Tuesday, April 13, 2010

All in Good Time

(Just so you know, I'm writing this post to help me as much as to help someone—who like me—might also see an occasional day slip away like so much vapor.)

Do you schedule your day?

Back in a previous life when I ran between appointments and meetings—with paperwork and phone calls in between—it was very natural to have a schedule. Without my calendar in front of me I would have had no idea where I was, what I was doing, or where I was headed next.

Flash forward to a life where self-imposed deadlines meets household chores.

I'm a nester. I love creating a haven for my husband and I. I work with what I have and rearrange and shove around and try different placement of tables and accessories. An entire day can disappear before I have the good sense to stop. My husband says I'm a good cook, but I think he says that mostly as an encouragement rather than an utterance of truth.

The nesting and cooking things mean time, planning and cleaning. Not one of those things means writing. When I worked in Corporate America, I often joked I needed a wife. Now that I'm home and trying to accomplish my own dream—rather than someone else's—I could really go in for polygamy.

I've learned a few things. First (and most important) I need to schedule my day. From 6:30 a.m. until 7:00 . . . overnight emails. From 7 until 8:30, shower, dress and get breakfast. Yes. That much detail. When I do it right, I include email time and get specific about what writing needs to be attended to. (Two new scenes, editing, a blog post, reviewing critiques that have come in, critiques done for my partners, self-education via a craft book, etc.).

Here's something important for my psyche. Usually, between noon and 2 o'clock, I block out something I call Slush Time. That's lunch and reading, or a movie, or a nap (I only wish), or piddling around with something non-essential. Slush Time lets me be amazingly productive or unbelievably lazy. It doesn't matter. It's all entirely my choice. It blends freedom and wise choices into one beautiful island of time.

I may not be successful to the letter (or the hour), but having a schedule gives me a thousand times better shot at having accomplished something at the end of the day. (I need to reduce the words in this sentiment and tattoo it on my arm.)

Time savers:

  • The crock pot is my best friend. Drill a dinner together in the morning, toss it in and go to work. Whoever invented this lovely kitchen appliance should have received a Pulitzer for Stress Elimination in the Working Woman.
  • I don't need to clean my house every single week. My husband is arguably a neater person than I am. Just because I had cleaning people here every week when I was working, doesn't mean they were actually needed. Every other week is fine. Unless of course, no one would really be put off if I went three weeks between intensive cleaning.
  • Laundry. One day a week. Okay . . . if you have a large family, this may not work. But just doing this one day a week (for me it's Wednesdays) not only saves time, but also money and expectations. The LOML knows if he wants a dirty something cleaned on Monday, he'd better figure out an alternative, or run a load himself.
  • Errands. These are best put off until they are compelling and can be grouped together. In and out all day long eats up time. And unless it's an errand for either new shoes, dishes, or books, I'm way okay to put it off. Online ordering, whenever possible, is by far my first choice here. (My sister gets free grocery delivery in Tucson, given a certain minimum amount. To me, that's incredibly civilized.)

Do you schedule your time? What are some of your challenges and how have you overcome them?

Here's my need: The iCal feature on Mac does not provide the same features I enjoyed on my PC calendar via MSN. I can't figure out how to get a continual schedule on my screen, and man . . . I sorely need the reminder. Any suggestions?

CR: Need to say I finished The Sex Club by L.J. Sellers. A good read, but the Kindle translation lost a little in the formatting. Which can make dialogue a little confusing. I'm back to Under The Dome by Stephen King. I'm not quite half-way through and am ready to concur that this is vintage King, a la The Stand.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Well, with two kids 6 and 4, the scheduling thing is hijacked by their schedules. If anything, I'm kind of in the opposite camp--making sure not to over-schedule so they can have time for making up stories, inventing things like a gun that shoots beads (boys are into guns, feminist/socialist attempts on my part aside, that's another story), and putting on shows.

    But I know what you mean about the day slipping away, especially when blogging, emails, and the net come into play. The way I resolve this during first draft mode is to write first thing in the morning, on a dinosaur of a machine that has NO net access. If I can get in a good 2-5 hours, I will complete a new scene or chapter, and then I can wander up to edit later in the day as time (and distractions) allow.

    This is all ideally speaking of course. And life sometimes interferes with ideal.

    Maybe your tattoo should read: Live, schedule, accomplish

  2. Thank you so much for this. It's always good to be reminded that keeping control of time like this isn't neurotic, it's a necessity.

  3. 2-5 hours? Wow, Jenny. That's gold.

    Today's a cleaning day for me, but I plan on sitting down to write a little bit later, and create a schedule for tomorrow. That now must include outdoor chores as well.

    Esri (what a beautiful name), I've decided that writing is a lot like losing weight or getting in shape. Wishing doesn't make it so. And the best way for me to take action is to plan to take action. In detail. Ugh. Anal, but effective for those of us who can't just breeze through the day with a mental checklist of some kind.

    Live. Schedule. Accomplish.

  4. Thanks for the shout-out of The Sex Club. We hope to get a reformatted version up soon.

  5. I was reading The Sex Club on my flight to Tucson. A 14-year old girl (my guess as to her age) was my seat-mate and curious about my Kindle. Showing it to her I clicked a bit here and there and lo and behold, the title, in mega-point font, flared across the page. I clicked again as fast as I could and could only pray that my trigger finger was quicker than her cognitive ability. It would probably have done little good to go into the plot elements of the book and to assure her that even the author was a bit chagrined over her publisher's selection of the title.