Balancing Writing Tasks
It’s always good, I believe, to practice balance: between family time and work time, mandatory activities and discretionary activities, waistline measurement and that quart of fudge swirl ice cream in the freezer.
At the moment, I’m attempting to:
- Put the final edits on my first novel, Thin Spots
- Do marketing work, such as researching agents and publishers, for Thin Spots
- Write my second novel, The Farthest Hour
Keeping these three plates twirling in the one hour per day , give or take, I have for fiction can be a bear, but I’m starting to get a handle on it. Here’s what I’m doing so far.
Fifty-two Card Pickup
Ever play the fifty-two card pickup joke on somebody? You get a deck of cards and ask the patsy if they want to play 52 card pickup. They say yes and you throw all the cards up into the air. Then you cry, “Okay, pick ‘em up!” It’s funny when you’re eleven. The first step is sort of like the prank. I just throw every task I can think of onto note cards, or a document, or sticky notes, whatever’s handy. At this stage, I don’t worry about the order of things, or even if the items make sense.
Once I’ve brainstormed the tasks, I start putting them in order by project and then by priority. The projects are the three mentioned above. The priorities are usually high, medium and low, or some version thereof. Now I have a good-looking list I can work from.
At the start of each week, I take a look at the list and pick the high priority items I think I can do in a week. If I think I can fit in some medium or low priority items, I’ll pick those, two. The selected items to into a list of things to do during the coming week.
Divide by Five
Now, I take the week’s list of to-dos and divide them into five sections, one for each business day of the week. I might decide to split a high priority item or two into five smaller pieces. I might pick one day to do several easily completed medium or low priority tasks, to clear the calendar a bit.
Why just five days and not seven? Day seven is devoted to social media tasks, like this blog, as well as to planning the next week. Day six is devoted to family, etc., but usually has enough down time in it to catch up on any fiction-related tasks from the previous five days.
Manage the Work, Don’t Let it Manage You
Whether or not you like my little method, I highly recommend you find something that works for you. I don’t believe a novelist has to write every single day to be effective, but you do need to write on a regular schedule, and pretty frequently. So figure out what works for you, and balance your way onto a best-seller list.
Got any cool ideas about time management for writers? Post it in a comment! Thanks.