Category Archives: How to Use Time Well

Practical tips to use your time well and to enrich your imaginative life.

Your To Do List

לחצו פה להסבר על תרגום לעברית.

I have always been a list maker. Like you, I have a lot to do. Sometimes seemingly very disparate tasks: personal errands, family business, story editing, copy writing, essay writing, organizing a class I’m going to teach or a workshop I’m going to give, returning phone calls, getting to the post office before it closes. You know the drill.

Every time some kind of new technology seemed like a better way – any new idea, really – I tried it. Remember Palm Pilots? Tried that. It was more work to input my to-do list than to just do them. I tried using a whiteboard. A chalkboard. A fancy notebook. Various apps on my computer and iPhone.

todoNothing is or was as effective as just plain writing it down. Boring, right? But for me – effective. I use small, lined yellow tablets and importantly, I write in pencil so I can erase and rearrange my list as often as I want.

I make one list at the beginning of each week and as the list gets added onto and messier and messier, I make at least two other versions down the line.

Something that really helps me is to make sure that my list reflects my priorities for the week or for each day. There are some things, in other words, that MUST be done or else. And others that would be nice but that can be pushed back a couple or more days.

Of course, you have to watch those tasks because pretty soon they pile up too.

I make sure that the things that can be done quickly, I tick off the list right away.

It also helps to know what your personal style is, when it comes to work. I am a binge worker, meaning I might very well have a day or two in which I seem to get almost nothing done and then work for 8 hours without moving and get completely caught up. I know that about myself, so I don’t beat myself up; if something really needs to get done – I do it.

Interestingly, for me anyway, with all the apps and technology in the world, sometimes a piece of paper and pencil really is the thing.

Prioritize what you need to do daily, weekly and monthly. Use technology like alerts on your Google calendar (or the like) and mostly? Be nice to you. Your list is there to help you stay organized, not to make you feel bad. So don’t let it.

Here are more tips about how to create, maintain and vanquish your to do list!

The Two Faces of Your Facebook Feed


לחצו פה להסבר על תרגום לעברית.

I have written before about curating your Facebook feed, meaning designing your feed such that it has the maximum entertainment and positive influence on your personal and professional life. You can read that article here. 

Today, let’s talk about managing how you appear to others looking at your page. What kind of feed are they getting from YOU?

Avoid the Unfriend Zone!  

The fact is, that most of us are on Facebook. You might have a personal page and a business page. Or, in some cases, the two might blend, somewhat.  The kind of Facebooker I am speaking about today, is the page that is a blend. That’s what I do too.

Say you are a consultant or you work at a company that is fluid, meaning you network and keep yourself mobile and available for other opportunities within your field. You don’t need a Facebook page to push a BUSINESS per se – you ARE the business.  Here’s four tips and explanations of them:

Tips for Targeting Your Facebook Feed

  1. Create categories for “close friends” and “acquaintances”. Create categories that are as specific as you want. (go to your page, click on friends, next to each friend a category will appear. click on the category, scroll to the bottom and click on “new list”.)
  2. Every time you post, choose the category or categories that can see the post. Every. Time.
  3. NEVER post rants about sensitive, polarizing subjects.
  4. Refrain from too many “selfies”, by all means. Even if they are business related. It doesn’t reflect well unless you are a teenager. That doesn’t mean NONE, just watch the ratio there.

Categories and Posting

Make sure you categorize your FB friends minimally into “close friends” or “acquaintances”. If you take the time – and I know it’s really a bitch after the fact – you can create even more categories so that your business peers are in a category of their own. So that, in other words, you don’t post pictures of your weekend family picnic to your business peers, and that you don’t post (necessarily) what a great business conference you went to to your close friends.

This means you need to slow down when you post and check the box for which group of people you are posting and subsequently will see what you are posting.

Be Careful What You Post

It goes without saying that posting pictures of you drunk at a bar is not a great idea, or that posting rants about politics, religious or other sensitive topics is a very good idea either. Stuff on the internet lives for a VERY long time.

Clean Up Your Facebook Categories and Think Through Your Usage and Why

If you are a business unto yourself – and more and more of us are these days – make sure your Facebook feed is one that you have curated carefully.

Personally, I have three pages – my personal page, which by default has a lot of business peers on it because I didn’t take the time, way back, to set up another page – my business page, Stories Without Borders, which is for writers, filmmakers, start up, high tech and other creative types in business and a page for the Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon, which as you can imagine is quite focused.

I am in the process of migrating business and professional contacts that are on my personal page toward my other pages. I am newly getting into the habit of not accepting every friend request on my personal page – which is how I wound up with over 2,000 FB “friends” the vast majority of which I do not know at all.

Because I was not careful to curate my pages in the past, it is taking some time to clean that up so that only select people see what I want the to see. Sure, like you, I post hilarious pictures of my cats doing stupid things.  I’m human. And I post a lot of articles from The Atlantic about social issues and politics. That interests me. But sometimes I want to post something about where I live – Israel – that will a) only interest Israelis and b) not subject me to a storm of political comments about Israel. I just want to ask a question or point something out that is specific to this place.

If you have a lot of Facebook friends, I know this can seem daunting but take an afternoon, or a couple of them, sporadically, and look at your list of friends. Unfriend those you truly never interact with. Categorize the others. Is this truly a FRIEND, or is this a nice person you met at a business Meet Up? Ask yourself, do you want this person to see the hilarious picture of your cats? Do you want the to see your selfie while you were on a roller coaster or at the beach? Maybe you do. But make that a conscious choice.

You may not want to maintain more than one page in which case you then must be extra diligent about creating and maintaining categories. And before you hit “post” make SURE you are posting to the right group. Look, if you post a picture of yourself at a family barbecue to a group of friends that are business friends, it’s not the end of the world. You ARE a human and more and more our personal and business lives do blend. But online you are curating an image and a reputation. Too many selflies, even in a business context, too many “life is great! be positive!” pictures with horses on a beach – and you will be taken far less seriously. Trust me on this. Create a category of friends who also love motivational pictures of waterfalls with nice quotes. That way you do not annoy those who are not into these things and are not written off completely.

It’s the same as anything else in life. You don’t invite a particular friend to go to the opera with you. No, that’s for your other friend, Dani. You don’t talk about UFOs with most people you work with – but you might with Shira, because you have lunch a lot and have become close. Same concept here.



Housekeeping Weekend

Many of us in Israel take Shabbat off as a day to reset and rest. But do you ever take a day to reset, rest and do some online housekeeping? house

This article from Slate about how to clean up your Facebook feed is a quick read and it’s a fantastic idea.

If you use social media for work as well as personal uses, it makes sense to have a look at your “friends” and lists and do some tidying up. Your feed will be more informational and entertaining, you can post and share more easily and in a more targeted way and you’ll feel awesome because you did something you’ve wanted to do a million times but just didn’t take the time. Sit down for an hour, maybe two, and sort out your social media. social

Making the time to keep your online life in order is a key ingredient to being more efficient and less stressed as you work. There’s nothing good or cool about being a chaotic, stressed out mess. Get your sleep. Take a walk. Keep your life organized.

You’ll thank me later :)

Persistence & Discipline Are Universal Ideals

I have known my friend Steve Martinez ever since a barbecue in my back yard about 5 years ago, in my former home in Los Angeles. We’ve been through ups and downs together, we’ve laughed until very late in the night. We joke about a tattoo he’s probably never going to get. (“Pray Rain”. It’s a long story).

Every day, Steve gets up very early to write. For five years, he does this. After he writes, he takes some time to walk and clear his head and then around 9am, he reports to his day job. He’s a self-employed attorney. Each day, after about 2pm, you’ll find Steve at his favorite Peet’s Coffee in Santa Monica. Writing. Can he Skype for a few minutes? He’d love to. But he’s writing. Later, he says. And we do.

A few months ago, Steve asked me to write him a letter of recommendation about his writing. I did. He was applying to a Universal/NBC fellowship. Universal contacted me and wanted to know more about Steve’s writing. In my role as a script consultant, I knew a lot about Steve’s style, goals and discipline. universal

Now, after 5+ years of writing, of living in Los Angeles, of both enjoying and forsaking the sun and the pleasures of LA, after years of 6am bleary-eyed writing, Steve is a Universal Fellow. That means he’s employed at Universal/NBC for a year, with a salary, with mentoring, with massive opportunities.

Steve’s talent got him there, no doubt. But his talent would never have had the chance to shine without his discipline. Even when other people were succeeding – and failing all around him – Steve just kept writing. He’s stubborn that way.

You can never win or lose if you don’t play the game.

Will your discipline pay off, your day and night working on your script, or TV pilot, or great start up initiative? Maybe. It doesn’t happen for everyone, this brass ring.

But here’s a truth: it sure as hell won’t if you don’t. Guaranteed.

I am an undying advocate of having fun with what you do and of enjoying your life. I will never shift that belief because I believe when you are having fun, when you are excited about what you are doing? It shows in your work.

And a part of that is discipline. Seeing results. Finishing pages, making those phone calls, doing your research. stevem

Maybe you don’t want to get up at a crazy hour to write (I sure don’t!) the way Steve, the first guy from the left does. But there is a way, I promise you, that you can add more discipline to your life of work and creativity. People like Steve remind us that good things DO happen to good people, and that you can live a good, fun life and also put in those 10,000 hours.

Steve Martinez did. And he continues to, as he reaches for the next brass ring and the next.  Selfishly? I’m glad a person with Steve’s intelligence, wit, curiosity and sense of humor, with his deep empathy for the human condition, is poised to become one of Hollywood’s next major story tellers.


Three Tips to Maximize Your Facebook Feed



No doubt you see the status updates of friends and their activities. You might also see funny stories and memes of animals and people doing crazy things.  Pictures and news of celebrities abound as well.

But – do any of these things feed your creative well?

Can you use this information to give you story ideas, creative inspiration and fresh perspectives?

How much time have you wasted on Facebook? 

~Here Are Three Steps You Can Take Today~

1. Clean up Your Feed

How many Facebook friends do you have that you truly know and interact with? Yes, you might feel guilty unfollowing or unfriending some people, but if you do not have a meaningful relationship with that person, do their mundane updates add to your creative well?

Do you follow feeds that update with celebrity, reality tv or memes? Do you get more than a chuckle or does this information go in your creative bank?

Create lists of friends and family you truly connect with and with whom you want to share vacation photos and things of this nature.

Create lists of colleagues and peers in your area of expertise, so you can share with and glean from their feeds matters of specific interest to you.

Unfriend anyone else. You can do it. 

Use your Facebook page as your personal daily paper, with articles and updates that are relevant to you and that enrich your life rather than waste your time.

2. Follow Smart

Follow friends and organizations that post status updates and articles about things that make you curious, things that are relevant to you, things that help you gain perspective about the world around you.

Some categories that might interest you are things like science and technology, arts and entertainment, breaking news and analysis (global and local) and aggregate sites that showcase social trends.

3. Use your Google Reader

Bookmark and read articles daily or weekly. Make it a habit.
Here are some sites that I follow that consistently post great stuff:

Brain Pickings

The Atlantic

The New Yorker

The New York Times

Life Hacker


BBC News




What are some of your favorite sites?

Is the time you spend on Facebook time that adds to your knowledge, tickles your curiosity or provokes new ideas and ways of thinking?