Gold Leader, Stay on Target

KathyFor the past few weeks I’ve been taking time off from my novel. I think/hope I’m getting close to finishing it, but I need a little distance before I can say for sure. So while the manuscript sits, untinkered with, on my computer, I’ve been catching up on the household stuff that fell by the wayside when I was in writing mode. Basically this has meant wrestling the craft room into submission and laundering All The Things, including that layer of miscellaneous stuff at the bottom of the hamper. Allllmost there…

Blocking out separate time for work and housework is a good strategy for me (and I know I’m lucky to have so much control over my schedule). I wish I could do it on a smaller scale, like maybe taking one day a week to work on house projects and spending the rest of my time on writing so I wouldn’t get so far behind. Unfortunately, my brain isn’t so good at that. When I get into a project, I like to stick with it until I’m finished, or at least until I reach a good stopping point.

Maybe it’s a writer thing – it’s important to stay immersed in your story, and I definitely lose momentum if I’m not writing regularly. It took me over five years to finish the writing project I started when I was pregnant with Doodlebug. This was partly because I’d chosen to focus on my mom role, but also because I had a hard time snapping out of it unless I got a big chunk of writing time. And I don’t mean two-hour-nap big. I mean Grandma’s-here-for-the-day big.

I’m sure it doesn’t help that introverts are at a disadvantage when it comes to switching gears. In this post, Susan Cain notes that we aren’t as good as extroverts at processing stimuli, mostly because we’re not just observing, we’re also evaluating at the same time. And – soapbox alert – multitasking isn’t really possible anyway. People’s brains can’t do more than one thing at a time, so what we’re really doing is switching back and forth over and over again.

And what is parenting except switching between a million different activities, sometimes from one minute to the next? This has been one of the hardest things for me, especially because you often can’t plan ahead. Short nap? Call from school saying your kid has a fever? You have to go into a different mode RIGHT NOW. It’s enough to make you crash your X-wing.

So I try to minimize as many distractions as I can. Putting down my phone and stepping away from social media for a few hours each evening is still key for me. Leaving enough time to get things done (like getting out the door in the morning) is important, too – worrying about being late doesn’t help anybody. And I’m thrilled that we’ve been listening to music more often, but I know that if I really need to focus on something, I still need to turn it off. If I’m not already bombarded by unnecessary attention-grabbers, it’s easier to be present when I’m in parenting mode.

Do you have trouble switching gears, too? Do you find it affects your parenting? And don’t you want this on a t-shirt now?

— Kathy

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