Last year I adopted a new habit of using a “datebook” as my source to get and stay organized. As recomended in Sage Cohen's book,
The Productive Writer rather than using 6 different calendars for all the things in my life, I found one that I could use in many ways. Yes, I use it as a family calendar, but also as my literary calendar, goal planning and family budget. Everything in one handy place. Fantastic.
But that doesn’t help with the fact that as writers, we are expected to tweet, post, blog, review, write, READ, network, research and learn new skills. Oh, not to mention family, day job, laundry, chef and sultry wife. Then somewhere in there I am supposed to count how many glasses of water I drink each day. Are you frigging kidding me?
Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to cover it. With so many things demanding my attention, I am not ashamed to say there have been times I chose to just watch reruns of Big Bang Theory, because I was too tired to figure out where to start, knowing I couldn’t possibly get it all done.
Enter my egg timer. (Or more precise, an app for that.) I decided to change my world 15 minutes at a time. I knew 15 minutes wasn’t long enough to accomplish everything. But it was a place to begin.
The question then became how do I put “write the next novel” on a calendar and realistically expect it to get done in 15 minutes among the mountains of laundry?
In order for this to work you have to know what needs to be done in that block of time. If you spend the entire 15 minutes wondering where to start, you might as well sit back down.
That’s where one calendar came in handy. My goals are listed in the back. I have a section for long term goals, with room underneath to break out into bite size pieces. I have a section for recommended reading and websites to check out, so when I have an extra minute, instead of surfing the web, I know where to go and what to do. A separate section for bill paying, because quite frankly I don’t want to see that looming over my head every time I look at my daily tasks. But it’s adjacent so I can see at a glance not to schedule a book signing trip when I have a tax payment coming due, etc.
Every week I sit down and take a bite or two out of each goal by scheduling them within the week somewhere. And it’s noteworthy to say, I use a pencil so that if I don’t get to check it off (I love making those little check marks in my planner) I can easily move it to the following week and not feel like I’ve fallen behind or failed. I like to do my scheduling once a week, during a 15 min block that is scheduled.
I don’t schedule every 15 minutes of my day either. I look at my week as a whole and find reasonable places I can steal 15 minutes here and there. Frequently, those little blocks of time run over and I find what started out as 15 minutes turns into 20, 30 or 45 minutes. The key is to stay flexible.
This process can be as simple or as complex as you like. I started simple and it is still growing. I am starting to include things like meal planing before I grocery shop. I've been doing it for several months and am allowing the process to bleed into whatever part of my life needs a little structure.
Pretty soon you will be exploring mountains you didn’t know were there because you couldn’t see them until you started moving toward them. All you need is to know where to step next. It’s really that easy.