Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Time Out With Brenda Novak

With INSIDE and IN SECONDS just out, and IN CLOSE and a historical romance called THE BASTARD just about to be released, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. There’s so much to do! Which brings up issues of time management. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis. Why? Because one thing I don’t plan into my day is time to relax and just “hang,” and that’s so important to relationships. Just being available to people is a great way to build stronger ties, but being available requires flexibility which is difficult for me and other workaholics to manage. If my kids want to go somewhere or create something, I can put it on the calendar and make it happen. But what about those times when certain subjects wouldn’t come up if you weren’t just puttering around the house together, cooking or cleaning or shooting the breeze? My weakness in this area is why I don’t consider myself an expert on this subject. I think I’m great at getting stuff done. People ask me all the time, “How do you do it all?” But time management shouldn’t be about accomplishing the most in the least amount of time. It should be about balance, about nurturing those around us while we accomplish a reasonable amount.

So now that you know my greatest weakness (I’ve actually had to set goals to stop what I’m doing and let the rest go until tomorrow—LOL), I’ll tell you how I manage to write three books (and one novella) a year, travel, speak and promote my books, run a major charity fundraiser and raise five kids. First of all, I do it by taking care of myself. Sometimes the hour I take out of my day for exercise seems like a waste. There are so many other things I want to do with that time. But I remind myself that if I’m healthy and have energy, I will be able to accomplish more in less time. And it’s true. If I get enough rest and exercise, I feel strong and capable, and it makes a big difference in my daily output.

Another sure-fire trick is to prioritize what must be done each day and to do the most important things first. That may sounds like a no-brainer, and yet it’s so easy to get diverted. If exercising every day is your goal, do it first thing in the morning. But if it’s more important for you to write ten pages a day, start with that instead. That way, when the unexpected intrudes as the hours progress, and the day begins to get away from you, you’ll still accomplish those things that are most important to you.
Keeping myself on an even emotional keel is another thing that really increases my productivity. This isn’t always easy, of course. Problems crop up, sorrows intrude, accidents happen. But developing some type of inner peace helps you withstand the emotional buffeting that goes along with the bumps of life. Some people use meditation. Others read an inspiring story. Still others keep a gratitude journal. All of these are great techniques. A few minutes of meditation is what I do. It brings me right back to my center. And if it doesn’t, I begin counting my blessings—taking a look at what I’ve got instead of what I don’t have.

And who doesn’t like killing two birds with one stone? I print out pages from my current WIP and edit while I ride my Exercycle. I listen to research programs on True Crime TV while I clean house. I read my latest manuscript to my husband whenever he has to drive somewhere for work. And, probably the best thing I’ve done to date, I’ve hired an assistant. I thought this was something I shouldn’t allow myself—being raised by a frugal mother I felt as if I couldn’t justify such a luxury—but I’ve been able to extend my reach on so many fronts, thanks to this decision.

How do you increase your productivity? Do you agree that time management is more about balance than it is about working every minute? How do you make yourself take time out?


Excerpt from In Close:

Relieved to think she’d be leaving, she closed the files. But just as she slid them into the accordion holder, a noise from below brought her head up.
What was that?
Movement? If so, whoever or whatever made that noise was definitely bigger than a rat.
She’d thought she heard footsteps when she first arrived—and there’d been no one here.
Irritated that she kept spooking herself, she climbed down the ladder. She’d just set foot on the stairs heading to the first floor when a draught of cool air, smelling distinctly of smoke from the fireworks, swept up to meet her.
Fresh air. From outside...
“Hello?” she called.
No answer. No corresponding rustle, either.
She angled her flashlight in as many directions as she could to illuminate the dark recesses below, but the beam would only reach so far. “Anybody there?”
Her mind conjured the gruesome images that sometimes came to her in nightmares, images of her mother being tortured and strangled by some crazed psychopath. Most people were killed by someone in their circle of family and friends. But not all. Murders committed by strangers were some of the most difficult to solve.
Is that why no one had been able to figure out what happened? Was her mother’s killer lurking in the shadows, waiting for her to move closer?
Half-expecting the truth she’d been chasing for so long to become apparent in the worst possible way, she stood as if her feet were encased in concrete. The possibility of a violent ending didn’t escape her.
But there were no footsteps, no madman rushing toward her, no more movement.
Had she imagined the change in temperature? The noise? In such an old structure, even a slight wind caused creaks and groans.
She wasn’t convinced it was the wind, but she didn’t see how remaining on the landing, holding her breath was going to help. She needed to get out.
Tightening her grip on the files, she crept down the stairs, using her flashlight to scout for trouble—until she reached the living room. Then she aimed the beam straight ahead, right where she wanted to go, and ran for the door. But just as she reached it, she couldn’t help twisting around to take a look behind her.
And that was when she saw it.
A man’s booted foot.
Someone crouched behind her mother’s old piano.


Mary Preston said...

I find that by being organized I get so much more done, then there is time to spare for myself.

Patricia said...

I Brenda - nice post. I agree wholeheartedly - taking care you one's self is one of the most important things anyone can do.

My time management involves making lists and sticking to them. I am a huge list maker, probably too much so, but it keeps me on time and on task. And I rarely forget anything or misplace anything.

Keep up the good work. Can't wait to start your new series. Now that I have the complete autographed set, I need to start reading.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Gail said...

I have a routine to do all the daily chores and once they are done I can do the things I enjoy.But ther are some days I just need time for myself,then I lock myself in the bathroom with a soda,a book and some chocolate and take time for myself chores or no chores:)

The Reading Frenzy said...

Thanks for the tips Brenda but most of all for the way they work because you rock my world with your novels, so always follow your advice :)