Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: A Gardening Model

I've written a lot here, and I mean a lot, about working with units of time. I've gone on and on about working in forty-five minute units. And I've written about working in month-long units.  I don't think I've considered a year-long unit, planning work for a whole year or around the seasons. That's what gardeners do, or so I've been told. They practice a form of of situational time management, with the requirements of the season determining how they'll spend their time.

You see any grass? No.
To be honest, I don't actually know much about gardening. Like Buffy, we live on the Hellmouth. The soil around here has been scorched by Satan and his minions. Grass does not grow. It can't. The ground cover we bought to plant on a bald spot got the blight. Landscaping stones don't stay put in these parts. It's as if they're alive.

But when I stumbled upon a copy of C.Z. Guest's 5 Seasons of Gardening at my local library book sale earlier this month, even I was reminded that real gardeners do certain things at certain times. C.Z. Guest was a socialite gardener who maintained gardens at her multiple homes. At one of them, she grew vegetables for her French chef. Do not be put off because Guest thinks there are 5 seasons when there are only 4. (She includes Christmas.) In spite of her wealth and rather over-the-top blue blood lifestyle, she couldn't bend nature to her will. She, or maybe someone she paid, had to work with it.
The Blight

Writers Who Use A Gardening Model

For the most part, writers who use a gardening model, working around specific situations in their year, are responding to work and/or family restrictions. For instance:

  • Writers who teach on any level may plan to use school vacations to do their heavier writing work, such as generating new writing or doing a big revision.

  • Writers who do freelance work and can control the number and kinds of jobs they do, can plan writing around the times of year when they are less likely to have big freelance obligations.
    It Lives! It Lives!

  • Writers who are primary caregivers for young children may  plan lighter work loads for school vacations  or plan marketing tours or travel research that they can do with children when they're out of school. This could also be a good time to plan to do small social media tasks--updating websites or blogs--that can be completed in short periods of time.

However, even full-time writers may think seasonally/annually.

  • Writers who do a lot of public appearances and workshop teaching sometimes create blocks of time each year when they don't do that kind of work so they can write.
  • For children's writers who work regularly in schools, the school year is a significant period, almost seasonal in nature.

  • Some full-time writers who presumably can write any time still use National Novel Writing Month as a tool for getting new books started.

For the past couple of years, I've treated April as Earth Day Month, a specific time for marketing Saving the Planet & Stuff. September is a travel month (which has to be prepared for, by the way) when I do professional reading. As I've mentioned recently, I'm thinking of doing NaNoWriMo this year. I'll need to be prepping for that during most of the fall season.


Gardeners cannot change the coming and going of the seasons and what happens during them. They have to plan what they can do within those periods. For writers, it's the same thing. We can't change our family responsibilities or ignore the fact that we work with all kinds of restraints. We can do long-term planning for working around and with those restraints, though.


We are not quite halfway through the calendar year. This would be a good time to think about what you could be doing "seasonally" through December. Can you plan to work on specific 2016 goals/objectives at different points the rest of this year?     


Maria Matthews said...

I understand the concept, trouble is life keeps interrupting or disrupting my timetable.So now I write in day blocks. whenever the house is empty and I am at home I forget housework etc and write. It is no ideal but for now it seems to be working.I wonder how others cope with working, family, outside commitments?

Gail Gauthier said...

I'm a promoter of what I call Situational Time Management and the Unit System.

Situational Time Management involves accepting that our working, family, and outside commitments are always changing and that we have to keep changing our time planning to deal with them. http://blog.gailgauthier.com/2012/06/time-management-tuesday-situational.html

The Unit System is working in small increments of time. There's a lot of support for this because it helps workers replenish their willpower over the course of the day. But it's also good for situations like you describe because if we're used to working in 45-minute increments, or even less, we recognize that we CAN work like that and grab those little chunks of time when we find them. http://blog.gailgauthier.com/2012/02/time-management-tuesday-unit-system.html