Fair warning: I say “I” a lot in this post, given that it’s a behind the scenes post. If you’re not into that sort of thing, feel free to move on.
My posting frequency has been fairly erratic here for the past month or so, if you haven’t been able to tell. I’ll post four times in one week, then post once or twice, then four times the next week, then once or twice. While I’ve never had a rigid posting frequency, this is unusual. You’d think a guy that designed blog post planners and calendars would have his crap together, but alas, the cobbler has no shoes.
The backstory here is convoluted and I’ve been trying to piece it together, since I’m not a fan of just throwing random lists up about what’s been going on. The short story is that I’ve been going through a fairly intense period of change, as well as doing a lot of work. The long story is what follows.
Wearing New Hats — And They Still Itch
As some of you know, Angela (my wife) is finishing up her dissertation, and we’re down to crunch time. I’ve been in a support role off and on since April, and most of the time whether I’m off or on depends on things that are largely out of both of our control. Alongside doing for Angela what I do for my clients, I’ve also been tackling more household responsibilities. This has been a challenge for both of us because we historically have divided up labor and focus in effective ways, and we’ve both had to change expectations, communication strategies, and habits to make it work.
At the same time, I’ve been transitioning into being out of my command position in the Guard. I went from having urgent things to respond to almost every day to having…nothing. A few weeks of floundering ensued as I realized how much my workflow was built around that. It didn’t really reach fruition, though, until earlier last month when a bit of melancholy hit me.
I couldn’t figure out what it was. Clients were coming in — check. I still had a ton of interests and ideas to write about — check. The blog was growing — check. What was going on?
For the first time that I could remember in my adult life, I was bored. I developed the most fortunate of first world problems in that I had more time on my hands than I needed to do everything I had to do, and also for the first time in my life, I had the wisdom to see that and not feel that time up with a bunch of other busyness.
I was talking to Angela about this a few weeks ago and another realization hit me: this is the first time in my life that my summer isn’t defined by school. I’m not teaching, and in the status I’m in right now, the semesters coming and going are pretty much meaningless to me. I don’t have to try to cram fun stuff into the summer. But since I don’t have to fit it all in the summer, when do I do it?
On the Other Side of Time Management Is…Time Ownership
The overwhelming theme here is about me learning to use the time I do have wisely rather than trying to manage the time I don’t have. The first shock to my system came when I started doing coaching full-time, where I went from about 30% time ownership to about 70%. My Guard responsibilities subsiding took that 70% to about 95%. You’d be surprised how much difference that last 25% makes.
When you don’t have the resources you need, your choices are fairly straightforward since most of them are based on some constraint or necessity in one way or the other. But once you do have the resources you need, choices become much harder because you don’t have those constraints. As I said earlier, this is all new to me.
I was talking to a friend about how fortunate I’ve been to get to the point where I can have such “problems.” That’s not really being fair, though, since the reality is that I’ve worked my ass off and have taken a lot of risks to get to this point. Granted, I’ve enjoyed a lot of the work and I get to interact with some of the coolest people imaginable, but at rock bottom, it hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been handed to me.
This time four years ago, I was working my ass off in Kuwait as a logistics staff officer; time ownership was 0%. Three years ago, I was working full-time for the Guard (planning a Joint Force exercise): time ownership was about 30%. Two years ago, I had taken command while teaching and researching at the University; time ownership was about 20%. A year ago, I had made some progress on figuring out how to manage being an officer and an academic; time ownership was about 50%. (In case you’re wondering how I got back to 30% — I took a new full-time job where I was required to be somewhere eight hours a day.)
Throughout all of this has been a constant quest to do less of what I didn’t want to do and more of what I did want to do. When I got what I wanted, I simply didn’t know what to do with myself.
I should be clear about what I mean about time ownership, lest people wonder why I’m not in the Cayman Islands hearing the waves crash against the shore. I simply mean that how I spend my time is up to me, not that I don’t have things to do. I should also be clear that owning my time is not equivalent with me having enough money to do whatever I want to do. But therein lies the dangerous lure of entrepreneurship: you can convert time to money if you figure out how to and, most importantly, do it.
Time for Some Meaningful Productivity!! (Go Go Gadget MonkeyBrain!)
And it’s that doing bit that I’ve been working earnestly on. Whereas my posting frequency has been erratic, my writing frequency, and the amount I write, has increased. What you’ve seen on the blog is about a third of what I’ve been writing, depending on which week it’s been; on the weeks I posted four times, it’s been about 1/2 — on the weeks you haven’t seen much, it’s been about a quarter.
In the “down time” that I’ve reclaimed, I’ve been doing a lot of playing with my workflow. We redid our IT infrastructure since our workflow changed dramatically, and a week of screwing around off and on with computers ensued. I started writing longhand (I have stuff to post about this) and found that I was more effective at writing some kinds of blog posts by long-hand drafting, but other kinds of blog posts were more difficult to write. After I got the computers all set up, I switched back to writing on a laptop, but then content aggregation became an annoyance. Things are about set up correctly now.
I confirmed (again) a phenomenon about my own creativity (which applies fairly universally) — the more I create, the more I create. If I sit down to write one blog post, it’ll fork into two or three. One design spawns two others. And so on.
So, while ramping up my own productivity, I’ve been trying to figure out what the right frequency of posting is for me. I could do the shorter posts every day, and while they tend to do better traffic and comment-wise, they also aren’t as fulfilling to me, largely because I have a tendency to stick to shorter posts and don’t write the stuff that I haven’t quite figured out. I could also do one long post a week, but then I want to write more since I really like the conversations.
Amidst all of this is the fear that I’m adding to the noise. The problem here is that I have very little objective perspective about what will be good and what will be great. Tempering my urge to share and carry conversations is, on the one hand, the fear that it’s not worth your time and, on the other hand, the feeling that I should be spending more time on the other big thing I’m working on.
Beyond Blog Posts
You know when people say “People have been asking me for this [product] for a long time, so finally, by popular demand, here it is!” There are eight ways from Sunday to say it, but the basic idea is that the person is claiming that someone asked them to write down their great ideas. I hate when people pull such ploys. Ick.
Yet I find myself in the position that people really are asking me to write an ebook, a book, or something that condenses a bunch of the ideas here on the blog into a cohesive product. And the past few months of reflection, coaching, and writing have made some things gel for me to the point that I could do this.
The past year of direct work in this area has been akin to finding one puzzle piece at a time, sharing it with you, and then digging to find another piece. Those pieces are starting to come together as a cohesive whole, or, to be more honest with where I am today, parts of the picture are clumping together. I don’t have enough of it together to tell whether I’m dealing with one product or two, but it’s a lovely synthesis of ideas that’s coming together in a picture that’s changing the way I think. I like what I’ve done thus far, and that says a lot.
We’re in the Home Stretch
Angela submitted the last bit of her dissertation to her adviser yesterday and we’re waiting on his commentary, but, as things go, the heavy writing component of her dissertation is done. It’ll be in her committee’s hands for the next few weeks, and she’ll defend it on July 10th. A new chapter of our lives will begin after that’s all said and done, but that chapter won’t have a clean break, given that I still need to finish my dissertation. One hurdle at a time.
I’m making progress on this thing I’m writing, although saying it’s steady would be a stretch. It comes to me about 10 pages at a time, followed by a few days of me playing hide-and-go-seek with the ideas. I’m mostly okay with this — I’m familiar with the process since I coach others through it all the time — but I’m also looking forward to having something to share with you.
Since I don’t have anything else interesting to add, I’ll close by saying how much I appreciate your continued support and patience as we bring some of these projects to a close. Thank you.
Oh, and “Drive” refers to the song that stuck out in my mind when I started writing this post. Let’s end with a video, shall we?
Thanks for the “I” post. I think many of us can identify with these difficulties. I am also going through big changes in demands on my time (though I “own” all of it).
Figuring out how to use time wisely is such an important step. I suspect that some shorter “not quite figured out” posts would be helpful to lots of people who are also figuring out similar things.
Congrats to Angela on finishing the diss. I foresee lots of other changes in your lives that might follow from that. As for yours, I have some ideas but I’ll send them by e-mail.
JoVEs last blog post..From Conference Presentation to Journal Article
Oh, and thanks for the video. I’m older than you and “drive” immediately made me think of the Cars. Glad to have a different song to stick to that title.
JoVEs last blog post..From Conference Presentation to Journal Article
Suzanne @ vAssistant Services says
Charlie – it does my heart good to know I’ve got company in the odd-feeling boat I’m rowing at the moment. I sense a strong 3rd party observer perspective in your post that is both familiar (I feel like I’m watching myself thrash around a lot) and encouraging (watching the thrashing, I also see the progress I’m making.)
Amen… that’s what most of the thrashing around over here is about. 🙂 But, I far prefer this to the panicked overwhelm that preceded it for so long.
Suzanne @ vAssistant Servicess last blog post..What Pages Should Your Site Have?
Positively Present says
Great post! Incubus’s song is amazing and I always find it so inspiring every time I listen to it. Thanks for posting it and sharing about your personal experience with your readers. I’m pretty sure a LOT of people get what they want and have no idea what to do afterward. That can be a really weird feeling, but recognize that you’re not alone in that.
Positively Presents last blog post..hope springs internal
Karl Staib - Work Happy Now says
Sounds like you are figuring out a new work pattern. To me that’s always a good thing. It’s an opportunity to carve a new creative path. I’m sure you already know this.
Hopefully all goes well on July 10th. If your blog is any indication on how much work was put into the dissertation then I’m sure it will be a hit.
Karl Staib – Work Happy Nows last blog post..Free Work Happy Now Workshop In Austin
This was a wonderful, honest read. It’s wonderful to read about how your path is unfolding, and the comments above show that it helps a lot of us in our own.
I actually love your long posts, because they reveal the nuances of your perspective, and they always seem to radiate compassion, wisdom, and feelings of ripe possibility.
Zoes last blog post..What is Naked Creativity to You?
Wow… 2 concepts in this post really struck chords with me: “Time Ownership” and “the more I create, the more I create.” It’s important to name our all-too-familiar shared experiences, and you definitely nailed the naming of these two.
All the best with the dissertations!
I don’t believe I’ve commented here before, but I have been reading for about a month or more now.
Almost every single post you have written since I subscribed, and many of the ones you wrote before that, have hit me squarely between the eyes. So many of my current issues and fumbles in my business and personal lives (entwined as they are, especially because I have an ittybiz I’m working to build up) have found solutions, or at least similar experiences, in your writing.
So thank you for writing, thank you for sharing this today, and please don’t worry about how often you write. I feel honored every time one of your posts makes its way to me.
Rachaels last blog post..Yes, I Know I Already Posted Today, But This Couldn’t Wait
Ulla Hennig says
I like that idea of “Time Ownership” very much. And I like your longer posts as well!
@JoVE: I really appreciate you saying something about the “not quite figured out” posts, as I have a metric buttload of those. I should probably take my own advice and just start some conversations about them since that’s usually how I figure most stuff out anyways. Looking forward to your email about changes….
@Suzanne: Yeah, I’ll take the thrashing around on this side of it any day, as well. Making meaning is hard, though – no wonder everyone doesn’t do it.
@PositivelyPresent: I’m learning how to play the song on my guitar. One day, maybe, I’ll record my playing of it and share it.
@Karl: The truth of the matter is that Angela’s work far exceeds my own. She won’t agree, but that’s okay. Her advisors are recommending that she puts it up for national awards, so yeah, it’s really good. And thanks for the comment about the blog!
I needed to hear that, since one of my fears is diving into nuances when I know that that’s just not done on the interwebs. And it’s especially nice to hear about what they radiate. Thank you.
@Craig: I’m glad those stuck! I’ve been writing more about those behind the scenes. More to come. Mwahahaha!
This comment showed up the other day and really made my day. It, along with JoVe’s suggestion, has really motivated me to do more writing. Thank you for reading and sharing!
”¨@Ulla: Another one for the Time Ownership. YAY! Oh, and for the longer posts bit, too!
Sherrill Leverich-Fries says
Wow! Talk about a post and comments that resonated…. I LOVE your blog, Charlie, for all the reasons other commenters have listed, and more. One of the reasons I love it, I think, is that my own rhythms necessitate time to alternate between “Deep Thoughts, Pondering My Belly Button and the Clouds Floating By” and “Get Off My Butt and Get Sh*t Done!”. Your blog posts allow and encourages me to do both, as well as give my tools for both, so I keep coming back. If you were too much one or the other, I wouldn’t find as much relevance and in a fit of clearing out things that weren’t supporting me to be my best, I would probably end up unsubscribing.
And, THANK you for giving me a name for the floundering I am feeling! Time Ownership – wow. I have been trying to use Time Management skills and scheduling myself to better manage myself and my time, and I’m resisting it. I understand now why that hasn’t been working and that I need a different approach.