Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Thousand Little To-Dos

I know I'm not alone in this problem…

I totally overbook myself.

This is a constant challenge for most of us over-achiever, workaholics who love to write, aim high… and spend a good part of our lives living in fantastic fantasy worlds we've created.

In fact, much like the realm of Faerie (or Narnia or The Dreaming or any other fantastical land you might know), time passes differently when navigating between those worlds. This strange kind of time dilation, along with certain healthy god or goddess complexes many of us have, makes it difficult to organize our time.

Really difficult.

I start doing laundry or dishes, which requires next to no conscious thought, and let my mind wander to whatever world or story I'm plugging away on. In my awareness, the chore takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes tops, so I'm entirely stunned (after sorting 4-5 loads of laundry and starting the first load of the day) that about half an hour has passed. Same for an overflowing sink of dishes… which requires the dishwasher to be emptied first. Forty minutes? An hour? Really? Crap! With just those two chores alone, I've lost half an hour of more of the time I thought I'd have today.

(And don't even get me started on the friggen Wii Fit which takes no less than 45 minutes to accomplish 30 minutes of logged exercise - not counting the whole rearranging of the living room that must be done first!)

I know I can type at speeds of 80-100 words per minute, so a 1000 word blog post (my average), including research… aah, that should take me - what, an hour, hour and a half? Two or three hours later I'm fighting with LiveJournal, Blogger, and Twitter to finally post and promote said blog post…

We won't even get into days where we have scheduled out-of-house errands or, worse yet, emergencies come up that require our immediate attention for the next 20 minutes that really takes 90 minutes… (Such things tend to occur a few times a month for me).

We can try to multi-task, and to an extent, we can effectively schedule (accomplish stuff between loads of laundry/dishes), but as my friend Kelly Harmon noted in her guest blog post for Rowena Cherry, we can only multi-task so far (and it's not that far) before our quality and productivity actually goes down!

The real trick, I think, is to give ourselves realistic expectations of how much time we spend on various projects and chores. It's far too easy to minimize how much time we will spend on stuff - like laundry, dishes, blog posts, email (one of the WORST time suck offenders!).

So, this is my plan… barring further "emergencies" this week:

Time myself doing chores.

I do dishes every day. I seriously need to look at a clock before I start, write down the time, and then look again when I'm done, and write down the time. Same with laundry - which I also need to break down into "initial sorting and first load" and "changeover from washer to dryer" and "hanging and hamper sortage."

I know I need to give myself 2 hours for a blog post (I'm 49 minutes into it as I write now), or 3 for one with a lot of links and research. (Today is mainly shooting from the hip and hoping it's useful to y'all.) I need to record this time. And when I make my to-do list, I need to give myself time slots for each thing.


If I've got 5 hours of scheduled tutoring, I need to give myself 6 hours = 6 hours
If I've got dishes, I need to allow myself 40 min. (pending actual time) = 40 minutes
If I'm starting laundry, 40 minutes to sort (pending actual time) = 40 minutes
20 minutes for a changeover (pending act. time) = 20 minutes
20 minutes for hanging/hamper sorting (pend.) = 20 minutes
I average 4 loads of laundry a week… or 2- 3 in one day… = 80 minutes
If I've got dinner, it's really an hour average for all prep work = 1 hour
Email… I average 200 emails a day. If I average 1 min/email = 3 hours

That is 12 hours!

Look at that again: Twelve hours!

I might condense that down to maybe 10 hours because I can respond to any emails related to tutoring while on the tutoring clock.


I don’t tutor every day… some days it's 3 hours, not 5 (or 4 as opposed to 6)… but that gets me down to 8 hours.

Wednesdays and Fridays, I don't cook. Thursday, my mother-in-law cleans for me and by then, laundry is done… so that cuts off some time. Friday, I don't have scheduled tutoring hours. I need to document this time and use it wisely!

My little chart didn't even include paid articles that require interviews and research, editing projects… stuff I get paid for. With deadlines. And it doesn't include blogging or errands (post office, grocery shopping, doctors' appointments, renewing my bloody registration, car repairs!), volunteering, exercise…

Can you see what else it doesn't include?

Writing. Fiction.

Fiction writing. Fiction editing. Fiction writing groups. Submitting fiction. Writing query letters. Writing synopses. Promoting fiction. Promoting myself as a fiction writer.

The stuff I WANT to do! (Yes, even the query writing).

Mind you, I am "writing from the hip" now… so I hope this has been as eye-opening for you as it has for me.

What do you need to do to properly balance your thousand-or-so little projects so you can fit in your dreams? How can you or how do you battle the time dilation or faerie time in your life?

I could really use some help here…

(And… 1 hour 16 minutes to write the blog post, not proofread or post.)


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