Checking and tweaking the system

The problem with deciding on topics two months in advance without actually writing notes is that I forget what I was going to say. I didn’t even note what links I wanted to use for this post, so I’m winging it a bit more than usual. I hope you’ll bear with me.

So I’ve set up a system. It doesn’t have to be perfect — just having a system probably helps me get to more things than if I’m playing catch-as-catch-can. However, it could probably be better. How do I figure out what’s working and what isn’t as good as it could be? Continue reading

Rebuilding when the system breaks

Last week, I put together a system based on blocking off time for specific activities, from when everyone has left the house in the morning up until people arrive home. That’s roughly 7:30 to 5, although my son actually gets home about 3. Then I threw it out the window to devote all of my time to finishing up an overdue project (including time devoted to sleep, as you might have gathered from my post earlier this week). That’s actually pretty easy to deal with — get enough sleep, get up in the morning, and start following the prompts of iCal reminders to tell me what I’m supposed to work on in each time period.

Almost. Continue reading

Using your time series: building a system

In case this hasn’t been made patently clear in earlier posts of this series, I am not an expert on time management. It’s something I’m always investigating and learning about because I’m so abysmally bad at it (as anyone who knows what my latest week has looked like knows). So this series is an attempt to synthesize the latest information and put together a system that will work going forward, and to help others do the same.

One of the things I’ve learned recently is that we are, generally speaking, cognitive misers. We can only pay attention to so much at one time. And when we’re trying to keep track of everything and do everything — pay off debt, lose weight, earn more money, be better parents, read our TBR stacks, engage in our hobbies, follow the news, on and on and on — we keep dropping stuff. This gets back to what I mentioned last week about automating tasks. If we can make some of the things we’re trying to do automatic, it doesn’t matter that we don’t have to think about them. Continue reading

Using your time series: Looking at what and how

What needs to be done? How do you decide?

This devolves to personal choice. Some people like the Covey Planner. Others swear by GTD. Some people like to-do lists; some write everything on their calendar. Some (fortunate few?) delegate it all to personal assistants. Some just trust that if it’s important enough, they’ll remember what all they need to get done. Continue reading

Using your time series: Looking at time

When you try to do something, you may run across people who suggest you do “just a little bit each day.” Flylady is a big proponent of this method, saying “You can do anything for 15 minutes.” On the other end of the spectrum, you have research that talks about the 90-minute rhythm to our lives — in sleep and in work. Notice that what these have in common is that they’re actually shorter than expecting to sit down and write, program, play an instrument, or whatever all day long. They give us time to take breaks and time to shift gears.

Tobias Buckell posted last month about his work habits, which gave me some food for thought, and changed the way I approach my day a bit. I didn’t copy everything he does, but there’s a lot of good advice there. Continue reading

What can you do in an hour?

Why an hour? Because it’s a chunk of time I often have. In the mornings, after I make my son’s lunch and tidy up the kitchen, it’s about an hour before he heads off to the school bus and I get down to work for the day. In the evening, it’s about an hour between when I get my daughter to bed and when I need to get my son to bed. After that, it may be one or two hours before I head to bed. Just as some examples. And, of course, there are all those hours on the weekend that might get ignored and frittered away.

In an hour, I can . . .

  • Hand piece one quarter of a quilt block.
  • Index 5-15 pages (depending on the text).
  • Write 1,500 words.
  • Read 2 or 3 chapters in a book (been a while since I timed my reading, so this is a WAG).
  • Weed and mulch a flower bed.
  • Do the week’s grocery shopping.
  • Cook and serve dinner, maybe even squeeze in the clean-up.
  • Watch an video lecture for an online class or do the associated homework so I’ve got deeper background for future stories.
  • Go for a run, then stretch and shower afterward.
  • Read a stack of books with my daughter.
  • Go outside and blow bubbles and draw with sidewalk chalk with both of my kids.
  • Bake a batch of cookies.
  • Clean all 3 of the bathrooms.
  • Play cribbage with my son.
  • Pay bills and clean clutter off the table where they’ve been stacked.
  • Or

  • Watch an episode of an SF show on Netflix with my husband (We went through the new Battlestar Galactica earlier this year, and Netflix has various flavors of Star Trek as well, for example.), possibly plus an episode of a comedy like Arrested Development.

Sometimes, it’s not an hour; I only have 15 or 20 minutes — but I can still get a chunk of a lot of these done.

What about you? What can you do with an hour?

Where did the time go?

I’m behind in listening to the I Should Be Writing podcast, but back in . . . episode 199, maybe? . . . Mur Lafferty suggested writing down all the things you do that take time. She wasn’t saying you have to actually write down how much time you spend on e-mail or playing computer games or reading with your kids, just that anything you spend significant time on (personal grooming excepted) should be on the list. The idea is that your top time priorities (family, work, whatever) are probably not going to change, but as you look at things lower down the list, that’s where you can find more time for writing (or drawing or quilting or crocheting or whatever your own interest happens to be).

It’s a scary exercise. Sure, obviously, I’m going to put down time on the computer — but to be completely honest with myself, I have to divide that up because some of that is work (copyediting, proofreading, indexing, marketing my freelance business), some of it is writing or writing-related (writing, research on markets, e-publishing my works, submissions, research for stories), some of it is social interaction (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, reading and commenting on blogs, on-line chats, Forward Motion), and some of it is just plain goofing off (and sometimes, research and social interaction belong here, along with any computer games, reading Webcomics, following random links, looking at the new free books available for Kindle or Nook apps, and so forth). I’m not really good at drawing the lines there, and to a certain extent, I need both the social interaction (my husband being the only adult I see on a regular basis) and the puttery aspect of not having my brain going full-blast all however many hours I’m awake.

At least I know where I need to work on things. Writing needs to take precedence to Facebook and Twitter. Puttering should only happen after I’ve worked or written for the day. The work/writing duo is something I’m not sure what to do with. I find it hard to work on my own words when I’ve been devoting my brain to somebody else’s for most of the day, but because the freelance work represents actual (rather than potential) money, it has to take precedence. Maybe, practically speaking, I can’t work and write on the same day. If true, that’s just one more reason to make sure writing happens before puttering. *sigh* Guess that means I won’t be checking out what Agatha’s up to first thing Monday morning.

This doesn’t even take into account the off-line things I do with my time, from running errands to weeding and planting to quilting to reading and so on. And a lot of days, it’s one of those or writing, not both. (There’s a reason my son complained the book I handed him earlier today was covered with dust. Housework generally isn’t high on the list.)

What about you? Where are you spending your time?

DST springs forth

Yes, I’m a couple days behind posting about Daylight Saving Time. Chalk it up to time lag from the change. Or maybe I just didn’t get to the blog recently. Whichever.

The problem with DST is that it hits just as days are getting longer and I’m getting up in the daylight. Having light coming through the windows significantly helps me to wake up. Yes, I know, there are tons of people out there (No, I’m not saying you weigh a ton. Really. Not a pound over 1,000.) who get up in the dark year-round. I ain’t one of them. (Or to quote one of my favorite movies, “People? I ain’t people!”)

Fortunately, this semester, my husband’s first class isn’t quite as early as they have been in the past, so I’m not having to get up at 6 to make sure our daughter’s ready for him to drop at daycare on his way to work. I don’t have to be up until 7, and it’s light already by then. So I’ve adjusted fairly painlessly this year.

Getting kids to adjust is trickier. To adjust, you have to get up and go to bed at the same time as usual. “Go away. I’m sleeping.” “But it’s still light out.” *sigh*

I’ve said those things myself. I suppose it’s only fair that the words come back to haunt me. This morning wasn’t too bad, though. Maybe by the end of the week, the kids will have adjusted. I can hope.