Monday, September 10, 2007

Um, What's Time Management?

Maven Jacqueline BarbourLike Erica, I like to write to-do lists. And then I promptly lose them.

Alas, it's true. Maven Jacqueline is not the most organized person on the planet. In fact, I could probably vie for the title of Least Organized Person on the Planet. (My eldest son could probably make a run for second place. The apple does not fall far from the tree!)

So, how does an organizationally-challenged person like me hold down a full-time job, maintain one personal blog and one group blog (most of the time, anyway), keep up with day-to-day household tasks, and still find time to write?

Uh, beats me?

Okay, I'm kidding. I do know how I do it. Unfortunately, it's a completely unscientific method that leaves plenty of room for error, not to mention spending a good deal of my time running around with my hair on fire (figuratively speaking, of course).

In a nutshell, I do have a to-do list in my head. And that list, thankfully, I can't lose. I know the broad outlines of what I have to do and when each item has to be done. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I want to approach a particular project, especially if it's work or blog-related. I do a lot of the writing in my head in the days leading up to the point at which I absolutely must start or I won't make the deadline. Finally, at the last possible minute, I do whatever it is I have to do and manage to finish just in the nick of time.

Kinda like this blog post. Tuesdays are always my day, right? And we have our blog topics mapped out for weeks in advance (because the other Mavens are way more organized than me!). Why didn't I sit down and write this post a week ago or even over the weekend instead of waiting until the morning it was due to crank it out?

I could give a lot of pseudo-psychological answers to that question, but I think the answer's pretty obvious: I like to wait until the last minute. It's my m.o. and has been since I was a kid. I never finished a term paper or other project until minutes before it was due. I need the challenge of getting things done right now to motivate me. And usually, I do pretty good work under pressure.

Certainly, in my academic and work life, this strategy has worked well for me over the years. It's harder with writing because, at least at this point in my life, there really aren't any deadlines except those I make for myself. And because I know those deadlines are real, it's easier to slough them off. If the words aren't coming or the scene's just not working, it's all too easy to dart off on blog rounds or check my email obsessively or find someone to strike up a chat session with. Procrastination is my middle name.

Conversely, however, writing is the one thing in my long mental to-do list that I do because I want to, not because someone expects it of me. And so, I make time for it, usually by not doing all those other things until the last minute. I slip in writing (or writing-related tasks) wherever and whenever I can.

So I guess, in a manner of speaking, I do have a time management strategy. It's just not one I'd advocate others using. To-do lists and schedules are much better for most people. But if they're not your style--as they are definitely not mine--then they probably won't work for you. I know all efforts to confine my life to anything but the broadest outlines of structure have met with dismal failure.

YOUR TURN: Do you like schedules and structure, or are you a free spirit? If you're disorganized, what tricks do you use to help yourself get things done when you must?

P.S. I am thrilled to announce that Carnally Ever After was #2 on Cobblestone Press's bestseller list for the month of August. Not bad for a debut release, eh?


B.E. Sanderson said...

Like you, I keep a to-do list in my head. Unfortunately, I have a mind like a sieve and sometimes things fall out (but like a sieve, only the smaller things make it through the holes). One trick for keeping things in my head is to constantly remind myself of them. For instance, I have to pick up my daughter at 5pm today. I've been telling myself that for two weeks now. It's wedged in my memory pretty tight now. (That's a big example, but it works for smaller things, too.)

Congrats on hitting #2 with your debut! That's awesome!

lacey kaye said...

I forget. All.the.time.

This weekend I reminded myself at least 100 million times to charge my camera battery Saturday night (before I went to bed). I reminded myself 50 million times to charge my iPod at the same time.

Luckily, I woke up Sunday morning in a cold sweat and managed to get the camera charged. The iPod? Never happened.

Strangely, I never lose my to do lists. Like Darcy and Erica, though, I do tend to leave shopping lists in the car, or wait until I'm at the checkout counter to review. Stupid, stupid!

Terri Osburn said...

Add me to the list of procrastinator with no memory who works better under pressure. I had a final essay due midnight the day after Labor Day. I knew about 10 days before. I started it 7pm that evening and turned it in with 40 minutes to spare. This pattern dates back to grade school.

I don't make near enough time for my writing and it is harder when you're just aspiring and you have no deadline breathing down your neck. I give myself goal deadline dates but I'm a terrible task master and so these get ignored quite often.

I just keep the dream alive that someday my crazy life will be less crazy and I'll only be required to focus on one thing. Dream big I say.

Gillian Layne said...

Wow, huge congrats on the #2 for CEA! That is wonderful!

My to do lists are a nightmarish tangle of work obligations and home/family needs. It makes me laugh to see how much should get done, but obviously won't. :)

Bill Clark said...

Vicki Lane wrote in her blog:

When Erica takes over the world one of the first orders of business must be more hours in the day.

I think that's the answer!

(I posted this on Erica's ruminations of yesterday, and I shall probably post it again on the Wednesday and Thursday Mavens' ruminations as well. Clearly this is the solution to all our time-management problems!)

Darcy Burke said...

I'm weird in that I sometimes procrastinate the things I like to do best. Sort of like how I hate to eat the last Christmas cookie because then they'll be all gone. Except, then it get stale and I end up throwing it away and then I feel sad because I didn't eat it. Pathetic, huh?

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