Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kari's Kave - Prioritizing Lessons: Getting Organized, Staying Organized, Meeting Deadlines

Lesson #1 - Getting Organized
Prioritizing is all about organization. In order to get organized, you must first figure out what all of your priorities are. Priorities consist of any demand that is placed on you and involves a certain amount of your time. Work, spouse, children, pets, cleaning, grocery shopping, eating, exercising, writing, volunteering, sleeping, etc. I am a very visual person, and since we are all writers, why not combine the two. Lists and schedules work wonders. They allow you to see exactly what you accomplish (or don't accomplish) in the course of a day, what you have time to do, and where you might be wasting time. So I am going to share some of the techniques I use in my own life in hopes of helping some of you become more organized.
First, make a list of your own priorities, then beside each item, write down the amount of time each item requires for you to complete. Some items might have a time that is easily figured out like four hours or eight hours for work, thirty minutes for exercise, and one hour for grocery shopping, etc. while other items you might have to determine how much time you are going to spend on them or with them like children, pets, a spouse, etc. Don't worry about the hours in a day just yet; simply fill in what you think is fair.
Next, write down the hours in "your" day from the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed. Go back to your priority list and fill in your priorities in the appropriate time slots. Some slots are easy to fill like the hours you work and time spent with pets or children or spouse. You know when they need a walk, are going to be home, and when they have activities scheduled. Other slots are harder to fill like exercising, writing, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.
Last, take a look at your list. No time for all your activities you say? I say make time. It's time to prioritize! Determine what items you absolutely have to do, and then determine what items you simply want to do. Can you afford to let some of these items go, or pay someone to do them for you? Learning to say no is a start.
Or maybe you've assigned too much time to spend on some of your demands. See if you can cut back on some of the time you spend on a couple of items, so you have more time for other items. And combining some of the items is also a possibility. Writers have to learn to become pros at multi-tasking.
Finally, maybe you need to add more time to your "awake" hours. Try getting up an hour earlier or going to bed an hour later. You'd be amazed at how those hours add up in the course of a week, month, year. Once you have an acceptable and fair schedule figured out, you have to let everyone in your life know about it, and then stick to it.
Lesson #2 - Staying Organized!
First, call a family meeting and let everyone know in no uncertain terms that you are human. You are one person trying to do it all and be it all so everyone will be happy. But if you're not happy, then what's the point? You chose this life--got married, accepted that job, had children, bought that pet, etc.--but that doesn't mean you have to go insane while living it. You need a reasonable amount of time to complete your priorities, and each priority has its own merit and value to you or it wouldn't be on your list. Your family needs to learn patience and accept that your list is sacred.
Next, post that list on your refrigerator for all to see, and post a second copy right by your work station as a reminder to yourself. Again with the visual, but it really works. Out of sight, out of mind. So keep your schedule in sight, and then no one can say, "It's not my fault. How was I supposed to know you were doing something important?" They will know that everything on your list is important, and unless the house is burning down, don't mess with the schedule. Because a happy writer, means a happy everyone! It's like with teaching. If kids know what the rules are and what the consequences are for breaking them, they are much better behaved and more apt to follow them. It's the adults who take a bit of smacking upside the head to finally get it :-)
Finally, stick to your schedule. If you stick to your game plan, your family will know you're serious and things become routine. Kids aren't the only ones who thrive on routine. When you have routine and structure in your life, you can accomplish all of your goals and things get done!
Lesson #3 - Meeting Deadlines!
First, accept no excuses, especially from yourself. I don't have time to write, my children won't take naps, I have writer's block, etc. I repeat, there are no excuses. Make the time. As I said before get up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, write on your lunch break, write at your child's sports practice, in the waiting room, etc. If you want to be a writer badly enough, you will find the time. When my children were little, I wrote during naptime. When they stopped taking naps, I made them have quiet time. Set that rule, stick to it, and it will become routine. As for writer's block, it doesn't exits. Nothing can stop your hand from moving, even if only crap appears on the paper. Just keep writing and eventually inspiration will strike.
Second, set the mood for whatever priority you're completing. I wear my iPod while cleaning. I sometimes have a glass of wine while cooking and I like to try new recipes since I hate to cook just to feed my family. Figure out your meals for the week so you're not scrambling and wasting time each day. Don't make writing turn into a chore. Yes you have a deadline (even if it's just one you set for yourself), but you can still find the joy that drew you to become a writer in the first place. I have my favorite drink close by, I light candles, sometimes I play soft music. For me, writing has always been my "me" time. Just because I have insane deadlines, I refuse to let that take the joy out of the process for me.
I also make the most of my non-writing time. For example I read the last page of a scene before bed and keep a notebook and pen by my bedside. Since we often dream about the last thing we see or talk about, this technique sometimes leads to wonderful inspiration once we wake up. I do the same thing in the morning after checking email, etc. I read the last page of what I wrote so while I'm making lunches, cleaning or whatever, my mind is thinking about my story. This way by the time I sit down to write, I already know exactly what I'm going to say. It allows you to stop wasting time when you first sit down to write, trying to figure out where you left off and what you need to do next.
Another essential tidbit you should know about yourself is at what speed do you write? Figure out how many pages per hour you can write, and how many hours you have set aside each day as your writing time. This will give you a rough idea of how many pages per day, week, and month you are realistically capable of writing. That way when you do get "the call," you will be able to set up realistic deadlines, knowing exactly how long it takes you to complete a book (based on your schedule). No matter how desperate you are to sell, you need to know this ahead of time before you agree to something and then become overwhelmed and unhappy.
Make the most out of your schedule by combining some of your priorities. Take your child grocery shopping with you and let them help you clean. Turn the radio off and talk on the way to and from your child's activity. Let your child go with you when you walk or feed your pets and make dinner. Have set bed times early enough so you and your spouse can watch your favorite shows and movies together each night. Set aside date night at least once a week, even it it's at home. Don't forget to talk and share your day with each other. If you truly understand each other, it's easier to be there for each other...and get them to stick to your schedule :-) Build in time for your friends and a social life. Build in at least one day a week that you take off. Everyone needs a break, and a day off with "no" schedule can be heaven. It's like a one day cheat on a diet where you get to eat whatever you want, or in this case, "do" whatever you want. And if you get behind in anything during the week, it also gives you a makeup day.
Lastly, check your emails and do your blogging, social networks and promotion while eating breakfast or lunch, or making lunches early in the morning. Never let it spill over into your writing time. And even if you're on a roll with your writing, stop at your designated time. Never let any of your priorities spill over their time slots or your whole schedule will be off and you will fall behind. And just like with a new diet or exercise program, if you fall off the wagon and have an off day, pick yourself up and get right back on the next day. No looking back, no regrets, just move forward and in no time you will have completed your goals :-)
You don't have to do anything exactly the same as someone else, but if even a small part of my routine works for you, then that's progress. Good luck and stay strong, my people! See you on the shelves someday soon!

24 comments:

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I know this is a long post, but I think it's worth reading. I mostly posted it as a reminder to myself since I'm in the middle of a big deadline. Hope you get something out of it.

Any tips from anyone else are always welcome!

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, this blog came at exactly the right time for me. Although I've gotten better with my schedule, I will try some of your tips so my whole day isn't always crazy.

Learning how to say no was a big thing for me. Learning how to say no without feeling guilty...well, I'm working on that one.

Donna Cummings said...

This is a great post, Kari. I particularly like the one about not taking the joy out of the writing process. :) I don't want that to happen, and I think these tips will help.

Cassy Pickard said...

Kari: Thanks for this. Well done! And, I think your approaches are perfect. The only thing I would add is a nap somewhere in there. I'm being serious. I have found my day extends tremendously by closing my eyes for a few moments.

Now, back to work.

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Cassy Pickard said...

Okay, guys---I hit the send button ONCE. I have no idea why it keeps repeating my post. I apologize. Talk about trying to be organized!! I fear how many times this mea culpa will show up!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Believe me, Liz, learning how to say no is never easy. I am getting better though :-) Good luck!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Oh good, Donna! Glad you can use some of them. The hardest part for me was getting my family to realize those priorities were just as important as the family ones. Posting my schedule and making sure everyone was aware I was serious is the only way they take me seriously.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

I know some people love naps, Cassy. I am not a napper. It takes me hours to fall asleep and then I sleep for hours and then I feel groggy.

But....I do like to do yoga or meditate as part of my exercise routine and that helps to relax and settle my mind.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Oh my...
oh my...
oh my...

LOL, sorry, couldn't resist ;-)

Clarissa Draper said...

This is such an amazing post. I'm bookmarking it and doing the lists today! Thank you.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Thanks Clarissa! Glad you find it helpful :-) Good luck to you.

Lindsay said...

Kari you have a lot of really good points in your post. Some that I even might be able to use.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Glad to help, Lindsay :-) Good luck to you.

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: Thanks for fixing my stutter with so many of the same post- how? why? who knows. Oh, well.

Kari: You have hit on so many important issues. I have been struck by how different the days are when you have total control and when the world screams at you. My absolutely wonderful fantastic incredible daughter is home for a few days and I've written almost nothing! It's time for "the list" to be posted yet again on the kitchen counter.

Thanks for all your good ideas.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Glad to help, Cassy ;-) Enjoy your daughter, but stick to your list!

Tiffinie Helmer said...

I hate lists, but I really need to incorporate this one.
Like Liz, I have guilt issues. Saying no, while powerful, brings on guilt when said to a few people. Like my mother. Lists make me feel guilty, too. They scream at me. How do you get your list to stay helpful but quiet?

Lindsay said...

The one list I won't make-A Bucket List. I ain't going so no need for one.

Anita Clenney said...

Wonderful post, Kari. Oh I wish I was better with schedules. These are great ideas. I'll have to get brave enough to try them. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Ann Best said...

I really need to go back to that pen and notebook by my bed! Wish I had done this list when I was younger with husband and children at home. It is now just I and my disabled daughter I take care of. I need to be more organized with blogging and twittering and not let these run into writing time, which right now seems to be non-existent.

A long post, but very inspiring/helpful. Glad I discovered this blog at Twitter, from my friend Clarissa Draper. That header picture is incredible. It sucks one right into it!!

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Aww thanks Ann! I knew it was long, but man I just couldn't find anything to cut ;-) Glad you found it helpful.

And we had so much fun with our header! My neighbors think I'm nuts after borrowing my son's air soft gun and snooping around my house with my timer on my camera! Hee hee, so much fun.