Why Indie Authors Must Compartmentalize
Hi there! It’s Kell, and I was on vacation at Gearhart, Oregon, so naturally this is a little late. I totally missed Wednesday as my computer wouldn’t function, and I was tired.
Now, while I was on that beach trip to Gearhart (check out my Instagram for pictures!), I realized something about myself. It’s something that may very well make all the difference in my life.
More specifically it’s a skill I need to be successful—the skill of compartmentalization*.
*AND NO NOT THE PSYCHOLOGICAL WAY! DON’T DO THAT! And if you do find yourself shutting down everything but thought about a traumatic event, get help.
LET ME TELL YOU A LITTLE STORY
Once upon a time there was a girl named Kell who was frankly very bad at getting things done. Well, not that she didn’t get things done—she did. It just seemed to take too long is all, and she wasn’t satisfied with the results.
Now, she was an author and a blogger and a writing teacher and goodness knows what else, and like many people she also had a life.
Between them, she felt like she was running ragged half the time, and the other time she was worrying about being run ragged.
This didn’t do.
Well, one day as she scrolled through Facebook, she saw a word: compartmentalize. She Googled some articles on it and was quickly engrossed (forgetting where she’d saw it originally in the first place, by the way).
Though apparently a pretty common term, Kell wasn’t very familiar with it or with the idea. Nor had she really put any thought into it.
But now she had to.
KELL’S LIFESTYLE NEEDED A CHANGE
(p.s. this is in past tense, but really I’m still working on it, sooo “Kell’s lifestyle NEEDS a change”!)
It all comes from not being able to do one thing because a thousand other things are in the way. It all comes from not being able to enjoy simple stuff because you feel like you should be doing something else.
One example that hit Kell pretty hard was when she was playing at the beach with her nieces, nephew, and brothers. Even as she frolicked in the waves (I’m super awkward, but what the heck, call it frolicking), she felt like she should be doing something else.
Writing, maybe? Working on a blog post? Not getting soaked by water? Shouldn’t she be taking pictures for her Instagram or asking someone else to?
And Kell slowly started to realize … it wasn’t just writing-related things that were making it hard to live life. It was also writing-related things bumping into each other, making it difficult for any one to get her full attention.
WHY INDIE AUTHORS MUST COMPARTMENTALIZE
Compartmentalize — divide into sections or categories.
The ability to separate each of your jobs as an author is an important but necessary distinction. After all, as an author you are …
- The writer (outlining, drafting, editing)
- The marketer (social media, email lists, launch teams, blog tours, ads)
- The editor (whether you hire out or do it yourself)
- The cover designer (whether you hire out or do it yourself)
- The publisher
I myself added some extra jobs on to that:
- Book reviewer
- Writing teacher
- Manager of Reveries Co. (and all it involves)
- Interior Formatter
- Occasional Graphic Designer
- Blog tour host
But it’s not like I live solely on the computer. I have (and this is just what comes to mind even though they overlap some):
- Myself/my “mental health”/really just not dying
- A family
- A day job
- Various volunteering thingys (AWANAs)
Basically, I am pretty busy, and it feels like my list of duties is ever-expanding rather than shrinking.
Ideally, you work more so you, in the end, can work less—and ideally, you’ll feel better if you concentrate on the things that aren’t work-related more often.
So far that hasn’t proven true for me, though recently I’ve been seeing things from more of a business perspective. This helped me realize I need to slice production in half for the products I’m creating and the reward I’m receiving and the time I’m giving.
However, that’s a slow process, and when you, like me, are in the beginning stages and have a million things to do, it’s overwhelming.
QUESTIONS BEGIN TUGGING AT ME
Is being an author really all it’s cracked up to be? Should I go traditional so at least the editing, cover design, publishing dates/actual process, and some of the marketing is up to someone else?
Am I a good teacher? Should I give it up? Am I truly able to give my all to my students and give everything else up? Would I be insane to drop it so I can focus more seriously on the things that aren’t lending me a steady income?
What about my day job? What about volunteering? Do they need to be given up if I’m going to pour myself into being an author?
Can I manage Reveries Co. and still do everything else?
Should I abandon my family and live in a gutter?
Thoughts, definitely. Tempting thoughts. But I want to make a success of everything I’m going. I know I can do it. But I’m just getting too distracted by the things I have to do, by the different areas of my life.
And I’m trying to lump it all together into one mess.
So I’ve been learning to compartmentalize my life.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY THAT?
A couple weeks back I made a to do list. It was over three pages long, things that needed done soon or that I was working on over time.
I eventually divided this list into 6 categories: Kellyn Roth, Reveries, Reveries Co., YWL, Coach Kell, and Life.
But the thing is, everything I associated with any one thing was overwhelming. That’s because I had it all lumped together. That’s because I couldn’t think of it as any less than one united whole pressing down on me.
This book, that book, edits round 1, talking to my cover designer, a thousand words to write every day, marketing for a blog tour, one responsibility after another.
I get overwhelmed in a hurry.
EVEN THAT MINOR BREAK DOWN WASN’T HELPING
After all, I was grouping all my time together.
“Right now I have three hours to do all these different writing things.” In that I’ll include finishing a student’s homework, writing a blog post, finishing a chapter of The Dressmaker’s Secret, and updating the WIP page on my blog.
… whoops? Can you say overwhelming?
So I hop from the homework to the editing to the blog post to the WIP page and get distracted plenty of times along the way.
I wasn’t compartmentalizing. I wasn’t telling myself these were different things even though I knew very well they were.
This is terribly basic, but I was struggling with it big time.
WHAT DO I WANT TO DO?
I want to isolate the problems – tackle one thing at a time. I want to be productive and get everything done that needs to be done—without worrying about the next item on the to-do list.
So I break it down into little sections. “Right now I have 20 minutes to write. Nothing else, not even answering important emails or chatting with my friends, will happen before then. After that I’ll—” and so on.
As I worked on figuring out how to compartmentalize, I looked it up and read some articles.
- 5 Steps to Becoming a Master at Compartmentalization, and a Calmer More Engaged Leader
- 11 Successful Women On How They Compartmentalize
- How to Compartmentalize Time to Boost Productivity & Get More Done
- Compartmentalize and Integrate: Five Ways to Handle It ‘All’
BUT … YOU CAN’T JUST SHOVE EVERYTHING UNDER THE RUG.
For instance, God doesn’t get put into a compartment. He’s gotta be in ‘em all and in the spaces in between.
Also, sometimes it is literally impossible to not let things like grief and depression interfere with everything. In that case, let’s not be pushing through—let’s be stopping and dealing.
I STILL THINK IT’S HELPING
It’s good for me to not, for instance, stop everything every time I get an email to answer it. It’s good for me to let it sit for now.
In part because of the way my parents refer to it and in part because of the way I think of it, I have considered anything I do on a computer or device to be the same thing.
That means I think of writing and scrolling through Pinterest as “computer time.” That means it doesn’t matter if I’m formatting someone’s book for $300 or sending random messages to my friend for nothing.
And even if you don’t quite have it as bad as I do, you might think of marketing, writing, and editing as the same thing even though those put you in vastly different brain spaces.
But this has given me a fresh perspective, and though it’s basic, I feel a lot more inspired to conquer life with this outlook!
Anywaysss, that’s something I’ve been working on lately! (Who knew that I really sucked at this whole authoring thing? ? Okay, not really, but that’s the way it feels every time I realize something weird I’m doing wrong!)
I do have an “announcement post” coming out Monday, God willing. It’s a big announcement. A great one! An exciting one. ?
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How do you manage your various tasks? Do you tend to muddy the waters of your writing/authoring life by lumping it all together? Are you good or bad at time management? Are you excited for my announcement this Monday or just eh’ed? ?
THIS THIS THIS! YAY Kell! This is seriously life changing. I haven’t thought about it using that word (compartmentalize), but this is a concept I see a lot from productive, successful people. It’s about focus and self-discipline. Multi-tasking is (usually, for the most part) a myth that derails focus. So happy to read all this from you and to hear it’s working! I wholeheartedly support you in it!
And I hear you on the “computer time.” Nope, it’s not just all computer time. 😛 A computer is just a tool: a work tool or a play tool, and one can’t claim to be working when one is playing. I love your practical steps: “20 minutes for writing only.” When I set focused goals like that, I’m much more productive too. Keep it up!
Yep, exactly! A lot of people who really make their businesses, etc., work seem to be good at not multitasking but rather at focusing … and so I’d better get on that! 😛
Yep, exactly! I was like, “Hold up. This is not all the same.” 😛
I think this is great advice, Kell! *gives you a thumbs up*