Saturday, July 31, 2010
I do feel somewhat better knowing I am not the only one late in adding my blog, and I do hope you all find this cartoon as funny as I.
Time management is an ongoing process. Of that I am certain. However, after existing in the corporate world for over 30 years I still revert to my own means of surviving each day and getting everything done for everyone on time.
I am going to begin my blog with my use of time management on the job since that is where I have spent over 50 hours a week for all these years. (I include travel time to and from work, because I figure from the time I walk out my door in the morning until I return home at night I belong to "The Man".)
My dedication to corporate America began in 1966. From 1990 to 1993 I attended college and earned my BA in English and professional writing. From 1996 to 2001 I ran a secretarial service from my home. Both of those endeavors required time management and for the life of me I cannot recall how I got everything done.
I am not a list keeper. I do not use a checklist or task list. Oh, yes, I have a task bar on my computer at work and every meeting I schedule for every person as well as every performance review and every vacation and time off pops up on that task list. Needless, to say it does not serve me well. Not that I would follow it even if it did.
I have heard it said if you want something done give it to a busy person. I have no doubt my co-workers and superiors agree with this and therefore seek me out when they need something done and they need it done NOW. (Or possibly yesterday).
I have a little sign on my desk that says, "I don't look busy because I did it right the first time." This is my idea of time management. I make every attempt to attack every project as soon as it hits my desk and take the time and energy required to get it done right and move on to the next project. Most days this process works well for me. Other days ... well let's just say there are some people who don't know what they want when they ask and come back again and again until they get what they THINK they want.
Okay, this is about time management and not about me venting. Sorry!
I do have reports due on Mondays, and on certain days of the month, that I know when they are due and what it will take to get those done. I do my level best to get these out of the way a.s.a.p. so I am open to handle whatever else may hit my desk throughout the day.
I work very hard to complete all of my work early in the week in order that on Friday, which is when most of management seems to melt into the woodwork, I am able to spend some time on my writing.
I do make lists. It is just that I normally will misplace them and have to rewrite them again and again to complete the task they were created for.
I am not a dedicated journaler nor am I successful at my daily quiet time with the Lord. Let me add here that around the first of the year I prayed for the Lord to wake me every morning with plenty of time to spend with him, possibly work on my writing, exercise, take a walk or do whatever might need done around the house. A short time later I began waking every morning between 4:00 am and 4:30 am. (My bladder is awake, but I'm not.) I go to the bathroom and return to bed, pulling the covers over my head until I absolutely must crawl out at 6:00 am. Why? I don't get much sleep during that time and I could accomplish so much with the Lord . Why can I not push myself into the shower (it isn't that far from the John) and wake myself up?
My suggestion for good time management is: Wing It and Wait!
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
“Ha ha. No really. What’s the topic?”
“Is this some kind of sick joke?”
Asking creative types to talk about managing their time is like asking shopaholics to discuss budgeting. At best, all we have are theories and our own abandoned attempts at bringing the problem under control.
I have a long way to go in this area. I’m scatter-brained, routineless, and constantly behind, and if I pretended to have some sort of system in my writing life and presented it here for the benefit of others—well, several of my writing friends would show up on my doorstep to confront me (in sisterly love, of course) for my outrageous lie.
So I’m just going to share one area I’m struggling with now and what I’m doing to get through it. I know it’s not rocket science. I leave that stuff to my husband. But maybe you need to be reminded of this method just like I did.
My WIP is set in England and involves characters from the classic novel Wuthering Heights. I spent a month researching the novel, the Brontës, and Yorkshire before I began writing. But, in almost every chapter, I run into difficulty when it comes to making the details accurate. I want to get it right. And I know there are Brontë scholars and English folks who know way more about my subject matter than I do. I imagine these people breathing down my neck as I write. For some reason, the figments all resemble a particularly harsh professor I had in college.
Anyway, when I hit a snag in my writing, I turn to my different research sources. Sometimes I find my answer, plug it in, and plunge onward, content that the detail is accurate. But, more often than not, I don’t find the solution. That’s when the paralysis hits. I stare at the screen. I reread the Wiki article or shuffle through the website again. I look through all my books a second or third time. How can I possibly go on with my story? I don’t know if English people use the word pantry. I don’t know how many acres (or hectacres) are in a park. I don’t know what Heathrow smells like.
It’s as though someone has pressed Pause on my creativity. My story is frozen because of one detail.
My family and my writing friends witnessed me pulling my hair out over these things, and they all gave me advice. The same advice.
“Make a note of it and move on.”
Naturally, I didn’t listen, and I’ve wasted a lot of time because of my stubbornness. Finally, exhausted from hovering in limbo, I gave in, highlighted the problem in red and (gasp!) moved on.
You know what? It works. And I can come back to those details at a later date. What’s important now is letting the story flow.
Like I said, I know it isn’t rocket science. I’ve heard of the highlight it and move on approach before. But I needed to be reminded. I needed permission. I needed my critique group to tell me that I was not going to be judged as a sloppy writer for leaving some research for a later date. So I wanted to pass on the hint. Don’t get bogged down. Don’t waste your precious time. Mark it and move on!
Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books which are under contract with Waterbrook Press and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as chapter secretary.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
I thought it was just me.
Have you ever felt that way? That there must be something wrong with you because you can't keep it all flowing, all in order, all in your head, or take it all in stride?
News alert: It isn't just you.
I don't care how all-together others around you may look, they really aren't. I don't care how much everyone else's life looks like, it isn't all together.
We all struggle with time management.
I once took a course through an employer on time management, and the one thing I remember from that course is: only schedule the tasks it will take to fill half of your available time.
In other words, if you think you have six hours free or available for work, schedule in tasks that you estimate will take three hours.
Because here's another news alert, one which my pastor always says: things always take longer, and cost more, than you planned.
Scheduling in half a day is not wasting the other half.
Scheduling in half a day will set you free.
Free from the panic that comes when you realize you don't have enough time to finish the job.
Free from the frustration that happens when your computer crashes, again.
Free from the aggravation that threatens to steal your peace when a friend calls and asks for help.
Free to allow you time to breathe and enjoy the presence of God the next time He tickles you on the shoulder and says, "Come away with me for a while."
So, cut yourself some slack, schedule in half a day, and watch the other half fill up in spite of your best-laid plans. Then sit back and smile, knowing you have time.
Disclaimer: Of course, I didn't do that today. I scheduled in a full day. But I did better than I did on Monday, where I scheduled in a full day, didn't get it all done, worked like a dog all day, and still had to get up at 5 a.m. on Tuesday to get a project out the door on time.
Disclaimer 2: Don't do what I do, do what I say. I'm pretty sure my father used to tell me that all the time when I was a kid. And that will encourage me to do what I say. Because we all know the definition of insanity: doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different outcome. And no, I am not insane!
I was supposed to post this blog entry on Monday. Do you know why I didn’t?
Because I didn’t write it down.
I have told my children for over 12 years, “If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen.” Can you take a wild guess as to what I didn’t write on the calendar? Yep, my blog day.
My main time management strategy is making a list for the day and/or week. Well part of making that list is to see what’s already on the calendar for that day. Well if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t get on the list and it doesn’t get accomplished.
I have heard it said that you should tackle the most difficult task on your list first. There are three reasons for this. One, you are freshest first thing. Two, you feel good about accomplishing a big thing. And three, you aren’t dreading it all day, kind of a smooth sailing the rest of the day sort of thing. This is a good strategy.
Some times I will do a lot of the little things first to make my list shorter. This is especially true when I have a long list, say 10 things and eight of them I can do in an hour like mail a letter, give the dog his medicine, write a short e-mail, etc. It bolsters me to tackle a bigger thing because I’ve already accomplished so much in a short period of time.
One thing you must do when using a list is to cross things off as you complete them. This shows what you have done and gives you momentum to move on to the next thing. You have to look at your list anyway to see what you’re going to do next, so do it with pen in hand and cross the completed task off.
A list also helps you keep in mind what needs to be done so you don’t forget something like…um…let me see if I can think of a good example…oh like posting a blog. And while you’re working on one thing, your subconscious is working on one of the other items on your list. It’s like doing double duty. At the end of the day you can see all the things you accomplished that day and know you have done a goods day’s work.
So make a list (and look at it). See what all you can get done.
So guess what I get to do now? Yep, cross post a blog off my list.
Monday, July 12, 2010
“There’s enough time in each day to do God’s will.”No light bulb this time. More like a hammer on the head! Why was I so worried about what I was going to accomplish today or getting through my to-do list? If my plans were God’s will for me that day, they would get done. What a relief! I didn’t have to worry about if I had enough hours in the day. Instead I needed to surrender my plans, my time to the Lord and let Him have control of all of it.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Time has its own mind and rhythm--and you want me to tell you how to manage it?
Someday when I'm home, just hubby and me in a quiet house, time will be easier to manage. I'll have a set writing schedule and my creative juices will be pumping, ready to pour onto the page at exactly 10:43 each morning. I will have won my life-long battle with time.
That's the dream.
After taking a personality test the other day, however, I suspect I'll still find time unmanageable. But I'm not ready for my bubble to be popped on this one, so let's pretend it might get easier for me as I mature. After all, there needs to be some reward for surviving my crazy, loud life with four teenagers and a revolving door of their friends pouring in and out. There's really only one constant in my day as I try to manage them. I can absolutely rely on knowing that I will be asked 133 times when I'm cooking and what it will be. Other than that, there is little continuity.
But dreams of scheduled writing times and whines about my lack thereof aren't offering you much take-home. I'm often told, "I don't know how you do all you do." I must be accomplishing SOMETHING. I think mostly I'm just snowing people--looking more poised and efficient than I am, but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve--after all a gal with absolutely no concept of time still has to live in it. She just has to find her own way of doing so.
While I can't do detailed schedules (they make me break out in a sweat), I do have big picture plans. I need some quiet time in my recliner before I start my day--unless I've forgotten to blog for ACFW, then I postpone the tea and quiet meditation and instead fling a prayer to God that I can figure out something to write while barreling to my computer with a growling stomach and caffeine headache coming on.
The calendar next to my computer keeps my deadlines in the forefront of my mind--at least when I look at it and remember what it says. And my mouse pad is actually paper, where I keep a running list of what I must get done in my "work" world. I'm not a list person, but since I've hit my mid-forties my brain needs a little help.
When I am up against a big deadline I protect time (still not able to manage it). I resist the urge to head out to Starbucks with a friend or to watch the latest chick-flick with my daughter. (At least most of the time.) I block out the amount of time it takes to write the project and add at least an afternoon for all the time I'll spend sweating, feeling inadequate, and begging God to help me believe that I can actually write. Sometimes I add a whole day for this. I don't mean to, but that's how it turns out--which means the next day I HAVE to dig in and write harder 'cause I'm out of time. This actually works pretty well. Other than remembering to write for this particular blog, I'm very rarely late on a writing deadline.
The other thing that helps me get my work done is laundry. Really. The washing machine is right next to my office, so if I sort laundry for the six of us and start writing, it's the perfect set-up. Every time the dryer buzzes I get a break from sitting at the computer so I can rush to the couch and lay all those T-shirts neatly across its arm. Then I write away. The goal is that both the writing deadline will be met and the laundry washed by seven the next evening. Then I can fold laundry for two hours giving me an excuse to watch a Jane Austen flick. I warn my boys for hours in advance of that moment that the TV is MINE. And I have a built in reward for keeping my bottom in my office chair and getting the deadline met.
Between a busy season of life, a dominant right brain, and a personality that feels stifled when it gets too scheduled, I never try to manage my time. I try to live in it, roll with it, and play with it. I work hard and fast in it when I claim a space of it for my writing. And I pray like crazy. I figure if God called me to write while everything else is going crazy in my life, then He can make my fingers fly across the keyboard. And He often does.
For me time management is more of a passion than a schedule. I believe in what I'm doing, so I grab the opportunities to do my thing and work like a mad woman for that space of time I claimed between homeschooling and supper--or everyone else's bedtime and morning.
I know some of you wonderful left-brained people whose personality tests have letters in it like S, T, or J are now breathing too quickly and getting a stomachache. You'll be okay, really. I may not have the world's greatest advice, but next time I see you I'll enfold you in a great big hug and we'll both feel better.
A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
I make the schedule of who will blog when each month. And with the officers of the three chapters, we decided what the topic of the month would be back in January. So . . . this month had an extra Friday. That was last Friday, July 2. And I assigned myself to introduce the topic and get the ball rolling.
Only . . . I didn't.
And now it's after 11:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.
This is rather ironic. I've studied time management, taught time management, given advice on time management. Others tell me how organized I am. And my bent to toward being that. But . . . life has a way of intervening, as I'm sure you've all realized by now.
Last week when I was thinking about how to kick-off this subject, I had just come off an all-nighter Wednesday night, trying to finish a project that had to be on the editor's desk Friday. In order to meet that deadline, I had to have it to the nearest UPS Store by 6:00 p.m. Thursday. I made it . . . with two minutes to spare!
Friday, I thought about this post several times as I cleaned my very-neglected house before my sister and her family and my hubby arrived for the weekend. Housecleaning is at the bottom of my list of things to-do. And yes, I'm a list maker. Once again, as I dealt with several layers of dust, I thought about getting someone in a couple of times a month to clean. Supposedly that would free me from the cleaning marathons I usually find myself in. Only I'm one of those people who would feel obligated to clean before the cleaner comes. Sigh. Not very time effective then!
So now you know my struggle with time management. I'll be back Friday with a little more serious post . . . maybe. In the meantime, I'll work on that to-do list!
Have a wonderful, productive week!
Okay, enough of the excuses. Ironically, I’ve given talks on this very subject. I’ll give you a mini-lesson here on how to set up a goal sheet so you can finish your project on time.
You can use either the spreadsheet program on your computer or you can use paper. I caution, however, that if you use the antiquated spiral notebook, use a pencil, because you will inevitably be erasing. I like the computer because I can add or delete rows or change tasks as needed.
I’ll tell you how I set up my goals sheet, but feel free to change it for your own needs. Just keep it simple, or it will be more trouble than it’s worth.
All you need is two columns:
And now, my disclaimer. This is my ideal goal sheet. Not every novel (or non-fiction work for that matter) is created equal. Each one is unique and needs more or less work in certain areas than other novels do. Goals get changed, rearranged, omitted, added. It becomes a living, breathing partner in the writing process. But I’m here to tell ya, my goal sheet comes in mighty handy when I’m faced with a four-month contract.
As you read my sheet, let me explain some of the tools I use. You may have other plotting tools. Or none. Whatever works for you.
- Skeleton – This is Randy Ingermanson’s brainchild.
- GMC – From a book by Debra Dixon. If you don’t have this book, and you’ve never learned about Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, order it today!
- SOP – Seat of the Pants. It helps me to write the first few chapters without plotting first to get a feel of the characters. I may not use these chapters in the final draft, but they’re important to get me into the rhythm of the story.
- ALL IN ONE – My term for a spreadsheet notebook I’ve created. It has several sheets to help me keep track and plot my story. I’ve discussed much of it on my blog. Click on any of the four lessons titled, “Organize Yourself as a Writer.” You will note that the goal setting sheet is different from the one I’m showing you today. I started out using that one, but as I said. This sheet lives and breathes. It’s evolved for me, but if you prefer the one on the blog, that’s fine too.
- Highlight – This is from a class I took with Margie Lawson who presented the EDITS System. You can buy her lecture packet that includes this and other wonderful tools on her website.
- Put aside – A story, like fine wine, needs to breathe. Around Week 12, I try to not look at it for as long as I can get away with and still meet my deadline. When I come back to it, I put on my critiquing glasses (not real ones, so don’t ask me where I bought them <grin>) and read objectively. The longer I let the story sit, the easier it is to pretend I’m just another reader.
That is . . . if you can find the time.
Kathleen E. Kovach is an award winning author, leader of the local critique group JOY Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. A mom and grandmother, she lives in northeast Colorado with her husband of over three decades. Visit her online: www.craftcinema.blogspot.com, www.kathleenekovach.blogspot.com, www.KathleenEKovach.com.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Come with an idea...leave with a story!
The seminar will be held Saturday, November 13th, 8:30 am - 4 pm at the DoubleTree Hotel (formerly Radisson Graystone Castle) off I-25 & 120th Avenue in Northglenn, Colorado Registration check-in and continental breakfast begin at 8:30 am. Seminar begins at 9 am.
Early-bird registration is $89 from July 1st – September 30, 2010. Registration is open to both ACFW members and non-members. All who register by September 30th will be entered into a drawing to receive a $50 cash refund on their registration fee. One winner will be chosen. Drawing to be held on day of seminar.
Prices will increase October 1st, and space is limited, so register early! Registration ends November 1, 2010.
Admission to the event includes:
- Storycrafter's workbook
- Continental breakfast
- Deli lunch buffet
ACFW members, please enter discount code "ACFW" to receive a 5% discount. Membership must be current. Discount available for early-bird registration only.
Rooms for overnight stay will be available as well. Please contact His Writers for price information.
The Storycrafter’s Seminar is sponsored by ACFW Denver North (HIS Writers).
For questions contact Paula Moldenhauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accepting all major credit cards and PayPal