Changing the Storyline of your own Life

Realising I was suffering from burnout I underwent a digital detox for a week. Feeling rejuvenated as a result, I took some time to step back and think about all the things that had led to my suffering from burnout in the first place.

All of the projects I am involved with are long term undertakings that will take time and effort over a number of months if not years to complete. As a perfectionist, I want to tie things up in a neat bow and then walk away. Sometimes that just isn’t possible and that’s a hard lesson to learn for a perfectionist to learn.

Long road
Long road by Ozzy Delaney courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/q44Tc4 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

If you are an indie author running your business you don’t have a boss telling you it is time to leave the office. You are the boss and the office is probably the kitchen table or, if you are lucky, a desk in the spare room. The only person who can make you walk away is you.

Human beings are not machines. We cannot mechanically perform the same duties and tasks over and over without a break. Whilst we do not possess an off switch in the traditional sense our minds and bodies do have an emergency off switch they can throw if it all gets too much – we get ill and then we have no option but to slow down and recover.

Duracell Bunny
Duracell Bunny by Skim-milk courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5hkz6o https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I know what it is like to suffer from a series of colds, barely getting over one and then coming down with another. My immune system was under performing because my natural resources were stretched too thinly. It was my body’s way of saying enough is enough. Heeding the warning signs and acting on them is one thing. Far better, however, to not be in that position in the first place.

We all get ill, of course but feeling run down is usually something we can do something about. Prevention is better than cure so they say.

None of this is groundbreaking stuff but occasionally we all need to be reminded of the basics.

If you want to feel more contented and fulfilled you have to structure in down time. You then have to ring fence and protect that down time as ferociously as you would protect your writing time. There have to be limits. I will work for two hours and then I will take an hour off to recharge my batteries before I move on to something else. It takes discipline to put limits on the time you give each project or part of your day but ultimately it is the only way to get things done and still have time for yourself.

Enjoy the silence
Enjoy the Silence by Thomas Leuthard courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/d8yRbh https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

It took a while to get used to my new routine but as I did so I began to feel more at ease with myself. A sense of fulfillment even began to creep up on me and amazingly I got more done than I did before. With less time I was more focused and because I was not stressing as much about lots of different things at the same time I was more present mentally for the task at hand. What I had thought would be a necessary but ugly compromise was slowly turning into something more satisfying. Who knew?

Every person will have different priorities. The timetable that works for me won’t suit anyone else. It takes time and effort to develop the structure that works best for you but if long term sustainability is the outcome, it is surely worth the effort?

Fear of Missing Out

FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – is a thing. Who knew? Apparently it has even been added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

checking phone
Let me check a few things first by Johnny Silvercloud courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/s8DNC2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Are you suffering from FOMO?

Do you compulsively check your social media updates to see what your friends are up to?

  1. Do you feel compelled to join your work colleagues at every after work event?
  2. Do you over commit so as to attend every party/barbecue/impromptu get together?
  3. Do you check Rightmove and other property listing sites not because you have any intention of moving house but because you want to see what others have got?
  4. Do you binge watch the latest box sets so you know what everyone else is talking about?

If you answered yes to the above, chances are you are suffering from FOMO.

Wikipedia describes FOMO as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. This social angst is characterised by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.

Smartphones
Man Woman Smartphones Restaurant by David van der Mark courtesy Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/y6sdfD https://goo.gl/OOAQfn

Is it any wonder therefore that most of us feel exhausted most of the time?

Human beings are designed to have periods of action and periods of rest. If our rest time is dominated by our digital devices the quality of that rest time decreases. Whilst interacting on social media isn’t physically demanding, mentally and sometimes emotionally it can take its toll. Even if we are not aware of it our bodies will react to what we are reading, writing or seeing. Anger, frustration, joy and laughter all create a physical reaction. We have already put our bodies through a tough day. To then spend the evening and sometimes even the night too dancing the digital dance leaves us feeling over stimulated. Is it any wonder that so many people complain of not being able to sleep properly? Our minds are still wired and busily processing all of the images that have been teeming in front of our eyes.

We have reached the point societally where Mums ignore and do not interact with their children as much as they would have done in previous years because they are instead interacting with their phones. Couples are going out to dinner and checking their devices instead of actually talking to one another.

Don’t get me wrong, computers, iPads and phones are wonderful things but they are meant to enhance our lives not dominate them to the point of destruction. We are in danger of diluting our personal relationships with children and spouses and wider family members for the sake of our relationship with our phones and by extension our relationship with our friends and followers. Which do you think is more important?

helloworld
Hello, world by Dwayne Bent courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/c9BGhf https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Disconnecting in the short term – a digital detox – is perfectly possible but what about in the long term? Spending time on our phones is a habit. We do it through the fear or missing out and often from boredom. Interestingly, we often feel less fulfilled as a result. The nagging thought that we are “wasting time”, the incessant comparing of ourselves or our lives to others often leaves us feeling inadequate and dissatisfied. Perhaps it’s time to kick the habit.

Limiting the time you spend on your phone or other devices is the answer. As with breaking any ingrained habit the best way to draw back is by doing it over a number of weeks. Don’t set yourself unrealistic targets and don’t beat yourself up if you fall short. Persevere however because the results will be worth it.

A whole new world of possibilities will open up for you together with the time and space to reconnect with your old world – the people who physically share your life. In turn this will lead to you feeling more connected than you ever did previously, you will also have a greater sense of fulfillment and contentment. What’s not to love about that?

Digital Detox

digital detox
Digital Detox by David Lytle courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/fsCwQ2 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

So I started with the best of intentions on my digital detox. My expectations were not set unrealistically high. I would take a week out – seven days but it would not be a complete shut down so far as my devices were concerned. There were still urgent emails to deal with regarding my next book release that could not be ignored and a couple of other deadlines that were immovable. Beyond that, however, freedom lay.

freedom
Freedom by Lauren McKinnon courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/pNL5v5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Interesting choice of word freedom and yet it had been on my mind a lot. Because I was feeling burnt out I was also feeling trapped – imprisoned by my commitments. An ailment of modern life given that most of the commitments were generated by my own fair hand and things I had entered into willingly.

It was therefore definitely time to step back. The first morning when I would normally be checking social media and scheduling blogs I removed myself from all my electronic devices and went and sat in the sun lounge. I had breakfast overlooking the garden and enjoying the birdsong and the sunshine.

In the background I could hear my iPad chirruping away with updates and alerts. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I could feel my attention being pulled back to the world of social media which was merrily tweeting and facebooking away without me. What if the notification was not a standard one but an important one? Shouldn’t I check just to make sure?

I resisted the temptation – recognising it for what it was – a craving for my usual fix. Instead I struck a deal with myself that I would check the various platforms and emails during the lunch hour but would only respond if it was absolutely necessary. For one week, the world could do without me.

For once, I got ready for the day without the burden of buzzing thoughts. I arrived at work early and relaxed. At lunch, I limited myself to a few minutes of checking the platforms and emails. With my new mindset, I decided nothing there could be classed as important. With some satisfaction, I shut them down and read a book. The evening was more of the same. One quick check then freedom. That word again. Suddenly I had an open space mentally and physically to do other things.

The rest of the week continued in the same vein. I felt better almost instantly and that feeling multiplied as the days went by. It was as close to going cold turkey as I am ever likely to get. And I learnt two important lessons during my digital detox week:-

  1. I didn’t miss the whirl of social media
  2. The wheels did not come off my career by taking a few days out

So, if you are struggling with burn out, give yourself as complete a break as it is possible to have. You will feel better for it.

Freedom2
Freedom by Josef Grunig courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/3D7Ztx https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

You cannot however dwell in a digital free cave in the long term unless you are happy to ditch the writing career. Nowadays I do not realistically think you can have one without the other. You also do not want to end up back where you started in burnoutsville so what to do?

At the end of the week and with the headspace to actually sit and think I devised a fresh approach which I will share in a blog soon.

In the meantime, if you have been suffering with burn out please get in touch and let me know what worked for you.

the-flower-seller-cover-small
http://Author.to/EllieHolmes

Book Bloggers and Reviewers

heart
Heart by Nghiem Vo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

 

I am a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. I am also a member of their blogging team. At the end of last year I was invited to launch a new monthly blogging series on the RNA blog interviewing book bloggers and reviewers.

The latest in the series went live earlier this week and I am attaching a link below so you can take a look.

http://romanticnovelistsassociationblog.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/book-bloggers-and-reviewers-anne.html

My guest was Anne Williams from Being Anne http://beinganne.com

Book bloggers are a vital part of the world of books and Anne was a fab guest, giving us an interesting insight into her life as a book blogger.

 

Play Nicely

When you are running a business as an author your reputation is everything. A good reputation is a hard thing to achieve and an all too easy thing to lose. Here are my rules for using social media:-

Never go anywhere near Twitter or Facebook when drunk.

wine
Wine by Denise Mattox courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/9awPZB  https://goo.gl/SJe7gw

Never give in to the temptation to hit back at someone who has hurt you.

Never Tweet or Post when you are feeling cranky – the result is not going to be pretty.

doh
Do’h by Kai Chan Vong courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/5RgzQc   https://goo.gl/G16HP1

Always be polite.

Try to thank people for their RTs individually if possible. If you belong to a tweet group you should post a thank you to the group at large.

Remember you are your brand so self edit before you post.

Try to pay good things forward wherever possible.

pay-it-forward
Pay It forward by Eli Christman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/daHvRW   https://goo.gl/G16HP1

Never respond to criticism by trying to defend yourself.

Don’t post a reply to bad reviews. Take them on the chin and move on.

Don’t take yourself or others too seriously – social media is meant to be fun.

smileyface
Smiley-face by John Earl courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

https://flic.kr/p/aja781   https://goo.gl/YlJj77