Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 1

My last post talked a lot about how I'm trying to adapt to a lack of deadlines, now that I'm working on my own projects and not freelancing anymore.

I'd like to begin a series of accountability and progress posts, where I start each week by talking about what I've accomplished the previous week and what I hope to accomplish in the coming week.

My goals for this series of posts is two-fold.  One, I want to start each week out by reviewing what I've gotten done.  It's partly to maintain some positivity and reframe my thinking when I'm feeling like I'm lazy or not good enough.  It's also partly to help me track where I'm at in my projects.

Two, I want to start each week by reviewing what I want to accomplish next.  It'll be a good way to treat the week like a blank slate, and think about what I want to get done.  I already do this a little by planning out my week on Sunday nights in my Google calendar, but I'm hoping blogging about it Monday morning will help me prep mentally for the week's work.

I have a few ongoing projects I'll be tracking each week:

Doll stringing ebook: I haven't worked on it in about three weeks, but I currently have finished most of the sections I wanted to rewrite.  I have one more section and then I need to retake the pictures, as I may be revising the instructions based on the pictures I take.  I have two 2-hour blocks of time reserved for this, but they're both on Friday, at the end of a very busy week, and admittedly the second one isn't very realistic as I have myself working on the ebook late on a Friday night.  I'm going to give myself some grace if I don't get to it this week, although maybe at minimum I can rewrite that final section.

Ruby Ransome: Ruby has been on hiatus since December at this point, and I have a lot else I need to get done right now, so I anticipate it being a little longer before I can pick this up again.  I don't want to leave it too long, though, so I'm going to put a placeholder in my calendar in two weeks to remind me to work on it again.

New novel idea: I spent a fair amount of time a week or so ago plotting out a new novel idea I had.  I had an idea and it started fleshing itself out in my head right away, so I of course took it to Plottr and started writing everything down!  I don't know yet if I want to take a longer break from Ruby to write it, or plan on writing it after I finish my current draft of Ruby, but I do want to polish up the plot a little.  I don't have it on the schedule right now because it's less important.

Blogging and website maintenance: I do want to keep this listed as an active project, because it takes work to maintain a blog and a website, and I do have things I need to do with mine.  This week I need to take a new look at the Amazon affiliate program as it might be worth trying again at some point.  I got a (very small) commission recently from a sale I had apparently made back when my account was still active, and it got me to thinking about whether I could give the program another go.

Other projects: I really debated over whether to include other projects in this list.  I wasn't going to do anything that wasn't writing-related, but then I realized how much of my time right now is spent on other things, and decided I'd better at least make a mention of what else I'm working on.  The main thing taking up my attention right now is a necessary cleaning and reorganizing of my doll spaces in my house.  I really need to work on cleaning up my spaces, organizing my collection, and staking out places to work on dolls, take pictures, etc.  This week I'm also going to be doing (hopefully) a lot of filming and photography for doll-related things.  I'm not going to focus much on these types of projects in these posts, but since I have a lot of non-writing things I am trying to get done, I decided to make a general category for them.

That's where I'm at with all my current projects, and where I'll hopefully be headed this week and onward.  I'll touch base again at the start of next week, and we'll see if this whole accountability thing can help me stay motivated!

Monday, May 29, 2023

Motivation and Time Management When There Are No Deadlines

In my last post, I talked about taking a hiatus from freelancing and my plans to work on my own writing projects.  That was almost three weeks ago, so I thought I'd look at where I've come since then.

Spoiler alert: It's not far.

I'm finding that one of the toughest things to manage is ensuring I make the time to get things done when I don't have deadlines to make me do it.  I'm not even great at meeting deadlines, admittedly, as I tend to do things at the last minute and I don't always leave enough time to complete the work.  But I at least do try to do the work before the deadline.

My habit with my own projects is to push things back to the next day, day after day after day, when it becomes obvious I haven't left enough time in the day to do them.  I'm not great at managing my time, and I have really too many things to do, which makes managing my time even harder.

On the flip side, when I do get motivated to do something, I tend to work on it for hours without losing focus.  I just wish I could harness that motivation and focus the rest of the time.

So as you might imagine from this lead-in, I haven't gotten a lot done on my own projects.  I've worked on some of my writing projects here and there, but a lot of my time lately has been spent procrastinating on a house cleanup and reorganization project that I really want to do, and feel like I can't do anything else until I get it done, but which is also completely and totally overwhelming me to the point where I shut down and browse Facebook instead.  No, I'm not proud of it.  Yes, it happens anyway.

I am reasonably sure that I can do better, but it's going to take some time.  Some things that I'm trying to help with this include:

  • Taking a good, hard look at my to-do list: When I have too much on my plate, it gets extra overwhelming, and makes it harder to focus on any one thing.  When I'm trying to decide what to work on, I get paralyzed by worrying about what I should be doing first, and end up doing nothing at all.  I'm trying to be realistic and eliminate tasks that aren't important or that I know I won't do, instead of rescheduling them each week.
  • Scheduling out tasks (instead of making a to-do list): I've been using my calendar instead of a to-do list, and I find it's more effective as it forces me to be more realistic about how much time I have in a day.  Sometimes I still underestimate how long things will take, but I'm getting better at this.
  • Doing a little instead of doing nothing: When I find it really hard to get started on something, sometimes I'll try to do just a small part of it.  Sometimes this helps me get some small part of it done that was acting as a mental block and preventing me from doing the rest, the idea being that it'll be easier to pick up again later even if I need a brain break after getting it done.  Other times doing a few things gets me motivated and I end up getting more done than just the small part I'd originally set out to do.
The hardest part of all of this is remembering not to be unfair to myself.  I have a tendency to think of myself as lazy and to blame myself for not getting enough done, even when I did get things done.  The reality is that my daily expectations for myself are usually far more optimistic than what I can realistically manage, and then I feel bad for not accomplishing all of it.  Feeling like I'm lazy tends to demotivate me, which exacerbates the problem.  I'm trying to be better about this, but it's still a work in progress.

I think I'm going to start a series of posts tracking what I accomplish each week, both to remind myself of what I am getting done, and to stay accountable for what I want to get done.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Taking a Hiatus from Writing to... Write?

I'm on a hiatus from freelancing.

It was pretty much inevitable due to how my clients slowly dwindled throughout last year, and since my horse was sick, I had no time to market to find replacements.  I was down to one regular client, but I had an issue with the freelance platform, so I've been essentially client-less for just over a month now.

I've toyed with the idea of using this as an opportunity to change the focus of my writing business.  I've also been using the time for other projects, like working on my novel and updating a doll stringing ebook that I sell.


But I've been surprised by how much I want to write.  I'm getting random cravings to write something, anything.  I think it's because this is actually the least writing I've done since starting my career.

I started freelancing almost exactly 18 years ago.  It was in about March of 2005 that I wrote my first article for my first client.  And I'd already been working as a technical writer since December of 2004.

This is the first time in all that time that I haven't had at least one client.

Having time to write for myself, wanting to write for myself, is something I'm unaccustomed to, and I'm liking how it feels.  I've enjoyed working on my ebook project, which I sometime get sucked into for hours at a time.  I'm updating the writing as well as the visual layout, and it's addicting to get everything looking and sounding just right.

It's very different from my freelance work, though, which was 1) primarily very short projects and 2) always on deadline.  I'm not sure if I should set myself a deadline (or if I'd even respect one set by myself), or if I should just make a goal to work on the ebook for X amount of hours a day or week.

It's also complicated by the fact that I have a lot else going on: babysitting, my doll repair/resale business, my doll room overhaul project, a ton of project dolls and other things to get caught up on, my volunteer work at the local doll museum, my horses to take care of, and other normal daily human adulting things like helping my parents.

Sometimes (often) I fall into the common habit of feeling like I'm lazy because I don't get everything done.  Then I look at a list like that one and realize that actually I just have a lot on my plate, so it's no wonder I don't always get to everything I want to do.

So maybe it's just as well that I am not freelancing right now.  With any luck, it'll give me a chance to work on these various personal writing projects that I haven't had time for in a very long time.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Traveling with the Surface Go 3

Please note that this post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commissions from sales made through these links.

I'm home from my trip now, and as it turned out, the Surface Go 3 was the absolute perfect travel computer.

My review is as follows:

  • Size: The small size of the Surface Go 3 (10.5") made it easy to take with me.  I put it in my regular backpack with a laptop sleeve for the trip, but it easily would have gone into a messenger bag or large purse.  I've also carried it by itself since getting back.  The bump-proof case I got for it helps me feel more secure doing that.  I felt like the small size also made it easier to pull it out of my bag at security in the airport.
  • Weight: The Surface Go weighs just over a pound, although the case and keyboard increase that weight a little.  Even with those accessories, it's pretty lightweight, and was super comfortable to carry with me everywhere.
  • Case: I bought the SUPCASE, which is similar to the case I used to have for my old Surface.  The naked Surface just feels like it would be too easy to slip out of your hands while moving or carrying it, so I like the grippier feeling of a case.  Plus the case is supposed to provide some protection again bumps and drops.  I also like the separate kickstand, as the stand on the Surface is difficult to pull out and I would be worried about it breaking with a lot of use.  There's a pen holder too, but I don't have a pen right now (though I wonder if I could steal the one from my old Surface Pro...).
  • Keyboard: I initially bought an aftermarket keyboard, but had to get a Microsoft branded type cover because the off brand one was too big to work with the case.  The MS keyboard works perfectly, so it's worth the additional cost (although I bought it for less than the standard price on Amazon).  The keyboard is small but I'm still able to type reasonably well, although if I had larger hands that probably would not be so much the case.  Keyboards typically rank high on list of priorities for writers, so you'll understand what I mean when I say that the keyboard has a nice clicky feel to it.
  • Speed: Initially I thought the computer was going to be a little on the slow side, which was okay with me since it was just for travel, but it turned out not to be as slow as I'd thought it would be.  It was fast enough for most things I wanted to use it for.  For the most part I used it for Facebook, Google Drive/Docs, Google Calendar, Toggl, and Canva, and it worked well for all of that.  There was a little lag time on occasion, but not so bad that it got in the way of what I wanted to do.

Now that I'm home again, I'm thinking about what I want to continue using the computer for.  The issue is that I have a perfectly good laptop at home, with more storage, memory, and processing speed than the Surface Go.  And since it's not good for laptops to be plugged in all the time, I do try to take it with me to work on occasion, whether that is taking it to bed, to the couch, when I babysit, or when I have to charge my car - any time I have some time to kill.

So I don't necessarily want to make the Surface Go my only travel machine, but I do want to use it on occasion too so that the battery doesn't go bad from being in storage too much of the time.  Having a backup and travel computer is a good thing, but juggling the two of them will make things a little more complicated!


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