Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday’s Time Tip: I’ll have more time later – NOT

Last week I tried to describe the power of now. This week I want to look at that concept from a different angle. We often think we can accomplish something at some point in the future, when there will be more time. We say or think things like:

I’ll get that done after the holidays.
This summer will be good for that.
After the kids complete high school, or are grown.
After I retire.

I think you get the point; there will somehow be MORE time in the future. That is a very big misconception. If things are not being done now, or the very near future, how will the things you want to do be completed later on? Demands on our time are everywhere, and with all this multitasking, at least for me, a sense of accomplishment is harder to find because there is always something left to do!

I have also found that there are new things vying for our attention. So the items going away (after holiday, kids grown, retire) will be replaced with unforeseen items, and the items that you are putting off for the future date will compete with the new unforeseen things.

Therefore, there will not be any new “free time” if anything there will be less of it.

Bottom line, do not think that you will be able to do things in the future. I’ve taught my children this concept. Do things now. Take care of your future self, by dealing with items now. A simple example: put your homework in a binder and place it in your school bag. Tomorrow when you are in class and open the binder, your homework will be there. Thus, take care of your future self. No one else will.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power of Now

Planning and scheduling, time management, calendaring, and week at a glance all have one thing in common. Anticipating and doing things later.

I wanted to touch on something different. The power of now.

I like to plan and execute a plan. Map out a day and check things off, accomplishing and doing. Feels good to get things done.

However, there are always unforeseen events that derail plans, and throw things out of sync. This is inevitable. Planning is proactive, managing time is proactive, but sometimes we need to be reactive.

Sometimes the best time to do things is right now. Don’t put off doing something until it can be properly planned, when just doing it will take care of whatever the issue is.

The best example I can think of is taking care of the mail. Junk mail goes in the trash right now. (Unless of course you are working on copywriting and collect and studying the junk mail, then you’d just file it.) Deal with the mail as it hits, not piling it up to look at later.

When I had an office job, the thing I hated to do was file. I had a section on my desk for “to file” when the file pile got really big I’d spend time filing everything. Sometimes it would take over an hour! If I’d just file as I went along I would have avoided the necessity of planning to file. The power of now. I wouldn’t say I could have saved time, because you cannot spend or save time. However, I would say there is an opportunity cost of procrastination. The time used to file may have been used for other purposes.

The power of now can be used to keep things off a to do list, or kept out of future planning.

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after. If you do that you will always have many things on your list. Remember the power of now can keep things of future to do lists, and give you more freedom to take care of those things that matter most.

Good luck.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday's Time Management Tip: Getting It All Together

When I was younger, I loved T-shirts. (Still do for that matter, although the times and places I can wear them are few and far between.) T-shirts were like bumper stickers for people. Lots of witty sayings. One of my favorites read:

“I finally got it all together, but
I forgot where I put it.”

Getting it together is one thing, keeping it together is a balancing act. A key to help keep it all together is to have your schedule/calendar in one place. With all the new technology and phones, computers, etc pick one place to track all your activities. Do not keep track of your activities on two or three devices/calendars.

It may seem like a “no brainer” or duh? It is simple, but one place for everything. If you track children or other people’s schedules, one place makes it important. Color code activities such as personal vs. work time; or if you are tracking multiple people each individual a color. This will identify potential conflicts. It will also enable you to block out sections of a day or week for what you want to do, or need to do.

Just don’t forget where you put the calendar once you have it going!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Early Morning in the Cow Pasture

COWS MUST BE MILKED TWICE A DAY. Period. This fact was the reason I was in the Cow Pasture in the predawn light. The cows were bunched up – at the far end of the pasture of course. Grandpa dropped me off at the gate and drove away in his old red pickup truck to turn the water. I blew out a breath of frustration, the warm air condensing in the brisk morning air. Each breath produced a white puff in front of me. For a young man of 11 growing up in Texas the chill mountain morning felt more like winter than the crisp August morning that it was in the rocky mountains in northern Utah.

I began to trudge across the field my feet slipping in the waders that were several sizes too large for me. The boots had been on the back porch and the wet grass would soak through my tennis shoes, a fact I had learned a few weeks earlier, leaving my feet wet and cold. So I put up with the oversized boots. I left tracks in the dew covered pasture grass as I made my way to the heard.

As I approached the heard I noticed that they were on a small rise, but there was a ditch between me and the cows. I looked to see if there was a bridge to cross. I didn’t see one. I could just cross the ditch. As I arrived at the edge I realized the ditch was an irrigation ditch filled with water and it was about five feet across. Too far a distance to jump. Well the oversized waders would let me cross the canal, so I stepped into the ditch. The cows just looked at me. I took a step and then another. The water level was higher on the third step. I realized that the forth step would be even deeper, deep enough that the water would pour into the oversized wader effectively rendering them useless. I backed to the edge of the ditch and climbed back up. I yelled at the cows hoping that they would just get up and cross the stream. The nearest cow just blinked at me and chewed her cud.

Yelling wouldn’t work.

I looked around for a board or log that I could put across the canal and cross.


Grandpa would be back and he would want the cows on the road towards the milk barn. I didn’t want to disappoint Grandpa. I had to have the cows on the road. The ditch was deeper than the waders were high. I looked around for some rocks to throw at the cows. I was in a cow pasture with an irrigation ditch. There were no rocks, no bridge, and no planks. Just pasture grass, cow manure, water, cows, and me in oversized waders that were worthless at the edge of a ditch.

A feeling of helplessness and despair washed over me. I had to have the cows on the road. Typically I walk up and they move. This morning they were in a different pasture on the other side of an irrigation canal. I had to get across the stream. The air was chill, the water cold, and my nerve failing. It dawned on me the only way across was to take off the boots and wade across in bare feet.
Reluctantly I pulled off a boot and a sock. Then I stood in the wet grass on my bare foot. The ground was cold! Then I removed the second boot and sock. I rolled up my pant legs. Taking the boots in one hand and courage in my heart I stepped into the canal.

The water was cold! Gritting my teeth I forced my self to take the next step. Soon I was in the middle of the stream and the water was almost at my knees. The mud squished between my toes. Frigid water swirled around my legs, my feet grew numb. I was afraid I’d lose my balance and fall into the inky dark stream.
The cows just watched. I pulled my nerve around me once again and took the next step. Soon the water wasn’t getting deeper and soon I was on the other side. I slipped the boots back on and got the cows moving. Slowly the cows stood, tails whipping and the still air was filled with sounds of tramping cattle and splashes as the cows stepped into the stream I had tepidly crossed.

The last cow was in the water sloshing to the other side of the canal. Once again I stopped and took the boots off. It was easier to get into the water this time, but I didn’t enjoy the crossing. I got the cows to the road and Grandpa picked me up and we followed the cows to the milk barn.

More happened to me that morning than getting a heard of cows to cross a stream. I found that I could do something for myself. I had a job to do and I could do it, and find ways to make things happen without someone telling me what to do. I didn’t wait for grandpa. I didn’t cry. I didn’t want to get in the cold water, but I wanted to get the job done. So that morning in the cow pasture I learned a few things about myself. I learned to dig deep, I learned not to quit, I learned that sometimes you have to do something you don’t want to do, to stretch yourself to get the job done. Sometimes you must rely on yourself. The cow pasture was the location of one of my first moments of self discovery.

Dean C. Rich
September 2008

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thursday's Time Management Tip: Control

Right now I feel like my life is of control. Not a good feeling. There was a time in my life where I was accomplishing many things. As I reflect on what is different between then and now it occurred to me that I had more control over things then than I do now.

Focus on what you have control over. Believe it or not you cannot control everything. Some people are very, very frustrated because they think they can control it all. Face it you can’t.

Several years ago two of my wife’s sisters had a double wedding and reception. I remember the day of the reception my Mother-in-law was getting very uptight. She was pacing and worrying about all the little details. Since the wedding had been two days earlier, the two newlywed couples were in route to their reception.

I saw that my mother-in-law was wound up. I put my arm around her and asked her what was wrong. She began to rattle off a stream of things that she was worried about, would the kids be there on time, who was going to show up? On and on she went about things, most of which she had absolutely no control over.

“Mom,” I said, “You can’t help when anyone will arrive. What can you do that you can control?”

She thought for a moment and said, “I can find out about the cake.”

So she made the call and got the status on the cake. I got her focused on what she had control over. Her blood pressure came down, and her day began to get better.

One other example to share; I had an employee come up to me and ask to go home. The police were at her home. She had to leave.

I asked her if her children were at home. She told me they weren’t. I asked if they were safe. She told me they were. I asked if anything would be different if she were there. She said no. So I asked her why she had to leave if her children were safe and she wouldn’t change anything if she were there. She said she would be okay and thanked me.

You gain control when you focus on what you can control. You cannot control people. You may influence, but not control. You cannot control the weather, but you can control what you eat, when you go to bed, and when you get up.

Currently I only have a few hours a day that are mine. I need to focus on what I can do in those few hours. I haven’t been doing that lately and I feel like my life is out of control. Not a good feeling. Time to take control over what I have control over. Little by little I should get back to where I was a few years ago.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Writing in a Vacuum

This is a mistake I made. I worked on my story, my trilogy, my novel, my books all by myself. Sure I read articles in Writer’s Digest. I checked some books out of the library about writing. I read about characters. I read about plots. I read about a lot of things. I took what I learned and began to write.

I looked forward to my lunch hours because I could write. The story kept coming, and I kept writing, and writing, and writing. Book one went on to book two, and book two lead to book three. Eventually I wrapped up the entire story. Three books, 400,000 words total. I had accomplished my wish. Write a great story, or so I hoped.

Now I’m ready to publish. I wrote a query letter, being very careful to model my letter after the letters I found in Writer’s Market. I sent out queries, and got rejection letter after rejection letter.

Then I read somewhere I needed to get an agent. So I sent queries to agencies. The rejection letters kept returning.

Long story short I learned that a first time writer cannot sell a series. Books for my genre (Fantasy, and now I’ve learned it is High Fantasy) run 100,000 to 120,000 words. And they need to be stand alone. My 400,000 word trilogy does not fit. Query letter pitching first of a three part book at 180,000 words red flag goes up and the Agent/publisher stops reading and pulls out the rejection letter and sends it to me.

The internet and e-mail have become the way to work with agents. I found a web site that listed agents. It was great, then I noticed a link on the agent site, a link for writers. So I clicked on Agent Query Connect. As I read the posts and began to get involved I found out the mistakes I'd been making. There I learned you must get involved. Writing is solo, but the writer is not alone.

If I had understood the industry I would have approached this project differently. Still don’t know what I’m going to do with this story of mine. I’ve learned a lot writing it. But I know now I need to get involved with the writing community. Which is what I’m doing now.

So get involved. Find a writing guild, go to conventions, go online. But you need to talk and work with other writers and learn the business. If you dream of getting published, you need to learn the rules.

I wrote in a vacuum, and now I am paying for that mistake.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday’s Time Management Tip: What Matters Most?

I’m going to attempt to post a Time Management Tip every Thursday.

Tip: What do you Value?

It is not a matter of time; we all have the same amount of time. It is how we use it that makes the difference. You can’t spend time because we don’t earn time. So why is it that some people seem to get so much more accomplished than other?

Simple. It is a matter of what you value. For those of you familiar with the Franklin Covey planners, you may have heard this already, but stick around, because this is my take on this.

If you are serious about managing your time and getting more done take a few moments to ponder this simple question. When you have the answer to this you will be on your way to setting things in your personal home in order.

What matters most? Don’t think of time as an hour or minute, think of time as priorities. Priorities matter. So in your life what is it that matters most?

To find those items that are at the top of the list, what would you be willing to risk your own life for? For me it would be my family, my wife and children. Then it would have to be my career, because work takes care of the family. (I’ve another post dealing with those choices at a future date.)

Another exercise, and you writers may enjoy this, is to think about your own funeral. To set the stage, picture the church, or funeral home, think of who will be the speakers. What would they say about you? What would you want them to say about you? Who will attend? What will they say at the grave site? Who will miss you most? Write out the scene.

Now review it. Do you like what is said? Who isn’t at the service that should be? Now like Ebenezer Scrooge what are you going to do about it?

Focus on What Matters Most. Next week we’ll discuss setting priorities in your life.

Trust me you’ll start to accomplish what you want to get and managing your time, but first you must know what matters most in your life. Otherwise you might make it to the top of the ladder, only to find the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall!