Making Life Manageable—CoronaLife Day 250

First, because I know you are all waiting breathlessly, Zippy the fish is still alive as of this writing. I’m still keeping a close eye on the ammonia levels, and changing out water a couple of times a day, but it’s fairly stable.

Second, I am deep cleaning my house. No, not because of COVID exposure–because it badly needs it. It has been bugging me for a while now, but I haven’t had the motivation to actually embark on what seemed an insurmountable project.

I am not the neatest person in the world. (My mother will snort diet Pepsi out her nose when reading that understatement.) I am MUCH neater than I was when I was younger, mostly out of necessity. (When you reach a certain age, having specific places for things cuts down on the “where-did-I-put-that” moments.) I keep up with the must-cleans—bathrooms, kitchen, laundry. You know. But the rest of my house can go a while between good scrubbings. We are far from filthy, but I will not be winning any Good Housekeeping awards. And with a child who somehow manages to leave a trail behind her everywhere she goes, it is a bit of a Sisyphean task to start with.

However, when properly motivated, I can get a lot done quickly. That motivation is usually in the form of a parental unit coming over. We are not doing a Thanksgiving gathering in the Year of COVID, but my mother-in-law will be coming up to stay with us until the New Year. (We are all quarantining for 14 days prior to her arrival.) Nothing like a visitor to make you see the dust on the unused surfaces and the stuff stashed in corners for you to sort through “later”. Well, later is now.

We got rid of several bags of stuff, with more to go. Rooms are neat, carpets are clean, surfaces are shiny. Did I get every nook and cranny? No. There’s always more to do. Every time you clean something, the thing next to it starts to look dirty. But it is miles ahead of where I was at the beginning of the week.

Decluttering and heavy cleaning has made me feel a bit better (psychologically—physically it has reminded me that I am approaching a certain milestone birthday). The one good thing about cleaning is that when you have finished a room, you have that instant gratification of a job well done. And you’d best take that gratification instantly, because the next minute someone tracks in a leaf particle or a dust bunny hops in or crumbs somehow magically appear.

I tackled this huge job by breaking it down into smaller jobs—one room a day. By making it manageable, I could break that mental barrier down and get started, get it done. I tend to do this with my writing, too. I tell myself to just do one chapter, whether it be drafting or editing. Makes it feel achievable. With the writing, I usually end up doing more than one chapter, once I start.

Not so much with the cleaning. 😉

Whatever task you are facing that seems huge this holiday season, break it into its component parts. Make each one manageable, and savor the victory of each piece completed. You’ll be done before you know it!

Break It Down to Avoid a Breakdown

If you read my post about all the hats we writers wear, you can see how overwhelming our tasks can be, and also see why so many authors get burnt out. With so many tasks to accomplish, how can we do it without having a mental breakdown? Simple: break it down.

Marketing is a huge task, and ideally all the many moving parts should combine into an overarching whole. But if I look at the marketing plan as a whole it seems un-doable. Mind-shattering—especially for a deep introvert like me. So I break it down.

Breaking down is not a new concept to any writer. We do this all the time when we write, particularly when we revise. Trying to fix everything in every chapter on one pass is impossible—we would inevitably miss something. So we break down the editing into multiple passes. We do one for structure, one for chronology, one for character arc, one for dialogue, one for grammar, etc. We take a huge, overwhelming task and break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

Revision Chart for The Curse of the Pharaoh's Stone

Marketing is another mammoth task that can paralyze me with its sheer magnitude. So I have to break it down. I choose one or two tasks a day to accomplish. One day I might contact possible reviewers. The next I might work on my email list. The following day I might update my website. And every day I carve out a little bit of time for the big social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. (although I admit Facebook is where I spend most of my time).

When I break it down that way, it doesn’t seem as overwhelming. Also, since the marketing is the hardest (emotionally) task for me, knowing I have only one or two tasks to complete in a day makes it easier. Otherwise my well-honed procrastination skills would kick in and I’d push it off forever.

Breaking down large tasks creates a longer To-Do list, but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment because I can check tasks off the list quickly. That sense of immediate gratification is nice—especially with the marketing, where sometimes you don’t see the impact of your efforts for weeks. Plus, since I often have to grab small amounts of time to work, having smaller tasks allows me to get more done in the scattered work environment I have at the moment.

To Do List for marketing Kerry Gans' book The Witch of Zal

So that’s how I avoid having a mental breakdown over the huge tasks—I break them down and tackle the pieces one at a time.

Do you break down larger tasks into smaller ones?

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