Don’t behead the Queen of Distraction because the siren songs she hears include e-mails to answer, pets that believe they will starve if not fed in the next two minutes, or laundry to move from the washer to the dryer.
A couple of months ago, March 4 to be exact, the Queen of Distraction followed the pattern of lawyers in offices past and present. These suited upholders of legalities and loopholes documented all of their time so that they could bill their clients.
While there is obvious merit to this line by line detailing of minutes spent, minutes wasted and minutes justified, the Queen of Distraction finally realized that she needs to retrieve her former title, the Lady of Lists.
The Lady of Lists once kept a daily to do list.
“My list had baby steps such as ‘call NVM editor’ and broad jumps like ‘WRITE whr story’,” the Lady of Lists said. “It is how I was able to write 6,000 to 10,000 words per week as a reporter. There is a visceral satisfaction to be gained by making a large strike-through on a task completed.”
On one such list, a colleague wrote: “Circle K w/ Erin 🙂 ,” because she said there was “nothing fun” on the to do list.
After being deadline driven for four-plus years, the Lady of Lists never would have thought setting and keeping deadlines of her own would prove difficult.
“The Puritan work ethic my grandparents instilled into my being meant a guaranteed sense of accomplishment at the end of a 12-hour day,” she said. “What I did for a payroll check, I can do for me. Right?”
The Lady of Lists can be a compulsive list maker if she does not carefully guard against her basic nature.
However, the life of a freelance writer is ever a learning process, so as the Queen of Distraction and the Lady of Lists merge minds they have made The Confine Distractions List:
1. Check e-mail first thing, but only respond to writing gigs
2. Work on client A’s project for at least three hours (I love paid assignments.)
3. Kiss sweetheart (Ah, the joy of working at home.)
4. Work on client B’s project for at least two hours (Did I mention that I love paid assignments?)
5. Feed pets and water plants
6. Work on client C’s project for at least an hour (Money is a nice thing to have in one’s wallet.)
7. Write fiction – one hour (One day soon, this will replace working on client A, B and C’s projects.)
8. Then, answer e-mails, return phone calls and work on non-paying assignments, bill clients per contract
9. Check in on blog, Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter Sundays and Wednesdays
10. Surf net
The Queen of Distraction and Lady of Lists are imperfect sides of the same personality equation (an equation possible for writers, not mathematicians). Both outlooks have merit when getting it comes to getting the job done, knowing what it costs in time, and being able to live well.
On that note, item Number 3 should have a repeat clause. Just one. Even Puritan work ethics can be derailed.
Check out Cory Doctorow’s excellent article Writing in an Age of Distraction for more advice.