Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Trying To Manage Time

Teaching Authors has a post up called "Ideal" Life vs. "Real" Life: Where Does the Time Go?". It's about writing and time management.

Get ready for a laugh--I once taught a workshop on time management for secretaries and administrative assistants. This was decades ago, when I'd been working for an agency that did management development and personnel management training for state and municipal employees. My bosses did time management programs for managers. Those programs focused on delegating work as a way to manage your time. You don't have time to do something? Get someone else to do it! Problem solved!

Why anyone thought I was qualified to teach time management I no longer recall. And note that the people I was teaching the time management workshop for were at the bottom of the executive chain. They were the people work was delegated to. Delegating wasn't an option for them. What I focused on was using "forms." Creating templates (pre word processing) for anything you possibly could so that you didn't have to come up with a new letter, memo, etc., for every single occasion. My plan was to save as much time as possible by cutting down on decision making and avoiding having to reinvent the wheel.

I only taught the workshop once.

I still think that you can save time with routines--do the same thing at the same time on a regular basis so that you don't have to spend a lot of time thinking about what you're going to do. Send the same letter to as many people as possible. That sort of thing.

It doesn't help a whole lot with managing writing time, though.

In her post on time management at Teaching Authors, Carmela Martino says that she procrastinates because of perfectionism. That's a classic problem for writers, one that is sometimes referred to as an inner editor. When I first heard about inner editors, I thought the idea was laughable, some kind of touchy feely, navel gazing thing. (That was before I started dabbling in zen, of course.) Then, after struggling with some of my later books and finding myself reading anything, absolutely anything, so I could avoid working, I began to suspect that perhaps my problem was, indeed, that I had been invaded by an inner editor. My weak ego couldn't face the knowledge that the manuscript I was working on was going to need draft after draft after draft. It was just too soul-sucking. I could make myself feel better by reading--something someone else had written. It's good to get some in-depth knowledge about politicians, isn't it? There was always a chance that reading would lead me to come up with some brilliant idea. It wasn't really wasting time.

Hmmm. Perhaps there's medication for that?

My latest time management twist involves looking over a writing project in the middle of my morning workout. (I have little problem working out for close to an hour in the morning. Why should I? When I'm working out, I don't have to work! You'd think writers would be the most fit group on the planet because exercise is such a fine procrastination device.) Then, while I'm on the treadmill or whatever, the material I've just looked over is in the back of my mind, and I often come up with some satisfying tweak for it. This is what is known as forcing a breakout experience, by the way.


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about moving exercise to the middle of my day for just that reason--it feels less like procrastination and more like a break, and I bet the work you've done in the a.m. does keep bubbling in your brain. Hmm...

Gail Gauthier said...

Yeah, but, Becky, then you'll have to change into your workout clothes in the middle of the day and get cleaned up afterwards and change into your regular clothes again and all that extra dressing and undressing will take time you could have used for writing. Unless, of course, you just dress in your workout clothes first thing and stay in them until you have worked out or don't get dressed at all until workout time, meaning you dress in workout clothes first and then change, rather than day clothes, workout clothes, day clothes. That will save you one change.

But on those days when you have an appointment during the day or relatives call and you can't get rid of them, you'll probably miss working out altogether and then you'll feel miserable because you're running on low endorphins, which cannot be good for creative energy.

You've gotta give this plan some thought.

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Gail,
I agree that routines are time-savers. I also read somewhere that grouping similar activities is another way to save time. Thus, it's more efficient to do all your emailing at once than to do it in fits and starts. At least, that's what I tell myself after spending a whole hour on email. :-)