12 Books in 12 Months, Week 7: Gathering Points, Part 1

Hey everyone, welcome to week 7 of the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. I’m happy to report a very good week. I finished my writing Monday to Friday with exactly 16,000 words. I’m only scheduled to do 15,000, so I was very pleased with that number. And that’s not counting Saturday. I’m getting very close to finishing my second novel of the challenge, it’s over 50,000 words already so I’m very excited.

And today we’re going to continue talking about time management. Last time we talked about the myth of multitasking and why you will actually lose time the more you switch from one task to another. Today, we’re going to talk about another thing that grabs your attention, something that I will refer to as gathering points. Again, I got this term, and much of the content from this video from a course on time management found on Lynda.com.

So what is a gathering point. Gathering points are collections of stuff in your physical or digital space that demand your attention. They are anything from a stack of papers on your desk, to your email inbox, to your big pile of laundry. Anything that you have not decided what to do with it, when to deal with it, or where its home is. If you look around the room you’re in right now, whether your at home or at work, chances are you will already see a number of these gathering points.

There’s a worksheet in the course I took that helps you count up these gathering points, and I don’t have that to provide to you now. But I want you to start thinking about all the different gathering points in your home. Every stack of paper, every email inbox, every collection of sticky notes with to-do items on it, every white board with notes, every notepad, every pile of items that need to be put away. If you keep a tally, I’m sure you’ll quickly have a long list. I was shocked to see my list was well over 40, and this became even more surprising when the course provider said I needed to get it down to about six. Yes, that’s right. You should only have about six or less sources that compete for your attention. That means that you have to either get rid of all those attention grabbers in your life, or find a way to determine the what, when, or where for each one. Find out what to do with it, when to deal with it, or where its home is.

Now when I was first going through this course I began to get overwhelmed. How on earth was I going to eliminate so many things that were part of my life? And it’s okay to be a little overwhelmed. That’s why I’m not going to cover much in each of these videos. I want you to be able to take it all in before moving onto the next step. However, after having achieved to some degree some of the advice I received on eliminating gathering points, I can honestly say that my mind is a lot clearer, I get a lot done, and there is nothing that I prioritize that doesn’t get done. If you ask me to do something, and it doesn’t get done, that means I chose not to do it. And that would be really rude, so I’m a lot more likely to tell you that I can’t do that thing. I’ve had a problem in the past of trying to take on too much. And I don’t do that anymore, at least not to the degree I first had. Because I understand what my limits are, and a lot of that has come from clearing up my physical and digital spaces, limiting myself to just a few gathering points, and acting on the results. I can personally testify that it works.

One of the things I was kind of surprised to learn as I was studying this, is just how much your organization has an effect on time management. And we, as creatives, are often horrible at organization. But I came to learn that that wasn’t just an inherent trait. It’s not because we’re bad at it. It’s because we don’t make it a priority. As creatives, our minds are in the clouds, we’re thinking about the next book to write, a cool new character arc, or some new magic system. We don’t often take the time to focus on what’s going on around us in our very own home, and at our own desk. This is why sometimes we tend to appear disorganized. And unfortunately, whether we like it or not, that disorganization will have a negative effect on our productivity. Gathering points are the perfect example. The more we have, the more items we have competing for our attention, the more we will be distracted, and the more excuses we will have to procrastinate and slow down our work. It’s a real thing, and it’s a problem.

But limiting our gathering points, and choosing how to deal with what we have, is one big step towards exceptional time management, and it will result in a cleaner home and/or office as well. Next time I’ll be talking about what those six gathering points should be.

I’ll see you then!

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