She Writes: Five Questions for… Laura Vanderkam

Marci Alboher ( interviewed me over at SheWrites for their “5 Questions” series. You can read the whole interview at this link. Here’s a sample:

1. Social media has dramatically changed the flow of a typical work day for many writers. We log in to connect with other writers, to promote our work, and to keep up with the news. but for those of us prone to distraction (a.k.a. most of us), we’ve also got a new shiny thing that gives us the endorphin rush scientists tell us comes along with all those message alerts. What’s your advice for managing all that while still trying to do the actual writing that needs to get done?

A: This is a universal dilemma – what is work, and what is not-really-work? Social media is insidious because it inhabits a gray area. We’re pretty sure watching TV is not work, and writing that next article is, but sometimes Facebook is important and sometimes it’s the equivalent of that old economy no-no of making personal calls from the office.

I have three strategies for trying to get a grip on it. First, figure out your most important professional activities. For me, this is writing books and articles, and getting people to read and buy them. So if social media will clearly lead to a book sale or to someone reading my article, or will introduce me to a source, it’s work. If not, probably not.

Second, schedule social media breaks after focused periods of concentration. Our brains like rewards, so promising myself some Facebook time is a great way to power through 90 minutes of cranking out an article.

And finally, try to limit your total computer hours. If you make a point of having a full personal life, you will naturally focus on the most important things during your work hours, because you want to get done and move on.

2 thoughts on “She Writes: Five Questions for… Laura Vanderkam

  1. Laura, I picked up your book after listening to your podcast with National Review…so you can consider that interview as work that led to a book sale!

    As an aside, I find myself open to many of the ideas you present, but I’m also struggling with a few that relate to cooking and cleaning. You see, I was born in Poland but grew up in Canada. So while one side of me agrees with focusing on my core competencies and the activities that matter to me most, the Polish side of me feels that I am supposed to nearly kill myself cooking and cleaning because that’s what my mother and her mother and her mother did. I’ll let you know which side wins!

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