Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Time Management Tuesday: Grouping Activities

When I was a young mother, I had a friend who talked about planning her days so that she would always have a reason to leave the house for a little while with the baby. She couldn't stand being in the house all the time.

Needless to say, she was not a writer.

A big part of my time management effort goes to making sure I'm home as much as I can be. I'm not talking about avoiding speaking engagements, school presentations, or conferences right now. Most writers won't have so many of those that they are that big a draw from their writing time. I'm talking, essentially, about personal time demands and errands. I try very hard never to leave the house to do just one task. My attitude is it's far better to blow off two or three hours doing four or five things than it is to disturb four or five days doing one thing at a time.

In an article on getting control of your week life coach Tiffany Chion talks about steps anyone can take to organize time for the things they particularly want to do. Being Gail, I didn't get with the entire program. But I think her point "Group together activities that are similar, so you don't have to 'switch mental gears'" is a good one. I don't want to keep having to switch gears between going to the post office and revising a chapter, between hitting the bank and writing toward a deadline. The shifting back and forth is too difficult and way, way too time consuming.

Right now, I don't work on Thursdays. I shop, spend three hours visiting an elder, and do errands. On a good week, one in which there are no professional calls relating to ill family members, no extra visits to an additional elder, no appointments that I have to be involved with either because I'm a driver or the appointment is for me, that means I have four days to work. That's not bad.That's better than not bad.

Within my worktime, I've started experimenting with grouping submissions. I can go a long time without submitting short stories or essays, which is not a good thing. Nothing ever got published sitting on a hard drive. (That saying is so old that I originally heard it as "Nothing ever got published sitting in a filing cabinet.") I tend to avoid submitting because I find researching markets and doing cover letters time consuming. Submitting truly takes away from writing time, and once I'm into a writing project, I tend to stick with that. So I've started designating Mondays for submissions. I try to submit one manuscript somewhere every Monday, even though that frequently means losing many hours of Monday to visiting publications' websites and spending some time reading content to determine the best fit for whatever I'm thinking of sending. But spreading the Monday time over the entire workweek would have a much worse impact on my productivity than grouping the activity and keeping it to one day.

Does anyone else group activities to manage time?


Jessica Snell said...

I do try to group housework as much as I can, to save time. And I have a couple of days a week when I don't run errands . . . but I wish I could group all my errands into one day! I like your observation about the person who wants to get out of the house not being a writer. No kidding! Or an introvert, probably.

Gail Gauthier said...

I can only group the "regulars" into one day. Random excursions nibble at writing time. I do try to make appointments for myself either early or late in the day, hoping to leave big chunks of the day for work. The same thing if I have to go out on a nonThursday. I try to do it after 3.

A lot of time sucks come up that I can't control, but if I actually plan to spread the regular time obligations I can sort of control over the entire work week and have to add the random stuff on top of that, I'm setting myself up to work only when I have nothing else to do.

I really think managing nonwriting time is incredibly important. You'll never have writing time if you don't.