The Magic Number Seven, plus or minus two

My motto has always been: “So many books, so little time.” I own two sweatshirts displaying that motto. You often see me in those sweatshirts at conventions. As fall approaches and it becomes sweatshirt weather, I become increasingly aware of the truth of that motto. As usual, I am far behind reading reading forthcoming titles I want to review before fall releases. I do my best to keep up with new titles, but there are so many new titles I feel overwhelmed. Do you feel that way, too?

I have new book titles of my own coming out this fall, plus multiple short stories in magazines and anthologies. I am doing final edits on two contracted novel manuscripts, and I have begun two new novels. I’m also working on a dozen short stories. Worldcon (Sasquon) is coming up later this month and I’m a registered participant. I have signings scheduled for September and October, and then I travel to New York state for the World Fantasy Con and return to Chicago in time for Windycon. Is it any wonder I feel overwhelmed?

When I was a therapist, I advised clients who felt overwhelmed to categorize into manageable chunks and prioritize each of those chunks. Chunking reduces the total number of things you have to tackle so you don’t feel so overwhelmed. My set priorities are to write fiction first, non-fiction and reviews second, read concurrently with writing, and do public appearances and everything else last. If I chunk to less than seven—plus or minus two—pressing tasks, my mind doesn’t automatically go into fight or flight mode. We juggle eight tasks in working memory and relegate everything else to the “get around to it later” category. If later is too late, so be it. Man wasn’t meant to accomplish everything in a single lifetime.

As Robert Browning so poetically put it: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

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