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Back on the Horse
How to get back to work
I was on vacation last week! My family and I went to Mexico City and it was STUPENDOUS. It has got to be the leafiest city I’ve ever been in. The trees! Oh the trees everywhere! Of course we had wonderful food and walked around the fantastic parks and saw wonderful sights. My kid especially loved the lucha libre match we saw.
In my family, we distinguish between a trip and a vacation. A trip (what my husband prefers) is when we go to a place to! do! things! Museums and tours and walking around all day to see! the! things! I like this. It’s wonderful. But I also like a vacation, which involves some body of water (beach, lake, pool) and sitting by said body of water for a period of time everyday. We can also do things, but the main thing is the sitting and swimming and no hustling. Mexico City was a trip.
I had a week off and I’m tired! (My diamond shoes are also way too small, so, you know, take my complaining with a grain of salt.) That’s also why this week’s newsletter is late because I am tired and I am coming back to a full inbox and <litany of excuses here.> BUT, I want to and need to rally and get things done. (I’m also going to go to bed at 9pm every day this week to actually get some rest).
So this is how I motivate myself when I’m feeling tired but still have to get work done:
Touch the important things everyday
It’s really tempting to be like I’ll take care of all these little things (email, unpacking, laundry, piled up crap) and THEN get to the big stuff but honestly, get to the big stuff now. It’s the big stuff for a reason. Email begets email, and you never really get rid of it, so trying to is sisyphean. Even 10 minutes on the big projects as often as possible while you dig out helps a LOT.
I have a reminder that pops up everyday at 3pm that says “Eat Something Dummy.” I am not one of those people who forgets lunch or whatever, but I get to 3pm and think wow I’m cranky. Turns out I need a snack! Don’t power through meals. Feed yourself the best way you can so that getting through your to do list isn’t even more unpleasant
Acknowledge you will not get it all done
On my vacation I read Oliver Burkeman’s FOUR THOUSAND WEEKS: Time Management for Mortals and I loved it. I am all for a pithy self-help book that’s going to change my life (especially as an audiobook, which is how I read this one). This is not a pithy self-help book that promises to change your life. It is a considered and honest look at how we spend our limited time (our roughly 4000 weeks on earth) and why we do it that way. Burkeman comes right out and says you’re never going to get it all done so why bother? But in a way that makes you go heck yeah! and not oh shit. You’re not going to get it all done so you might as well do the stuff that’s important and that you like or that you have to do to survive. That means there are some tasks that are going to fall by the wayside. And that’s ok. I have found this very freeing.
Be realistic about your time
Between meetings and calls and appointments (why did I schedule a dentist appointment yesterday???) and family stuff, I honestly only get like 3-4 hours of actual head-down, focused work a day, if I’m lucky. A single contract can take me two hours. Reading a novel takes 8-10 hours (and I am almost never able to do that after 6pm). My to do list always contains more than I can get done in a day, so I’ve started making smaller (daily) to do lists. It is way more effective for me to focus on a few things at a time, and leave space for the things I don’t anticipate happening, than to bite off more than I can chew. (Of course, yesterday’s list had 17 things on it by the end of the day, but eight are carrying over today. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s a work in progress.)
You might be thinking this is all well and good for a literary agent, Kate, but what the heck does this have to do with being a writer? And I’ll tell you. We both have a day job, no? (Agenting is my day job.) And we’re both trying to write something on the side, right? (Maybe you’re not and that’s ok, thanks for being here.) Writing my WIP is on my to do list. I wrote for 15 minutes yesterday because that was all I had in me, and that’s ok. I touched it, and that’s what counts. I didn’t put it to the side to catch up on my day job, because that slice of time I can devote to it, no matter how small, is as important (to me) as answering the emails. But also, I didn’t write this morning like I intended to because it just wasn’t happening, brain-wise. That’s ok, too! I’m not going to get it all done everyday. I’ll try again tomorrow. Eating a good breakfast, approaching my to do list realistically, touching the important things everyday applies to both sides of my career—the day job and the writing. Stressing about one feeds into the other. Being as realistic as I can be about both eases me back into work when I’ve had a break much more smoothly than freaking out about lost time or backlog or what I shoulda coulda woulda have done already.
That’s it for today. I have a bunch of emails to answer. :)