Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Flexibility Is Supposed To Be A Good Thing

I am definitely getting into the unit system for time management. I expect to be covering my experience with it in future Tuesday posts. (In fact, I'm even speculating about a memoir at some point--My Life in Forty-five Minute Increments.) Today, though, we're going to talk about having to give up your schedule and still work. Flexibility I believe that's called. I don't have a lot of that in my joints or my psyche.

Flexibility is essentially what Livia King Blackburne advised when I contacted her about her take on the unit system. Livia is a living, breathing graduate student working on her dissertation. You will recall, I am sure, that the forty-five minute time management plan is based on research done on students working on research papers. While Livia thought such research sounded useful and made sense, "The thing about research though, is that it applies to the average result of everybody studied, and also, the results would depend on the exact circumstances of their experiment, so there's certainly wiggle room in their advice. I find that for myself, it's better to define chunks in increments of work done, rather than time...Also, as you mentioned about the writing flow, I do think different tasks have a different natural length to them. So I wouldn't take 45 min. as a hard and fast rule, but rather let it vary according to the person and the task." (Emphasis in both cases is mine.)

Ah, clearly Livia does not have obsessive tendencies, as I do. Hey, but I can be flexible, no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary. It just takes tremendous effort on my part.

Yesterday is a case in point. I had been excited about what I was doing last week and actually looked forward to going back to work on Monday. But, then, Monday morning actually came, and I suddenly decided I really needed to submit some more work somewhere. So, I figured I'd spend a forty-five minute unit or two making one. On top of that sudden change in direction, I had a carpet guy here. Not only here, he was working on the hallway outside my office.

I am not yet so comfortable with running my life on the forty-five minute schedule that I wanted to walk by a relative stranger every three-quarters of an hour so I could do a nonwriting task somewhere in the house, then, fifteen minutes later, barge past him again (or over him, as he spent a lot of time on his hands and knees) to go sit in front of a computer again. Carpet Guy also kept wanting to talk about the cracks he was finding in the concrete under the old carpeting and something about nap. So I just sat at my computer, for the better part of four hours, going back and forth between two groups I might submit to and then preparing new submission material for the one I decided upon.

Also, I did a little less exercising yesterday morning than I usually do, and I didn't meditate because I wanted to be dressed and established in the office (staking out my space) before Carpet Guy arrived. My pre-writing ritual had been disrupted, I wasn't doing what I'd planned to do, and I was way off my forty-five minute schedule (crutch?). Seriously, I was feeling pretty anxious most of the day.

But I got my submission in. Submissions are incredibly important for writers--obviously--and incredibly time consuming; it's easy to forget about them in the rush to work, especially since the bulk of submissions amount to nothing. (An example of taking focusing on work rather than results, usually a good thing, to excess.) So while the day could be deemed a failure in terms of time management, in terms of accomplishing a task, of an increment of work done, it was a success.

That's my story, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

So, readers, what about flexibility? Are you comfortable with it? Have you had good experiences with it, or does being flexible just mean you're off your schedule and headed south?

Hey, this task took up a forty-five minute unit, so I should be off doing something else for fifteen minutes. Except Carpet Guy just returned! I can cope with this...I can cope with this...I can cope with this...

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