CHANGE: ENEMY OR ALLY? IT'S UP TO YOU!
Talk about change! It’s all on at home this month…
These short weeks of January have been my last with a pre-schooler at home. My youngest turned five this month, and that means starting school in the first week of February. It’s the strangest thing anticipating her not being ‘little’ anymore. She’s such a capable kid, and whilst she has the odd emotional moment and worry, she’s so chilled about it all (yes, I’m jealous!). She’s adept at taking things in her stride, plus she’s unbelievably lucky in having my sister as her first teacher at primary school, and her big sister and cousins to walk beside her through it all. She’s going to school knowing there are people there that love her already, and will always have her back. I envy her that (I’m an eldest child and didn’t know a soul when I started school). So, after a good month of summer holiday lazy days, we’re back to creating new routines and learning to stick to them.
We’ve already passed the first two of our many monumental birthdays for the year– my daughter’s fifth, and my father’s sixty-fifth. Instead of big shindigs, we’ve gone gently this year, celebrating with close family in informal settings – swimming at the school pool, lunches at my parents’ place, and we’ve spread out over several days. We’ve needed it that way with everyone having unseasonable colds and a few dramas early in the month. One of my family members joined a well-known local ‘club’ – the ‘I ‘parked’ in the harbour club.’ This day served as a reminder that it’s easy to do (most long-time peninsula people have a go at some time in their lives), and that we’re so incredibly lucky to live in the community we do; we know members of our local volunteer Fire and Emergency crew personally, and they came to the rescue with genuine concern and a humorous, caring touch. They pointed out to us, too, that my family stick together like glue – if one is in trouble, we’ll all turn up to get them out of it. In the space of a half-hour, said family-member had four vehicles and their entire immediate family on hand to transport children, pick up bits of vehicle off the beach, and clear out the busted car on one very wet day. I don’t fancy repeating that day ever again, but I’ve an increased appreciation for our emergency services, especially those whom do it on a volunteer basis.
Scary bits aside, my husband, children and I have spent the holidays catching up on rest, jobs around home, and occasional outings. We spent New Year’s Day with a rare trip to the movies to see Frozen 2. I’ll quietly recommend it here, because all four of us enjoyed it, and more than the first movie. I enjoyed this storyline more, and discovering more about the past of Anna and Elsa’s family helped the first movie make more sense. On a slightly disconcerting note, the message in the movie, following your inner voice and embracing change, mirrors where I am in my head at the moment. Elsa reminds me that I have to make the most of the challenges and changes my inner voice demands, and Anna/Kristoff’s, embracing change through uncertainty, reminds that I’ll make it through, especially with a positive mind-set.
My positives through change this month are: I’m about to have two children going to the same place each morning (no time-wasting multiple pickups and drop-offs), meaning I’ll have three days a week that will be my dedicated writing time; I’ll also have one less little person on my care days, and that in itself creates opportunities; it’s another step on my ladder to where I want to be in life, a little more freedom with children that are slowly growing into their independence so I’m regaining my own a little at a time. My inner voice strives for a successful writing career, and it’s up to me to make it happen, no one else. If I don’t go for it, I’ll forever regret the missed opportunity and wonder ‘what if…’
Let’s not miss those writing opportunities!
I’ve got a big opportunity with my three dedicated writing days (one of which I’m using today!). Sure, I won’t get three every week – I’ll have swap days with my little charges, and if I have appointments it makes sense to schedule them for a ‘no kids’ day, but it’s time I’ll have to make the most of. Luckily I’ve had the rare foresight to get prepared early. I set up my planner at the end of December, I’ve found tips and tricks to be more productive (insert links), and I’ve set goals, real ones, big ones, something I’ve been reluctant to commit to in the past. I’m looking at it as a rededication to what I feel is my ‘calling’ (my ‘thing read more here to find yours) and if I don’t give it a good go now, I might lose my opportunity.
January has been eye-opening in terms of how much work I can accomplish if I set goals and push to reach them. I set a time goal at the beginning of the year and have surprised myself by exceeding it by a large margin! (Check out more on goal-setting here: https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/quick-tip-1-goal-setting-the-easy-and-doable-way) The beginning of February, however, has been more of a challenge pushing through the new routine with small people days, school trips, and just adjusting to the new routine. I’ve been tired and reluctant, but my super-short weekly reflection and planning sessions have reminded me of the positive feelings and achievements I’ve made, and that gets me fired up again, mostly. Tiredness is my enemy, but one I can eliminate by going to bed earlier! Now to actually do that…
Embracing change and striving all round…
Sometimes we just have to hold on and ride the storm, others we’ve got to push on through. Reflection and planning have proved to be so useful to me. Having my wee planner book (no matter how rough and ready it is), and writing down my reflections and plans sets it in concrete, along with the fierce intent to do better. Hey, it’s only taken 37 years to get my butt into gear on that one. It turns out my resistance (or rather, not-readiness) has held me back for a looong time, but no more!
I’m hopeless with change (mostly through my thinking, partially attributed to anxiety and depression in more recent years), though a friend reminded me recently that most people are knocked around by change in one way or another. We all wobble when it comes up, some more than others, but change is an important part of life, and if we find healthy ways of thinking to cope with it, it can be positive too (thanks Liz!). It’s just taken me a little longer to learn to find, and to embrace the positive.
Particularly over the last month I’ve run with the need to find tips and tricks to create a healthier and more successful way of ‘doing life.’ I’ve developed routines and rituals to follow, including re-setting my thinking each week through reflection and mindful planning (you can read more about this here https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/self-reflective-journaling-improve-your-focus-in-just-ten-minutes-per-week), tweaking old ways (turning my haphazard jumping from task to task into mindfully time-blocked sections), and setting those previously dreaded goals (read more here https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/time-management-for-authors-bloggers-or-anyone-with-a-goal-to-smash); I’m not in the sweet spot yet, but it all helps. I’ve had a largely successful January due to a bit of intent, and surpassing previous goals (heck, even last year’s tiny goals are coming in handy!).
In short, I’m learning to act deliberately more often, to embrace the home and work routines to my advantage in both areas together, and the boost I’m getting from achieving goals has lifted my mood – good for everyone in my house, myself included!
Have a great month everyone, especially those with littlies going back to school,
How has acting mindfully and with intent helped you in your home and work life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments .
Time Management is a big deal for me. I’m usually pretty good at recording what I’ve done, but in the past I’ve been resistant to planning ahead and sticking to goals – making myself accountable. This year I hope to overcome my expert procrastinator side and bust the moves when it comes to efficiency. Read on to find out how I plan to do it.
To reach your destination, you need to plan your route. You also need a format to do that.
I wish to be capable of regular blog output, I wish to publish short stories regularly, and offer free content, but wishing doesn’t get you anywhere without structure and commitment. You can have all the hopes and dreams in the world, but if you don’t lock yourself in with dedicated time and get that bum in the chair, like 2019 me, you’ll only accomplish a mere fraction of what you’re capable of.
My intention for 2020 is to up my game bigtime. To accomplish that, I’ve spent a considerable number of hours and oodles of energy researching and developing my 2020 prototype planning documents. I’ve run with the excitement of it and come up with a workable plan. You can learn from my hard work and save yourself that graft by using my ideas as a base to build your own.
“Wishing doesn’t get you anywhere without structure and commitment. Make a plan, set dates, and back yourself to smash them.” - Emily Larkins
Here’s how I’ve set myself up for success in planning ahead in 2020.
Another great strategy I came across during research is Time Blocking. I found this great tip on Pinterest, sourced from productiveflourishing.com (you can read about it for yourself here… https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/590604938619194355/). The essentials are that you break your time into four blocks: Focus Blocks (for when you’re in the zone, and at your best), Social Blocks (when you’re in the right mind-set to meet other people), Admin Blocks (work you can do when you’re not at your best, but can still work productively), and Recovery Blocks (recharging time such as exercise, meditation, reading…). I’ve set myself up a chart that I can refer to throughout the day with task ideas under each. If I feel my self slipping from Focus to Admin, I can switch over and pick a task. When I plan each day, I try to include something from each area so I can switch when I need to. It helps, too, to think of the Recovery Block as part of a productive work day (so long as the whole day isn’t recovery block!). Reading, for me, is an essential part of my recovery time as reading feeds writing. When I’m reading, I’m learning more of my craft, analysing how other writers develop their stories, and what I do and don’t like about the way they tell stories. It removes some of that guilt that I get when I feel I’m being unproductive. It’s about changing that mind-set and being kinder to myself.
I have to admit, though, that setting up my new system has been fun; time-consuming, but fun.
In my former life as a primary school teacher, planner books were an essential element referred to throughout the day. They are about accountability and a visual record of what my class worked through over the school year. At the beginning of the year and each term, as a team, the whole school staff looked at overarching themes for the year, set-date events, etc. That staff was also split into three groups, (syndicates covering a few year-groups each – junior classes, middle classes, and senior classes), and looked ahead term by term together, roughly three monthly, but also down to weeks at a time. So, I’m used to a year calendar, for the broad stuff, term plans for looking closer at each subject area, and weekly plan pages for the day to day and routine stuff.
Now you’ll note that I said former teacher. It was the paperwork side of teaching that overcooked me in the end, and much of that came down to the depth of forward planning required, followed by mountains of testing, assessment, and reports. The stakes were incredibly high, along with the pressure to be perfect. While I like a timetable and a daily plan, I struggle to produce such things too far ahead of time because I love to break the pattern. I love the ‘teachable moment,’ running with a student’s question, but in the current teaching climate in New Zealand, that leads to essentials missing their required time. Oh, and I HATE it when I fall behind and my future plan suddenly looks very different to what I’m actually doing. It feels like doing the work twice as I’d have to change that long-term plan to reflect what I actually did. I also like to do things differently each day, to run with ideas, and largely to please myself, which isn’t exactly embraced in a school setting. That’s why I’ve got a planner that looks as it does. It’s about what works for ME and how I like to do things.
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Here are the key things I need to point out to make this work for you:
- ALWAYS work back from your goals. Look at the big picture and chop your down into manageable chunks or steps that you can chip away at from week to week. See my Quick Tip on Goal Setting for ideas on this: https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/quick-tip-1-goal-setting-the-easy-and-doable-way
- Reflecting on the past week and looking ahead to the next really helps. See my next Quick Tip on Journaling!
- Allow yourself plenty of time for setting up, but when you come to deciding time limits on goals, hustle yourself! I won’t go into depth on this, but you can read about Parkinson’s Law here https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/590604938619613175/. This is a fascinating theory, and one that makes complete sense to me. The gist is, aim to be productive, and don’t allow too much time for procrastination – Time Blocking helps with this.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you don’t meet a certain goal one week, reflect on it, work out what you could have done better, and reset that goal in the coming week/s. We can’t be perfect 100% of the time.
- Track yourself. Keep a visual list or similar, to see where you’re at with your goals and how you’re using your time. If you tick a goal off, feel that achievement, celebrate it, and set another.
So, if you want to increase your productivity, keep better track of goals, and feel better about the way you work, give my Time Management strategies a go.
Do you think this could help you become more productive? Do you like the idea of Time Blocking, or breaking your goals down? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to look out for my quick tips, out now, and coming soon!
Great news! You can recognise your Thing too!
Oh how life throws it at you, and then you’re expected to hold it all together…
In short, this month has had the full scale of highs and lows. As a person that experiences mental health issues, it is difficult maintain a balance when I’m so focused on others. I’m prone to overlooking my mental health needs and easily miss the little clues that I might be on a slide. As many parents will know, when mama goes down, the rest of the family slip and slide too. The grumbles turn into frustration and meltdowns. In fact, that’s usually the clearest barometer I have as to how I’m doing – why are the kids so up and down at the moment? Oh, it’s because I am! So yeah, I need to do something about that!
Writing life: So, at what point do you consider yourself famous, or at least credible?
But here I am procrastinating again. My platform is one thing, but it doesn’t mean that much if I don’t actually WRITE SOMETHING! This month my greatest accomplishment (aside from the guest post invitation), is having entered all my plot data into the writing document for The Weight of Expectation. It’s been a slog, and at times an interesting one, but it now means I have to bite the bullet and get writing! What grates is that this is my third re-plan and re-write. It’s the gritty part of writing where you want to throw the lot out the window and set it on fire because it feels like the whole thing is crap. Actually, having just written that sentence, I now realise why I feel so resistant to it: it’s the gritty bit. It’s the hard the uphill slog before I get to the rollercoaster downhill of revision and editing. Yay! Eek! Damnit! LOL.
What it all means for this writer: Duh, it’s all connected, OR, how on earth am I only making this connection now?
Often when I’m finding life a bit much, I’ll crave writing time, which for me is focused quiet time, a time when I’m alone and responsible for no one but myself. If I’ve had an amazing writing session, or I feel that I’ve had a great day of work on my ‘writing business,’ I feel so much more able to provide for my family through myself, if you get what I mean. Honestly, how can it have taken me so long to make this link? How can I have trudged through my life without realising the importance of it all? All I can hope for right in this moment is that I’m helping someone else realise it within themselves too. You can’t do a great job looking after your family if you do a crappy job of giving yourself what you need to feel alive. So, find your ‘writing.’ Some would call it your ‘passion,’ but I’m more comfortable with calling it a ‘thing.’ Writing is my Thing. So, find the Thing that gives you inner nourishment. It might be physical activity, it might be meditation or gardening or painting or fixing things. Everyone is different, but it is possible for you to find the thing that works for you, and you don’t have to call it a passion.
A question for you:
How does your Thing impact on your physical, emotional, and working life?
Leave your answer in the comments
Until next month,
Join me on Pinterest to make use of the section I’ve added under ‘About the Author’ on self-care. I’ve added this in response to my low this month to remind myself of all the great tools I’ve been taught to maintain my mental health, and to collect new inspiration I find as I go. You can also follow me to benefit from all the hours I’ve spent scouring pins to give inspiration to your writing, creative business, and to see what I’m working on. My Pinterest account is a resource intended to get every writer into creative mode and is full of tips and tools to enhance your writing experience. Visit today!
Hi, I'm Emily,
I'm an indie-published author and busy mum working hard to make my dreams come true.
I'm passionate about helping other beginner writers find confidence and get motivated to give their writing dreams a shot with help along the way.
Join me for mini adventures to see what works for me and learn how to make your writing dream a reality!
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