things?" Ummmm, no. So I did that. And it went over well (still have some more people to talk to, but I'm getting there) and everyone so far understands the urgency of my own timeline, what it means to me, what it means to them in the long run and the implications for the short run. "It's OK to say 'no' to things sometimes," said my adWiser. She is right.

Then, Monday, in a moment of downtime and cleaning the house during the 15 minutes I had before my son's bus came roaring down the street, I was sorting through magazines and newspapers and assorted whatnot that had accumulated on my front room table. I found a Rolling Stone magazine with Stephen Colbert on the cover from a few weeks back, and realized I HADN'T READ IT! I asked myself, "What the hell have I been doing that I can't even read my fave mag?" So, I finished my task, still had 7 minutes, and buzzed through the article on him. Interesting guy, but anyway, the way that he approaches his "work" and "life" is that he thinks of two things and two things only: work and joy. If what he's doing doesn't have both, he doesn't do it. And I realized that even as arduous as this Dissertation is, it does--for me, but I'm crazy--fit under both work and joy. Using that model, I've eliminated even more distractions.

THEN, yesterday, after leaving the downtown library, I gave myself 30 minutes to run errands. I loathe running errands. Traffic, in and out of the car, delays, money spent (usually), etc. But, my printer was out of ink (bad), my winter comforter still sat at the dry cleaners from 3 weeks ago (weather's turnin'...need that bad boy) and I had no lettuce for dinner. 30 minutes. last stop was Office Depot, where at that time of day, should have been empty. I refill my cartridges which saves me money (and is "green") but adds about 5 minutes while they do it. Not today, however. I backlog of printer cartridges sat waiting in a long line before mine. Sheesh. So, I wandered the store pondering the research I just did at the library and browsing things that I neither needed nor could afford. These things happen.

On a shelf near the front sat a book that I have heard of, been interested but never purchased: Tim Ferriss's The Four Hour Workweek. This title appeals to my sense of "work" in that I want ALL of the things I do to be productive yet joyful without losing my soul to someone else's dream. I plunked down in a random on-sale office chair (at least I was in the right place) and started to browse the text while watching and waiting for my little black ink cartridge to make its way to the front of the line.

On page 68, Ferriss says (if you don't know him, give him a glance. His blog is in my favorites here),"Doing something unimportant well does not make it important. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important." BINGO. More distractions gone.

I don't want to fully admit that I have been inefficient, but I did waste a wholelotta whoo-ha this summer making unimportant things very important, and musing over stupid crap that has nothing to do with my life whatsoever (usually some sort of celebrity-related B.S. or news story, gossip, etc.).

Clearing some distractions has been easier than others. Turning off my email until I am "done" for the day was harder than I thought---what is something "big" happened that I need to know about (it never has, why would I think it would?)? What if someone has something urgent to tell me (that's what phones are for)? How to feel connected to the world while sitting in The Chair writing (make better use of free time and hang with friends instead of dealing with them digitally)? and the excuses go on and on. My world will not end if I don't get my 29 messages of goofiness until 3pm each day, yes? And those "waiting" for my answer (they probably aren't) will get it. After 3pm.

Grocery shopping in bulk at undesirable hours (8:30am) as opposed to convenient (3pm) to avoid a busy store, not cleaning the house until I can do it in a full 15-minute swoop, planning time to do tasks and actually DOING THEM AND GETTING THEM DONE in that time, etc. Interesting. Oh, and no Crack News---CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc. Garbage. If something really big happens, someone will email (and I'll get it at 3pm and the walls won't come a-crumblin' down) or call. It takes a village, afterall....

AND, my brain is ON FIRE lately, and I think it just took that little nudge of confidence, perspective and, of course, a deadline to get it to where it should be. Focused. Not cluttered. Or, at least not as much as before.

So, I took care of some business stuffystuff already, said I wanted to post on M(MotT) today, and hit the library by 11am (if any of you care to join me in the ol' Grosvenor Room and search old newspaper reels from the 1870s...mmmm.......tempting, yes?). I know what I want to find today, will be home by 3pm and ready for the second half of my day. Baby steps. On a clear path, though.

Any more distraction tips are always welcome!

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