Why I’m Against Butt-in-Chair, Hands-on-Keyboard

I caught Isabel mid-yawn on this one. What I get for disturbing the cozy winter’s nap with my photo-taking. She – like all cats – is the poster child for this week’s topic, which is balancing writing with physical and emotional health. There’s a catchphrase that writers like to pass around, about maintaining productivity: BICHOK, or Butt-in-Chair, Hands-on-Keyboard. I get that it’s a metaphor, meaning that you get writing done by actually writing, but it’s one I quibble with because I’m so against the sitting-down part. Come on over to find out more. 

Lessons from the Spreadsheet Queen

Get-It-Together-Blog-Hop-Graphic-big-510x510At the invitation of the lovely Alexandra Haughton (and Lindsay Emory, who I’m sure is also lovely, though I don’t think we’ve met), I’m participating in their Get It Together Blog Hop.

Because I am, you know, the uncrowned Spreadsheet Queen.

I began my love affair with Microsoft Excel as soon as it hit the market, using it in various day jobs. It was the tinkering with it for personal use that led me to understand its arcane inner workings. I love the formulas, the conditional formatting, the logic tests. I even make Gantt Charts! (You don’t know what a Gantt Chart is? Stick with me, Grasshopper.) I have my three favorite Excel Workbooks open at all times. In fact, here’s a shot of my screen as I draft this post.

Screenshot 2015-09-01 11.43.34You might have to blow it up to see the tabs at the bottom – but there’s Walking Goals, To Do List and Progress Count. Welcome to my world.

Walking Goals

I use a treadmill desk and keep track of my walking goals daily. I’m part of a Writers Who Walk Facebook group and our goal for the year is to walk at least 1,000 miles. You can see from the screenshot below that I’m at about 780 miles so far for 2015, or 78% of the goal. As we’re only about 67% through the year, conditional formatting shows that green Yes! I am on target. Actually I could do zero walking until October 12 before we hit the red No.

Screenshot 2015-09-01 11.48.14

To Do List

I keep a running To Do List. If I don’t finish tasks set for one day, I move them to the next. My list is rather shockingly empty this week – and thank all the gods for that! I’ve finally caught up on a slew of things. Some days I have twenty task on there. I delete as I go, so you can see that “spreadsheet post for tomorrow” listed for Tuesday will vanish very soon. I love deleting!

Screenshot 2015-09-01 11.55.59Sharp-eyed readers will note I also track carbs, shows people recommend, books I’ve read and other sundry topics.

Progress Count

The Progress Count workbook is where I really geek out. I’ve been using some version of this workbook for easily twenty years, with continuing refinements along the way. The first tab is Priorities, where I track my deadlines, all of which have interconnected formulas. That is, start dates for the next project are calculated off the projected finish dates of others.

Screenshot 2015-09-01 12.15.58I track every step – drafting, cooling (which usually corresponds to crit partner reading time), revising, and all stages of editing for my publishing houses. I preserve these histories, too, and use them to project my finish dates. Right now this tab only projects out about six months, though in the past it’s been as long as two years.

The next tab is Commitments, in which I use all of those dates to make Gantt charts, like this one.

 

 CommitmentI love these because the let me visually process what I’m loading my plate with – especially those dreaded periods of overlap. I also plug in workshops I’ll teach, as you can see. There’s another chart with release dates, too, for visualizing that periodicity.

Then there’s my Overall tab, which counts my daily word count on everything. This is the origin page, which spawned all the others. I track how much I write – including blogging like this – on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Those are the numbers from Monday, as I hadn’t yet reset it for today. The Words Today section counts from all the ensuing tabs, which follow, one per work in progress.

Screenshot 2015-09-01 12.29.36For example, here’s the tab for THE PAGES OF THE MIND. I finished drafting it, sent it to my editor and now I’m working on developmental edits. Over to the right of the page you can see my revision goal, which is predicated on pages/day, instead of wordcount. I count the words added anyway, for my overall goals.

Screenshot 2015-09-01 12.36.33Finally, I keep charts of my weekly,Weekly chartmonthly Montlhy chartand annual counts!

 Annual chart I’m happy to entertain questions in the comments!

Meanwhile, feel free to join the blog hop Rafflecopter giveaway – many prize packs to be had!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Personal Best – Chasing that Moving Target

shoelacesI have not always been this person I am these days. The one who puts on her cross-trainers to run in the morning and later to walk at my treadmill desk. In fact, I recall this one time that my colleagues teased me about it. I arrived to work with them in Salt Lake City after the main team had been there a couple of days already. We were starting a big project and a bunch of newbies were being trained. I walked in the room, having just flown in, and my boss says, “I told you all that would be Jeffe.” I asked how she knew and she said by the clicking of my heels. I happened to be wearing a pair of high-heeled Enzo Angiolini boots I still miss – a lovely light buff suede that eventually became too soiled to rescue – that I’d bought at DSW in Boston on another work trip. At any right I told her that heels didn’t necessarily mean me and she said no, but that I always wear them. Then she asked me if I even owned a pair of sneakers or athletic shoes.

At the time, no, I did not.

Like I said, I’m a different person now. Especially since I’ve learned to tie my shoelaces correctly.

It’s funny to remember this, but once upon a time, tying my shoelaces was a Big Freaking Deal. I must have been five, in Kindergarten, and I got pulled out of class for a series of days for “Special Tutoring.” Because I could not tell time or tie my shoelaces. I know, right? With the telling time thing, keep in mind that they wanted me to be able to on an analog clock and we had all digital clocks at home. With the shoelaces…we’ll get to that.

So, this was kind of humiliating for me. I mean, I saw myself as a smart kid. I could already read on my own by then. I’d shocked the hell out of my mom by spelling, then sounding out the name of our grocery store. (Naturally, words were my first and best skill.) I really hated feeling stupid about the time thing and the shoelace thing. Frustrated, too, because despite all that Special Tutoring, I still got it wrong easily half the time.

Looking back, I’ve realized I probably had dyslexia. I only figured this out in college, when I was tired and actually saw a road sign arrow flip back and forth horizontally. It explained the analog clocks that showed me two different times at once, my baffling tendency to run the ball over the wrong goal line and those shoelaces that wouldn’t stay tied.

It’s amusing then to find out that I’d been tying my shoelaces WRONG. After all that Special Tutoring, they didn’t even teach me correctly.

If you don’t know, there IS a correct way to tie shoelaces so that they don’t come undone. Even better, this knot tightens as you run or walk.

All goes to continuing to grow, improve and learn new things. One of the many bounties of the Internet, that we can escape the embarrassment and frustration of Special Tutoring.

Win.

Cats and Oklahoma Weather

005I’m so happy that (new) cat Jackson and (old) cat Isabel get along so well. It doesn’t always work out that way and is so lovely when it does.

This evening I pick up my boss/colleague Laurie and we’re driving over to Oklahoma City for some meetings tomorrow. Then we’ll drive back tomorrow night and she’ll spend a couple of days here in New Mexico. Should be quite the whirlwind!

Otherwise, I’m over at the Contemporary Romance Cafe tomorrow (May 1), talking about where I write. Which, of course, involves treadmill desks. 🙂 If you’re a regular reader here, it won’t be anything new to you. Except to say that I figured out I’ve walked over 150 miles in April and have logged over 61,000 words. It’s been a busy, productive month for me.

Which is good, because Ursula’s book is being kind of wrenching to write. It’s due June 1, so I anticipate May will be another 60K+ month.

Think No-Tornado Thoughts for me!

My Treadmill Desk – One Year Later

treadmill deskA year ago, I set up my treadmill desk. And I posted the Grand Opening message here, which includes links for purchase, etc.

 I promised to give my one-year later review and findings. The upshot?

Love love love.

Seriously. Best investment I ever made.

Yes, I use it pretty much every day. Sometimes I don’t on the weekends, particularly if I’m being really active with other projects like gardening or house-cleaning. I’ve walked as much as 12 miles in one day, though it’s usually more around 8-10 miles. That translates to about 3 to 6 hours on it daily. For reference, I’m at my desk about 12 hours a day.

Can I work on it? Yes! I usually walk anywhere from 1 mph to 2.2 mph. The 2.2 seems to be my maximum for working at the same time. I walk during conference calls, while doing social media and writing blog posts (doing 1.4 mph while drafting this) and especially while writing. I do my 2.2 mph while drafting or editing the novels and it works great. As you can see from the pic above, the way I can rest my forearms on the desk allows me an anchor. I totally forget that I’m walking, too.

More – the steady cadence of walking works great to induce the trance state conducive to writing. Hopefully you all know what I mean. My best work comes out when I disengage all the “thinky” parts of brain that are making lists, wondering what’s for lunch, posting alerts that I need to remember to call such and so back, etc. Once I can sink into that state, the words flow and I’m totally focused. The walking is absolutely trance-inducing and has become part of my ritual for working.

The only things I can’t do on the treadmill is anything that requires intensive mouse work. For example, I have been working on complicated flow charts for my day job. Lots of creating shapes, dragging them, attaching connector arrows. I find it too difficult to maintain a steady line with the mouse while walking.

Otherwise, anything goes! In fact, I find I get restless now if I can’t move while I work. Sitting so much feels wrong.

Since starting to use the treadmill desk, I’ve dropped 10 pounds in body fat. My blood pressure dropped from 160 to 120. Also, my endurance has increased. Though I’ve been running and weightlifting for several years now, the daily walking has really made a difference in my overall health. My body just *feels* stronger and I can, of course, walk much farther without tiring.

Cautionary note on that: start out gradually and work up. Even if you’re in great shape already, the steady pace of the treadmill desk seems to work my body differently. I overdid at first.

I’m happy to answer questions in the comments or via personal message. I absolutely recommend it if you’re considering making the leap. I can’t imagine going back to sitting all day.

I’ll leave you with this – Jackson trying out the treadmill, too. (He still jumps on with me, from time to time. )