Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Distractions

An amazing thing happens when I cut distractions from my life. I write books.

More distractions on the way.
More distractions on the way.

A long time ago, I used to be a Twitter junkie. I couldn’t go two minutes without checking my newsfeed. Somehow, I found someone tweeting about their latest experiment with Mentos and coke fascinating. My DM feed was worse. It became a hodgepodge of ads from folks who wanted me to check out their offers for the latest diet fad, the most affordable bank loan or the cure for the ebola virus.

Facebook had me scrolling through reams of baby photos, birthday greetings, wedding announcements, graduation congratulations, college tuition woes, car crash images, death notices—you name it, I was there. And what would a newsfeed be like without the required charity pitch? California didn’t seem dry last summer when folks were pouring buckets of ice water over their heads.

It doesn’t end on the social networks either. Visiting a news site required me to install ad-blocking software on my browser to prevent me from clicking on related articles dealing with cooking, time management, of all things, and anything else you can imagine as taking an extra few minutes of my day in a senseless pursuit of useless facts.

Now that's a big oops.
Now that’s a big oops.

Add the hours I had spent surfing online “researching” favorite dog toys or best practices in lawn manicures—you had yourself a dull Jack.

Humor aside, it didn’t take long for me to change once I realized I had fallen into a spiral of mediocrity. At the time, I wasn’t writing nor was I thinking about anything that I was doing. I was going with the flow. Surfing. Not ruffling feathers. And any other cliché you’d like to stick in there to illustrate being trapped in the throes of everyday life.

Once I tallied the amount of time I was actually spending with the distractions, I had no choice other than to confront my time-wasting ways.

What happened? I changed. Just like that.

How? Simple. Imagine taking a vacation every week and that vacation turns into quality time with family, friends, and to pursuits that you’ve always put aside because you felt you’ve never had the time to enjoy them.

Now, imagine if you will, actually acting on that idea.

That idea is about taking one day and dedicating it to none other than yourself. Scary, huh? Pretty terrifying, don’t you think? Guess what? It is scary. It is terrifying. How can one do that with the bills to pay, the kids to shuttle back and forth, the meals to prepare, the laundry to wash, and the shopping to bring home? How? Theoretically, it’s impossible.

And you know what? It is impossible.

But once I had decided I needed a change, to cut the distractions, and live a more productive life away from the online world, all of a sudden I had time to do anything. Those little slivers in between tasks where I would have sneaked a tweet, read a Facebook entry or pressed a like button had disappeared, replaced by a meal with the family, a trip to my kids’ recital or simply a talk with someone I love.

That one day in the week I’m now disappearing from the online world has become the day I look forward to the most.

By the way, don’t forget today and tomorrow are the last days to pick up your FREE copy of my first book Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse from Amazon. It’s my gift to everyone who has stuck with me for the past three years, putting up with my banter while I lost my mind writing the conclusion to the Ranger Martin trilogy due out October 20.

Distractions

What about you? Do you dedicate a day away from the online world? Are you thinking about if?

Posted in Freedom Friday

The In-Betweens

Do you like secrets? Yeah, I like them, too. I have a secret—well, not like my dark secret I admitted to about a year ago—but a secret, nonetheless. Do you want to know what it is? Of course you do, everyone likes secrets. This is where I insert a strategic pause to give you a moment to think about it. Okay, okay, I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to promise not to tell anyone else. Deal?

It's about time
It’s about time

All right, then. For a long time my friends have noticed I don’t waste time. This is not one of those self-appreciating statements you hear from someone who wants to put himself on a pedestal for all to admire. I just don’t like throwing my time away on useless pursuits. I never did.

You must be thinking, “Boy, Jack, you must really be high on yourself today.”

In truth, I’m being open so you’ll know where I’m coming from when I tell you my secret. Ah, I see I have your attention again. Telling you I don’t waste time is only a fraction of the overall reason for this Freedom Friday post.

Allow me to pose a question: Where do you waste most of your time?

Think about it carefully. I’m sure you can easily come up with several specific things that distract you from being productive. But you know what? You won’t believe it when I tell you what the biggest time waster is. I’m thankful I learned this secret a long time ago in my teens, and I’ve benefited from knowing it ever since.

Fine, I think you’ve had enough of my build.

Here’s the secret to being productive: It’s the in-betweens.

I can see the puzzled looks already.

Here’s an example. You’ve decided you will clean out the shed this weekend. You have the plan in place. You will unpack the deck chairs, organize the garden tools, and sweep the inside of the dirt that had accumulated over the winter. This shouldn’t take more than an hour, tops.

The weekend comes and two hours later, you’re still sweating it out trying to decide what order the garden tools belong on the shelves. Four hours later, you’re done. What happened to the one hour, tops?

Well, in between you had to check your phone to answer your messages. That is, in between placing one chair after another on the deck. That took a whole hour. Next, the garden tools. As you were deciding what to do with the pruning shears, whether they belonged on the left or right shelf, you decided to take a break in between. After all, you couldn’t do all this work without some lemonade—which, you made from real lemons, in the kitchen, away from the work that was going to take you an hour to finish, tops.

And on and on it goes. The in-betweens is where we lose our time. Those moments in between tasks are precious. This means throwing away the distractions, phone, internet, and general laziness, and getting it done without wasting time between steps.

Five minutes here, five minutes there, the next thing you know it’s been an hour and nothing gets done. It happens more often than not. The key is to prevent it from happening.

This is what I do. When I have a task, I’ll estimate how long it might take. I then give myself a hard deadline. Sometimes, I’ll underestimate the time in order to set the fire under my seat ablaze. This pushes me forward as I quickly see the time disappear and I frantically attempt to beat the deadline. It really is an exercise in self-discipline, but a rewarding challenge, nonetheless.

In the end, this is how I write all my posts. I give myself an hour and hope whatever falls on the page eventually makes sense.

Now, your turn. Try it yourself. Find a task and attempt to complete it with a hard deadline. Make it even more of a challenge by setting the deadline less than the actual time it will take doing it. Believe me, the in-betweens will disappear faster than you think and you will have accomplished your goal in record time.

Oh, all right. If you want to tell someone this secret, go ahead. I won’t stop you.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Where do you think you waste most of your time?