All posts by Elizabeth Spann Craig

About Elizabeth Spann Craig

Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series (as Riley Adams) and the Southern Quilting mysteries for Penguin and writes the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. She also has a blog, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. There she posts on the writing craft, finding inspiration in everyday life, and fitting writing into a busy schedule.

Sleep Better with a Shutdown Routine

Sleeping orange cat on the right with the post title, 'Sleep Better with a Shutdown Routine' superimposed on the left.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I am a horrible sleeper, and I always have been.  One of my earliest memories is of  watching a backlit, analog clock for hours and hours waiting for the little hand to get to seven and the big hand to twelve (my parents didn’t want me running around the house before then).  I must have been three.

One of the reasons  I sleep poorly is that my mind is spinning with things that need to get done.  I’m frequently so busy during the day that my brain doesn’t have time to process upcoming tasks until I’m finally lying down.

I’ve realized for a while that I sleep better if I review my calendar before going to bed (making sure that I won’t wake up in the middle of the night wondering if my dental appointment was for the morning or the next day).  I also sleep better if I do a brain dump of upcoming tasks: everything from errands to housework to writing to promo.  Then I organize those tasks into a to-do list (more on my to-do lists in this post).

I hadn’t thought of a name for this process, but author assistant Mel Jolly recently referred to it in her newsletter as a ‘shutdown routine.’

What I especially like about Mel’s approach is that she has instituted a sort of ‘office hours’ setup at her house.  She’s not always available nor always working on something.  I’ve found that one of the troubles of being a working writer is that I might still be playing around with something at nine o’clock at night.

Mel states:

(You need) something to tell your brain that it’s time to rest now and that there’s no need to keep thinking about work. You’re on top of everything, even if things didn’t get done, they’re on the list. You’ve checked your calendar and you know what’s coming up next.

I like the thought of the last check of email, the last look at the calendar.  I like feeling that I’m on top of everything and that I can pick up where I leave off the next day.

As an additional part of my shutdown routine, I shift anything that didn’t get finished that day to the next day’s to-do list. That way I make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Do you have a shutdown routine?  How’s your sleeping? :)

[bctt tweet=”Use a shutdown routine for a better sleep habit: ” username=”elizabethscraig”

Photo via VisualHunt

Twitterific Writing Links

Bluebird with beak open and 'Twitterific Writing Links' by ElizabethSCraig superimposed on the image

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific writing links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 43,000 free articles on writing related topics. It’s the search engine for writers.

Have you visited the WKB lately?  Check out the new redesign where you can browse by category, and sign up for free writing articles, on topics you choose, delivered to your email inbox!  Sign up for the Hiveword newsletter here.

Continue reading Twitterific Writing Links

Tips for Making Writing a Habit

Man is writing in a notebook on a table. The post title, Tips for Making a Writing Habit" is superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

One of the hardest things about writing is the sitting down and doing it.  Usually, once you start, it gets a little easier from there.

Building a habit of writing is one way to be more productive.  When writing becomes a natural part of your day, it makes the process that much easier.

At this point, writing has become almost like muscle memory to me.  The stories are all different, but the process is the same.  I may not feel an ounce of inspiration when I sit down at my computer, but soon I’m getting caught up in my story again. Continue reading Tips for Making Writing a Habit

Tips for Better To-Do Lists

Shows to-do list in the background. List states "to do....everything!" and has a stickman holding his head. The post title, "Tips for Better To-Do Lists' is superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I have become something of a to-do list aficionado.  I’ve been religiously using lists since having children.  That’s over 20 years of list making.

I’ve changed the way I’ve handled lists over the years and have adapted other people’s methods into my own process.   I frequently return to an article written by Eric Barker for Time Magazine: “The Morning Routine Experts Recommend for Peak Productivity.”   It makes a lot of sense to me, from the ‘magic hours’  to the ‘starting ritual,’ to the ‘3 things that matter today.’

The low-tech list: For a while I was using an app to help me prioritize (135 List, which is free and works well for anyone trying to get in a habit of prioritizing). Now I’ve made the process even simpler.  I have a Notepad (digital…comes with PCs) text file saved for every day of the week:  Monday To-Do, Tuesday To-Do, etc.  I put the three big things I most want to accomplish at the top. Then I put the things that could be shifted to another day’s list at the bottom.  If errands are on my list, I copy-paste the list to my online calendar.  At the end of the day, whatever didn’t get accomplished is portioned out to the following day (or other days, if the next day is too busy).

Reevaluate the list in the afternoon: I realized 4 years ago that one list per day wasn’t really going to cut it for me anymore.  I needed to reevaluate in the early afternoon because some things became less-important and some things became more pressing.  This way, I’m still being thoughtful about my list and my tasks and not simply reacting to things that pop up. But I’m also incorporating things that pop up (sometimes they are important and need immediate attention).

Set timers to avoid a time-suck…or procrastination:   I use timers a lot: both for writing and promo.  I just type ‘set timer for 7 minutes’ into Google and let my computer keep track.  Timers work well for me for two reasons: one, it helps me avoid procrastination. If I know I need to update my website, seeing that I’ve allotted ten minutes for the task makes it a lot less-daunting.  Another reason timers work well for me is that they help keep me on task and focused.

Don’t  turn your list into a braindump:  There is definitely a place for an all-inclusive list…a braindump of a list that includes writing, promo, blogging, the dog’s vet checkup, Christmas shopping, etc.  But my advice is to have that master list separate from your to-do list.  The whole idea is to make the daily list manageable and approachable.   Then work in tasks from the master list to the daily list (breaking them down into bite-sized bits, if needed).

Are you a list person?  How do you set up your lists?

Tips for a better to-do list: Click To Tweet

Photo credit: john.schultz via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Twitterific Writing Links

Bluebird with beak open and 'Twitterific Writing Links' by ElizabethSCraig superimposed on the image

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific writing links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 43,000 free articles on writing related topics. It’s the search engine for writers.

Have you visited the WKB lately?  Check out the new redesign where you can browse by category, and sign up for free writing articles, on topics you choose, delivered to your email inbox!  Sign up for the Hiveword newsletter here.

Continue reading Twitterific Writing Links