Category Archives: to do list

Only Child plows through overwhelm

Teddy keeping track of time

That little fellow sitting on the clock is going to continue to show up in at least some of my blog posts until I get a better handle on this time thing. But despite all the crap coming from outside, I have made some progress. In another post I’ll go into all the problems that have been shoved my way since last week. The ones I don’t cause but have to deal with the fallout for. No doubt more will zoom in before that.

I finally figured out how to tackle and get somewhere with clearing out all the paperwork in my office. And if you think my desk is piled with random paper scattered everywhere, uh, uh, no. What gets put on the desk while I work usually gets put away at the end of my work day. Ditto any filing that lands in the tray on top of the file cabinet. There is, however, a small metal rack on  my desk by the printer and some of that still needs clearing. But last Sunday I managed to sort out the papers that were lying under my daytimer, also beside the printer, and tackled some of the stuff in envelopes in that rack. Until I got down to the bits of paper, envelopes and the like that have addresses on them that need to be put in my address book. I know there is Outlook and the like online, but having tried some of that, unless it is email addresses and a list of family addresses and phone numbers, I prefer old-fashioned address/phone book – the small kind. As for those big fat Bell telephone books (do they even print those anymore), unless I want to check out how to use some of the extras with my phone service, I don’t use those phone books. I do check people’s addresses and phone numbers, restaurants, etc. online, though, plus search for items I need to buy (like humidifier filters) before I head out the door. And yes, I do by some online. But some items I just like to eyeball in person or with clothes, especially shoes, try on first.

Anyway, while tackling the items on that wire rack, I hit some business cards and that got me started on sorting them out. I have almost a whole side drawer of my desk filled with old business cards; most in those folders with plastic inserts to hold the cards. Those went back over 10 years when I was doing a lot of networking for my business. My “business” is much different now. I’m not into networking with small businesses per say. Besides the age of the cards (and some sticking to the plastic insert), what struck me is the ambiguity of the information on the cards. Yes, there was a person’s, name, phone number, email address and website. But their business names in 90 per cent of the case were so vague, you couldn’t figure out what they were doing. And no clear tagline to state what they do.

My business cards (designed by my son) read on one side:

To the right of my photo (see head shot near the top of my blog itself. It’s my brand photo that follows me around online):

Sharon A. Crawford

Writer/Editor/Instructor

We make words sparkle.

And my phone no.,  city and country, website and email address.

Other side features the front covers of my two latest Beyond mystery series Beyond Blood and Beyond Faith with above and below that:

Author of the Beyond mystery series

Published by Blue Denim Press

and the publisher’s website URL

 

Clarity is important.

And clarity is something I am using to tackle streamlining my life – business and personal. That card and other paper sorting and purging took one and a quarter hours. I figure one and a half hours a weekend will get the job done eventually and in a steady way.

Meantime, I came across a fabulous website that has all sorts of articles on reining in what you do. It is geared more towards business but there is some personal included. For example, one article states it isn’t a good idea to use separate calendars for business and personal because you could over book yourself. I already was following that. My “daytimer” has one page for each day and I draw a line (with a ruler) down the middle. At the top of one I put “Biz “and at the top of the other I put “Personal”.

One thing this article also said was a big reason people get overwhelmed with their day and just don’t get things done is they put first what others want them to do and put themselves last. The article says to do the latter. I agree, although if you have work deadlines you need to consider them. However, I am finding that some of the things I do for others, like workshop and course development and outlining, book promo (often for some of us authors together) I really like doing. So putting that first is like putting something I am doing for me first.

But that’s a whole other topic.

Here is the page with the article.

If you Google “fast company and scheduling” you’ll get a whole list of links to their other other articles.

As that egg commercial says, “get cracking.”

Cheers.

Sharon

Cover of Beyond Faith on back of my biz card

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Filed under Beyond Blood, Beyond Faith, Life Balance, Life demands, Prioritizing, Sharon A. Crawford, Time management, to do list

Only Child deals with doing too much

Sharon CLB mid 1990sSometimes we bite off more than we can chew in all that we do. It is a life variation of the old eating too much axiom that my late mother used to say – your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

This time, my eyes and my mind too, are presuming I can do much more than is realistic. So, I’ve been slowly pruning and putting in pending some of what I do. Lately, I have been doing this with my business.

I am a writer, editor and writing instructor and as such there are specific things they encompass and specifics I wouldn’t touch with anything. Having said that, I am still trying for gigs, particularly in the instructor and presentation area. But I am cancelling going to a few business meetings and not taking on some new work. So, the tally right now is:

Cancelled one business meeting for sure this week but presented via email some suggestions within the topics on the agenda.

Went to one writing organization Christmas party (this is fun too) last evening,  but not the other one on the same evening. Having gone to both a few years back when both also occurred the same evening – never again.

Am being approached for editing work from potential new clients and I am grateful for that. But I will be meeting with only one of them in the New Year as what she wants is what I do. She is also connected to me on Linked In and Goodreads. The other one emailed me out of the blue and I am not sure where he got my name from. I don’t think my website because it lists very clearly what I will do in writing, editing and teaching and what he is asking for is not there. And I double-checked my website just to be sure. I do not ghost write or rewrite somebody else’s story, somebody else’s manuscript. I do copy editing, manuscript evaluation and one-on-one writing tutoring in person or by Skype. So I will email him back with a polite refusal and send him to the Editors Canada website to find an editor who will do what he wants and needs.

I do have current clients and it is important to do their work.

So, if you are living your life in overwhelm – business or personal or both – remember  my mother’s axiom – your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

Otherwise you might bite off more than you can chew.

And that’s enough of cliches from me.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gratitude, Life Balance, Life demands, Mother, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Time management, to do list

Only Child says it’s back to school and business

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

Only Child on the patio of her backyard garden

The summer holidays are over and that makes me feel sad. Yes, I know there will be summer weather for at least another month, month and a half, but with school and work, there is a shift in the day. When I took a walk earlier this morning, the park I passed by was completely empty of people. Then from the school next to the park came a loudspeaker telling teachers and students to meet in the cafetorium – probably for classroom orientation.

I remember those days – the excitement and trepidation of returning to school – grade school it was internally smelling the pencils and books (I know back in the grey ages when we were spared all this digital business) and in high school some trepidation about new classes and new teachers. The latter with good reason. In the auditorium for grade 10 I found out that the typing classes I and many others had signed up for as an option were cancelled for us and we were stuck with cooking and sewing. Most of us didn’t like the cooking teacher and the sewing teacher was well, okay. But I needed to learn to type and I could learn cooking and sewing from my mother.

Fast forward to way too many years and I am being crowded by the “to-do” list – both mental and written. The writing, editing, writing instruction, book promo and the like do create some problems and it can get hectic, but this is what I love to do. Extra house repairs, including getting an eavestrough (yes, one eavestrough) repaired or replaced is now back on the agenda. In early spring I started getting quotes but became discouraged when one of the contractors came to my door to take a looksee and give a quote and the first thing he said was “I’m 72 and I don’t climb up on roofs.” Well, send somebody who does. His quote was way up there for just one eavestrough replacement. I was also discouraged by some eavestrough contractors who won’t replace just one eavestrough. I also had to get some trees hanging over my roof pruned way back as well as the recovering juniper trimmed back so I was also getting quotes from arborists.

Overkill in work to be done. And as my limited finances wouldn’t handle both, it was the trees that won out.  Now I’m focusing on the eavestrough with the hopes that it will get done by mid-October and I can afford it. Yes, I know, should have had quotes during the summer, but I was busy with the garden (by choice – something I love), editing and writing clients (ditto), getting other stuff outside and inside fixed, and dealing with trying to get the money I was owed. One client, in particular screwed up with half of the payment and the other was the government payments to us seniors that start up again after we file our taxes. Well the Notice of Assessment came back in pretty good time but the other – let’s just say the government took a month to get back into the swing of paying. Which was about a month better than that one errant client.

So, it’s back to the eavestrough business and other fall stuff like checking my heating protection plan renewal and booking a furnace cleaning. But also my garden – lots of vegetables and herbs to bring in and eat and process – just started collecting some of the oregano and drying it in the dehydrator. And of course my writing and editing and the writing groups I belong to starting up again.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Sharon wearing her grade 10 school sewing project

Only Child wearing her grade 10 school sewing project

 

Onl

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, finances, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Only child, September, to do list

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 will get her sleep

Only Child in her office – getting down to business with work and sleep.

My mind has turned to mush. I forget where I put things; I forget to do things; things get mixed up, and some things go and stay missing.

Am I losing my mind?

Maybe?

Is it Alzheimer’s?

Probably not.

My immune system is also down and I have a low-level cold (at this point). And I’ve been getting to bed too late (or too early if you figure the time after midnight in a.m.). So, it’s sleep deprivation. Because I have not been carousing all over town until the wee hours of the morning, that’s not it. The root cause of all this is doing too much – a lot of that I blame on being the only person here who has to do and/or organize everything. Can’t do anything about that now (no time and no money) but there is something I can and will do.

TAKE BACK MY SLEEP TIME.

Studies show that sleep deprivation affects both physical health and mental health, particularly cognitive performance. Your short-term memory and even your long-term memory can take a nosedive and your decision-making abilities can go out the window. According to a study, Sleep Deprivation: Impact on Cognitive Performance by Paula Alhola and Paivi Polo-Kantola (Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 2007), not getting sufficient zzz’s regularly can impair lots more, including your mood. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC265629 for the long list of sleep deprivation effects and the references to corresponding studies. It’s enough to make you want to crawl under the covers and never come out.

I’m not going that far but some things got to go or at least slow down. Consider last week where (among other things) I did/had to deal with the following:

  1. My handyman finally showing up – on a work day. It interfered with my work time and because he was one and a quarter hour late, not everything got done. I forgive myself for being really grumpy then. He deserved it (if you remember from previous posts he had cancelled a Saturday appointment).
  2. Juggling client work and meetings (in person) and via email and phone with new clients (not complaining here. I need and like the work. I’m taking it in the context of what else was happening).
  3. Trying to do end-of-season garden cleanup plus protect vulnerable plants from cold weather/frost with our yo-yo weather (that is the nature of gardening, but again I’m taking it in context with everything else).
  4. Doing readings from my book, including out-of-town (this I like doing), attending all day workshops on Saturday (my East End Writers’ Group sponsored it so I had to be there even though I felt sick).
  5. Plus the regular daily stuff – cooking and cleaning up (although I cook extra on weekends and leave what little “big” cleaning jobs I do until weekends).
  6. Etc., etc., etc.

That’s only part of it. Not getting done was phoning friends as promised, more clearing out of my office (I did do some so I have room for new client files). This week started out with a malfunctioning CD/DVD drive in my desktop computer so my computer tech was just here this morning. The drive wasn’t dead yet but something in it was loose so it was headed to the DVD/CD drive cemetery. My techie replaced it and then I found out his rates went up – but he gave me a discount because I didn’t know and he wasn’t here for a full hour. So, I gave him a post-dated cheque because like most freelancers I’m waiting for another cheque to come in. I also have a whopping house insurance premium (over $1,000 for the next year) due the beginning of next week.

Seems no matter what you do you can’t crawl out from under it.

Except for my sleep deprivation. I’m determined to get at least my required seven and a quarter hours of sleep each night. So, I have to get strict and maybe even a little nasty. My plan?

Put myself first.

Say “no” to many things including some social and business events, particularly where it involves me helping someone else. I’m doing too much of that (mainly in the business end) and spreading myself too thin.

Delete more email – some without first reading the email – just go by the subject and the sender. I don’t mean obvious spam. I’m doing some of this but I will up it.

Stick more to my daily schedule – I do daily schedules but don’t always follow them – now it will be to-the-letter barring extreme unforeseen circumstances. This means clients will have to get in line to get their work done if they want it done properly.

Don’t beat myself if I don’t have time to return friends’ and business phone calls and emails. I will get to it – when I have time.

Don’t get sidetracked by other things – especially those that don’t really interest me and/or aren’t pertinent.

Pace myself in what I do.

Take breaks and leisure time.

And get enough sleep.

Excuse me while I go to the next item on today’s “to do” list.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Balance, Cognitive disorders, Gardening, Goals, Health, Lists, No, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon A. Crawford, Sleep deprivation, Stress, to do list

Only Child views sleep deprivation and ethics

Only Child trying to catch up on zz's

I wish I could sleep like I used to as a child – as in sounder sleep and longer sleep time (usually). I remember my mom banging on my bedroom door and calling, “Sharon, time to get up.”  I wasn’t too happy about it if it was  a school day. Weekends were another matter.

These days, although it is an alarm clock, not my late mother waking me up, my wake-up mood remains the same on weekdays, grumpy and dazed, with one exception – spring and summer when it is actually daylight with the sun streaming in when I open my eyes. In my late teens and early 20s I used to burn the midnight oil reading a good mystery book. That remains the same, except it is more like way past the midnight hour. It seems after turning off the TV at 11.30 p.m. when I have my fill of the news and weather, instead of getting ready for bed I dive into housework. Stuff on my “to-do” list not yet done, even stuff not on today’s to-do list. My mantra seems to be “don’t leave to tomorrow what you can do tonight.”

So, if I get five to six hours of sleep on weeknights, I’m “lucky.” I try to make up for it on weekends by sleeping an hour later, something the sleep experts don’t recommend. The experts say you should go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each day. They obviously aren’t considering the “only person syndrome” lifestyle as I call it.

But not getting enough sleep each night definitely has its “side-effects” and not all of them are what you might expect, i.e., a little cranky, can’t remember someone’s name or where you put your  keys (try the door for the latter), and putting your immune system in peril. But a study has shown that if we don’t get enough sleep we might turn into mini-depraved monsters.

The study, conducted by Michael Christian of the Kenan-Flagler Business School (University of North Carolina) and Aleksander Ellis of Eller College of Management (University of Arizona) discovered this from something not commonly done in a sleep lab. A group of nurses and students deliberately pulled all nighters. The next day they were more prone not only to be rude but to steal money. (Reported in the Washington Post, May 13, 2011. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-leadership/post/why-sleep-deprivation-can-makeyou-unethical/2011/04/01/AFIIxT2G_blog.html).

The problem is glucose just doesn’t metabolize as it should when we don’t get enough zz’s. Most of us know that glucose gives our brain energy but did you know that it also helps the brain to function ethically? All this occurs (or not) in the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. This area manages tasks such as keeping our emotions and behaviour in check. And like the rest of our bodies, this part of the brain needs its beauty sleep to work properly.

That can bring out wacko behaviour in our personal and professional lives, such as yelling at clients, having a hissy fit in a bank or store check-out line-up, and the one we have all sent or received – the nasty email. And we should not use sleep deprivation as the go ahead to bill a client way above our normal rates. Wait until you get enough sleep to go for a fee increase and let the client know first.

You are not alone in lack of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation states that between 1999 and 2009, the number of Americans getting under six hours of zz’s a night has skyrocketed from 13 percent to 20 percent. I’m guessing it is still climbing, given our 24/7work culture and pre-occupation with technology.

So, the new mantra could be: lose your sleep time, lose your ethics.

Now where did I put my keys? They aren’t in my door. Maybe check another section of my purse. Heck, maybe some other sleep-deprived person swiped them. Wait a minute, unless a ghost got into my place…

Comments?

Happy zz’s

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under brain, Ethics, glucose, Only child, prefrontal cortex, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation, Stealing, to do list

Only Child views September’s new beginnings

Only Child age 8 Holy Cross grade school photo

September is too fast approaching and kids, teens  and others will be returning to school or college. I remember the mixture of anticipation and dread of that first day back after two months of freedom. Back in the grey ages I could smell the pencils, paper and print from the books – it’s a miracle I didn’t get high. I wondered who would be my teacher(s) and who would be in my class(es). Not all was smooth sailing for someone who was shy and quiet (then, not now. Try shutting me up today). As I write in my memoir, I had some difficulties with one particular nun in grade 2.

In grade 2 we applied our Grade 1 reading skills in exercises.

“Turn to page 12, exercise A,” Mother St. Helen says. She stands behind her desk. She holds the exercise book, alternating between glancing down at it and over at us. “When you are finished it and exercise B, you may quietly bring them up here for me to look at.” She sits down.

For the next 15 to 20 minutes the only sounds are the flipping of pages and the scratching of pencils. I read through each question and write down my answer or draw the picture required. Some of the students finish quickly and line up at Mother’s desk, so now I hear her occasional, “That’s wrong. How do you expect to pass Grade 2,” and “Good.”

I have now completed the work, so pick up the exercise book, which is the size of a thick colouring book and climb out from behind the desk, walk up to the front and line up. Nora and Michael stand in front of me and as Mother looks at Nora’s work and says, “Good,” I think I also have done all right.

“How do you expect to pass grade 2?” Mother asks Michael.

I hope I have done all right.

It is now my turn. I say nothing as I place the open exercise book before Mother. She presses her lips together as she follows along on the page with her pencil. When she reaches the bottom, she jerks the book at me.

“What’s this?” she asks.

I look down and read out loud. “Draw an X.”

“The word isn’t ‘X;’ it’s an ‘axe.’ ”

I have drawn an “X.”

“Stupid,” she says. “You should know better than that.” She whacks the pencil against my nose.

Tears well up in my eyes. My face must be turning red because Mother is looking a little strange for Mother.

“I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?”

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

But that was back then. Now, with this September lurking near, it might be a good idea to focus on renewing ourselves, what we do, and what we really don’t have to do. Some of us are in a too relaxed mode and September can thrust us in overwhelm and overload. Here are a few ideas to help get us through the next month or so (Do as I write, not necessarily as I will do).

1. Make a list of what you do, what you think you have to do in both work and personal.

2. Use the three D’s – delay, delegate, delete as you scrutinize all the items in your “to-do” list. Ask yourself: What can you get someone else to do? What can you put off doing until another time? What can you delete or never do?

3. Tell yourself that the biggest word in your dictionary is NO. Repeat it to yourself, out loud. And keep it in mind when someone asks you to do something you really don’t have time to do. All it takes is a “No, sorry, but I have a full schedule and really don’t have the time to do…” And courage to say it. If I had more courage here I might have said, “no,” back in July to phoning member of my graduation high school class for the reunion coming up in October. But I had to get the list of classmates with their possible current contact info. I’m not a journalist with a nosy mind for nothing.

4. Find some relax time – go and sit in your garden, a park, go for a walk, meditate, listen to soothing music, read a book, heck even watch some of  the new TV shows.

5. And don’t beat yourself up mentally (or otherwise) if you fall off the balance wagon. Nobody is perfect. (I will repeat that one to myself like a mantra, along with the “No.”)

I think my friend, Fran, had the best way of summing this up – consider what is best for you right now, not what someone else thinks you should be doing. I tend to agree with her. What about you? I’d like comments on how you plan to deal with the September rush and its back-to-business mode.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Back to School, Balance, Delete, Life demands, Memoir writing, No, Only child, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Reading escapism, School, School days, September, Stress, Teachers, Time management, to do list