November 2020: On Time

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November saw the release of a new course—the Six-Figure Author Challenge—that I co-ran with Lee Savino. That went well—over 70% of people who joined the Ultimate version submitted their one page marketing strategy, which, if you’ve run an online course before, is ridiculously high participation. So that felt good—taking what I’ve learned from teaching over the past year and a half, combining it with Lee’s knowledge, and creating something that, based on feedback, people got a lot out of and took action on.

Unanticipated—and unexpected—however, was the time it took to deliver the course. I’ve run courses in the past, so this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Previously, however, I had ignored the time commitment. It’s easy to discount tasks as “not counting” or imagining that they require minutes when, in fact, they might demand hours. To an extent, this is useful: if we accurately assessed everything a project entailed, the crushing weight of hundreds of hours could make it difficult to get started. But things like writing announcement emails, sending out replays, posting course content—these all take actual minutes that add up to hours. Nonetheless, they must be done to actually deliver said course; without them, the trains do not arrive and leave on time.

As a result, fiction writing quickly fell by the wayside as I balanced the course with client work.

The principle, since most do not run ads for clients or courses for authors: it’s easy to dismiss necessary tasks like formatting your books, proofreading, emailing with cover designers, and so forth as being free of associated time costs. Some of these items can be outsourced to an assistant if you wish, but some will always fall under your purview. And time that is occupied by one task cannot be given to another.

That much is obvious, of course. Thus, it was not surprising when the fiction writing started strong only to immediately hit a wall once the challenge kicked off. For the most part, I had so much work during the last two-thirds of November that the fiction was barely an afterthought. So it’s mostly after the fact, where one must be wary. Removed from the maelstrom of emails, messages, and administrative tasks that are mandatory but quickly forgotten to the sands of time, it seems like there was all this available time and energy to do more.

But there wasn’t. I averaged 6.2 hours of sleep in November (I’ve tracked this for awhile). There wasn’t some secret treasure trove of time or second gear to hit; things were running at maximum capacity. Perception and reality can still differ, however, even in the face of hard data. This feeling of being able to do more is only exacerbated by the boundless workday one enjoys as a solopreneur. This is the ultimate double-edged sword: with the freedom to make your own schedule, we’re acutely aware that, whatever we’re doing at that moment, we could be doing something else – whether that’s when we’re asleep or taking a short break. This feeling even crops up during work tasks, where there might be a neverending pull to do something else that’s “more important” or some urgent task that, like milk on the countertop, feels as if it’s slowly expiring with every second you don’t get it done. Thus it’s easy to deceive oneself into thinking, that, if one is not filling every waking moment with tasks, then a full effort was not given.

Truth is, sharp focus demands a white-hot intensity to it that cannot be sustained for hours on end. Rest is required even if one is walking; if one is sprinting, however, then more frequent and longer breaks are often mandatory. Otherwise one hits a wall where they’re crawling on the ground, unable to progress much further.

Such energy limits are immediately obvious when it comes to physical tasks, but lost when it comes to mental ones. Mind over matter is invoked to suggest that we can push through any barriers. And certainly some can be traversed, or we encounter false signals where we’re really just procrastinating. But there are limits to pushing through. And failing to acknowledge as such leads to a decline in output and work quality. Because you start to sacrifice rest, sleep, and health in favor of crawling a few extra feet. Here’s the problem: the person who took the time to get a solid night’s sleep might wake up 10 feet behind you. But once they start sprinting, they’re a mile ahead. And that only compounds over time, as your crawling speed gets slower and they put more and more distance between you and them.

It’s surprising, then, that I was able to get as much done as I did, given that rest was in short supply during the month. And it’s not surprising that finishing Drop Dead, which I’d hoped to do, became a nonstarter, as tying plot threads and character arcs together demands a certain level of concentration and energy that, upon finishing urgent course and client-related tasks, simply wasn’t available for my own work. But, in the future, the secret to doing more would actually be doing less; trading in a couple work hours for sleep.

NOVEMBER KPIs

  • TOTAL WORDS: 10,100 fiction words
  • URBAN FANTASY ORGANIC SUBSCRIBERS:  2,081 > 2,126 (+45) (+400 on year)
  • NON-FICTION ORGANIC SUBSCRIBERS: 2,368 > 2,482 (+114) (+1116 on year)
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