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Posts tagged ‘distractions’

Distracted? Frustrated? Wasting Your Time?

The importance of goalsLast month, I came across this quote by the writer Robert Heinlein: “In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

These words resonated deeply.

I was frustrated at the time. I’d become overwhelmingly “busy” with things that didn’t really matter to me. Unrewarding projects were taking too long; I was working inefficiently. The lure of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, and Words With Friends had become almost irresistible. What had happened? I used to be good at keeping distractions in a box. I’d long ago learned not to check e-mail outside of the workday; why was I suddenly having so much trouble with these other distractions?

The quote reminded me of what I already knew, a few layers down. I’d drifted away from some of my big-picture goals. My daily writing practice had been disrupted. My planning system was in flux and not yet fully supporting my focus. In the absence of my goals, trivia had become my master. I had enslaved myself to things I didn’t care about.

Naming the situation for what it was had an almost immediate effect. I reconnected with my self-discipline and created boundaries where I needed them. I started rewiring the bad habits I’d developed.

If you too find yourself “procrastinating” more than seems reasonable, ask yourself: Do I know what I really want to be doing right now? What is it that I’d planned to accomplish this year? What can I do to move toward my big-picture goals before the calendar flips to 2014?

Robert Heinlein, the author of this quote, was an American science fiction writer. According to Wikipedia, Heinlein was “often called the ‘dean of science fiction.’ He was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time. He set a standard for scientific and engineering plausibility, and helped to raise the genre’s standards of literary quality.”

Heinlein had quite a few smart things to say. A few of my favorites:

  • Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.
  • Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

But lest I take up more of your time with delightful quotes, step away from the trivia, and spend your hours where they count.

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More trivia, if you’re still reading: It appears that Heinlein’s original quote had an errant hyphen between “clearly” and “defined.” Compound adjectives are hyphenated (the green-eyed monster), but adverbs combined with adjectives do not create a compound. Adverbs are inherently modifiers, so their meaning in a series is clear without the hyphen. I took editorial license (as is permissible) and corrected Heinlein’s quote in this post, and went so far as to correct the meme above too (the source of which I am unable to credit). Oh, you didn’t know that my editorial business fills the bulk of my non-coaching daytime hours? (And you wonder why I’m so easily distracted!)

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The Artist at Work: Do You Welcome the Family, or Bar the Door?

The Daily WriterI enjoy starting my daily morning writing practice by reading a page in Fred White’s daybook The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations to Cultivate a Productive and Meaningful Writing Life. Today’s entry was particularly relevant to our scope here at Studio Mothers, whatever your medium. Here’s the excerpt:

August 30: Dealing with Family Interference

Writers mostly work at home, and that can pose a problem, especially if the writer has children. To ensure against quarrels or having the kids or the spouse feel neglected, the writer in the family needs to negotiate (not mandate like some dictator) ground rules. Another approach is to open your study to the kids. Introduce them to your work, explain your project to them in ways they’ll both understand and appreciate. You might even invite them to hang around and watch you working (about as unexciting as can be imagined for most children); it makes them feel more a part of you and gain more of an internal understanding of why you need to work uninterrupted. The opposite approach, making your study off limits, giving it the impression of being The Forbidden Zone, might prove just as effective superficially, but doesn’t do much to foster family togetherness.

Perhaps the best way to handle family interference is to let them interfere in the sense of making them feel welcome in your inner sanctum. There’s a memorable photograph of JFK at work in the Oval Office with four-year-old John-John frolicking at his feet. Children can better intuit how best to behave around a working parent once they feel that they’re included rather than excluded.

How about you? Do you include your children and/or your spouse in your creative work? What’s best for you and your family?

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