Cartoon person sitting amongst a whirlwind of things including Derek the Donkey in an actual whirlwind

Harness Your Inner Toddler + Start Asking WHY

I know people who iron their bedsheets.

I’m not knocking them: all power to their elbows. And their wrists and shoulders. But honestly who has time to iron bedsheets?

You may have guessed that I am not a person who irons anything. Ever.

Ironing is not in my zone of genius and it makes me sad and it prevents me from doing things I love doing like writing, reading, trapeze, and playing Elder Scrolls: Oblivion under a blanket while cramming orange smarties into my face.

There’s other stuff that gets in the way of my writing, too. So that when I think about writing my next book and I want to crawl back under my duvet because who has time to write a book.

If this sounds familiar to you, read on—but don’t fear! I’m not gonna throw a bunch of time-saving, productivity, hustle-butt, “I DID THIS SO YOU CAN TOO" hacks at your face because frankly, the internet has enough of that shit floating around.

I’ve got tips galore on how to make the most of your time if you mooch around my website and read my book. Some of them might even help you.

But this week, I want to take you gently by the ear and guide you back to the beginning of your brain because all the productivity and time-saving gubbins in the land won’t do you any good at all if you’re scrambled and fried and possibly even poached (but not the tidy poached, the egg-white-ghosties scattered around the pan type).

This isn’t about cramming more stuff in, or sacrificing family or funtime, or getting up at 4 am and being miserable.

It’s not even about figuring out your priorities, although that’s part of it.

My suggestion is simply: ask yourself WHY. Every time you do a task, for yourself or a client or a loved one, ask “why am I doing this?” Become a persistent toddler for a while.

Make it a practice.

Promise yourself a few minutes a month to interrogate your whys because it might help you find your Zone of Genius.

Why are you doing the things?

This came about because not so long ago I had a couple of weeks in which I thought my head was going to spin off into orbit and I really, deeply, just wanted everything to stop.

Three deadlines arrived at once (a result of my own piss-poor planning and over-optimistic assessment of what I could do in the time I have) and I found myself with zero time for what’s important to me, which includes, you know, breathing. Properly breathing.

Then one of my Team Moxie members mentioned that she was doing a little WHY exercise, looking at what she was doing and why, and it made me sit up and pay attention.

What was I doing, in my life and business? Why?

One of the deadlines was for some client work that I’m good at, but find incredibly stressful. And I thought: just because I’m good at this, does that mean I have to actually do it? Do I have to offer this as a service?

And the answer, of course, is a resounding NO.

So that’s no longer a service I offer, and the second I made that decision, I floated up to lie on the ceiling.

That got me thinking about everything else I do, inside and outside my business. What do I love doing? What do I hate doing? What do I have to do myself, and what can I delegate to someone else?

And I realised where my Zone of Genius lies.

Where’s your Zone of Genius?

My Zone of Genius is in big picture book ideas: coaxing ideas out of clients, validating them, looking at them from every angle, polishing them, and showing writers how this wonderful idea can become an incredible book—complete with the beginnings of an outline.

My Zone of Genius is in private and small group coaching and mentoring, walking alongside people as they write their weird and wonderful books, showing people what they’re capable of, seeing things they miss because they’re right in the middle of it, and showing them how they can create more tension, more feeling, more depth, more heart in their writing.

And my Zone of Genius is in my own writing and reading and creative adventures.

I want more of that, and less of the stuff I was doing just because I was pretty good at it. Stuff other people would do far better than me, simply because they enjoy it more.

If you want more time to do what’s important to you—and maybe one of those things is writing your book—figuring out what’s important to you has to come first. And it’s not always what we think it is.

What’s important to you?

  1. What’s important to you—in business and in life? Make a list. Simple bullets or a spider diagram or something. Start with the obvious.
  2. Then make a list of what you’re good at. The things people pay you the big bucks to do; the stuff you do better than anyone else.
  3. Next make a list of what you LOVE doing. Not just in your work, but in your life. What makes your heart soar? What gives you energy, instead of draining you?
  4. And finally, what drains you? What tasks do you seriously dread doing? (Yes, even if they’re tasks that pay you £££££)

Then look at it all. Interrogate it. Find the crossovers. See if you can eliminate or at least minimise the stuff that drains you.

I bet everything in my pockets against everything in your pockets that if you do this, you will create more time to do what you love. I found that the stuff that drains me shouldn’t actually take that long… it only takes forever because I find ways to not start, I become a champion avoider, I get even more distracted than usual, and I sleep badly. Maybe this is true for you, too.

Once I eliminated the service I didn’t really want to provide, my days stretched wider and freer than they had in a long time.

Will this help you? I don’t know. I don’t know what your days look like. I don’t know what your business or work looks like. I don’t know what’s important to you.

But I do know it’s a good idea to look closely at everything we’re doing every now and then, and see if it’s still a good idea.

Are we still doing things for good reasons? Or just because it’s habit?

Just because we did a thing back in 2019 and it worked for us, doesn’t mean we should still be doing it now. “Because that’s what I do” isn’t a good enough reason.

“Because it makes me want to do the Snoopy Dance” is.

And if it makes you want to do the Snoopy Dance and brings you the sweet sweet dollar bills, even better.

Notes in the Margin

Sign up below for regular emails on creative writing, indie publishing, and the wonders of books.

About the Author Vicky Fraser