Like most of the world, my life is filled with good and bad habits, which lead to good and bad situations. Awesome things like writing a book or helping someone through a tough time are inevitably counterbalanced by things like a chaotic house or the pressure of not enough time.
A recent blog post by social media guru Kristen Lamb really struck home with me, not just with writing, but with many of my daily frustrations. Here’s an excerpt, with Kristen’s text in green:
Are We Undermining Our Own Writing Success?
Image by US Fish & Wildlife Service, Flickr Creative Commons
I rarely reread books, namely because there are so many new titles I want to consume and only so many hours in the day. But, there are a handful of books I read and reread namely because they are areas I struggle in and so reinforcement is tremendously helpful.
The three books I seem to cycle through the most are actually about money and investing: Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and (even though it is an older book) Stanley and Danko’s The Millionaire Next Door.
There are plenty of money manuals that promise to make me a gazillionaire overnight with no effort on my part and those kinds of plans frankly give me hives.
The books I prefer are far more salt-of-the-earth and they say the same things, though in different ways.
Fortunes made on a winning lottery ticket are rare and never last. Slow and steady wins the race. Never underestimate small actions done daily.
I know this. I know all of this stuff. So how is it I so easily get off-track?
What is so fascinating particularly about The Millionaire Next Door is the very people we would think have vast investment portfolios actually are far more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck. Conversely, those who actually have accumulated substantial wealth often don’t “look” wealthy at all.
Here I was beating myself up because I use coupons and buy everything on sale.
What am I doing so wrong?
When I reread these books, I realize that I’m doing a lot more right than wrong. What I perceive as a truth actually isn’t (it’s a consumption shill propagated by pop culture). Most genuine millionaires don’t have a fleet of new luxury cars. They have a solid IRA instead.
But because my “vision” isn’t correct, it is then really easy for me to start accumulating bad habits that undermine my goals.
Well people with clean homes have maids.
NO, they wash their dish after eating!
In Regards to Writing
Often we writers can fall into similarly skewed thinking when it comes to our profession. We have a flawed perception of what a successful author looks like…and this opens the door for the little foxes that spoil the vine.
A successful author would publish her first book and be a runaway success with no social platform.
Image by Aimee Ray, Flickr Creative Commons
Noooo, that isn’t an author. That is a unicorn. A tortoise isn’t glamorous, but it is at least real.
In our minds, we can believe that we would do far more writing if we simply had more “time.” Since most of us don’t have the luxury of getting up, having coffee and simply creating all day long, we then fail to invest at all.
We will invest “one day.”
We believe that because we also hold a day job and “only” have an hour to spare in the mornings, that our situation is hopeless. The consequence is we end up squandering the most valuable resource that is available to all living humans.
Why I love books on fiscal responsibility is I hold a core belief:
Small truths reveal larger truths.
If I am not managing, planning and budgeting my money, odds are I am not doing that with my time either. I find that often when I work on habits in one area, other areas also improve. When I zoom in on waste in one area, I become aware of it in others.
If I fail to plan the meals for the week, the consequence is a lot of food I throw away. We end up eating out or rushing to grab a bite because I didn’t put dinner in a crock pot and I am tired and cranky and In-N-Out Burger is just so darn convenient.
The end result is I nickel-and-dime myself $15 and $20 at a time.
When we look at how we are spending our time, are we leaking it away 15 and 20 minutes at a time?
Planning matters. Using time deliberately is vital.
If I fail to plan my time for the week, I’m all over and time goes swirling down the drain. In fact, failure to plan can cost me BIG. For instance, last Tuesday, instead of getting my next day planned I was “tired” and decided that Facebook and watching Dr. Who was preferable to preplanning.
Wednesday morning, I was in the middle of working and feeling great about my progress.
OMG! Spawn’s camp has a field trip today! I totally forgot! And they leave in 20 minutes!
In a mad rush, I swooped the one remaining Lunchable into a Sprout’s bag so I could dash like a crazy person to get him there in time for the bus.
In my haste, I unknowingly threw my cell phone in with his lunch.
That three-second mistake (that could have easily been prevented with ten minutes prep work the night before) cost me an entire day and easily ten years off my life from stress.
A three-second error cost me four hours hysterically hunting for my phone and then two more hours at Sprint replacing the missing phone with a new phone. Then when the school found my phone? It cost me another two hours returning the new phone I didn’t need and reactivating the old one.
And a $35 restocking fee, or what I fondly refer to as a Stupid Tax.
How much writing could I have accomplished with only ten minutes of preparation the night before?
How Much Stupid Tax Are We Paying?
When it comes to time, boundaries go a long way. Now, I’m no proponent of cramming activity into every waking second. But we can start truly seeing our days instead of merely wandering through them as bystanders.
Just as many of us hemorrhage money through tiny holes and unseen leaks, the same could be said of our time. But not being stupid with time is not the same thing as being wise with it, either.
Kristen goes on with specific writing/blogging-related comments, which you can read at her Warrior Writers blog, but does any of this hit home with non-writers?
The lack of planning?
The scramble to find things?
Nickel-and-diming ourselves because of lack of time?
Those are the big ones for me, and I’m going to incorporate just a little bit more planning and deliberate-ness through my week. Maybe the crockpot or cooking double meals, maybe putting things away instead of rushing on to the next, maybe sorting through my to-do list the night before.
What about you?