It’s been a very odd sort of week. The sort of week which – thankfully – doesn’t come around too often. The sort of week which really makes you stop and reconsider and try to make sense of your life.
For a long time now I’ve been feeling out of control, which is unnerving for a control freak like me. For many months I’ve felt as if everything was slipping away from me. You know that feeling you get when it’s almost as if you’re having to run just to stand still, like being on a treadmill, pounding away but not actually getting anywhere? Well, that.
The biggest problem I have is time management. I once did a module on that very subject at college and I got very good marks for it. Trouble is, the schedule I was being marked on was one that I would have liked to follow, not one that I actually did. I doubt I’d have done so well had it been a true account of how I frittered away my day. I know everyone gets twenty four hours in a day and I’m constantly amazed at how much some people get done and how little I seem to achieve in the same time. Why? Why?
So this week, I actually sat down and thought about what I do in a day. It was pretty scary, I can tell you. Without exception, every time I turned on the laptop to write I would think “I’ll just pop online for ten minutes first, see what’s going on in the world.” I would click the chrome button and then hit the Gmail link and check my emails. Then, after browsing on there for a while (and toddling along to Amazon having being sent a Kindle Daily Deal link that I simply had to check out), I made the fatal mistake of clicking on Facebook.
Cue at least an hour of scrolling through everyone’s posts, liking and sharing, following links to articles and video clips, and generally being extremely nosy. Eventually, I realised that I had frittered away most of the morning and I really had to get on with some writing because it was nearly time to go to work.
Shutting down Facebook I then clicked on the bookmark for the Google Doctor Who game which I absolutely have to play at least once before I can come off the internet. I’m not joking. It’s become an obsession. I gave up Candy Crush and Farm Town and all those other games that took up so much time on Facebook, but I have become quite addicted to this one and in spite of the fact that it’s very basic animation and my five year old grandson could probably do it without even thinking about it, I have set myself a challenge to get my Doctor through the five levels without having him exterminated by Daleks or deleted by Cybermen, and with all the pressure my palms start to sweat and my heart starts pounding and I actually feel sick if I use up one of his lives and he has to regenerate. I kid you not.
By this time, of course, it’s almost time to leave for work. Sometimes I managed to get an hour of writing in. Sometimes I opened up Scrivener and just read what I’d written previously and decided what needed changing and that was it – time up. Sometimes I decided there just wasn’t time to even open up the writing at all and shut my laptop to get ready for work.
After work I came home feeling pretty exhausted, arriving home at about six-thirty. If, as happens occasionally, DH couldn’t pick me up I had to get two buses home in which case it was around seven-thirty before I staggered through the front door. Then I had something to eat, flopped in front of the television and watched rubbish till I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even be bothered to drag myself up to bed. This happened every single working day!
On weekends I have always been full of good intentions. I will spend the entire weekend writing, I decide. On Mondays, usually, when I’m full of guilt and remorse for the wasted two days I’ve just spent faffing around and getting nowhere fast.
Usually, my daughter and her family visit on Saturday afternoon, and my son and his family visit on Sunday afternoon, so I have to allow for that, but other than that…
I usually clean the house on Saturday mornings and then the plan is to spend Saturday afternoon writing. Except, of course, Facebook is calling and then there’s Doctor Who to play, so it’s quite late before I start writing and before I know it my daughter has arrived and it would be rude to write when I only see her once a week, and besides who could concentrate when there is a five year old boy running around demanding attention?
When they leave it’s time to cook and then DH and I watch television together because he has been in bed most of the day as he works nights and then he gets ready for work and I get ready for bed. And, if I’m honest, Sunday is just a repeat of Saturday except it’s my son who turns up not my daughter.
So, you see, I start Monday morning with a feeling of increasing panic and not a little disgust at how much time I’ve wasted and invariably promise myself I will do better next week. Except I never do. Then something happened which made me think about how much time I fritter away and resolve to do something positive about it.
A little girl in our family lost her long battle against cancer this week. She was just nine years old and last February had been given just two months to live. Instead, she fought on and managed to survive ten months, months that were packed with as many new experiences as she could manage. She didn’t just give up. Almost to the end she was still attending school as often as she could and she never complained. She put me to shame. In those ten months she achieved so much and I thought about how long it has taken me to write this book, how much time I have wasted, how much time I continue to waste, and I knew something had to change.
I have written before about time-wasting and procrastination. Without doubt, it is something that I have recognised and resolved to change many times in the past. This time, I knew that I had to do something definite about it. The question is, what? How do you change the habits of a lifetime, because I look back and see that, even before I had this novel to think about, I have wasted time all my life. How many first chapters did I start and never progress beyond? I have been doing that since I was about thirteen years old! How much time spent watching television programmes that I wasn’t even interested in, when I could have been writing or even reading something that mattered to me?
I know that I respond well to deadlines and lists. The trouble was, I didn’t have any deadlines. So I set myself some, and have drawn up a list of targets and goals which I can tick off one by one. (There is nothing more satisfying than ticking things-to-do off a list!)
The first task was to clear out the little spare bedroom which has been full of junk since we moved in in November. I am pleased to say that I have finally tackled that job! My desk is set up with my laptop in place. My bookcases are sorted. My whiteboard and corkboard are on the walls, along with inspirational postcards and pictures. My notebooks sit on the window sill in front of my desk. My desk drawers are full of stationery. On the door I have hung a plaque that states, “Writer At Work”. I have my own study and there is no excuse any more to slump in front of the television claiming that I am being distracted!
So, the first item on my list has been ticked off. I have drawn up a schedule of things I want to happen and the timescale I want them to happen in, and I have been as realistic as possible without giving myself too much time to waste or expecting miracles. I am being quite ruthless with myself. I never realised until this week how many television programmes I watch that I have no actual interest in! What a waste!! I have some programmes that I will continue to watch, obviously, but if I’m not desperate to see something I will find something more productive to do with my time. Hopefully, I will see both my writing and reading output increase dramatically.
I never made any real New Year’s resolutions because I invariably break them, but one brave little girl has made me really take stock of what I want to do with my life, however long it may be, and resolve to make full use of every precious day.
God bless, little one x
Whatever you decide to do with your week, have a great one xx