Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Keeping on Track

During this time of year, I take some time out of my busy schedule to assess where I am and where I want to go. This assessment encompasses not only my personal life but also my writing life. Part of this exercise includes me looking at my life as a five-year plan, and in some cases, a ten-year plan. I began doing this a few years ago when I needed structure to my life—something I severely lacked before I started writing.

Create and keep a schedule
Create and keep a schedule

I can’t say what I do is easy, but it does yield fruit. I’m disciplined now and more attuned to what I believe my life mission is in the grand scheme of things. I’m not saying this to make it seem as if I have everything figured out. On the contrary, if I have anything figured out, it’s my name and where I was born—and maybe where I go when I die. Other than those little things, I’m at the mercy of the wind.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing all this is that I’d like to share with you three key things I do to keep on track for the year. Don’t expect miracles if you’re going to implement any of this stuff in your life. I can tell you it is not as easy as I make it out to be. But, it is worth the try, if you’re in the mood to make a change for a more goal-centered life.

Schedule downtime—That’s an odd way to think about getting things done. Isn’t scheduling downtime the exact opposite of getting things done? Well, not really. What you want to do is prevent burnout. I’ve been there when all I could think about was what I wanted to do, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I read somewhere that the body functions on a time cycle, and if the body doesn’t get the rest it needs, it will rebel by throwing itself in bed. That happened to me. There was a time I became ill with a flu or fever every single year since I was a kid. Nowadays, that doesn’t happen. I take one full day off from being online, writing and chores to be with the family. It’s a full day of familial bonding that has since kept me healthy. The downtime also stimulates my creative juices, clearing my mind and readying the week for my reappearance. By the time my day off is over, I’m set to tackle anything thrown at me.

Work hard—Given I’m a proponent for taking a day off every week, the other side of the coin is making up the time by working hard during the other six days of the week. Working hard doesn’t mean sweating hard, though. It means doing more with the finite time you have available. If that means finding alternate ways to produce more than you are capable of, then it means you’re working not just harder, but smarter. The ultimate goal is to get the things you would have had done in seven days with six days instead. Tricky, but doable. In the context of writing, I schedule everything. My novel writing is part of my schedule as is my site writing. Responding to comments on my site, Twitter and Facebook is in there, too. At the end of the week, all that hard work will have paid off once I look at my accomplishments and realize just how much I produced.

Put it all down on paper—An interesting thing happens when you write things down. You remember them. I think there must be some sort of relational action thing going on in the brain when I write things down. I seem to remember those things and I can remember what they look like written on paper. The idea is a strange one, but I will have to say this really works. Do you really want to accomplish your goals? Write them all down on paper. Years ago, I had the idea in my mind of what I wanted to do—write a trilogy—then went ahead and wrote the titles down on paper. Suddenly, seeing the titles there made them more real. I hadn’t written any of them, but they were real to me. I did the same thing with my other parts of my life. If I wanted a new car, I’d write it on paper then I knew there was no turning back from achieving my goal. Again, write everything you want down on paper. It does make a difference.

Last thing on my mind is this: When a trial hits, you hit right back. Don’t surrender. Stay true to the course. There is nothing in this world that ought to prevent you from achieving your goals. To use the cliché: Live the dream. No one else can do it for you.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What goals do you want to write down that would make it more real for you to achieve success?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Sleep

Sleep is the single most important activity anyone can do in their lifetime to increase productivity. Take it from me, a former insomniac who a couple of years ago averaged two hours sleep a night. You want to get more done? Sleep more.

Sleeping Angel
Sleeping Angel

Sounds counterproductive, counterintuitive and counter everything, doesn’t it? But when have my Freedom Friday posts been anything but?

I read somewhere, I won’t mention where, “an expert”, I’m assuming a time management expert, had condoned the practice of shortening a person’s sleep cycle by half-an-hour a day to gain 3.5 hours of productivity a week.

I laughed.

You know what, folks. Try it. After two weeks, tell me how much productivity you’ve gained. I guarantee after a few days you will feel the effects of exhaustion set in. Oh, it’ll seem like you’re getting a lot done. Whatever you may have had on that To-Do list seems to have disappeared.

Look closer.

Does the quality meet previous high standards? Do your accomplishments look like an idiomatic whitewashed wall? How’s the attitude? And since we’re on the subject, how’s your health?

You see, when “experts” prescribe cutting sleep in order to accomplish more, they’re actually prescribing cutting your life by a matter of years. Think of it this way. Let’s say you have a regular 7-hour sleep cycle. You decide to cut it down to 6.5 hours. Well, that’s 3.5 hours of extra time a week, which translates to 182 hours of extra productivity a year. If we look at it in terms of days, that’s 7.5 days. Yeah, a week and a bit of working harder. Over the course of 52 years, you will burn well over a full year of sleep for that extra half-hour of diligence.

What’s the reality?

Constant Puyo- Eingeschlafen, 1897
Constant Puyo- Eingeschlafen, 1897

I had mentioned about my insomnia. Two hours sleep every night is not an exaggeration. You can read about it in my Insomnia post. Missing so much sleep did something to me. The days blended in with one another. Noises and voices sounded louder. I began seeing things. I became paranoid. You get that way when you trick the body into believing that extra half-hour a day awake will make you more productive. Because you can’t stop at half-an-hour a day. You want to push it to an hour, an hour-and-a-half, two hours. Eventually, your body’s Circadian Rhythm crumbles. Mine finally surrendered last year, forcing me to reevaluate everything I was doing.

Nowadays, I wake up at 5 every morning after a solid 7 hours sleep. I know what you’re thinking: “That means you go to bed at 10 every night, Jack.” Yep. Well, 9:30, to be exact. By the time I settle in, it’s 10. And I know what your other question is: “Where do you find the time to do everything?” Here’s my answer: It’s not about the time given, but about the time spent. One hour of solid creativity is better than five hours of stop-and-start spurts. Time is finite in a 24-hour day. You cannot extract 25 hours from a 24-hour day. But you can optimize 24 hours by maximizing energy levels and creativity.

The thing these experts don’t talk about is the fact that sleep restores a person. Think of it as a nightly vacation. What does a vacation do? It restores a person’s perspective on life. You can get a lot more done. In fact, studies suggest sleep improves memory, contributes to a longer lifespan, controls inflammation, increases creativity, boosts athletic performance, encourages academic excellence, amplifies attention span, aids in maintaining a healthy body weight, decreases stress, assists in avoiding accidents, and helps with evading depression.

What’s my point?

Don’t listen to experts who think they know everything. Remember: An ex-spurt is nothing more than former drip under pressure.

Sleep. Enjoy your sleep. Your body will reward you with productivity you wish you had had when you cut back on the precious commodity.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever heard of cutting back on sleep to get more done? Have you ever heard of the benefits of sleep?