Friday, April 23, 2021

The Isolationist: Tackling Daily Tasks

by Pam Hillman

The Seekers have been giving all kinds of pep talks, how-tos, craft posts, encouragement, and everything in between this month. As I looked back over the topics at hand, it was hard to come up with something that hasn’t been posted to encourage everyone to try just a bit harder, write a bit longer, and strive to reach their goals every day without fail.

As my date to post neared, I began to ponder what to share. What can I say to encourage someone? What can I tell you that you haven’t heard before?

Long time Seeker Villagers will remember when we served virtual food during every blog post. Well, I'm bringing that metaphor back today, so grab a plate off the sideboard. We’re about to fill it up with all our tasks for the month. I’ll start. Here’s what was on my writing plate this month. Work on a proposal, create a cover and republish a novella. Set up a KDP sale.

What else was on my plate or was added during the month? Bookkeeping duties for three family businesses, and working as the treasurer for ACFW. Oh, and babysitting my sweet grands. This bottleneck of stacked tasks will ease up in a few weeks, but I’ll still get to babysit my little darlings part time while still keeping up with the bread-and-butter of work related tasks.

In addition, my meal planning has been very intentional for the last few months as my husband and I try to eat healthier. Like most anything else, healthy eating doesn’t just happen, it takes some planning.

So far, we have writing, bookkeeping, meal planning, housework, babysitting, and the occasional two-am bovine labor-and-delivery emergency or the sick calf. My elderly mom needs my help more and more these days. And, my sweet Mimi-cat is expecting kittens any day! My plate’s beginning to look like a platter!

If I look at the whole platter at once, I often wonder how I’ll get it all done. Delegation, Dedication, and a Do-or-Die attitude is the answer. Not to mention a lot of prayer. I had to push a small portion of my March goals to the side of the plate. Other things had to be done immediately…the proposal had a hard deadline; the novella a hard deadline; the babies must be fed and changed. And rocked. A lot. That goes without saying! Tax returns on three businesses are due May 17th. Thank the Lord for the extra month!

What I’m trying to say is that sometimes we have to burn the candle at both ends if we want something bad enough. Life isn’t going to stop while we write our novel.

It just isn’t.

Looking at my plate/platter again, I keep thinking (not for the first time) how cool it would be if I was uber organized and could eat a bite of each thing every day, rotating so that I have a nice balanced “meal” of writing 1000 words in the morning, then working an hour on social media, then an hour or two on business, and so on and so on, starting over the next day, keeping all the balls in the air at all times.

But, my days never go that way. Invariably, I get broadsided by fires that have to be put out immediately, or looming deadlines and have to work until the wee hours of the morning to meet them.

Am I just not organized enough? Perhaps. Or perhaps I'm TOO organized, but I fight my own nature because it doesn't fit what's considered normal. Perhaps I work better under pressure, and gobbling one thing at a time on my plate is my work model rather than taking a bite of this, then that, then something else.

What do I mean? As a child, I was notorious for eating one thing at a time. I’d eat all my chicken first, then my bread, then my peas, then I might take a few sips of my tea at the end of the meal. As a teenager, I distinctly remember forcing myself to eat a bite of each thing on my plate and to sip on my drink between bites so that my eating habits wouldn’t look so odd. Apparently, my parents didn’t think it was odd to eat just one thing at a time. I never remember them trying to correct or change me. But someone must have said something to make me become self-conscious.

What does that say about me? Am I destined to gobble my favorite tasks all up before I move on to the next one? Will I never be able to have a balanced, healthy day of doing a little bit of each task so that I feel like I’ve accomplished something in each area that day?

Seriously, folks, I am NOT making this stuff up. As a matter of fact, after I wrote my post, I began to wonder if anyone had done any research on this. Turns out they have. I found an article on the Huffington Post regarding this very phenomenon. I just discovered that I'm an Isolationist, even though I trained myself to eat a bit of everything on my plate, it’s not my nature. Wow, there's a name for that? lol

But get this...

Even more amazing is the description of an Isolationist regarding other areas of a person's life. It’s like these people used ME as their guinea pig for their research. Fascinating!

The Isolationist

Read the entire article here:
Huffington Post, 10/08/15

Also, for a more in-depth look at the different eating habits, read this article.

So, if you’re still with me on this wild and crazy zigzag of a post, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. It’s okay to eat one thing at a time. And when possible, it's okay to finish one task before you go on to the next. There’s nothing wrong with spending days working on taxes/ social media/ cooking/ cleaning/ gardening/ day job, etc., and not even looking at your manuscript. But you still have to carve out big chunks of time to write if you want to get it done. I'm not giving you a license to procrastinate! If you're an isolationist, you might very well go dark for four or five days at a time to do nothing except write, especially if the deadline is looming. :)

Having said that, we know that a novel can’t be written in one sitting (aka one meal) before we move on to something else. Apparently my nature is to write in marathon chunks that unfortunately include burning the midnight oil instead of short spurts of 1K every morning, as much as I would love to do that every day. That’s not to say that I can't be more intentional meeting that 1K a day goal. I changed my own eating habits, didn't I? Knowing why and how my brain operates is half the battle.

Are you an isolationist? If so, do you also have a “disciplined and border-line stubborn tendency to complete one task before moving on to another?”

CBA Bestselling author PAM HILLMAN was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of.


  1. Pam, this is brilliant. I've been studying time management all my life and there's still room for improvement. I have a pretty full plate like you do. Subtract the "grands" and the farm animals, take away the bookkeeping (you do NOT want me touching your accounts), and add an adult child with special needs, a retired husband, and two other writing jobs. I'm trying to launch a nonfiction writing career, and still work part-time for two newspapers. I'm juggling as much as I did when I was working full-time and the kids were home, it's just different stuff to juggle.
    And my fiction work gets squeezed out or pushed to the side.
    I'm organized enough when my schedule is under MY control. But sometimes it isn't.
    My dilemma is more of a philosophical one. On the one hand, I am a professional and I should treat my work professionally, and carve out the time I need. On the other hand, nobody's making me do this, so should I shape it around everyone else's needs? The mind doth boggle, as the Bard Shakespeare says. Or sayeth.
    I have been doing better lately. I do the goal-setting thing with Jill Klemerer and I make sure my fiction writing is at the top of my goals. My daily schedule is At the Mercy of, well, everything else, so I'm working on monthly goals instead and even designed a grid with goals for my fiction, nonfiction, health and home upkeep. I didn't clean out a single closet during COVID 19 and I didn't bake a single loaf of bread, but I met my writing goals. Hey, maybe I'm not doing so badly after all.
    And Pam, isn't it great that we HAVE grandkids or elderly mothers? Or in my case, daughters and a retired husband. Life is so rich, even if we do have to do a little circus juggling.
    Out for the day, may be back later.
    Kathy Bailey
    Your Kaybee
    Making it all work in New Hampshire

    1. Kathy, I also try to do the goal-setting like Jill does, but so far I haven't accomplished much of anything on my list. But I'm going to keep working at it.

    2. Kathy, yep, I am so blessed to have grands and a mom that needs me. I'm pretty much notorious for dropping everything for those babies. And gladly so. :) As a matter of fact, the next 3 months will be devoted mostly to the grands since there's a newborn and none of us want him to go to daycare just yet, so instead of my 2 days a week, I'll be 5 days for a little while. AND his big sister (my oldest grand) starts kindergarten this fall (I still don't know how THAT happened!!!), so I'm happy to get to spend a lot of time with her, her sister, and baby brother after their mommy goes back to work.

      So, I'll pretty much be isolating myself with grands all summer. lol

  2. My husband is an isolationist and I laugh when he eats his veggies first, potatoes second, meat last. I’m the multitask person. I juggle caring for my mom and still maintaining a healthy relationship with my hubby, do banking for both of us, all the housework, laundry, cooking, raise a garden, can, etc. In between I try to find time to read and review books and maybe do a craft. Have a blessed weekend.

    1. Lucy, I'm the multitasker in my house too. Obviously. It's a balancing act, but at least things get done.

    2. Lucy, I admire your drive to get it all done. You sound like a go-getter! :)

  3. I tend to be more of an isolationist than not, but we're two peas in a pod, Pam. I've trained myself to tamp down my isolationist tendencies when I need to. (And yes, my husband has pointed out my eating method more than once!)

    But where does that leave my writing? Too often it ends up at the bottom of the pile. Because things happen. It's a constant struggle, isn't it?

    I would love to be a check list kind of person - do each task for a set amount of time each day - but when I'm dealing with too little sleep or tasks that have to be done during my allotted writing time, the system falls apart. Today is a good example - we have an outdoor task that needs to be done, but we're expecting rain/snow starting around noon. So I need to shift my morning writing time.

    Life happens as you well know!

    Maybe I just need to give into my isolationist tendencies... Could my productivity rise? I'll have to try it. :-)

    1. Jan, your example of the outdoor task that must be completed is a perfect example of how a carefully scheduled list can come unravelled at the drop of a hat.

      I have practiced trying to do small portions of ongoing tasks daily, then something comes along to disrupt that and before I know it, I'm back to my "binge" tendencies. Binge cleaning; binge writing, binge yardwork, etc. I guess I'm just a binger by nature. lol

  4. I must be an isolationist. I eat everything one at a time. In order of least liked to favorite! I'll also deconstruct things to taste separately! Don't know what that says �� but I am careful & methodical. The fact that there's not a set system to write a book trips me up at times.

    1. Tonya, you are my long-lost twin! lol Yes, I have taught myself to not be quite so obsessive about my food, but many years ago, I did not want the foods on my plate to touch. I'm still pretty careful about that. They can sort of meet and greet, but that's about it. My food must practice social distancing! lol

      And, my husband, he'll just pile things on his plate, and sometimes, here at home, he'll put the oddest things in a bowl together. Shudder!!!

  5. Oh Pam. You described my youngest son to a T. He still eats one thing at a time. When he does his Saturday work around the house, he must go in a very specific order. No. Matter. What. He has very specific ways of doing tasks, and yes, almost always one at a time, until it's done.

    I'm like that, but not quite to that extent. I like to get closure on each thing I'm working on before I move on. Mothering teens (one on the spectrum) and trying to write makes this very difficult. I'm learning how to let something go unfinished if it must. But, I'm also working to find the balance between focusing on one task rather than getting distracted by other things (texts, emails, and the like). Maybe I'm a closure-isolationist? ;)

    Great post!

    1. Closure-isolationist. I like that term. Closure. Finished. The satisfaction of marking something off your list and moving on.

      We are Finishers. :)

  6. Hi Pam:

    I must say I don't like the term 'isolationist' in the cases you mention because the word has such negative connotations. From 'head in the sand', 'anti-social', 'America first while Europe burns', 'inviting the Pear Harbor attack', 'egotistical', 'let them eat cake', 'not in my back yard', and the list goes on. Oh, Mylanta®, it's enough to give you heartburn. :)

    I prefer the term 'purist'. Someone who wants to savor a food in its essence with all one's taste buds working in harmony. How can you really taste something with so many other flavors thrown into the mix causing a cacophony of chaos? This is the whole reasons we have concertos. We want to hear Yo-Yo Ma work his magic and not have to pick his cello out with a full orchestra blaring way in the background--even when we like the noise the orchestra is making!

    Consider the advice of Andrew Carnegie, a purist if there ever was one, "The way to become rich is to put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket."

    Besides, your eating 'isolationist' is simply transforming every meal into a multi-course pleasure. Indeed, I'm surprised that you do not enjoy a sorbet between entrées so as to stimulate your appetite and clean the palate between items -- as do the purest of the purists!

    It is the purist, like the laser and magnifying glass, who can focus the power of an entity to an extent not found in nature on its own.

    Indeed, while I admire and honor the purist, I am an optimist. I live in the hope of discovering, in the mix of the many, a higher experience which proves greater than the sum of its parts. Thus, one day, by such efforts, I hope to savor the sublime.

  7. This is fascinating. I am not an isolationist, although I do prefer to finish one project before moving to another. My kids are isolationists when they eat, though, and I never knew there was a name for it.
    I am planning out lots of intentional writing time for the rest of the year, though, because I just got contracts for three more books and a novella. Whew! I may be joining you burning the midnight oil, but I definitely won't complain. :-)

    1. Congrats on the contracts, Amy! I will say that even though I get deep into any given project, when I've been under contract, I am able to allocate time every day to meet my long-term goals. It's just one of those things that must be scheduled in to meet the deadline. You'll do it!

  8. We're all not Ruthy, right, Pam? I would love to rise early and write my "words" for the day, but I'm more like you. I focus on one task and then another and then another. Although when it comes to eating, I'm not an isolationist. In fact, I need to read the articles you mentioned to learn what eating type I am...a foodie, for sure!

    Great blog, and you're right! Your plate/platter is very full. Probably we should say it's overflowing! Overflowing with love for those sweet grandchildren. I'm envious! :)

    1. Wouldn't that be grand? I think we all aspire to be Ruthy. :)

  9. Fascinating stuff, Pam. Maybe eating styles really are predictive of everything because I tend to mush all my food together and I do the same with my tasks. I also pick and choose without staying focused. Not very productive, but it is delicious!

    1. So, your life is like a virtual buffet, huh? I can relate to that! lol

  10. I don't eat all my foods separately, but I do save my favorite for the last bite. As for tasks, I try to allow time each day for different tasks. But writing often gets left out. I am still trying to figure this all out.

    1. Sandy, for me, what I "try" and what I "do" is the problem. :)

  11. An interesting article Pam! I'm not sure which one I am - I eat fast, but not because I'm adventurous. I eat fast so my LO doesn't try to take my food. LOL After having four kids, I'd really like to keep the food on my plate these days. Hahahaha

    Your article is timely. Feeling a bit overwhelmed these days with all the tasks that need to get done and the writing portion keeps getting slid aside. THanks for the encouragement - knowing I'm not the only one experiencing that right now!

    1. Lee-Ann, been there, done that with my little ones. It's hard to raise kids and write. It can be done, yes, but it's hard. I do keep my grands, but as a general rule, not every day. You'll get there!


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