Category Archives: email overload

Only Child asks where’s the time for creativity?

Symbol of what Only Child wants to do - write

Symbol of what Only Child wants to do – write

An old school friend I keep in touch with asked if I had time to recharge my creative batteries. This was in response to my email where I told him about being up beyond eyeballs promoting my new mystery novel Beyond Blood, working with editing and writing clients, getting the house and garden ready for winter, etc. etc.

Yeah, he is right. In all this scurrying around in overwhelm the only creative juices flowing seem to be those directed at trying to fit everything in each day…and squealing when something on the “to do” list doesn’t get done.

So, I’m going through another pruning of what I can, can’t and just plain won’t do – especially after a big “zoo day” last Friday – meeting with client and the guy cleaning the eavestroughs doing other odd jobs here at the same time. First planned and the second one – not much choice with weather and the guy’s schedule. I didn’t appreciate the plumbing emergency that occurred right after and having to get in the regular handyman who specializes in plumbing and electrical work. And because the forecast was for rain on the weekend I had to spend the afternoon raking leaves, etc. I do enjoy gardening but Friday afternoons are my time to write. Haven’t had many of these Friday afternoons lately and my head is swimming with ideas for my next mystery novel. I’ve started writing it.

So, what are the big delay-causers – besides house repairs and other housework?

Emails. I don’t mean family and friends but business-related and all those email listserves/newsletters I’m on. So, for the rest of November, emails related to current clients, work, and book promo I will answer. But anyone – writer or otherwise who wants me to do something for them – forget it. I especially get my dander up when another writer asks me what to do about something or to do it when really they should be doing the research for it. Research is part of being a writer and passing along doing the research to another writer doesn’t sit too well with me. Different story if you are my client, or it’s at a writing group meeting or if I’m teaching you in a group workshop.

As for those listserves/e-newsletters – I’ve unsubscribed from many of them and a few more are on probation.

I also set a timer when I do email. Excluding book promo where I have to write PR proposals, etc. in the email, when the timer rings I finish the email I am doing and then that’s it. Anything else can wait for another day. And my timer only goes to 60 minutes.

In other words I’m turning into a hard-ass. It’s either that or the nut-house or as my favourite (sarcastic) expression these days is

“I’m waiting for my fatal heart attack.”

I don’t really want that to happen. I have a lot of living I still want to do.

And about my book Beyond Blood, see my other blog www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com and my publisher’s website http://bluedenimpress.com/

Go to my website www.samcraw.com and click on Beyond Blood. Scroll down to gigs and you’ll see where I’ll be with my book for November. I’ll be posting some to my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-A-Crawford/412730865439394

Or Goodreads (which needs updating badly).

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4636581.Sharon_A_Crawford

I find Goodreads cumbersome to move around in. Anyone want to help me out there, please comment.

But probably not today. However, this post will be linked to Facebook and Linked In.

Time marches on.

Here is a cover shot of my new mystery novel Beyond Blood

Cover of Only Child's first published mystery novel

Cover of Only Child’s first published mystery novel

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Beyond Blood, email overload, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Organizing and Deleting, Plumbing, Sharon A. Crawford, Weather, Writing

Only Child going crazy with little time

One of Only Child's teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

One of Only Child’s teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

My late father was a master with time. His work – railway timekeeper-  probably helped him although it drove Mom crazy sometimes. Dad would get his watch regulated at Birks and always insisted Mom, he and I arrive at Union Station in Toronto an hour and a half early for our train. I’m sure he had other time tricks that he used.

The only time techniques I’ve inherited from Dad (besides the arriving early for trains) are the awareness of how important time is and trying all sorts of ways to fit things into time – regularly and otherwise.

Not working. Not sure if it is today’s complexity – too much information, too much technology and in my case (and many others I’m sure)  too much crap shoved unexpectedly at us. I get this in spades. Sometimes I feel like taking the spade and just smashing the source of the problem. (I’m a gardener so have a spade – a pitchfork, too). But I don’t. So I vent verbally out at the Universe, God  – in many instances for not even hearing me.

That happened twice in the last 24 hours. First, with yesterday’s rainfall when I specifically put it out there that I didn’t want any water getting into the basement – it did – not from the ground but through the window – it poured down from the eavestrough above from one spot there. I suspect the cause has something to do with F., the “repair” guy when he nailed down the netting (to catch the leaves) in the eavestrough a month ago (We didn’t get much rain after that).  So, I had to call F. (that’s his first initial although a four-letter word comes to mind to better describe him) to make a return visit. This rain shower from the eavestrough had happened a few other times since he “fixed” the falling out eavestrough netting. His answer then? Call him when it is actually raining so he can see it when it happens. Newsflash F. – the rain will have stopped by the time you get here. So, yesterday I told him this and to check it out Friday morning. His answer? Take a picture of it? I don’t have a digital camera I told him and it had already stopped. And I can show him exactly where it cascaded down.

Today, it’s the anti-virus program on my laptop. When I first turned it on I did the usual updating the protection and the quick active scan. Well, the latter was quick – it scanned only half the loading-point files – every time I tried it – and I shut down the computer twice and started it up again before trying. Now, it’s doing the full scan, so we’ll shall see how that goes and how that affects (or doesn’t) the active scan. And like not wanting any water getting in from the rain, I also put it out there for all computer programs, etc. to work. The techie is coming tomorrow to see what’s what. Good thing he will take a post-dated cheque into September.

Guess I’m not shouting loud enough.

All this wastes my time and I’m already on a time roller-coaster trying to get things done before I go on holidays in the near future. I will not be cheated from my train trip and visiting my cousins.

Am I shouting loud enough here?

I’ve been trying varying techniques to try to get things done – even the dreaded multi-tasking which I’m against doing (except maybe thinking while riding the subway) Last Friday while on hold for one of the utilities (yet another problem – money-based) I decided to finally fill in the form to update an insurance document. But I needed the original and previous update. Guess what? No time to dig them out, although I know which file they are in.

And I have a “to-do list for what must be done  (besides the obvious, packing) before I travel. Here I’m doing a little of one thing, then a little of another, etc. However, I feel like I’m doing a variation of a Jill-of-all trades and master of none.

I know I have to rein in some of what I do – too much time with business email (forget the personal, only family stuff gets done). Already I’ve removed myself from several lists. (Don’t you like it when they ask why? I just say “no time/email overload). I think the delete button will become my new best friend.

Once I finally drag my weary body onto the train I’ll probably fall asleep looking out the window. That won’t work – I’ll miss my station and my cousin standing outside the train station will wonder what’s going on.

So do I wonder what’s going on. But that is fodder for another post.

Meantime, Dad, if your spirit is out there, please tell me some of your time-mastering tricks. Your daughter is running out of time…literally.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The time challenged

Only Child Writes

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Filed under email overload, Family and Friends, Life demands, Lists, Mom and Dad, Prioritizing, Rain, Sharon A. Crawford, Time management, to do list, Uncategorized

Only Child lives in two worlds

A no-no for Only Child on technology-free day

A no-no for Only Child on technology-free day

Lately I seem to be yo-yoing between living in today’s technological lifestyle and in so-called simpler times. I think today’s fast-pace and too swift changes are getting to me and I need the comfort of the past.

Not all past and some of it isn’t even my past. And no, I don’t want to move back into the past. I had enough of outdoor privies as a child visiting my grandfather’s and aunt and uncle’s farms, thank you very much.

This winter I’ve started to bake again (beyond the bread in the bread maker which I began doing a year ago) but cookies and crisps and soon muffins now that my son and his girlfriend gave me two muffin tins as part of their belated Christmas present (Note: we have our Christmas dinner here in January when both are back from visiting various other family members outside Ontario, over and beyond the Christmas season). Sunday I loaded up on baking and other supplies (Basmati rice) at The Bulk Barn. Now all I need is time.

Time may be a big clue why I’m “regressing” in how I live. As I posted last week time and its close relative, money, can be in short supply and when you add in the high cost and frenzy of living, something’s got to give and something’s got to change. So I bake, make soups from the proverbial scratch, and watch TV shows set during the Second World War (before my past). These shows Foyle’s War, Land Girls and Bomb Girls are set back home (Great Britain for the first two and Toronto, Canada for the third) depicting the lives of those who didn’t go off to war. Of course, the war impacts what happens and my interest here is not in glorifying war. I am also watching a couple of TV series set in the 1960s (Vegas and Heartbeat) which is my time as a child and teenager. Some of you probably watch Downtown Abbey. Not that any of those times were without difficulties and problems and some of the ways of life in the past I wouldn’t want repeated today (women stuck at home as homemakers only comes to mind). And with many fresh fruits and vegetables skyrocketing in price (grapes and lettuce, for example), I’m eating a lot of root vegetables and frozen vegetables and fruit (some from my garden and some from the Farmer’s Markets of last summer and some store bought). Fresh vegetables (outside of root vegetables) are limited to cucumbers, peppers, bananas , apples, oranges, grapefruit nd strawberries – which, except for apples,  are all trucked in from warmer climates. I would prefer local, but at this time of year what do you do? You need some fresh.

However, do we really need all the excess technology – the constant tweeting, texting, and being forever stuck to our smart phones or BlackBerrys? And don’t forget the reams of passwords. Many people go to bed with these (or their laptops) and the last thing and first thing they do is check e-mail or text. Studies are also showing that this glued-to-technology is affecting our brains, including short-term memory and our ability to multi-task (for videos  and “print’ stories go to http://www.thestar.com/living/health/article/1319796–your-brain-online). Hey, I thought technology was supposed to help us multi-task. Apparently not.

Confession here: I have a laptop and an e-reader but no cell phones – smart or otherwise. Just my landline. At some point I might get a very basic cell phone for safety’s sake but not before the exorbitant  cell phone rates in Canada go down down down. My TV is not inherently digital – I had to get a digital adapter. I actually buy CDs rather than download music and play them on my mini stereo system, but I also have a very old turntable from my teenage days. And I’ve started having one technological-free day a week (Saturday or Sunday) – no computer stuff although I’ll read using the e-reader and watch TV but I also use the landline to phone friends and I still read books in print. Compromise.

Maybe that’s the answer. Find the happy medium between past and present. It might be better for the mind, body and spirit. See another Toronto Star story “Tips to Reduce the ‘Infobesity’ in Your Life “http://www.thestar.com/living/food/article/1321197–tips-to-reduce-the-infobesity-in-your-life

Now, excuse me, while I return to rewriting my prequel mystery novel – set in 1998. I wonder why.

Comments anyone?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, email overload, Life demands, Multi-tasking, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress, Technology overload

Only Child says Carpe Diem should be your motto

Only Child and son, Martin, on Mother’s Day 2012

I know I’m in stress overload/overwhelm, whatever you want to call it when I keep losing and misplacing items. Some, like the sunglasses left out on the patio overnight, turn up. Others, like my property tax payment receipt, seem to linger in limbo. A big pile of files waiting atop my file cabinet to be filed just adds to the confusing milieu. My late mother had another version of this – she’d mix up things, such as haul the bacon, instead of the steak, out of the freezer. Guess I don’t have to be concerned about doing that – my freezer contains neither bacon nor steak.

Add in all the client work deadlines, plus doing another proof of my mystery short story collection (Beyond the Tripping Point, due out this fall from Blue Denim Press), the stuff I’ve been worrying about, a couple of health issues I’ve been dealing with, etc. etc. and I’ve been spiralling around in big overwhelm the past week or so. I’ve been heading out to the garden a lot to work off the excess anger/energy with weeding and trimming the silverlace and to just sit, relax, read a book and the newspaper, and eat my meals.

But I’ve still been tumbling around like a top gone awry. And feeling resentful.

Then I got the bad news from one of my “old” school friends about her cousin, another school friend. The cousin (who used to walk me to and from kindergarten) just lost her son. He died suddenly last week. He was 43. That’s too young and no parent should outlive their children. I know with war it happens a lot, but…

It gave me a jolt. I immediately emailed my son and his girlfriend who are in London at the Olympics to see how they were doing and enjoying their holiday. Haven’t heard back yet, but it is less than 24 hours since I sent out the email.

The situation with my old school friend does put things in perspective. Got me thinking, that we all need to slow down. How much of what we cram into each day really has to be done? Can we slow down, move something to another day, delete doing something, and just try to live and enjoy each minute of the now? I know John Lennon’s words of wisdom – “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” definitely enters the picture. But you never know what will happen tomorrow…or later today.

Gives me some clout to cut back on my business email time without feeling guilty about it. Today, I heard on the news about a Canadian professor who when going on vacation, emails all her work connections not to email her during her holiday time because their emails will be deleted.

I send out an email notice to clients about my vacation and ask that they don’t email or phone me then. Not all pay attention. Should I add the “your email and voice mail messages will be deleted and you’ll have to resend/ phone again?” Food for thought.

Meantime, check out these studies on taking email vacations and how it can reduce your stress. http://storify.com/ucirvine/email-vacations-decrease-stress-increase-concentra

Oh yeah, don’t forget Carpe Diem. Check out its origin and real meaning at http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/carpe-diem.html.

You never know what lurks around the corner.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Carpe Diem, Death and Dying, email overload, Life demands, Mother and Child, Only child, Overwhelm, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress

Only Child finds problem solver from roses

Only Child finds deadheading roses leads to a new way to deal with problems

I spent more time this morning in my garden than I had planned and I’m glad I did. As I deadheaded the dead roses on my rosebushes, I pretended each dead flower I snipped was a problem. Yes, I did run out of problems and was still clipping away.

But I found a tactic to deal with some of these pesky problems that seem to have no answer.

You probably know The Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the ones I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

While in my rosebushes I thought of fourth and fifth options…”the courage to know which ones I can delay and the courage to delay them.” For me this applies to answering email whose content is imposing on my time now and in the future – I have to answer them sometime, but I don’t know what to say; waiting for answers to important emails I sent; and waiting for payments for work I’ve done. With the latter I seem to be getting screwed by the powers that be. Two cheques from clients, already processed and sent out, have not arrived. A few months ago a client from a city not far from me mailed me a cheque. It took a month to arrive by regular mail. But the one that may take the stupidity cake is a money Interac transfer that got lost in cyberspace. The sender had to redo it and resend it. That second one arrived. At least with Interac transfers, the money doesn’t come out of the sender’s account until the recipient correctly answers the sender’s question.

For the money delays, my hairdresser says there is something in the energy worldwide with money. Probably true, but I have other ideas for the personal level. No matter, I’m trying to put this one in the “delay option.” Not easy.

Does anybody else follow the ideas in the Serenity Prayer for all the stuff coming at them? Or does anyone have another way to deal with these roadblocks to getting on with your life?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Decision Making, Decisions, email overload, Gardening, Home and Garden, Horticultural Therapy, Life learning, Only child, Overwhelm, Problem solving, Problems, Roses, Sharon Crawford

Only Child revisits overwhelm

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

After enjoying the holiday weekend for Canada’s birthday I am now back into the daily grind. And another bout of overwhelm is trying to take over.

I don’t know if my late mother ever felt like she’d spiralled into overwhelm. However, she could have won the title for Worrywart Incarnate. She had a lot on her life plate – Dad dying of cancer and after his death, her own health problems plus going back to work and raising a teenager, and a house. Mom may have come close to overwhelm when she decided to sell the house. And at 19, I wasn’t much help to her here. As I write in my memoir:

I am lying on that living-room chesterfield. My ears are tuned to the top 40 bleating from the radio and the rest of my face and mind are buried in an Agatha Christie mystery.

“Sharon, help me clear out this stuff downstairs. What are we going to do with it all?” Mom shouts up from the basement.

“In a minute,” I reply, as I tell myself I’ll just read to the end of this chapter. At 19, I am Mom’s confidant and unwished-for helper.

“Sharon.”

“Be there in a minute.”

“Sharon.”

“All right.”

I shove a bookmark in the Agatha Christie, place it on the end table and stomp down the basement stairs, around the sharp curve midway. At least I won’t have to look at the orange stucco stairwell walls much longer. What was Dad thinking when he painted them?

I am ashamed of my thoughts and as if to make amends, I dig into the latest box of stored possessions. This carton, tall, narrow and heavy, contains my school exercise books, drawings, high school yearbooks and newspapers.

“Do you want all of this?” Mom asks. “You decide.”

 (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford)

Today I am thinking of a recent phone conversation I had with my friend who has the back problem. She’s been laid up with it for over a month as it goes through ups and downs. While she’s been literally on her back from the pain and sleeping off the pain meds, she’s had time to think. Like me (or worse) she was always trying to accomplish way too much. (And of course, she is alone, as well). She’s decided to focus on what is really important to her and let the rest slide or wait. She is drastically changing her life, including moving closer to her brother and sister.

She’s right – not just about the family part, but about figuring out what is important in your life and ditching or postponing the rest. I’m taking that to the micro. Each day I am now deciding in my work, (including answering those sometimes pesky emails), in my personal life, just what is absolutely necessary for me to do today. With client work, deadlines help here. If a client needs an invoice so I can be paid, that is necessary for today. I look at all the emails and decide which ones are necessary to deal with today – family, friends and work. I already don’t work weekends except for the occasional workshop so rarely answer business email on weekends. I will also now stop apologizing for being so slow to reply to an email even if I don’t get to it until four or five (or more) days afterwards. I will do as my hairdresser does – just reply to it when I get to it. I have also removed myself from some email subscriptions that were merely getting filed for possible future story ideas. I’m staying on my LinkedIn groups, writing organization groups forums and listserves and blogs I’m connected to, including writing this one. Connecting with other writers is important – we can all help each other. The intent now is to actually connect with them more often. I know – where is the time? It might not be every day, but I’ll do it.

I’ll also shove more stuff in “pending.” To take the reverse of an old axiom, I will “put off until tomorrow what doesn’t need doing today.”

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it – for today, anyway.

Any comments? Ideas on dealing with overwhelm?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Burnout, email overload, Life demands, Mother, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon Crawford, Time management

Only Child gets serious about prioritizing

Only Child contemplates setting her priorities.

Every fall, my late Dad used to prepare the lawn for the following spring by ordering in half a truckload of manure. After it was dumped in the driveway, he would spread it onto the lawn – front and back. I suspect my mother also put some of  this manure in her vegetable garden.

With autumn soon sliding into winter, I’ve been trying to wrap up the garden and prepare the house for winter. Weather, of course, dictates when this can be done. But there is another big factor that can get in the way here as well as in your business. You might call it the “manure factor,” but in my case, the meaning is just the opposite to my Dad’s endeavours.

Since I returned from my summer holidays many moons ago, I seem to be living in overwhelm. True, business has been brisk; there is (was?) the garden, plus a lot of administrative stuff to deal with – both for my writing, editing, and instructing business and for the house and property outside. Some of it was definitely necessary to handle in a timely manner. The question I need to ask is how much of what I’ve been dealing with in all aspects is actually necessary right now? What is suffering that is more important? What is (or are) the culprit(s) getting in the way?

Fall is a good time to have a constructive look at your business, what your vision is, what your goals are, and perhaps very important – what is your passion, and if what you are doing moves you forward to achieve them? And what the heck is getting in the way?

Too much social media may be the problem. In my case it is business email. Not personal email – I’m lucky if I get to some of that. At least, I talk to and see my son and his partner regularly.  However, if it weren’t for this blog some of my friends might think I’m dead.

The balance is off – both in my personal life and my business life. When I analyze where my time seems to go in my business, I see too much emailing back and forth – and this is to clients. Whoa. Wait a minute (make that several minutes). They are paying me to edit their work, write something for them, or instruct them in writing. So, why are we spending so much time emailing right away. Those are the key words. How much emailing to clients is actually urgent? True, if there is information either of you need right now to proceed or if the client is in some kind of crisis connected to the job you are doing for them, fine. But otherwise, is it really necessary to fire off an email right away?

Situations and events that occur sometime in the future may not require instant replies. Even the “normal” (whatever that is; you define) emailing back and forth between clients and clients to-be may work fine  with waiting a day or two. I know of some people who do that (I am one of their email recipients). Maybe they have the right idea.

Then there is what I call quasi-business email: e-newsletters related to your business, forums and other online groups related to your business, invites to conferences, book launches, workshops, etc. etc. My job and your job here is to sort the important from the not-important. That includes deciding who to reply to and when, what to file and what to just delete. For example, in my books, an invitation to a conference or a workshop that costs too much receives the delete button hit. Ditto conflicting dates (with a few exceptions such as if the times differ for the same day and I can work around them), something outside my business travel parameters, and an event way outside my business target markets.

Time is money. So, the question to ask is “Am I wasting money I could earn by wasting my time?”

Time is also precious. The question here is “Am I wasting time doing something I don’t need to do and forgetting my vision, my passion?”

Food for thought as we go about preparing for winter.

Comments anyone?

Excuse me while I rush out to my garden to bring in some weather-sensitive plants. Clouds are looming; rain is coming, and after that the temperature will dip.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Decisions, email overload, Home and Garden, Life demands, Manure, Only child, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Passion, Prioritizing, Sharon Crawford, Time management