Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Writer's Well Being - Step Away from the Candy

by Mindy Obenhaus

A writer on deadline can be a scary sight. The red-rimmed eyes from lack of sleep (or crying out a scene), crazed hair from jamming their fingers through it repeatedly, all while wearing the ever popular t-shirt and pajama bottoms.

Okay, so we don't all look that way.

However, when a writer is on deadline, they often overlook life as it normally exists and descend into a pit of unhealthy habits. 

So what's a writer to do?

Look out for number one. How can you give your best when you're not your best?

Here are a few tips to help you care for your #1 -

Plan ahead - Deadlines rarely show up out of the blue. So before crunch time hits, make a plan. Take care of all those errands you've been putting off. Get the oil changed, schedule the kids physicals/haircuts/dental appointments, make that big trip to the grocery store. Stock up on healthy snacks (we'll talk more about those below), easy-to-prepare meal items and toilet paper. Because let's face it, no one wants to have to take time away from their hectic writing schedule to run to the store for toilet paper. Plan your meals in advance. If you're making a casserole, make two and freeze the second one. Then, when time is of the essence, all you have to do is pop it in the oven and continue writing.
Get up and move - We recently moved into a new house and my office happens to be on the opposite end of the house from the kitchen. I'm a big tea drinker and while I contemplated keeping my electric kettle in my office, I ultimately decided the walk to the kitchen, which is no less than 50 steps each way, would be a better idea.

Writing is a sedentary job, so we need to force ourselves to move so our performance at the computer will be at its best. Try waking up 30 minutes early to get in some exercise and get your blood pumping before you put your butt in the chair. If you're stuck on a scene, take a walk outside to clear your head. Schedule a break once an hour and do some jumping jacks. Or, simply walk to the other end of the house for another cup of tea.
Eat healthy - When we're stressed, it's easy to reach for things that aren't necessarily good for us. We keep a bowl of peanut M&Ms on our desk. "It's a reward for every so many words," we tell ourselves. And that "peanuts have protein, so they're good for us." Ah, if only peanut M&Ms fell into the healthy category. I'd eat them day and night.

Even when you're on deadline, you need to eat real meals, preferably somewhere away from your computer. Trust me, the change of scenery will do you good. And as for those snacks, instead of candy , try reaching for just the peanuts or whatever your favorite variety of nut may be. Or, if you really need something sweet, try mixing those nuts with some dried fruit. Cheese sticks are a good protein boost, as is yogurt (look for high-protein varieties), even beef jerky. Apples and berries will satisfy your sweet tooth without spiking your blood sugar. 
Sleep - A good night's sleep is necessary to keep our brains and bodies performing at their best. However, that can sometimes be a challenge when you're on deadline because you're constantly thinking about the story. You wake up at 2 a.m. with an idea and, bang, you're wide awake. Instead of lying their wide awake or getting up and stumbling to your computer, try keeping a pen and paper beside your bed. When those ideas crop up in the middle of the night, write them down, then roll over, knowing that you won't forget that stellar plot twist because you've made note of it. Or, if you don't want to turn the light on for pen and paper, type your thoughts on your phone. If you're like me, it's charging on the nightstand anyway.

Reward yourself - At the end of your writing day, do something you enjoy. Watch your favorite TV show, read a book, play with the kids/grandkids, plot your next book, whatever brings you joy. And don't feel guilty. Remember, you've earned it.

Keep God in the equation - Psalm 121:1-2 "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth."
When you take care of you, not only are you happier, your family is happier and your readers will love you. 

Now it's your turn. Writer or reader, let's chat about what keeps you sane during those times when life gets crazy. Do you plan ahead and try to take care of yourself? Or do you roll with the punches? What are some your favorite ways to stay on task?





Three-time Carol Award nominee, Mindy Obenhaus, writes contemporary romance for Love Inspired Books. She’s passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren at her Texas ranch. Learn more at www.MindyObenhaus.com

62 comments:

  1. Really impressive post. I read it whole and going to share it with my social circules. I enjoyed your article and planning to rewrite it on my own blog.
    Packers And Movers Mumbai

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  2. Impressive and timely, Mindy. Especially for me. Just received my first-round edits for my first book. I'm pretty good about deadlines, my day job is in journalism and I learned a long time ago that nobody is going to write your selectman's meeting story for you. (Believe me, I've tried.) I've never had a fiction deadline ON TOP OF my secular work deadlines, so this could be interesting. But I've been prepping myself for this for years, making self-imposed deadlines and making work a part of my lifestyle so, again, we'll see. You guys are going to be doing a lot of hand-holding in the next 18 months.
    I'm a diabetic and have a touch of osteoporosis, so exercise isn't an option. I don't have M&Ms on the desk, but admit to popping a handful now and then for quick energy. My real work drug is tea, preferably Earl Grey or English Breakfast in a china cup. Sometimes Lapsang Souchong, if I'm energetic enough to make it from tea leaves, you don't often see Lapsang S. in teabags.
    I plan meals and am more likely to ask my husband to do extra chores when it's crunch time. He'll do anything I ask him to do, he just doesn't always think of it himself.
    I think I have the self-discipline to pull this off, I've been meeting deadlines for years. What throws me off is interruptions--car trouble, dealing with snow, my husband's medical issues, and the perpetual calls from the Nigerian prince. Sigh. Other people, and their issues, are more likely to get me off track than me, myself and I.
    Kathy Bailey
    Making it work in New Hampshire

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    1. Kathy, my fellow tea lover, first I want to congratulate you on the edits. But I hear you on those interruptions. Even if they don't steal our time, they take root in our minds, distracting us from the task at hand. They can suck the life right out of us.

      You are very blessed to have the experience with deadlines. I believe you do have the self-discipline to pull this off even better/faster than you might think. And a husband who is more than willing to help you out is a double blessing. My guy is like that, too. My problem is that I often fail to ask. Shame on me.

      Toasting you with my own cuppa. Keep us posted on those edits, please.

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    2. As I said, there will be a LOT of hand-holding. Brace yourselves.

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    3. Earl Grey is my drug of choice, too, Kathy! And don't worry, we're cheering you on. You'll meet that deadline like the pro you are. :-)

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  3. Good morning, Mindy! Great tips for DEADLINE MADNESS. Like Kathy B, my deadlines have to be worked in around a day job, so deadline madness doesn't last a few days or a week, it's a lifestyle! LOL

    For me, great at-your-desk snacks include: almonds, sliced celery, granny smith apples, "cutie" oranges, low fat / low sugar granola bars, a zip lock bag of Cheerios. Lots of water to keep hydrated.

    I find it helps to set a timer for every couple of hours to remind me to get up and move around.

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    1. Morning, Glynna. Those are great snack ideas. And hey, if you drink enough water or tea, you find yourself forced to get up and take a break, if you know what I mean. ;)

      A lifestyle of deadline madness, huh?

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    2. Glynna, love your snack ideas. Better than a sugar high which inevitably leads to a sugar crash.

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    3. Exactly, Kathy! That's why I always try to emphasize the protein.

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  4. Good morning, Seekerville! Coffee and tea are ready to go, along with a nice spread of breakfast casserole, scones, biscuits, jams and jellies. Help yourself.

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  5. Also helps to break things into chunks, if I get desperate toward the end I'll set a goal of so many chapters per day instead of waiting for a bloc of time that never comes.
    Where is everybody today?
    KB

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    1. Do you think we scared them off, Kathy/KB?

      Breaking things into chunks is a great idea. Tackling the whole is daunting. But bite-size pieces are manageable. Thanks for bringing that up.

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  6. Great tips, Mindy! I read a blogpost about a year ago about how important it is for our bodies that we do get up every hour and move. Sitting for too long is like smoking in the impact it has on us. So, I set a time and try to get up every hour and move for 5-10 minutes. I am also trying to get to 10,000 steps each day (NO, I don't make it most days . . . ), so I'm moving my feet as I'm out of my chair.

    Sleep has been the tricky one for me. As I grow older, I'm seeing how very important it is to get enough. But. It's. So. Hard. to make myself go to bed. I feel better, I'm less snappy with my family, and it helps with maintaining weight, so I'm working to re-create better sleep habits.

    Loved your tips!

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    1. Jeanne, when my kids were little, I always wanted to stay up late because that was the only "me" time I could catch. The house was quiet when they were asleep so I could think and do without being interrupted. Now that they're grown and all but one have gone, I seemed to have flipped. Now I prefer the quiet of the morning. And when you have teenagers that sleep all morning, that really works out. Keep working on those changes. You'll get it figured out.

      Interesting insight on the sitting/smoking thing. Makes me want to get up and move more now. And as for those 10K steps, that's exactly what I was eluding to when I talked about walking back and forth to the kitchen. A round trip gives me a minimum of 100 steps. :)

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  7. Great post, Mindy. I haven't gotten far enough in my writing career to be on deadline, but I know how important it is to be prepared. I tend to leave things to the last minute, so I would need to really work on that. I like the healthy snack ideas, too.

    I also saw a good tip recently on not staring at a computer screen too long. It is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

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    1. Sandy, you ladies are teaching me all kinds of interesting stuff this morning. First Jeanne with the sitting/smoking thing and now your 20-20-20 rule. This is great.

      It is quite a change when you go from writing at one's leisure to having a deadline. Like you, I sometimes put things off until the last minute. That's not a good idea for a writer, though. So start working on building those habits now, and when you do get that contract/deadline, you'll be prepared.

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  8. Good morning!

    Your advice is timely, Mindy. I have a deadline coming up too quickly with WAY too many words to write between now and then.

    Keeping God in the equation has become super important to my deadline rituals. If I skip a day of Bible reading and study, it isn't a big deal. But if it stretches into two days? Or four? My life gets off kilter. The ideas dry up. I'm writing just to meet someone else's deadline, not the story God has called me to write.

    So that's the first thing I do every morning, and the rest of the day flows better.

    Eating lunch away from my desk is another biggie, and so is getting the dogs out for their daily walk - even though that isn't happening this week because of back to back snow storms.

    Keeping snacks at my desk is something I've had to forego, though. I used to give myself a reward of one chocolate chip for every 100 words written...but it was too hard on the waistline. So my reward now is cross stitch. I schedule half-hour blocks of stitching time for every scene I finish. Much better for me, and I've found that satisfying my stitching addiction is even better than feeding my chocolate addiction. ;-)

    But enough talking about deadlines - I'm off to start on my daily word count!

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    1. Wait a minute, Jan. There's something better than feeding one's chocolate addiction? Say it isn't so. ;)

      Sounds like you've worked out a good rhythm. One that keeps you sane and the dogs happy. Of course, God is always the key. But back to back snow storms? In April? Eesh.

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  9. Great advice, Mindy! And, yes, I look like that too on deadline!

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    1. Shh... Nobody's supposed to know that, Carla. :)

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  10. OK.....SO, WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE SPY CAMERA IN MY HOUSE??????? Haha! I ate M&Ms last night because I was too tired to have any will power ha. Between you and Jan, all the things I do has been covered. I think the most important one for me is keeping God in the forefront. Isn't it wonderful how much better the day goes when we do that? And yet, we get so busy it doesn't always happen. How does that happen?????

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    1. Pat W, boy do I hear you loud and clear. We're sometimes so eager to hit the ground running that we whiz right past God on our way to do our own thing. Yeah, we've seen how well that works.

      By the way, I will be needing that camera back. ;)

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  11. Great post Mindy! I recently closed the business I ran in the afternoon so I could have more time for writing. The first question my chiropractor asked me (I have a standing appt. every 2 weeks since my afternoon job was teaching gymnastics) was what was I going to do to stay active now that I plan to write more and no longer have the gym to keep me active. Still pondering that....

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    1. You'll have to let us know, LeAnne. Finding creative ways to get that exercise in can be a challenge. Especially if it's too cold, too hot, raining, snowing... Well, you get the idea.

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  12. Very interesting. Seeing as I live alone, I find it very easy to get so engrossed in my story that I lose all track of time.

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    1. Wilani, I'm going to mother you now. You must move and you must eat. Pretty please?

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  13. hi Mindy
    This is a great post. Remember to take care of you. I need to do that with my "real" job. Learn to step away from the screen and refresh myself with change of scenery.
    Thanks for the reminder.
    My mom bought me wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy too many granny smith apples, so for the past couple of days I've been using the dehydrator to make apple "chips". Will come in handy for snacks and solves the issue of fruit going bad before the family can it them all.

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    1. Deb H, that's a great idea for the apples. And Granny Smiths don't have a lot of sugar. We have a dehydrator so my husband can make jerky, but I've not tried anything with fruits. Sounds like a great project.

      And yes, even at your real job you have to take care of you and refresh yourself throughout the day.

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  14. Thanks Mindy, for a really useful, timely and practical post. As a fellow tea addict, I heartily agree with the need to keep the kettle in the kitchen to encourage movement - even if it means moving that direction half a dozen times a day 😬 I’m trying to be low carb, so it’s healthy snacks these days - but chocolate still calls! I have a choc mint tea that goes some way with helping the cravings! And deadlines are awesome in that it gives me a clear time to work towards - and aim to work ahead of time. Life too easily has a multitude of things itching to get in the way, so I’m trying my best to submit early to avoid the stress. (Of course, the lack of chocolate means sometimes my kids think I AM the stress...)

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    1. LOL, Carolyn. Half a dozen trips to the kitchen for tea equates to a lot more steps than you'd think. By the time you add in all those steps to the restroom... Yes, I said that and we all know it's true.

      Have you tried some of the higher percentage dark chocolate? Like the 85%. I know, it's not the same. Just like the tea. But anything to curb the craving.

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  15. Great tips, Mindy. I read a study that said sitting for 8 hours a day can be equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Yikes! When I'm writing, I set the timer on my phone to get up every 30 minutes. I run up the front staircase and down the back. I'll do it three times and then get my butt back in the chair. Peanut M&Ms are the best, aren't they!

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    1. Jill, all those steps does not mean you should have the peanut M&Ms. No matter how yummy they are.

      Actually, I love that idea of the stairs. Our new house is a single story, so I've traded stairs for all those extra steps down the hallway to the kitchen. But at least we're moving.

      And how did I miss this study about sitting being equivalent to smoking? If that's not motivation, I don't know what is.

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  16. Oh good grief. I should've read this earlier in the day.
    So because I started off this morning w/a handful of malted balls Easter candy, everything evens out because I just drank a Slimfast. Right? I'm going for a walk in a bit and downing water before I go.

    Getting some words in before I head out the door. Thank you for the reminder. :)

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    1. Yeah...I'm afraid those milk balls go in the same category as the M&Ms, Connie. Except they don't have any protein. But you did the Slimfast and you're walking. And as we've learned from some of the ladies today, moving is isn't just important, it's crucial to our well being.

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    2. LOL, Connie! I love malted milkball eggs!

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    3. Oh, I love the high quality ones... not the cheap ones, yes, I'm saying that out loud... Really good ones melt in your mouth.... like instantly.... Now I want some!

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  17. I see both the candy and the fruit and I want some of both. I walk daily and I don't see the hurt in having a small handful of M&M's and then a bowl of fruit when I get back from the walk.

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    1. Kim, you are correct. There's nothing wrong with a handful of M&Ms now and then. But writers sometimes joke about how many bags of M&Ms it took to get them through a book or edits. As with anything, moderation is the key.

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    2. Then if I was a writer I would buy the mini bags of M & M's on one side and a bowl of cut fruit small with a little fork on the other side. I know easier said than done. I don't know why but it the M&M's makes all your all writing so good then stick with them in moderation of course. :)

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  18. Thanks for the reminder to take care of ourselves. Should have read it before I did in the leftover Easter candy.

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    1. Bettie, I wrote it and I still did in the leftover Easter dessert. :D

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  19. You've shared some wonderful advice and planning for those crunch times and deadlines. I especially like the peanut M&Ms! Planning is a must but there are times when life throws a curve ball and planning just isn't in the equation. It is during those times that we must lean on our Rock. "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." — Proverbs 16:9
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)Gmail(dot)com

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    1. Connie, I'm very familiar with those curve balls. That's why it is so important we keep God in the equation. Yes, we can plan. But we have no choice but to face the unexpected, knowing that God is with us and will guide us in the way we should go.

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  20. Great post, Mindy! Keeping in touch with my prayer warriors helps me get through hard times.

    psalm103and138atgmaildotcom

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    1. Caryl, where would we be without our prayer warriors?

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  21. All great stuff, Mindy. I definitely get completely out of whack during deadline. Sigh. I need to be more "balanced" in every area you mentioned, but I tend to take it all in spurts, fits, and starts. I need a keeper!

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    1. Pam, if you're like me, the closer you get to that deadline, the less balanced you become, right? It's a learning curve. And everyone's curves are different. But there are some things we all need. The biggest of which is to do those things that we know will benefit us as we push toward that finish line.

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  22. Mindy, I came by this morning and pinned your post on Pinterest. Then put the link up on FB. But forgot to comment! haha Just now realized it.

    Great post! I've been working on sleeping more. I think my Fitbit has helped. It's a visual chart of how many hours I'm sleeping and nudges me to try to stay in the "green" area on the chart. I've also tried to snack better. I've been big on nuts in recent years.

    But like you, I would love to constantly snack on peanut M&M's. :)

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    1. Missy, I do the same thing. Even formulate my comment in my head, then forget to actually write it. Eesh.

      I'm glad you're working on your sleep. As I recall, you were quite a night owl. And there's nothing wrong with that, until you have to be up at 6 or 7. Then it's time to pay the piper.

      I've been on a sunflower seed kick lately. Probably because I had them left over from that broccoli salad I made. Silly me, I should just use them to make another salad.

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  23. What a wonderful post, Mindy! I love these. They work for editors on a deadline as well. Or when creating book covers. Sometimes you need to just step away, get out of the chair, and move around.

    I try to eat healthier than I used to, but don't make myself crazy with it. Using treats/snacks as a reward instead of a staple had been so helpful. :)

    I also workout 3-5 days/week with my Beachbody workouts and check-in with my online Faith & Fitness Group. Without the group support & accountability, I wouldn't be as consistent with my fitness.

    Thanks for the great reminder today (yesterday). :)

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    1. Beth, the accountability part can be a huge help. Sometimes, just knowing that you have to let someone else know what you did or didn't do can help keep you on track.

      Getting out of the chair and stepping away can help with more than just moving, too. If I'm struggling with a scene, it helps me to clear my head and get back on track as opposed to wallowing in the minutia.

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  24. There are so many good points here! I'm a big fan of getting our body moving, doing those ten minute whatevers every hour... and I count housecleaning in that ten minutes! Floor mopping is active exercise around here! :)

    And keeping the candy to a minimum.... At Easter that's a tough one because there's so many great things around, but I'll hide them all away for next week... back on the wagon!

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    1. Housecleaning is a definite activity, Ruthy. And kills two birds with one stone. Mopping for me often turns into a dance party, which makes cleaning so much more fun.

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  25. Thank you for sharing! These are excellent tips to follow. I really appreciate it. Especially the part about "moving." That's my biggest weakness. It's so hard to get out there and "move." But when I do, it makes a big difference in how I feel and how I write!

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    1. Sandi, I think we should all have a timer on our phones that goes off once an hour with King Julian, the lemur king in Madagascar, singing "I like to move it, move it." Now that would remind me to get up and make me WANT to move.

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  26. These are great tips, Mindy! I need to incorporate them into my blogging day too :)

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  27. Hi Mindy, I love your comment that deadlines rarely show up out of the blue. Thanks for the helpful tips!

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    1. Hi, Jackie. Yes, I can be the queen of procrastination, so I've had to learn to plan ahead and that includes adding in time for the unexpected.

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  28. Hi Mindy! My apologies for being 2 days late in commenting, but I loved this post. These are great tips (and I love your humor) but I felt a wee bit guilty when I saw the M&Ms photo...yikes! I will not even say how many BAGS of those I consume---in a month, LOL. Thanks for sharing this---it's going into my Keeper File! :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo (who is *trying* to resist her M&Ms at this moment!)

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    1. Patti Jo, look at the bright side. Soon you'll have those yummy Georgia peaches to sink your teeth into.

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