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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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Monday
Nov152010

Writing more in less time

Thanks to Windows Phone 7 for sponsoring this post. See the end of the post for details on a Windows Phone 7 giveaway.

Windows asked me to write about doing more with less, so last night I decided that instead of making chocolate chip cookies, I'd simply shovel chocolate chips in my mouth. That's less, after all. That didn't quite satisfy, however, even after I let the chips sit in there for a while and melt. I considered adding some butter, but that seemed like too much work, frankly.

Then I realized I really like peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies so I shoveled some peanut butter in my maw as well. And what do you know? That was better than some stupid cookies. Better = MORE!

A quiet voice in the back of my sugar-addled mind told me that I was possibly not quite getting the concept of doing more with less, so I stopped to consider how the concept applied to my life. Then I fell asleep. But this morning I woke up, as one does, and my first thought was, "I have a half-hour to write this post." My second thought was, "Thank GOD." Because a small window of time is the only way I can get any writing done. And I do believe that's doing more with less, Windows! BLAMMO!

There is nothing that will murder any chance of productivity for me like waking up to an obligation-free, unscheduled day. Henry's going straight to a playdate after school and won't be home until 6, I have a slow work week, and I'm out of errands to run? Well, I tell myself, that means I have hours in which to consort with the muse, obviously! I'll sit down at my computer and oh, the places my mind will go! I have all the time in the world to write the best blog post ever written. No--five of the best blog posts ever written. Or I'll finally finish that novel I began in 1996. Hell, I can do all of these things. I have all the time in the world!

But when I sit down at my computer with all that emptiness stretching ahead of me, panic sets in. That's a lot of time. I need to get a lot done, in that much time. And it better be good, too, because I have no reason to phone it in. I have time. Time means quality. If I write something terrible, that means I'm a terrible writer. Crap. I'm hungry.

So I decide to make breakfast. And since I have all these hours ahead of me, I have time to make myself a real breakfast. No need for a bowl of cereal, like some rushed breakfast-eating chump. But before I do that, I should check Twitter and see what's going on. Oh, look, someone linked to a funny video! Thank goodness I have time to watch it, as I have so very much time. And look, there are all these related, also funny videos! I never noticed how many videos there are of kitty cats flushing toilets. Those are always fun. I normally don't have time to watch those, as I'm rushing about.

Then I look up and it's eight hours later and Henry is home from his playdate and I'm still in my bathrobe.

I am convinced, after all these years, that the two most useful tools in my writing arsenal are: 1) limited time and 2) low expectations. If I have four hours to write, I will expect greatness, or at least quality, and my chattering brain will be consumed with what "quality" means and whether or not I'm approaching it, and as a result I'll avoid work. I'll dawdle and daydream and check my email like it's the only thing keeping me alive. If I have an hour, however, I don't have time for these shenanigans. I have to focus. If I have a half-hour, my fingers better keep moving around that keyboard and words had better be appearing on screen, or I'm screwed.

Even when I have only fifteen minutes, I can get some quality work done. If I can sit down and still the endless chatter in my brain, when those fifteen minutes are up, I find that I've made more progress on a project than I had all week. Because I don't expect much from fifteen minutes. All I expect is a few paragraphs, and maybe to have gained some momentum. And sometimes that's all I need.

So hey, if you want a Windows Phone 7 of your very own, you can win one right here! To enter, leave a comment of 25 words or more about how you do more when you have less time. You've got until November 29 (midnight PT) and you can enter once a day. On the 29th, I'll pick a winner using random.org and post it here. Here are the official, long-winded rules about this contest.

Reader Comments (299)

I do more with less with my laptop. I use my email, contact friends via Facebook, pay bills, look for recipes, get parenting advice, look up my childs school info, ect. I save so much time using my laptop that I hope makes my little ones happy. I love having more time with my girls.

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Collins

When I have less time, I end up getting more done by using to-do lists, and constantly checking things off. The more items I see checked off, the more energy I have to complete the rest!

November 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Don't put me in the running for the phone. I just replaced my iPhone 4.

I just wanted to tell you that this post is a little slice of brilliance. Love.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie

Since we downgraded from two cars to one car, I technically have less time since I drive my husband to work and pick him up. However, I find myself getting more done because in the morning, I am forced to get going, shower, get dressed, dress the baby and get out the door- then on the way home we accomplish a few errands.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarb @ getupandplay

I stopped trying to keep up with the family's schedule on paper calendars and got us all on combined Google calendars instead. Much easier and less time consuming!

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

I am most productive during my busiest times. I work at a job where we have really, really busy months and then slower other months. When I have 900 things to get done, I am a scheduling master and can stay on task and get a huge amount done in very short periods of time. And as soon as it slows down even a little, I find myself taking forever to accomplish simple tasks and instead checking Twitter or poking around food blogs or chatting with coworkers. I wish it didn't work that way, but it does for me.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterneversent

Dang! I wanted to comment and say "are you my longlost twin and we were separated at birth, except I somehow got the curls and you got the straight hair? (you lucky dog, you!)" But lo, a contest.
Ok, ok, more with less. This is the title of a mennonite cookbook that I have which is totally awesome, in that it is the only cookbook I have ever seen that includes poems to bread. Also some decent recipes and some that make you want to throw up a little in your mouth (My Family Loves Liver, anyone?) Sigh...I bet I'm too long winded. Oh well, wouldn't have won anyway.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteredj

I get the most done in the couple of hours I'm awake, before I head into work. I work nights, so that's usually between 4-6pm. Even though I'm exhausted, I get a weird burst of energy (probably due to the massive amounts of coffee I consume), and putter around the house, doing dishes, vacuuming, and other random things. And then the other days of the week, I'm a TOTAL BUM.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Oh, my gosh,but deadlines are my friend. I would do NOTHING if it weren;t for deadlines. Wish it wasn't so, but there it is...

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteralexandra

I'm a graduate student, with a 2 year old son. So I always feel like I have less time, and too much to do. One thing I've learned is that when I procrastinate, to procrastinate by doing something else that needs doing. Don't feel like reading that paper? update my lab notebook. Don't feel like analyzing data? go do laundry!

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterW

I work better under pressure. So I actually am more productive when i have less time, but i also lag to the point of uselessness

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha

"I do my best work at the last minute." I'm not sure if this is actually true or not, but that's what I like to tell myself. I'm a procrastinator through and through. Most of my procrastinating involves cleaning and honestly who wants to clean anyways? As soon as you clean it just starts getting dirty again so I may as well put it off!

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpedrson

Procrastination is the story of my life... I don't work well with long deadlines. When in college, I could whip up a thesis just a couple of hours before dawn and have time for a cup of joe before my 8 o'clock class. When I hit the working world, it was the same... now that I am freelance and at home, I have to find another solution... any suggestions?! SOS?!

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCara

I get the most done around my house in the 10 minutes in the morning before I have to leave for work. I run around like a madman making the bed, cleaning the kitchen and tidying the bathroom. I'm pretty sure my husband thinks I'm nuts.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara

I have been home on maternity leave for 6 weeks with 4 more weeks to go. I have all the time in the world, but with a little baby I find that I am getting much less done! It remains to be seen, but I bet once I go back to work, I will find time (in less time!) to get just as much done.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I remember when I was not working - days would end before they began and I barely had anything accomplished. I was thinking how on earth will I fit 40+ hours of work into my already full weekly routine. Then I landed a full time job - plus add being a wife/mother, cooking-cleaning-laundry-shopping - and ta-dah! I still had time to read books and watch movies at the end of the day. My conclusion: less time stretches better.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkatya

I do more with less time by making lists, delegating the less important stuff, and focusing on the big stuff. Really I waste a TON of time trying to figure out why I even walked into THAT room in the first place, or finding a pen, reading emails, checking blogs, catching up on DVRed Real Housewives episodes or other ridiculousness. Then I do the important stuff fueled on a high of caffeine and desperation.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen C.

I'd write about how I do more with less, but the deadline is so far away, and obviously that means I can do it later. I'll check back when it's the 29th and I have seconds left to enter.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeace

I am the saaaame way! Procrastinator extraordinaire, right here - and since I'm a senior in college it isn't really the best way to be. When I know I have a month to write the 12-page paper I can't get a thing done, but two days before it's due? WATCH OUT. I definitely work best under pressure and time constraints. And since aforementioned 12-pager is due in about a week, it is almost time to get going ... almost.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

Prioritize.
What needs to get done first?
What can I not do and no one will notice?
And that is how I end up with natural armpits and my kid at school (almost) on time and I'm only half an hour late to work. That roll of toilet paper that fell in the toilet this morning? It'll still be there when I get home.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTatiana

Me with unscheduled time = tiny speck of pepper on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Overwhelmed without direction or focus, unable to move.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSallie

I actually have more time on my hands than I've had in the past two years, but still seem to get less done...lists are essential to keep me on task.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy

I ensure I do more with less as I set my kitchen timer for 15 minutes and then I clean the bathroom or the kitchen or whatever. I start with a corner and work out. I'm always amazed at how much I get done. It's always more than I thought possible. I sometimes even set the timer again. :)

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarah

The only thing that's ever--EVER--worked on my procrastination is self-delusion. I convince myself that I'm just setting out the prep materials, and I'll work on the project "for real" later, and soon enough I'm immersed in the work. Voila, procrastination becomes actual work.

I'm also one of those people who sets her clocks ahead by random intervals, so different devices will tell me it's 1:07, 1:05, 1:11 when it's really 12:59. Yes, I understand that it's pathetic that I haven't learned yet, but it still works after all these years!

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

Time management is a delicate matter when you arrive home at 5:30 with two starving children in tow, so I make it a priority to meal plan during the weekend (when I have more time, IN THEORY) and prep a little or lot (depending on how much time I have) on Sunday, so Tuesday evening doesn't crash and burn in the drive-thru at McDonalds.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbirdgal

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