I was recently interviewed by Agnieszka Coutinho for her blog Homo Sapiens Productivus and the interview is here reproduced in full.
Learn from the best!
Posted on May 3, 2014 |
This blog will definitely contain a lot of facts and research. Writers who create books or articles on the topic of productivity too often like to play the role of psychologist. It is easy to give obvious pieces of advice. As I mentioned in my first post, here you will find useful stuff from places such as academic journals and university textbooks.
However, not to overdo it with theory, now and then I’ll add experiences from real life and talk about real people. In the last post I mentioned briefly my circumstances and their impact on my attention during studying. This time I have for you something special- an interview that I managed to do with writer Carol Browne, the author of a wonderful book “The Exile of Elindel”, published as an eBook by Musa Publishing (I highly recommend it! Check it out on Amazon Kindle).
So, the writer, although almost sixty, is incredibly busy with several different jobs. I met Carol a couple of years ago and, in short, she is a great example of a productive business woman and she continues to motivate me a great deal!
Don’t just read the interview; think about it. Think how Carol’s example could help you to improve your own life. Don’t just say empty phrases, like – yeah, I guess I should be more organised. “Just do it” – as Carol (and the famous NIKE’s slogan) says. Let’s learn from successful people!
1. I know you are a very busy person. Could you list jobs or activities you do regularly? What activities take up most of your time?
Most of my time is, unfortunately, taken up with the business of earning a living. This greatly interferes with my desire to follow creative pursuits. However, at present there is little I can do about this. I also live alone and am entirely responsible for chores such as gardening, cooking, cleaning, decorating, and the like, which means these things are mostly overlooked because I consider my work to be of greater importance. The only household chores that always take precedence are those involving the care of my pets. Living things must always take priority.
2. Have you always been so busy or just within the last few months or years? How did it used to be before when people didn’t have mobiles and all the new technology?
I am busier now than at any other time of my life. Some of this I attribute to the fact that my writing career has taken off, but I think many people these days must feel equally pressured because of the economic climate and the job market. Many of us now do more than one job. The world is so different from what it was when I was in my twenties, say. Back then I thought I would be on the verge of retirement now but the government keeps moving the goalposts and we all need to keep working longer. I don’t think we’d have needed mobile phones and devices thirty or so years ago because our lives were much simpler. We moved at a slower pace. I couldn’t run my life without a computer or mobile phone now. There is a large network of people I need to keep in regular contact with, not to mention the fact that my creative work is mainly produced using a pc.
3. You said to me earlier that you keep a list of things to do. Do you usually do everything you need to do everyday, or do you postpone some things until another day? How many items do you have on your list on average?
I always have a list and I keep it where I can see it. I have a dread of forgetting something important. There is so much to remember and having a list helps you to prioritise as well. If I think there’s something I need to do and might forget, it goes on the list, no matter what it is. It may be I need to phone someone or make an appointment. Perhaps I have to fill out my tax return or pay the water rates or return a DVD to a friend. And I get a feeling of satisfaction every time I cross something off the list. I tend to put a circle round the important items, the ones needing immediate attention. It is not a day-to-day list but a general to-do list that is constantly being updated. It is often very long!
4. Any other methods/ideas that you use to help you with time management?
I don’t do anything I consider to be unnecessary. I would never iron sheets, for example! I also find I save myself a great deal of time if I do my shopping online. I am lucky in that I can multitask, too. Not everyone can do that. And if I suddenly find myself with a spare hour, I’ll make a start on one of my chores or pieces of writing.
5. If you had to choose three things that most affect one’s productivity, what would they be?
Procrastination, which is a human failing we all suffer from and is a major threat to productivity. I find the only cure is self-discipline. Some jobs are difficult – I have had editing, proofreading and copy-writing work that has really taxed my brain. I’ve wanted to go and watch TV instead or waste time on Facebook, but it’s no use. You have to make yourself do things sometimes otherwise you’d never accomplish anything.
Boredom is another factor. A lot of work is boring as well as hard. Once again you need self-discipline, but I find that if I break work up into blocks of time and reward myself after each completed block, it is much easier. A reward can be anything: phoning a friend, watching a DVD, taking a walk, eating some chocolate!
Time-wasting is the enemy of productivity, too. I see many people who complain they don’t have enough time to do everything they want to in a day, but they spend much of their time talking. They chat on the phone or Facebook or face to face; they are texting and tweeting. They have coffee and sit around discussing what they want to do and how to do it. I say, ‘Just do it!’
6. How many hours do you sleep? Do you often feel tired and take naps during the day? Many people drink a lot of coffee when they are sleepy. How do you fight fatigue and feelings of exhaustion? What about activities or diet that might help?
I’m sure I don’t get enough sleep – although I try to have a lie-in at the weekends to make up for it. I’m a night owl and often stay up far too late, in spite of having to get up early the next day for my morning job as a housekeeper. I might get 5-7 hours of sleep but I wouldn’t say it was restful. And yet even though I am sometimes tired during the day I can’t recall the last time I needed a nap. I have more energy at 59 than I did when I was young. They say you need less sleep as you get older, but I attribute a great deal of my energy to my vegan diet and the fact that I incorporate exercise into my daily routine. I have been a strict vegetarian for thirty years but became vegan two years ago, since when my energy levels seem to have increased. I drink three or four cups of coffee a day but probably more from habit than anything else.
7. In addition to your regular job and your home-based work as a proofreader and copy writer, you are also an author. Can you tell us a bit about that? What have you published and what do you plan to do in this area in the near future?
My ebook The Exile of Elindel was released by Musa Publishing on 18th April, 2014. It is book one of my fantasy series, The Elwardain Chronicles. I was delighted when Musa accepted the entire trilogy, but I was unprepared for the enormous amount of work entailed in preparing the manuscript for publication. The editing process is horrendous – but also a great learning experience for a writer. I also published a small anthology of poems and short stories myself – An Elf’s Lament upon Leaving & Other Tales. It isn’t professionally edited or formatted but was a little experiment I did some time ago to see if I could self-publish on Kindle. I have ideas for four other books on the back-burner and a completed novella-length non-fiction work, Being Krystyna –A Story of Survival. This tells the remarkable true story of a Polish woman, now resident in Peterborough not far from where I live, who survived the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto, Pawiak Prison and Ravensbruck concentration camp. I have an idea where I might submit this work later in 2014. At some point, of course, editing will begin on Gateway to Elvendom, the second book of the Elwardain Chronicles.
8. Can you find any time for yourself and how often? What helps you to relax and recharge your batteries so you can continue to work effectively?
I don’t have much time for myself and I haven’t had a social life for a long time. I know this isn’t healthy. But I also know it will change because I am going to change it. I have a long-term goal for the future which keeps me motivated. This year will be the year I finally get my act together. As previously mentioned, breaking the day up into blocks of time and rewarding myself for accomplishing tasks helps me get through it all. I also intersperse sedentary activities with physical ones, so the dreaded lawn-mowing chore can be seen as a form of exercise between periods of being stuck indoors in front of a computer, and it means another job is out of the way. Exercising to music is one way I relax and recharge and I cycle to my morning job five days a week. This is wonderful exercise, although it doesn’t feel so good on a rainy, blustery day! I have a hypnotherapy CD too and about three times a week I listen to that and it completely relaxes me and makes me feel refreshed. I like to watch TV and I read a great deal. But sometimes you just need to switch off completely and not feel guilty about it. At such times you have to give yourself permission to do nothing or you burn out.
9. How many hours should a day have?
I would like a few more hours in the day to do creative writing but if the day were any longer we’d all be exhausted and would only have to use up more time sleeping!
10. How do we improve productivity? Have you any tips for people who have problems with time management?
Putting things off never works. Tell yourself, ‘Just do it!’. The sense of achievement you get afterwards will make you want to accomplish something else. You also need your workstation to be organised. It doesn’t matter if it’s an office or the kitchen table, you need to be able to find everything –stationery, correspondence, documents, reference material, etc. Keep things tidy and in folders. If you are a crafter, you don’t want your glue, thread, buttons, paintbrushes, whatever, all jumbled up in a box under the stairs. Maintain your equipment properly and don’t run out of supplies (you have an important document to print out and the ink cartridge is empty – nightmare!). If you work outside the home, you aren’t doing yourself any favours if you can’t be bothered to sort out what you need the night before, so that each morning sees you in a panic and late for work because you lost time hunting for a clean pair of socks or your car keys. If you are self-employed, keep track of your income and expenses month by month. Don’t wait until your tax return is due at the end of each year and find you have a shoebox crammed with invoices, bills and receipts and no idea which client or job they belong to. Get organised; not only will it make your life easier, but more productive too.