Sunday, May 25, 2014
Balancing Multiple and Competing Demands
These last two months my primary goal was to complete two book projects that have been in my queue for a while. It was an ambitious undertaking, trying to complete both together, but I thought that I could work on one, and when I got mentally tired I would simply switch to the other one.
I quickly realized that didn't work for me - I need to have only one thing I am constantly thinking about and percolating ideas for in the back of my mind. So I decided to work in phases - first one phase of one book, then another phase of another book. I have made more progress than I did trying to switch between the two, but I still can't help thinking this is horribly inefficient.
In a similar vein, I don't think I am properly able to strike the balance between writing my current books (and thus building up a catalogue of work), and marketing the books I have already written, and building my 'platform', that ubiquitious phrase that keeps being bandied about, and strikes fear into the heart of every writer who thinks building a platform sounds awfully like 'make my carpet fly'.
Initially I did do the social media thing, but keeping up with it really eats up too much head space for me, and there isn't much room left for ideas for my work. Not to mention its really easy to waste hours chasing links, or comparing yourself to others wondering why you have so few followers, or why your books aren't selling as well.
In other fields I am sure there are similar problems. Should I work on my presentation, or hang out in the break room getting office gossip that might benefit me in some way? Should I attend yet another networking event where I may get some leads, or go home on time for once and hit the gym, since I hardly ever exercise anymore?
I was having this conversation with my mom a few days ago - the world is becoming more complex and difficult, there are more demands on us than ever before, and while its easy to see some distractions for what they are (Candy Crush isn't going to move your career forward), others aren't so easy to categorise. Some authors (like Cal Newport) famously eschew all social media as distractions from the substance of their work. Others swear by these tools as essential to their success.
I fall somewhere in the middle - I acknowledge the usefulness of these tools, but I also realize that they call for more discipline and mindfulness from me - I need to actively decide to what extent and when I will use these tools, or for that matter how I will divide my time between writing and marketing. And that just means I need to work on making myself more effective, and knowing what works for me. It's daunting, and I always second-guess myself, but that's maybe the price to pay for trying to have it all.