Thursday, January 3, 2013

Do We Need Bigger and Better?

Hey great New Year’s Eve party in Seekerville, eh? I still can’t believe the fun lasted 27 hours supervised, and then comments continued to flow into New Year’s Day. Wow. You guys are awesome!! The Seekers had a grand time and appreciated the help from our courageous friends who volunteered to host and serve throughout the day and night. I wonder if Tina is still sleeping…our chief party planner and pompom shaker. I don’t think she slept in two days. Isn’t she incredible?

It was a great time had by all. Plans are underway for 2014…

Once again this year, we talked about our One Words for the upcoming year. SIMPLIFY, FASTER, PEACE, to name a few.

My word for the year is: MANAGEMENT

There are many ways to approach this word.

Some adopt the Divide and Conquer Method which is good for paring down big jobs into bite-sized pieces and completing work in small bits.

Others might consider Sorting, Labeling and Filing a good way to keep tasks under control. There’s nothing like grouping similar tasks together and attacking the lot as a whole.

Those are well and good for the management of projects that have some sort of organizational scheme to begin with.

Unfortunately, my organizational skills being what they are, I must go a step beyond the normal and dip into the realm of Assess and Toss, otherwise known as Get Rid Of What’s Not Important. I’ve thrown away lots of paper these past few weeks, but hey, I categorize that under maintenance, not management : ) I came up with a few legitimate chaos creators to conquer:

Avoid Distractions

My son’s coonhound and I have a lot in common. Hank sees a squirrel, he barks. He sees two squirrels, he barks twice as loudly. The squirrels split and go in opposite directions, Hank races back and forth across the deck determined to keep both critters under his watchful vigilance.

The same can be said for Audra. I sit down at my desk to write. I hear the Internet calling my name. Okay, I’ll check email just for a second. I make mental note of emails I need to respond to and start to return to my Scrivener program when BAM! I see an advertising email from Michael’s hobby stores teasing me with 50% off in the subject line. Just a quick peek, right? They might be selling something I need. I check out the site and try to return to Scrivener and my story. BUT WAIT! Do I see another promotional ad just a couple of lines away from the Michaels? And another one a few more lines further down? Oooo, I can resist, I tell myself. I must not open-open-open.

NO, I CAN’T. I’M NOT THAT STRONG! And there goes precious writing time down the email tubes. Grrrr, I’m so weak.

SOLUTION: I’ve unsubscribed from every tempting advertising promotion on my email list. I started doing this two weeks ago and still find renegade ads that pop up. If I need something, I’ll go snoop it out rather than waiting for it to find me. My husband and our budget appreciate it, too : )
Make a To Do List

I have no problem with To-Do lists that are tied to my day job. At work, I have a calendar desk pad and I scribble down deadlines. This works well because I pretty much need all the worksurface my office affords for projects so all my piles collect atop my filing cabinets. On my green square of paper pad I have a grand view of all my upcoming commitments and gauge time accordingly.

At home, my office is the catchall of the Harders’ household. Yes, stacks of stuff come and get comfy. I found myself making to-do lists on sticky notes, scrap envelopes, the back of discarded manuscript pages. Try as I might, it was a losing battle to make sure I remembered what needed to be done and when. THEN one day -- for lack of nowhere better to put it – I stuck a sticky note on my wall calendar, on the day the work was due. There is was, on my wall, out of danger of being buried alive, a reminder to make a dentist appointment. This is not your cue to laugh, though I won’t frown if a stray giggle escapes. It had never occurred to me to stick my stickies on my calendar hanging on the wall up above all the clutter!

SOLUTION: my To-Do list has become a series of flags on my Victorian era calendar. I can’t help but see them. The hot pink flags remind me of appointments and dates; the neon green flags gauge my writing deadlines. It’s not detailed, but it keeps my mind on task and prompts me to remember the reason I’m in my office in the first place…to write!

Stop Multi-tasking and Start doing ONE THING really well

Have you seen the AT&T commercials where a man is sitting at a table with a few young children asking them if faster is better, or bigger is better, or more is better, etc? He asks a simple question and the kids are all over the answer. They scramble, in their own elementary school way, to find an answer to the age-old question: How to do it all, and do it faster, and better than anyone else.

Our culture is wearing itself out trying to cover all the bases – and other bases that have nothing to do with them, too. I know there are people who CAN do multiple things at one time, complete their projects on time, and still have the capacity to take on more.

Sadly, I’m not one of those peeps. When I’m home and it’s time to write creatively, I need to focus on one thing, writing. If I’m thinking about compiling taxes, I won’t be able to write. If I’m thinking about helping my husband with his duck call website – or my own website! – I won’t be able to write. I had to come to terms with the tasks in my life and serving the people important to me, namely, my family.

SOLUTION: Over this past December, I tackled this problem. I didn’t write a fictional word from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. I concentrated on developing helpful habits without the pressure of writing goals.

This was very therapeutic. Try it sometime.

Through much trial and error, I discovered my internal editor and creative muse worked well in the evenings after spending time with my husband and the kids. I leave the bills, taxes, website stuff and all other mental clutter for the weekend. Right now, this seems to be working great, but the concept is in its infancy.  I’m massaging my mindset as I go. The bottom line though comes down to making me as efficient as possible for the time I have available.

Distractions are the kiss of death for me. They had to go. I’m feeling very Amish, well, as Amish as a writer with multiple computers and printers in the house can be : ) I’m a work in progress. Balance is a fine line, but with the finesse of management skills – and God’s blessing on my work – I’ll be putting the finishing touches on that historical romance in no time flat : ) Ahhhh, did I mention I’m a hopeless dreamer, too?

Chime in, don’t be shy. I’m always looking for ways to keep my blinders firmly in place. What kind of helpful hints will you share? I’ll be giving away one $15 gift certificate to winner’s choice of Amazon, B&N or Christianbook dot com. Winner announced in the Saturday Weekend Edition, so be sure and check back.


  1. I'm a veteran list maker. And I keep a large calendar next to my recliner where I jot notes on the date boxes and keep a to do list in a column down the side of it.

    I organize things, and then reorganize them. Remember, I'm a retired accounting teacher. :)

    I also keep extra coffee pots for use as needed. Brought out a new one for the new year. It's brewing.


  2. Audra, did you step into my world for a moment? I laid in bed yesterday, wondering how in the world I am supposed to multi-task all the things that need tasking and I'm the ONLY one to do them. Distractions!!!!

    I don't see anyway around having to do them, there isn't one thing I can take off the list, so I've determined that no matter what, during the month of January I will spend at least one hour a day writing. Preferably two, but I'll settle for one.

    Sticky notes get lost. I even lose the pack of them. To-do lists get lost, even when they are in plain sight. I love making lists though, I just haven't figured out a way to keep them visible.

  3. Arggggh. I've been deleting things left and right too...but then I end up just checking the sites I've left up more than once, or twice, or more...

    If the internet wasn't a necessary evil....

    I need a calendar system. I made one on the computer but it's not working because I forget to look. Not sure a physical one works either because I forget that one too. I used to be great with a dayplanner...when I worked, but my appts are so few and far between now it doesn't work anymore. I don't even know what day it is today....

    So, um, I didn't help at all there.

  4. Hi Audra

    Good word choice for 2013.

    I laughed when I read your description of Hank and the squirrels- I would be just like him if I was a coonhound.

    My tip for better time management is to do that task which I really don't want to do first. Get it over and done with and then start on my other tasks. Otherwise I fritter my time away throughout the day thinking "I really must do xyz today." and I end up doing next to nothing.

  5. sorry i giggled but it is good for the soul.
    I clean for a living but am untidy and disorganised by nature.
    I did learn when studying to turn of the internet or email and fb.

    i use outlook express for my calendar as i would often forget what book i was due to review etc.
    I amt trying to put papers where they belong emphasis on trying. I do now out my keys on the keyboard. after going to hospital and others not finding them I trained myself. I was told if you take 5 mins at night to put things away it makes it easier also 5 mins in the morning. this is once you have tidy up. but i find when i do it i feel better, I really hate being untidt and love a tidy place. just wish i could keep it that way.

    i am no good with lists.

    i choose Gratitude and today I am grateful i didn't break my finger on the box i store christmas suff is. dont need my good hand being sore. i am also grateful for this cool house when outside is 104!

  6. I think the most I ever got done was the time a big semi went by our house and ripped the new cable line. We heard something that sounded like a crack of thunder and then the house shook.

    Our little 1920 house stood up... the siding not as much.

    But they just couldn't figure out how to fix the cable box that was affixed to the telephone pole.

    No internet for a month= one whole book.

    I was sooooo bored. :D

    And I really missed Seekerville.

    Jenny- I know another person who cleans for a living but is rather disorganized in real life!

    My word for 2013: HOPE.

    Which for me means less planning and whining and working and plotting and fussing and worrying.

    And more restful hoping.

    More laughing and joking.

    More light-hearted working, and less drudgery.

  7. For me, I usually have too much to do, so there's some things that I just have to let go of. I don't like to, but I find I'm a LOT less stressed/frustrated when I'm not running all over the place all the time.


  8. Hi Audra! I've taken to putting my calendar up on my closet door. I know I can't get away from it because, well, I have to wear clothes. :)

    I put my to do list on my Bible, which is stacked on top of my Kindle and laptop. It's like a triple threat guarantee that I'll see it. :)
    My wonderful brother bought me two packs of lined sticky notes, three mini compilation notebooks, and a set of pens for Christmas! So I have lightning-bug green notes on my dresser, door facing and soon on my calendar thanks to your wonderful idea! :) Love it.

    I definitely need to stop multi-tasking. I'm busy all the time and get nothing done. Then there's the internet. Grrrr.

    Time to use my One Word. Discipline.

  9. Virginia we can use your word to HOPE we meet in may.

    I booked my last fights looks like I now have a 2 hour stop over in Atlanta on may 11 also.
    still haven't worked out how i get to Chattanooga in the Monday but know it will happen.

  10. Oh, Audra, you've nailed so many things that I think you're becoming a paragon of efficiency!

    Sweet, dear girl!

    When I write I close down e-mail stuff. I don't have any signals or chimes or bells and whistles turned on to let me know that someone in the world has sent me a message... That way I'm not distracted by it.

    I do middle-of-the-night writing because that's the only quiet time here. You have to find your niche.

    I DVR my favorite TV shows: Once Upon a Time, NCIS, Major Crimes (not on until summer), Castle...

    That way they become my reward (without 18 minutes of commercials) when I've accomplished my goals and have time to see them.

    I like light when I write, so I sit where the light overhead makes me feel like daylight. Light stimulates my brain.

    I love those commercials. Those kids and the guy are perfect. It's so true to life. Grandma with a cheetah on her back???? Dying laughing!

    Counting the days until baseball... :) Spring training in seven weeks: Psyche!

    I use these four months for major word output because I don't have much outside work to do and no trips: So from January-April, I pump out as much as I can to stay ahead of the game because May-August gets work-heavy, family-heavy, trip-heavy. So I look ahead and try to plan.

    Coffee, Helen, is wonderful! Bless you!

  11. Oh Audra, your son's coonhound has a lot in common with me as well.

    But right now if I stop to chat, I'll be late for the day job so toodles.

    Wonderful piece so I'll be back to read all the comments later.

  12. Hi Audra,

    You're right, Tina is incredible.

    I like your idea of management.

    I have a "writing" calender down by my desk. I have my writing and editing goals on it.

    Like for January I hope to write 10,000 words, contact at least 1 agent and edit 50 pages. (I can't believe I'm publicly sharing this.)

    Each day I write down words written/edited/whatever. I put contest deadlines on there too.

    It helps me stay focused once I get to the basement.

    Wading through the distractions is where I struggle.

    Thanks for sharing with us today!

    Jackie L.

  13. Audra a good post today, organized-I am not....
    I am a pack rat that keeps too many things like my MOM used to do. I am hoping to do better this year-I have read many amish stories in 2012 and feel the need to have less in my life as they do..Oh I am not going to cut out the electricity or my car to drive to the city but I have so much that I dont use or need and others could probably use some of it....
    Loved reading many comments on the big bash for NY, thanks everyone.

    Paula O

  14. Good morning, Audra! One of my bosses used to say "I can do a lot of things, but I can do only one thing at a time."

    I put stickies on my calendar, too! :) I also have small(1-inch by 1/2 inch) "permanent" typed-up and laminated reminders for things that repeat weekly or monthly--like my Seekerville post day, church news deadline, cleaning days, checkbook balancing, membership renewals, recycling day, trash day, etc. Then I roll a small piece of tape on the back so it sticks and the reminder can be moved from one day/week/month to another. Sticks better than sticky notes and looks neater & more legible as well. I like to be able to look at the sweep of an entire month so things don't surprise me!

  15. Audra,

    I've tried to stop multi-tasking. I read an article that said the human brain really wasn't cut out for it, and although we can do it, we don't do it well!

    So, I try to tackle one thing at a time. Many times if I have two things that need done at the same time, I focus on one for an hour, then the other for hour. So far, it's worked pretty well for me.

  16. Thanks for the second cup of coffee, Helen.

    Audra, it's hard to manage my life because I seldom find I'm the only one in the house. When someone in my family wants to talk they interrupt me. I usually let them. What I need to learn to do is: get back to my work quickly as if a break never happened.

    I make lots of lists. Nothing feels better than to cross items off!

  17. i'm not even organized enough to have a calendar - perhaps that's why i've gotten nothing done. oh wait, i do have a calendar on my laptop to keep track of when bills are due - so I'm not a complete loss.
    did i mention my word for the year is DISCIPLINE?


    thanks for the post and the ideas on how to streamline things for efficiency. there's hope for me yet.

  18. Audra, I can picture that little dog running back and forth, yapping between trees. Such a great visual.

    I use outlook and sticky notes on the wall but that just keeps the distractions in view.

    One trick I found, is I turn off the internet router. When frustration kicks in and the words stop flowing if I click on Explorer or Outlook, I get an error message and return back to work. :) I should do this more often.

    Jenny 104? It's freezing here. Send some of that heat my way.

  19. Ah Helen, bless you and your coffee. I'm you number one fan : )I'd love to develope that organizing gene within me. Definitely somethng to tackle this year.

  20. Christina, I hear you. I've fought and fought and FOUGHT the distraction dilemma. Instead of being ADD, I really wish I was OCD -- No wait, a combo of both would be better!

  21. Melissa, I'm with you. What works for my office life, doesn't not work for my writing life. I carry around my DayTimer because it has all my birthday reminders in it...

  22. Ruth Ann, I KNOW I need to adapt that work ethic...but it's so easy to just push those undesirable tasks just a little further under the rug...

    You are my hero : )

  23. Simba (my sheltie) wants me to say that Hank the coonhound is actually successfully multitasking. It's all in the eye of the (squirrel) beholder, I guess.

    Distraction was my middle name this week. My plan was to whip my study area into shape but alas, I'm so organizationally fickle that I allowed Claiming Mariah and The Marshall Meets His Match to totally distract me.

    Now I'm stuck with mayhem in the form of empty baskets, rearranged furniture, half finished curtains and a partially put together desk. Not to mention the chaos in the basement (where I uncovered my new office stuff)!!!!! I'm pathetic.

  24. Audra, I'm an organizational freakazoid. Sadly, this doesn't seem to apply to my writing time. I don't know why. Your post has inspired me to find something that works though, because I let way to many things get in the way of my writing.

    Just as soon as the house is clean, I'll write...

    Right after I check my email (go grocery shopping, make a phone call, clean out my pantry, etc...) I'll write...

    Because your post sparked something deep inside me...This evening, when I get home from work, I WILL plant my butt in my writing room and do NOTHING else until AFTER I write.

    Thanks for stimulating me to make a change. :) My main character (who's been working on her grandfather's farm since the day before Thanksgiving) thanks you too. heh. ;)

    My 2013 word choice? PRIORITIZE.

  25. I use Mozilla Thunderbird for my email. All of my email accounts go to one place, and I'm able to filter all of the mail. So, I have a file for email from my husband, friends, family, moderated comments on my blogs, etc. I have DOZENS of filters, and one of them is "shopping". Any and all emails from any retailer go into that file. I only open it if and when I have time.

    It definitely helps me "quick check" important email - because of the way I've filtered mail, it's easy at a glance to see if any new mail is important enough for me to stop working and read.


  26. Jenny said: I clean for a living but am untidy and disorganised by nature.

    Jenny, I'm giggling right along with you!! Isn't that how human nature works? I can keep deadlines and tasks in order at day job, but come home? My mind calls a free for all, LOL!

    Excellent suggestion to take 5 minutes at night to clean up rather than 5 minuetes in the morning. Excellent, excellent, excellent!! Stay cool, my dear, it's zero here in Colorado this morning.

  27. I'll be popping in and out today due to the necesity of day job. I'm praying it's a quiet day at work so I can play in Seekerville : )

  28. Audra,

    I´ve heard from people that they use a timer to set a limit to their internet time. Never tried that myself, so no idea if it works (or you just turn off the timer and browse on... LOL).

    I think the biggest thing is knowing what you really want, prioritizing. And giving most of your available time to those things. LOVE the feeling when something's accomplished (like reading the whole NT in a year).

    Focus can be created by asking simple questions, like in a great article on, about 31 questions to ask yourself at the start of a new year (forgot the author, sorry, but if you go to Crosswalk and search for 31 questions you should be able to find it). One of the questions, really relatable to today's post!, was: what was your biggest time waster in 2012 and how will you change that in the new year? Your post gives some useful answers on tackling the distractions!

    There were also other questions in the article that really get you thinking, like what can you do in the new year to increase your enjoyment of God? Loved that one, and am still mulling over it.


  29. Paula, I love your take on this.

    I heard a blurb on K-Love the other day, a mom who talked about their three-a-day challenge to get rid of three things per day that you don't need or use.

    She said by the end of the month they were downsizing so much they neared a thousand. And I think it was a family of five....

    We have so much. The more we have, the more we're distracted.

    Stuff's just stuff.

    I love your embrace of simple. Even if we keep the car and the electricity!

  30. I can call you daily.

    Smack you when distracted.

    Hey, honey, WHATEVER IT TAKES.


    I'm here to serve, LOL!

  31. Ruth,
    that's funny: I read an article on organizing your home which said that for everything you buy new you have to get rid of three things you already have. Same idea, I guess. Thing is, at least for me, that even if you don't use a thing right now, you might need it in the future, right? LOL


  32. If you want to read some VERY motivational books, try Don Aslett's "Clutter's Last Stand" and "Not for Pack Rats Only." I try to read those at least once a year to get myself moving in the right direction. He digs down deep into our disorganized "too much stuff" psyche's with subtle humor to give us a kick in the seat of the pants.

  33. Great post Audra, and I love the post it notes on the calendar idea. Mine are all over the place.

    I think I need to get back to making actual physical lists again. This past year, it's mostly all been in my head and then I stress trying to remember everything. So I'm trying to write things on paper, or if I'm out, I write myself a note on my cell phone. My husband gave me a small notebook he got at a work conference and it has many different sections, pockets, etc. It's great for keeping track of my lists and fits easily in my purse.

    Thanks again for the post. My word for 2013 is Thanksgiving.

    Jodie Wolfe

  34. Oh Audra, I had to laugh at this post. I thought you were writing about me. I used to be sooooo organized but somehow that talent went out the door.

    But I do try to stop and listen to my divine instructions. Helps immensely, but I usually see something and run after it before stopping to ask.--so much like the hound. LOL

    I find writing on the Alphasmart helps immensely. No temptations there. CAn't even stop and self edit.

  35. I've been tossing papers, wadding them up and shooting them at the basket counts as exercise right? I will have to give the calendar flags a shot my lists ate everywhere and the reminder strings on my fingers are making it hard to type.
    Tina P.

  36. Terrific post, Audra! Perhaps people exist who can manage it all but not me. Ads don't grab me, but email sure does. Email connects me to others and for that reason alone is important, but when I check it too frequently, I can lose my focus on writing my story.

    Right now I'm delegating mornings to devotions, chores, exercise, email, Seekerville, phone calls, etc. and reserving afternoons for writing. With those "To Dos" taken care of for the day, I can focus better. At least this seems to work best now.

    As to how I organize my life, I have a daily list, a monthly list, all handwritten reminders of what I want to accomplish and a little flip calendar on my office desk with writing related reminders of deadlines and posts. With all the emails I get, reading and keeping track of important emails is tougher. I need flagged emails to stay at the top. Will check that out.


  37. Great post for the New Year, Audra!

    I love everyone's ideas for organization - I'm going to steal a few. If you could see my desk right now, you'd know I really need them!

  38. HOPE, I like that, Virginia. There are times I HOPE something disables our internet so I don't have to deal with it, LOL.

    I'm embracing all you're hoping for this year!

  39. Natalie, I think a brand new pack of sticky notes is the adult equivalent of a new box of crayons. I love it.

    And isn't it the truth? The more I try to get done, the less I accomplish. Just not fair.

  40. Ruthy my love, you can get more done by just LOOKING at the task than I can in a month of dabbling.

    I still haven't figured out when you sleep, babe : )

    WooHoo, the boys of summer will soon be hitting the field!!

  41. Mary, I'm dipping in and out during day job, too.

    Go. scoot off to work. But remember to come back!

  42. Audra, you made some great observations and suggestions! I'm glad the break helped you. I need to go tackle my desk. If you don't hear back from me, please send a search party!

  43. Hi Audra,

    Love your transparency in this post. It seems like there is far more to do in real life than I can manage. Sticking some "writing life" into my real life can be a trick.

    A couple of things I've done that help is set my timer for an hour and determine to do nothing but write for that hour. I don't pull up internet or anything else during that hour. One other thing I do is get up early and write/edit for an hour. I find the mornings I pull up e-mail I lose precious time that I could use for writing. So, I am developing the discipline of not pulling it up until I'm done.

    One other thing I do, when I have my honey's blessing, is lock myself away in the project room and close the door. When the door is closed, my family knows it had better be important to interrupt me.

    As for real life organizing, I'll think and check back. :) I'm liking the tips others are offering.

  44. Jackie, you're starting the year off right. I love your goals. Hmmm, I should probably think some up for myself, LOL!

    I had to snicker at the image of you going to the basement to write and passing all the distractions. Of course my mind immediately conjured up all those goofy looking creatures in the Mucinex commerials reaching out to deter you. Sorry. I'm suffering from post-holiday disorder.

  45. Paula, there are many the simple ways I envy the Amish, but giving up my car or electricity is not in my game plan either!!

  46. Oooo, Glynna! I love the idea of laminiating the repeating tasks and just moving them from month to month! Great idea!

    Here I thought I was so clever discovering new uses for my sticky flags...

  47. Timely topic, Audra! And your rationale about keeping the distractions at bay is exactly why I've adopted the writing schedule I've used for the past several years. Anything NOT actual writing (marketing, blogs, email, errands, appointments, etc.) is delegated to the morning hours. After lunch, all that busy work is shelved, and I concentrate on writing the book.

  48. Rose, I like the idea of setting time limits, too. I have a digital timer I use when I want to write for specific moments of time without worrying if the cake will burn or I have make it to an appointment. My timer died a few months ago. I guess I better put "buying another timer" on my to-do list, LOL!

  49. I have a laptop with no internet/email access. When I'm using it I can't give in to distractions.

    I love everyone's tips and I need them all. Im the Queen of Procrastination!

  50. Management. Love it. Or at least the idea of it. While some people seem to be born organized, I didn’t receive that gene. I’d be lost without my to-do lists. Over the years I’ve discovered a steno pad is great for keeping lists in one place. I can always find it on my never-cleared (cluttered?) desk. Because of its size, the pad easily tucks into a purse or case when need be.
    Another great thing is that the flip pages (new day, new page, date at top) make it an ongoing list without the continual transfer of data. Mark off today’s completed tasks with a check. The next day a single line through the task says it was completed a day later than scheduled. After that, mark-through-lines ending with penciled in dates tell when the task was completed—an important discovery after I needed to know some time lines. After a week, transfer any not-completed tasks to the next week’s to-do list. (Does anyone ever finish a to-do list?) At the end of the year bundle the old pads (beginning/ending dates on front) and file for as long as needed. Always start a new year with a new pad. It’s a really simple plan, conceived by someone else, but modified to work for me.
    And I’ll be trying the colored flags on the calendar. I used to do something like that in school only I used colored pencils to signify different classes and due dates. Don’t know why I never thought to carry that forward.
    “Stop Multi-tasking” is a big one for me to work on. Since my business office is also my home office, it’s a struggle not to co-mingle what needs to be done in both places.
    Can’t wait to get back and read all the other suggestions that come in during the day. Hope to pick up more pointers. Thanks.

  51. THANK YOU Audra!! I sooo needed this today (everyday, actually!). I'll be the first to admit I am not organized...The fact that I've been crowned the "Queen of Clutter" doesn't help either*sigh*. So I'm always happy to read tips and advice on ways to help me overcome these challenges. This year I am determined to DE-clutter. And I had to nod when I read about your notes written on backs of envelopes, etc.etc.--I am striving to break that habit now. One thing that is really helping me is using only ONE notepad for my lists and notes (my sister gave me a cute Debbie Mumm set last year with a nice notepad for each month--they've been great to use!). Also, my kitchen calendar is the MAIN one for all important dates, special notes, etc. ~ Hopefully this will help me in 2013--because the sooner I declutter and get somewhat organized, the sooner I can focus more on writing without distractions. Well...except for my cats...for some reason they want my attention more when I sit down to write, LOL. Thanks again, and Happy New Year! ~ Hugs, Patti Jo

  52. Thanks, Audra. Yep it was an awesome way to bring in the New Year, that Seeker's Party. i'm looking forward to next year's already! i'm so not a list maker, though i see doing that would help me with my to do list. Maybe ...but the last time i tried it, i lost the list. oh well, since i'm not a writer, maybe that's okay. Happy New Year. and Helen, your coffee is always welcome.

  53. I'm a huge fan of divide and conquer and use bits of internet and writing and reading in between as a reward.

    A bit of housework also helps me when I'm "stuck".

    I've learned that I might not be able to do the whole yard, but I can edge or I can just cut the grass.
    I might not be able to do the whole kitchen, but I can load the dishwasher or clean the stove.

    And when I have zero self-discipline to keep myself off the internet, I launch my Freedom app that locks me off it for however long I set. It's nice. =)

    There are a lot of great ideas here too I want to try.

  54. Hi, Audra. I meant to leave a comment earlier BUT I GOT DISTRACTED.

    And here I am at work and after I got here I realized I FORGOT MY PURSE.

    Honestly, I'm so forgetful and air headed I can't believe I'm not eligible for a handicapped parking sticker.

    I'll ask the doctor ONE MORE TIME. (If I can remember to keep my appointment with her!)

  55. Audra,
    Perfect blog for the New Year!

    I cleaned my office yesterday! Oh my gosh! It took all afternoon. Although my desk still needs works and a couple other areas, but the bulk of the mess has been tossed...all those pages I save when I'm writing a manuscript.

    Now trying to catch up on things that slipped through the cracks over the holiday.

  56. You know, every time I clean my 'office'.... (a fancy word for the dark corner of our porch converted to a room)I start throwing things away and I throw and throw and throw and before you know it, I've thrown EVERYTHING away. so the question is -- why didn't I throw it away to begin with. The wastebasket is sitting right there on my left while the 'stack junk because I'm too lazy to deal with it' space on my desk is right there on my right.

    Why don't I just throw stuff away? Why? Why? Why?

  57. Oh, boy can I relate to this post. Which is why my one word for the year is ONE. One thing at a time.

    I a sitting back and taking notes.

  58. Mary,
    I can so relate to that! I get mail, I realize I don't need it (think commercial mail), I put it on a stack. Why don't I just toss it away?? So my resolution for 2013: when something comes in, and I know I don't need it, want it, etc. it goes into the round file (aka the waste basket) right away. I started this morning, and it sure felt good.

    PS Talk to me in six months'time to find out how long I kept up doing it... :O :D

  59. You know, every time I clean my 'office'.... (a fancy word for the dark corner of our porch converted to a room)I start throwing things away and I throw and throw and throw and before you know it, I've thrown EVERYTHING away. so the question is -- why didn't I throw it away to begin with. The wastebasket is sitting right there on my left while the 'stack junk because I'm too lazy to deal with it' space on my desk is right there on my right.

    Why don't I just throw stuff away? Why? Why? Why?

    LMBO, Mary. I just did this Sunday. In fact, my “office” (a little spot against one of the walls in our one bedroom apt. (I’d take a spot on the porch any day!)), gets so cluttered with stuff I think I have to keep, but really don’t need, that I go through this process every couple of months. Not only does the mess litter my desk, it flows over into stackable plastic drawers nearby. I have to go through those, too. Yeesh. Glad to meet a fellow keep-and-canner, as in keep it for so long before giving it the can. :)

    Emails semi bother me. Facebook probably more so. Blogs a lot. Lol. And those books that are cascading down the TBR list. I don’t know how to simplify. If I’m not at work, I’m doing stuff at home, or running errands. Or cleaning, cooking, and I don’t even have kids! Except my furry ones, which I sometimes think are just as demanding. Lol.

    I don’t really have device that can keep me off the internet while I’m writing as I only have my desktop computer, unless I just make myself. And I can. Once I set my mind to something, I’m pretty fierce in my discipline.


  60. Cara, I'm with you. It seems like I'm the most interrupted person in the house. Half the time I don't mind; the other half it doesn't seem to matter if I mind or not.

  61. DebH, the reminder to pay my bills is an email I ALWAYS answer : )

  62. Ahhh, Bridgett? If I got an error message, that distractable part of me would have to hunt down the problem and fix it and then make sure everything worked okay...for a few hours, LOL!

  63. Kav, I shared your opinion on multitasking with Hank. He was pleased : )

    Reading books -- especially Seeker books! -- is a distraction I'll allow, nay ENCOURAGE!!!!

    I downloaded Claiming Mariah and am itching to dig in!!

  64. Cheryl, I like PRIORITIZE. It's right up there with MANAGEMENT.

    I can relate to your character being left on the farm...I left mine on a straw pallet with a splitting headache : )

  65. Hi Hallee. Does the Mozilla program do that for you automatically or do you still have to sort through stuff. If it does it for you, wow, count me in!!

  66. I'm pretty good about discarding junk mail.
    I usually thumb through the mail standing over my wastebasket.

    My husband gets lots of farmer/cowboy magazines. (you have no idea how many ways there are to make and ANGUS BULL sound FABULOUS)
    I don't dare touch those. He has a small mountain of Bull Magazines by his chair in the living room.

  67. Audra, when you find that you are focused, has the desire for Michael's left you? Is it possible that the drive for Michael's briefly moves to a different host (like my lovely wife) who is then suddenly overcome with a Michael's urge? Does this also invole Hobby Lobby in your case?

    I have done a calendar for myself before but need to do so again. I did take something of a break over Christmas, as far as writing goes, though I read a lot.

  68. Viv, I used to surf over to all the time. The answer to one question led to another question to another answer to get the picture : ) I'll go over and check out the 31 questions. I'll bet more than half of them relate to me!

  69. Ruthy, you'd be a fun distraction I wouldn't want to set aside, LOL!

    No smacking though.

    The more things you have the more distracted you are, much like the smart phones and tablets that are supposed to help you streamline your days. I'd be playing nothing but games on them.

    Forget Angry Birds. Has anyone played Stupid Zombies?? What a hoot.

    See? Gotta think Amish...

  70. Viv, I never need something until I throw it away.

  71. I'm glad I'm not the only mulititasker out there. I try to stay organized but I always end up with a to do pile on my desk. I try to work on that to do pile at least once a month and either read it, file it, or trash it.

    MinDaf @

  72. Jodie, if I try and keep anything in my head, it's gone before I turn around. Honestly, if you do not see me writing requests down, DO NOT assume I'll get it done!!!

  73. Sandra, you're one of the most organized, get'er done people I know. Don't burst my bubble, LOL!

    I love my AlphaSmart. I need to find it, dust it off and try using it again.

  74. LOL, Tina P. I've got a cartoon tacked on my office board "Does Running Late Count As Exercise??" Somedays, it's the only workout I get : )

  75. Janet, I wish I could use my mornings to get rid of pesky chores. Life would be so much easier. There has to be balance.

    I'm glad your system works. I'm so trying to find mine.

  76. LOL, Jan. I've got my circular file positioned right next to my desk ready to gobble up what falls off : )

  77. Missy, attach a tracking device so the kids know where to look for you!

  78. There have been some amazing tips for organization, haven't there?

    Jeanne, I tried closing the door, but it seems like an instant invitation for the family to peek in and see what I'm doing. LOL, I guess they love me, HUH?

    I LOVE writing retreats...With other writers...On deadline. Oh do I come back feeling accomplished!

  79. Audra: I set up filters, then it does it automatically. I have 5 email accounts that get filtered to about 60 folders. At a glance, I can see if there is mail in a folder that is important.

  80. Myra, I love your schedule. When something works, don't mess with it, right?

  81. LOL, Terri, I've massaged procrastination to a fine art.

  82. Hi Audra,
    Perfect post for the new year! I really identify with the headline Stop Multi-tasking and Start doing ONE THING really well.

    Jack of all trades and master of none. This is especially hard for me as I've always struggled with the sense that life is short and there's so much I want to do! I've addressed it by praying for guidance then giving myself ten year blocks to master what I can and that's been a reasonable and satisfying solution.

    Thankfully, I'm over-organized. My desk is sacred work space. I can't quit for the day unless my desk is set up for the next day. That means I know where I'm starting on the page, I have my pencils and timer and research at my fingertips, the paper is loaded in my printer and so forth. I've been working like this for more than twenty years as God has shepherded me through three amazing careers.

    It's kinda like how I feel about diets and weight loss - find something that works for you and do it. But most importantly, never ever give up on the path.

  83. Audra, I slept last year!!!


    My friend Lisa brought me some Ferraro Rocher "Espresso-filled-chocolate"...

    I am now addicted and I think 5 hour energy is for WIMPS because one of these bad boys....

    Melt-in-your-mouth good!!!!

    And a shot of espresso.


    I would hand you some of this energy if I could. Truly. I am beyond blessed.

  84. Nancy Kimball, you are like me.

    Run screaming. Now.

    But I follow that same mode.

    My aunt used to say "A change is as good as a rest".

    I believe that.

    She also said, "And this too shall pass."

    I believe that, too.

    She also said, "Ruthy, you're special. You'll go your own way someday."

    I believed that and I pass that secret on to little ones all the time. If someone tells you you're special, pretty sure you believe it!

    God bless Aunt Isabelle.

    So Kimball, I think you're doing okay. But then I'm kind of weird. :)

  85. Audra, the last thing I did before coming to Seekerville today was clean out my email and go through and unsubscribe form all of those places I had bought Christmas gifts from. They have been flooding my in box. The only one I didn't unsubscribe from is Michaels! I just couldn't make myself. Then I came here and found I am not alone!! LOL

    My husband bought me a refrigerator magnet yrs ago that says "I am too busy to be organized." He'll probably have that carved on my headstone, because it is so me. Do I have two hours to clean that closet that will get cluttered up again? I think not....

    Like Natalie said, "I'm busy all of the time, but get nothing done."

  86. Bridgett going for 110 today already in the 90's at 6am. it going to be a scorcher. going out to walk and do the shopping when they open at 7am then hibernating.

  87. Audra,
    a smart phone would be a disaster for me. Too many fun apps and games! I've got Jewel Quest on the good old cell and play whenever I get the chance.

    Love the 'does running late count as exercise?' A magazine seriously offered - as a tip to lose weight - to pretend you're late and hurrying. You walk faster and burn more calories. I'm a rush-around person anyway, so if I went any faster, I'd be getting a speed ticket!

  88. Oh, and I get your point about Crosswalk. I can never visit without reading at least two or three articles. Love Q&A columns and anything that offers tips. 'Ten steps to more...' 'Twelve ideas for...' If it's practical and it offers results, count me in!

  89. Audra, LOL, you ARE loved. :) In all honesty, I'm still training my two boys to stay out. Sometimes, I just can't resist that timid knock that promises a hug at the end of the interruption. But, I'm working on training them. Nicely. Most of the time. :)

  90. CaraG, I use the steno pad concept at work. Not as efficiently as you've described, but definitely lends itself to ongoing tasks.

    My home office also housed my husband's company bookkeeping and other necessary work. Done by me : ) Since I've handed the day-to-day stuff back to him, he's moved his desk down to the family room right next to the fireplace. Nice and cozy. Why didn't I gets dibs on that first???

  91. Patti Jo, our kitchen calendar used to be the go-to place to keep organized and on time when the kids were in school. If it was on the calendar, it got done; if it wasn't, oh well.

    The simplicity of that method got lost somewhere around the award of a driver's license to our youngest.

    Heavy sigh.

  92. Marianne, I've lost more than one list over the year, LOL!

  93. Nancy, I'm with you on the "housework when I'm stuck" idea. Some of my best break through moments have hit while folding laundry or rinsing dishes.

  94. Mary, first of all, I'm a grad student of selective seeing...I've tripped over the shoes I'm looking for and didn't even realize it.

    Next, I leave my piles and stacks around hoping to read all of it by osmosis. When I finally figure out it won't work, I throw it away.

    I'll never learn not to print it off in the first place...

  95. Debby, I can't imagine one napkin out of place at your house. Nope can't even imagine it : )

    Glad you're feeling better about "cleaning," and getting back on track : )

  96. ONE thing at a time...I'm with you, Tina!

  97. You know, Whitney, I'm the same way about my TBR pile. I mentioned I didn't write over the holidays, but I did indulge in some long awaited reading. Heavenly!!

    My TBR pile has gone from a physical stack to a virtual clutter on my Kindle.

    There' no winning : (

  98. Walt, the Michael's and Hobby Lobby distraction is more an addition. I work right across the street from a magnificent Hobby Lobby.

    God definitely has a sense of humor.

  99. This is what works for me, but I must say it leaves my kitchen area very TACKY.

    I love to make really, REALLY long lists and then check things off. I get really excited about checking things off (nerdy, yes, maybe). Even when I start a new book, I tape a piece of paper on the wall with a grid (1 block equals a thousand words). I shade in a block after every thousand words. This is what motivates me for some reason. So, if you don't mind hand written lists with check marks all over your home, give this technique a try. Oh the satisfaction of checking things off, lol.

  100. Chrystal, I wish there were other choices...or better solutions : )

  101. Thanks, Hallee! I'll check into that.

  102. Lyndee, are you available for private tutoring? I need someone to teach me when I'm done for the day!

  103. Put your iPod on and zone out.

  104. Ruthy, my husband got a Keurig for Christmas. I'm thinking about loading the thing with espresso cups : )

    Mmmm, I love Ferraro Rocher. Any flavor; any type. Especially dunked in espresso...

  105. LOL, Donna. Michael's is such an addiction : )

    I'm all for not cleaning something cuz it'll only get cluttered again. Doesn't everyone feel this way??

  106. Viv, I have to stay away from the games! Especially the Facebook ones. My daughter had me hooked on the aquarium game - forgot the name of it - but I spent HOURS doing silly things in order to buy virtual fish.

    Virtual Fish.

    I'm still shaking my head over that one.

  107. I love articles and posts and anything about organizing.

    Somewhere in my heart of hearts all my spoons are stacked in their slot in a drawer and all the pencils are sharp. Somewhere some day I won't even have to think about what to do next, it will just happen because I am so organized...

    Alas, meanwhile, I have to cope with my flightiness and try to live above the fray. And maybe someday that will work.

    Thanks Audra.

  108. Jeanne, good luck with the training. Intead of training them, us push-overs should just unite and commisserate : )

  109. Annie, I love the grid idea! Yes, I will post graph paper tonight!

  110. Mary Cline, I make an excellent sheep, not so much the shepherd.

    At work, I know exactly what needs to be done and in what order for whatever upcoming deadline.

    Piece of cake.

    Novel writing is not so cut and dry. I wish it were. All my spoons would be lined up then : )

  111. Good Grief, 111 comments already. I'll have to come back to read them all, I'm taking what I thought was a quick break from my mms :)

    You are a hopeful dreamer, not hopeless.

    I have a calendar on my computer's desktop and use it all the time. I can schedule anything for anytime even years in advance. Like that trip to Paris in the Spring of 2014!!

    My word is simplify. I want clutter out of my way. Not just in my office but throughout the house.

    When I don't have clutter, my mind eases b/c I know I don't have to declutter first to find something. I can write in a clean space. I have shelves that are organized, files that work, a worksurface that beckons me, not horrifies me.

    Audra, you and me, we're works in progress on this new management/simplify strategy and we'll have to check in sometime in the near future and see how we and the rest of Seekerville is coming along with their "word".

    Many hugs

  112. I'm one of the calendar-above-my-desk crowd. I have all appt and important reminders, including writing goals.

    I don't have a whole lot of appts so the calendar is pretty free for writing goals and it's right there looking at me everytime I get on the computer.

    And I have too many kids not to have to multi-task, but I'm a stay-at-home mom so I have no excuses for not giving an hour a day to writing.

    One of the problems w/staying at home is everyone assumes you have nothing to do so they ask for help or invite you places to go. I struggle w/saying no because in my mind I can always write later. My goal is to either so no, or stay up late and always meet my goal.

    Connie Queen

  113. Audra-- catching up on the TBR pile is considered research and marketing for a published writer, in case you didn't know. ;) Indulge away! I'm afraid I'm stuck in the Stone Age. No Kindle. No Nook. No Iphone. No Tablet. Oh well. I rather like holding a book in my hands, but I have a sneaky suspicion I could get pretty attached to a Kindle. ;)

    Any good titles you would recommend from your latest reading excursion?


  114. Hiya, Les! Cutting clutter isn't half a challenge for you as it is for me! You seem to be able to clean up your office as soon as the notion hits you. Me? I have to think about it, let it stew in my mind, imagine the results then throw away a piece of paper or two, LOL!

    We'll try and rise above the mess, K??

  115. Connie, I stayed home with my kids as they were growing up and wouldn't change the experience for the world. Yep, everything was a crisis and there was little down time, but I got enough writing in to make me feel like an author.

    You're on the write track : )

  116. Whitney, you are so right about reading being inherent to writing. But if one has to choose between the two, more often than not, the reading fell short over this last year.

    I'd like to read at least 2 books a month, this year. We'll see how that works out.

    As far as December went, I got to catch up on a few Seeker Christmas books. Loved it!!

  117. Two books a month is a great goal, Audra! I think I'm going to try to do the same. :) The list of Seeker books keeps me on my toes. :)


  118. Hey, Audra! Great post! I def. need to do what you said and stop all those ads from coming to my email.

    For me, I'm afraid it comes down to more self-control! That, and leaving home when I can't concentrate and taking my laptop and going to a restaurant or coffee shop to make myself write.

    I plan to make myself a schedule and truly get serious about getting my writing done every day and not wasting time. And make goals.

  119. Mellie!!!! Get serious about writing?? What kind of contract did you just get???

    Discipline, babe. Discipline!!

  120. Ha! I know, I know!!! Discipline, self control, they kind of go together, or they should!

  121. I do the sticky notes too, only I tend to end up with a framed computer screen. The problem is it's pretty easy to 'pretend' like they aren't there, and then it's easy to ignore them. I've recently decided to try setting smaller 'goals' for myself, that way when I accomplish what I've set out to do, I feel like I've indeed accomplished something. So far it's making me strive to go past those goals, and that's what I needed to do to begin with. :)

  122. It took all day, but I made it back, Audra.

    Thanks for your honesty (and humor). It's really nice to not feel so alone in my mess.

    I am trying - bit by bit, a little each day - to get myself organized because the sad truth is that as I get older, I can't wing it through the disorganization as effortlessly as I used to. So there's some motivation.


  123. I find if I am organized I get so much more done & I feel motivated to do more.

  124. I am the professional listmaker and have been known to make a list of all my lists! However, I've found this great website: This site has excellent personal organizers that will keep your schedule and you so organized you'll think 2 more hours have been added to the day.I've been using this organizer (have one at work too) since October and love it!

  125. AUDRA!!! Cannot believe I missed your blog, but that just goes to show how crazed I am right now because I NEVER miss a Seeker blog, much less yours!! In my defense, I am happy to say that I have ONE SCENE TO GO in a ms. due Jan. 15, so I have really been applying your blog today and STAYING AWAY from distractions like e-mail and the Internet.

    I guess when push comes to shove ...

    But honestly, I could have written this blog today. Not as well, mind you, because my mind is mush and pretty much all over the place, but I needed to hear this today ... that gentle kick in the butt to get a handle on those distractions.

    Well, I for one, want you to get crackin' on that historical, my sweet friend, because I am chomping to read it!!!

    Love you!

  126. Audra, loved your post! I strive to be more organized!
    Count me in for the Gift Card, please.
    Jackie S.

  127. Wow! Your blog hit me right where it hurt! I'm so unorganized it hurts sometimes! I get started doing one thing and get distracted so easily that I end up with 15 things that are half done. Great tips both in the article and the comments. I'm going to start applying them right away...or at least by

  128. Wonderful info Miss Audra. I try and keep things simple (eat, sleep, play - which includes dictation) but Mom? Not so much. BOL!

  129. Management is something I've had to struggle with as well because of a new baby. A baby really gives you perspective on time management. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  130. I've found that by doing one thing at a time I improve how much I get done. I have 4 kids, run a local business with my husband and write, so there's always going to be something else on the to do list and I'm ok with that.

  131. Have a calendar by your computer and have a certain thing to do that day and nothing else! When it comes time to relax,make a cup of tea and soft music will relax you in no time!