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Writer Wednesday with Award-Winning Author, Bob Hostetler

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I met Bob Hostetler at a recent ACFW-Indiana meeting. I had no idea how much I admired his work until I saw his book table. And there it was. A book that had a huge influence on my life as a youth minister and teen Sunday School teacher:

I raised my kids and a whole passel of other kids on this book. It’s an excellent apologetic in layman’s terms. I think I’ve quoted most of it for the past 20 years over and over again. The title itself is one of my favorite phrases.

I was fortunate enough to visit with Bob during our luncheon that day and he was nice enough to agree to an interview!

Grab your cuppa (I’ve got my iced tea ready!) and get ready to glean wisdom from an award-winning, best-selling author. 

Thanks for agreeing to the interview Bob! I’m really looking forward to your next book! And I don’t care if I am gushing like a giddy schoolgirl. Its delicious purple cover (purple is my FAVE) and delectable content has me salivating already!

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Bob says, “Don’t check your brains at the door!”

Time management: a new way of doing things around here

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Let’s see, it’s already January 19 and I’m just now getting around to mapping out my year.

But in my defense, it’s only because I had to finish up a three-credit-hour course in Science methods which I did in two weeks. Talk about noodle brain! But I did it, and now I can move on to other things! Yay! (God is so good to help me! The glory goes to Him!)

This is our college mascot. His name is Sage. Isn't he cute? He sends me a note whenever I pass a course. Love it!

This is our college mascot. His name is Sage. Isn’t he cute? He sends me a note whenever I pass a course. Love it!

Anyway, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’m doing in terms of compartmentalizing my life. From what I read, I work more like a guy than a gal. I’m very compartmentalized. Guys can do that better than gals. Gals tend to keep a lot of their mental compartments open all at the same time. I think that’s because they have to when rearing children. They have to be able to nurse the baby, make supper, fish the toddler out of the toilet, call the plumber and switch the laundry all at once. If they compartmentalized everything, something would go wrong. Supper would get burnt while switching laundry and the baby would end up in the toilet and the toddler in the oven or some such thing.

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Now, I’ll admit, I had to do a lot of the many-things-at-once sort of thing when my kids were small, but I was never very good at it. A lot of suppers got burnt. I’ve always been someone who likes needs to focus on one thing at a time. And I think that’s why I get so much done. It doesn’t seem like one would, but it works for me. Always has.

This is how compartmentalizing works.

-There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven---Ecclesiastes 3-1, NASB (2)

 

Picture your brain with a lot of drawers. You only open one drawer at a time. For example, when I’m working on my novel, I only open the novel drawer. I do not allow myself to open any other drawers because to do so means my focus is split. I don’t crack open those drawers even a little bitty bit. This is easier for me than it is for a lot of my female friends. But it works for me. (I also shop like a guy. Grab it. Bag it. Boom. I’m out of there. My husband, on the other hand? Total opposite!)

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Recent scan of Mr. Himself’s brain

 

(Naturally, I’m speaking in general terms, here. I do not mean to imply that all guys and all gals shop or focus the same all the time. Well, actually, I am, but thought I’d put that disclaimer out there to keep the trolls off my back. Seriously, though, Mr. Himself and I are clearly examples that generalizations don’t always apply.)

Here’s one way I’m trying to compartmentalize this month. If it works, I’m going to do it all year.

Sundays/Mondays: Read an entire book cover to cover. I start it on Sunday afternoon (or Saturday evening if I can) and finish it on Monday. It’s a priority. I have a mile-long stack of books I haven’t read that I’m dying to read. Not to mention the hundreds on my Kindle. Some are for research. Others are fiction authors I want to study. Yes, thankfully, I’m usually a fast reader (depending on interruptions).

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore-–Henry Ward Beecher (2)

Tuesdays: Update the blog for the week (I’m glad I can pre-schedule my blog posts), create info-graphics for social media, etc. Write four hours (this includes editing time).

Wednesdays: Focus on my grandchildren and working at the church. I teach an evening class for children and I create my own hands-on lessons. I also pick my granddaughters up from school and taxi them back and forth from dance class and give one of my granddaughters a piano lesson.

Can you believe I get to spend every Wednesday afternoon with these beauties?? (Here they are with their Dad, my son, Jesse)

Can you believe I get to spend every Wednesday afternoon with these beauties?? (Here they are with their Dad, my son, Jesse)

Thursdays: Heavy writing days/college study time/church work study time

Fridays: Heavy writing days/college study time/church work study time. Date night!

Saturdays: Church work/laundry/other manual labor chores

Sundays: Church, rest, read

Now, I don’t know how well this will work. I’m going to give it 30 days. So far so good.

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In the midst of all of it, mind you, I’m still taking care of things at home, fielding interruptions (which are constant), exercising, taking my vitamins and showering. (Showering is important.) I also substitute teach when I can, but usually on Thursdays and Fridays unless there’s an urgent need another day of the week. I’d rather not have to, but feeding the family is important, too. For some reason they show up hungry at regularly scheduled times.

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I think the fact that I’m constantly interrupted (due to living with Autism and Alzheimer’s) is why compartmentalizing works for me. I get so mentally distracted, it’s easier for me to get re-focused if I’m only focusing on that one thing for the day. I also use the timer on kanbanflow (where I keep track of my tasks). It helps me stay on task, keeps me off social media, and helps me track my interruptions and time spent working. I just wish I would remember to start the timer each time!

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So what do you think? Am I nuts? How do you get it all done? I need ideas, so please share with me!

Time — it’s not what you think!

Today I’m blogging on my teaching portfolio website. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

I have some happy news to share there. 

Yes, I have a life outside of writing. Believe it or not. I’d like to think it makes me a better writer. Mostly, though, I think it makes me tired.

That one time when I had an actual whole week to do nothing but write, I found it grueling. It was just plain hard. But I did enjoy it. Parkinson’s Law is true — work expands to fill the time available for its completion. And speaking of time, did you know that it’s a physical property? I’m fascinated with this concept. Here’s a video that explains it better than I can.

What’s your favorite way to spend time?

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How I Get It All Done (Sorta)

Waste your time--waste your life.Like you, I’m insanely busy. Sometimes I feel as if I don’t even have time to breathe. This can make writing hard. Not only for finding time to write, but having the mental clarity to write.

It doesn’t get easier as we get older. We need a lot more brain support in terms of exercise, nutrition and supplements. I was sharp as a tack until I turned 40 and then I realized how fallible and fragile this thing called life is. And I don’t know who told me parenting adult children was easy, but I have a hunch they didn’t have adult children.

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Most of you know that I’m a full-time pastor/pastor’s wife, full-time college student and “full-time” writer. That is, I spend at least four hours a day on my writing career. (Often, I spend much more than that.) As a pastor I spend at least 40 (ahem, to 60) hours and my college homework gets squeezed in there in between it all.

On top of that I’m a Mom, grandma, wife, daughter-in-law to my mother-in-law who lives with us and has Alzheimer’s. My candles are pretty much melted. If I don’t keep track of my tasks, they don’t get done.

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Here’s how I do it.

My first favorite item is my physical planner notebook, The Planner Pad. I love this planner because it not only gives me a full calendar view but also lets me plan by the week and day. Now, I also use a digital planning system as well, but it’s different than this planner, and I’ll get to it later. This physical planner helps me write out my week by hand in order to internalize it.

Here is a pic of my calendar page for the month of September 2015 (it’s not nearly as pretty as the video).

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And here’s the “funnel” pages I use each week to categorize and prioritize my activities. This is the one for this week. It will fill up more as the week goes along.

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Now, if you watch the following video, you’ll see I don’t use the funnel pages correctly. For some reason I want to put my specific times on the middle part of my page instead of at the bottom. What you’re supposed to do is break down the tasks in the middle of the page and then schedule specific times for them at the bottom. I tend to just schedule appointments at specific times on the middle of the page.

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Our lives are so interrupted that I get discouraged if I write something like, “blog from 9 AM – 10 AM.” No sooner will I write that than someone in this house or at the church will have an urgent need. And then I feel even more frustrated. Since I’m a little too task-oriented in life as it is, the way I do it works for me so I don’t become resentful.

The Planner Pad does have a digital planner. But I don’t care for it because it’s not all on one page. That’s why I use KanbanFlow on my computer instead of planner pad.

I like this system because I can see every segment of my life in one glance. (The column on the far left, “Chris” is a part-time consulting job I do. Nothing going on this week. Yay!)

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An example of a week (incomplete)

I can also create a whole new board for a specific task.

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I can also break down the week and tasks into “Do Today” and  “Do This Week” and really, any type of column I want. And if you delegate a lot of things on your list (I don’t) then you can add a name and photo to the task. (I don’t usually bother with the photo thing but did it to show you here.)

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I’m a bit addicted to Zulily and tumblr…

The drawbacks of this system is that there isn’t an app for the iPhone. However, you can still access it via the web. Still, I’m not sure why they haven’t created an app. But for me, this works because I usually only use it when I have my computer on and open. (And that’s most of the day.)

It also has the promodoro timer!

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I can keep track of time spent on different tasks or make myself focus for different stretches of time with the timer. And it will also keep statistics for you. To learn more about the different details, watch the video below.

I’m still learning how to use different colors to code urgency or type of task. For me, just getting the tasks down (brain dumping) is a huge relief. And I like being able to drag the task tiles over into the “done” column. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that!

This system was actually developed for collaborators designing software. I absolutely love it for juggling the different roles I play in life.

What system do you use to stay on task?

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What do you use to stay on task?

5 ways I get it all done

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People often say to me, “I don’t know how you get it all done!” And truthfully, I don’t really. Having it all and doing it all is a myth. But what I do accomplish is because I have priorities and a constant plan. As a pastor’s wife in full-time ministry with my husband, a full-time college student, CASA volunteer,Prison Fellowship volunteer, and substitute teacher, my writing time is limited and precious. If I don’t make time for it, it simply doesn’t happen. If you want to write, then you must make time to write, because life won’t make time for you.

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Here are my 5 main time-management tips:

1. My daily 7.  I keep and follow a list of  7 main tasks a day (this is not the same is priorities). I keep this list in my planner and on the whiteboard in my office so everyone can see them:

1. Bible

2. Pray

3. Write/work on Work in Progress (WIP)

4. Study — either for college courses or classes I teach

5. Blog

6. Emails

7. Social Media/Platform building

sevenReading my bible and praying are two things I really depend on. I just feel less anxious and more focused if I start my day this way. When I don’t, I’m all scattered the rest of the day.

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I may glance at my emails to see if there’s anything pressing, but I don’t answer most of them until after I spend time working on whatever project is yelling the loudest.

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I picture putting the 7 daily tasks I want to accomplish an imaginary task jar first. If I don’t, put them in first, the jar gets full of all the other little stuff and the big rocks won’t fit:

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Keeping these seven tasks as the biggest “rocks” of my day allows me to fill in the empty spaces with other things that are necessary but not as time-investing, such as household chores, phone calls, etc. Everything else are pebbles, sand or water that I pour into the jar over the seven big rocks. Granted, life isn’t perfect and there are days I have to stray from the plan, but by having these Daily 7 as my ideal daily goals helps me stay focused and get more done.

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Click to enlarge

2. I sometimes write during 2nd/3rd shift hours. If I get the chance and my schedule allows for it, I stay up until 4 AM and write. I usually try to do this two days in a row if I can. Admittedly, this only happens a few times a month but it helps a lot. Writing 2nd/3rd shift keeps me from being interrupted with phone calls and family matters. It gives me a longer stretch of time to focus. I mainly do this if I’m on a deadline or on a roll with an idea.

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3. Get enough rest. Seems a bit ironic to write that after saying I stay up all night writing, but I don’t skimp on my sleep. Because I have fibromyalgia, I have to get as much rest as I can or I simply can’t function. So if I do work third shift, I make sure I sleep before I start the shift and catch up on sleep after my night writing binge is over.

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4. Eat well (and exercise). Okay, I admit I eat better than I exercise. But since I read about C. S. Lewis’s habit of going for a daily walk, I’m determined to be more consistent about it. Walking organizes the brain, too.

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5.  Never waste waiting. Smart phones are heaven-sent for people like me. I can answer emails on the run while I’m waiting to pick up the kids or for my turn to check out. Anytime I wait, I’m doing something. I read, answer phone calls, read emails or tweet. If there are errands to run and there’s someone available that can drive for me, I let them drive so I can read or work on my writing. If it sounds like I’m obsessed with writing that’s because I am.

aaaaworkandwaitNothing worthwhile pursuing is easy and sacrifices have to be made. I don’t have a lot of “fun” time, but I have enough. I don’t watch a lot of TV unless I’m listening to it while I’m working. I very rarely sit and do nothing. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did that. My hands are always busy.

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And I’m not alone. Any successful writer will tell you they sacrifice a lot to pursue the dream. It’s only worth it if it’s what you’re called to do. And if you’re called to it, then you’ll make time for it. The time fairies aren’t going to show up to stop the hour hand from moving. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get ‘er done.

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How do you get it all done? What’s your secret? Share in the comments below!

Autism musings: control freaks

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As autism parents, we may find ourselves seeking to control other things around us because we can’t control autism.

I’m guilty of it myself.

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The incident that occurred recently with the young man with autism and the fake ice bucket challenge doesn’t help things.

Sometimes, because of the fear autism brings to our door, and the lack of control we have to change it for our kids, we may find ourselves trying to control other areas of our lives.

fearFor myself, I cope by being a workahaolic. I admit it. I’m happiest when I’m deep into my work as a pastor’s wife, writer, substitute teacher and full-time student (I’m pursuing a special ed. degree.) If I’m busy I don’t have to face the incessant worries of what my twins’ future may hold.

managing fearI need to remember that fear is a liar. Worrying about their future, or whether or not someone will talk them into doing something that will hurt them, is fearing something in my imagination. As a writer, I’m extremely imaginative. You have no idea the things my brain can dream up!  Thankfully, I’m not alone. Thankfully, I can tap into God’s peace when I’m afraid.

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Corrie Ten Boom, holocaust survivor, wrote, “If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.” Sometimes it seems that some people are given more hardship than others. But I have no doubt that God will equip us for these difficult situations if we ask Him to.

fear-1_thumbBut do we remember to ask? And when we do ask, and He provides us with an answer that isn’t what we think it should be, do we turn that help away? Are we too proud? Too embarrassed?

I’ve had to give up a lot of control in my life in order to get the help I need. I’ve had to let go of being afraid of what people think, for one. The woman who comes into my home every day after school to help me with the twins, sees my house at its worst sometimes. She also attends our church. I have had to give up the fear of her telling someone what she sees.

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“Did you know the pastor and his wife didn’t make their bed today? And there were dirty dishes in the sink? And the kitty littler box was full and she’s always behind on laundry? And they didn’t have supper until 8:00 PM?”

I run that risk because if I want to accomplish the dreams in my heart, I’ve got to be able to let someone help me. It’s scary and uncomfortable. But it’s not as bad as regret. I don’t want to lie on my death bed and regret I didn’t try to pursue the dreams God placed in my heart.

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Psalm 34

I know a woman who has to control every single little thing her in her life and the lives of others around her. When she isn’t able to, she gets extremely upset. She has a big heart, but she has no idea how much pain she is in or how offensive she is to others. There’s something inside of her that feels out of control. Whether it’s pain from her past, a bad memory, or some other fear, something keeps her hand in every pie. I feel sad for her because it’s also not in her nature to accept advice or direction from anyone else. That would mean giving up some control, wouldn’t it?

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If you struggle with control, I encourage you to give up one thing this week that you obsess on and have a difficult time letting go of. Maybe it’s how the dishwasher is loaded or how laundry is done. Maybe it’s a pet peeve. Letting go and letting God is liberating and freeing. Jesus came to make us free. Give Him what it is His in the first place and give peace a chance.

What will I give up this week? I’m going to give up an extra hour of study time and work very hard to be in the moment with my family.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Share with me below what it is you will let go of. I’d love to celebrate with you!

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Erica’s Edition: Time Management Woes

Erica Graphman

College intern, Erica Graphman

Today’s post is brought to you by my busy college intern, Erica Graphman.

Do you ever have those days where you have so much on your plate that you don’t know where to start and you end up not doing anything? I’ve been finding myself with this problem more and more this year. Everyone repeatedly tells me I need to work on my time management skills, but I’ve always thought I was pretty good at it. Well, at least better at it than my peers.­

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The funny thing is, I get told I need to manage my time better in multiple situations. With lots of homework, I know that I need to start working on big things in advance, especially if I have multiple large projects and papers due around the same time. If I don’t work quickly enough, I’ll get slammed with a lot to do in the space of one night. At work, I get my work done too quickly and don’t have anything to do, so my supervisor tells me I need to work more slowly.

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My parents know that I have all my classes, I’m working with Karla, putting together a magazine for the school, and I have a job on campus during the week. They tell me that I have to space everything out so I don’t end up neglecting one of my responsibilities or doing poor work. Friends, on the other hand, tell me when I need to stop working and go out on a late night snack run, or tell me I need to watch a certain show or movie with them. It gets confusing.

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It seems like everyone has their own opinions about how I should space my time out or how quickly I should get my work done. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to shift gears and work at a slower pace. Other times, it’s just agonizing working slowly when I think about how much I have to do. And either way, it’s exhausting working at quick pace every night, rushing to get homework done, papers written, and books read. It might sound bad, but I really hope that the “real world” isn’t like this or I’ll end up tired all the time!

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