Commitments, Responsibilities, and Scheduling

Getting this post out has been a disaster. I started with it back in August. The irony that it has taken so long is not lost on me. At one point I began to despair that I might never get to the end of it. You know the feeling; once you get behind the eight ball it gets harder and harder to get out in front of it. Of course, it is so easy to fall behind.

After all, I have the day job, kids in school (and their activities), my lovely bride, our home, family, pets, my writing group, podcast projects, etc. Then, there are the attendant emergencies. You know the drill: Life. Life intervenes. My case isn’t all that special. I started this post as a reminder concerning my tendency to over-commit my time. I do that. I want to be involved in everything. It’s all so neat!

So, how can you avoid that pitfall? There’s lots of bright and shiny stuff to attract your attention. What I have discovered is a set of tools that I use to keep me focused and on track. And, like any set of tools, how you use them determines how effective they are. Your mileage my vary.

Time Management

First, you do need to manage your time. I use Google Calendar. My success varies widely depending on how faithfully I follow my practice. Ideally, this should take only five to ten minutes a day, after you get it set up. The learning curve is minimal and it can be leveraged. I have set up a writing calendar that tracks my blog posts, daily writing habits, and current project(s) (more on that later). You can sync it with your smart phone and track your commitments pretty closely. But, this needs to be a daily habit. If you fall behind, say, because you went on vacation, it could take up to a month to get back on track. This post is a case in point.

Once the calendar is in place, it’s time for me to get BIC and head down with the story. I like to track my writing habits and I have found a tool that I have great success with, the Magic Spreadsheet. Check here, here, and here for more information. These guys cover all of the basics. With the spreadsheet, I have written at least 250 words a day since Thursday, June 13th. That has clocked in at 56,044 words so far. I have never been more consistent with my craft.

Stay In The Loop 

As important as it is to put words on page, a close second is keeping your ear on your peers. I recommend the ISBW with Mur Lafferty and DRS podcasts. These being speculative fiction podcasts, but the information regarding publishing, agents, querying, attending cons, etc. is invaluable. My first professional sale was due to a lead from these podcasts. It is a great way to network and get a jump on market trends. For those adventurous individuals, there is Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds. I don’t want to get in any hot water (and I have before), so be advised: Chuck is very direct … in longshoreman fashion. His advice, however, is brilliant. 

Focus

The last tool, is your brain. This would explain why I have been having problems. You may not have those issues. I don’t judge. Where was I? Don’t let me get sidetracked or this post will never end. Ah, yes. Focus. You need focus, Daniel-san. (Bonus points for identifying the reference.) That brings me back to my projects. I have too many. I use yWriter and Sonar to enumerate my projects, collect notes, and the like. Still, I have too many; to the point of paralysis. I have developed a new mantra: focus to completion. So far, that has worked once. Oh, I’m on track to complete another, but so far, I’ve followed only one project to completion. 

I have nine projects, however, in various stages of flight. Yes, this whole focus thing is a work in progress.

Got tips?

How do you juggle commitments, obligations, writing, and life?

Do you use any of the tools mentioned above? What is your experience with them?

Do you have any time management secret weapons?

Share the wealth!

5 comments for “Commitments, Responsibilities, and Scheduling

  1. September 9, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Paul, great tips! I wrote my first draft on Word. I know. Lame. But, I started with note cards. Still lame. That’s when I learned about Scrivner, but now that I you’ve presented us with yWriter5, I’m thinking about using that. I’d never heard of Sonar3. Thanks for sharing it. I’m taking a look at it right now.

    • September 10, 2013 at 9:20 am

      I started out in Word as well. I like yWriter because it is scene-based and it gives me the flexibility to change things around willy-nilly. It is also a convenient place to keep all of my character sketches and notes.
      Sonar is just plain handy. Simon over at Spacejock is a gifted author and programmer.
      I have to keep reminding myself that these neat and nifty things are just tools and that my primary focus is writing. This will not stop me from sharing whatever I find. If I have to suffer through the distractions, so do you!

  2. September 10, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Thanks for the post, Paul! You sound so tech savvy. I’m still organizing my time via a dry erase calendar. Plus, I’m scribbling notes in a journal and on random pieces of paper.

    • September 10, 2013 at 9:27 am

      I suffer from a *cough*, *cough*, thirty *cough* year job history in networking and programming. Many of the practices I use to organize my writing are holdovers from the electric-taped glasses and pocket-protector crowd, of which I am a proud white socks and hard-soled shoes wearing member. This is probably obvious from my atrocious grammar and complete misuse of commas.

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