Recently I recalled my inspiration for starting the Time Management Tuesday feature here at OC. A memoirist had written an essay responding to new writers who had asked her how they could find time to write. She advised them to take a few hours from the time they used for exercising and housework. From all of us who use up most of our exercise and cleaning time making multiple emergency room visits, lining up home companions, connecting with visiting nurses, hunting for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, visiting said nursing homes and assisted living facilities a couple of times a week, researching medications and treatments, meeting with doctors, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, audiologists, the occasional lawyer, and even a minister when a funeral needs to be planned, let me just say that that was enormously, enormously unhelpful. Glib. Shallow. I ran out of adjectives early on and became royally pissed. Time Management Tuesday came out of rage.
I'll be up front here and admit that being judgemental is my worst fault. Dwelling on what I've passed judgement on is probably a close second. But there you go. On the plus side, rage and holding a grudge led to a multi-year study of time management that has provided some help to me this past month.
A Three-Pronged Modest Proposal For Those Writing During A Crisis. Or Two Or Three.
So you have day after day and week after week and month after month of dealing with family problems. In all likelihood, year after year. It's clear this stuff isn't coming to an end any time soon--which is just as well, given how some of these family problems end--and you'd like to keep writing. Realistically, what can you do?
Situational Time Management. Don't expect to be able to manage your creative time or any of your time the same way every moment of your life. Our life situations are always changing, so we change how and when we work in order to work around them. What's more, our work situations are always changing. Are we prepublished writers trying to generate work? Are we making a living from our writing and have to keep the income coming? Are we established writers working on projects that aren't in the publishing pipeline yet or do we have books coming out soon so we have to work on marketing? Everything we do is dependent upon our life and work situation. We only have to wrap our time around the situations we're in, and we can do it in any way. What a relief. Shifting from situation to situation is a whole lot easier than trying to work with only one schedule, and if we can't conform to it, believing we're out of luck.
The Unit System. One very good way to wrap our time around whatever situation we're in is to stop thinking that we need a full day to work. In the fields of time management and productivity, there's a lot of support for breaking work days into units or segments of time. The theory is that the first 45-minutes of work are the most productive of the day. The longer we spend working past that point, the less productive we become. Thus working, taking a break, and working again tricks the brain into thinking that each new start is the beginning of a new day. Meaning that a short work period squeezed in before heading off for the nursing home or the couple of hours you have after you get back can be valuable. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, and it has the benefit of making you feel you're still in the game. Also, coming home to your laptop or a book you're reading for research can be hugely relaxing after having lunch with a table full of ladies all at different levels of cognitive decline but all certain that they don't like oven-roasted sweet potatoes.
Use Your Goals and Objectives. How can we make the best use of whatever units of time we have while in our particular situation? Make sure that we're always using them to work toward one of our work goals. That way, we're always making some kind of progress on the work we want to do. That's good both practically and emotionally. In addition, we're not wasting time, which we don't have very much of, trying to decide what to do. Having established goals at the beginning of the year that I could work toward was hugely helpful last month.
Does that sound more useful than "use some of your exercise and housework time for writing?"Am I still being judgemental here?
How Did You Use Your Units Of Time This Past Month, Gail?
Goal 4. Complete a second draft of Good Women by September. I've spent more time working on this goal than I expected to at this point. Why? Because so far it's been easier than I expected. This suggests to me that working on an easy goal while I have other kinds of stress going on in my life may be a very good idea.
Goal 1. Work on short-form writing, essays and short stories. I've hit a couple of objectives for this one. "Revise His Times Or Mine essay" and "Read an essay or short story every day."
Goal 2. Concentrate on submitting completed book-length projects as well as short form work. I submitted His Times Or Mine and received a very good rejection. Yes, there are good rejections.
Goal 6. Research and create notes for a happy apocalyptic story. I happened to stumble upon a book dealing with a historical event that should be helpful for this, so I've been reading that.
Carry On Carrying On
The above doesn't sound like a lot, but I've had periods when we had elder crises when I threw in the towel and didn't even try to work for months at a time. I ran into a member of my writers' group recently and she said to me, "Well, Gail, carry on." The fact that I've been able to carry on this much is probably due to my writing about situational time management, the unit system, and goals and objectives over and over again these past seven years here at Original Content and to my toughening up over these past eleven years of older relatives going up in flames over and over again.
Please excuse me now. After visiting the nursing home and dropping a hearing aid off at the audiologist (yes, I do go there a lot), I returned some books to a library where I stumbled upon still another book dealing with a historical event that relates to my happy apocalypse story. I have about an hour and a half left today, and I'm going to use it for research.