I have a confession to make. I’m a bit of an organization junkie. I fantasize about having a house that’s worthy of Pinterest. I’m not there yet, but when I put my mind to getting something organized, it always makes me feel so much better.
The big thing I tackled this year was organizing my time. Both my kids were in school, so I had a full day to work for the first time ever. I just knew I’d get so much work done.
But then there was laundry to do. Boxes to unpack (we moved a month after school started). Cleaning and shopping and… Squirrel!
Yeah, it was easy to get distracted.
It quickly became clear that if I didn’t organize my time I’d spend all my afternoons working instead of taking my kids outside to play and stay up too late instead of getting much needed sleep. Trust me, it’s not pretty when I’m tired. If I was going to achieve some semblance of work-life balance, I knew I needed help. Help to keep me on track and know what I needed to do every day so I could actually get my work done. Preferably before the bus showed up. Here’s what I did…
Create Reasonable Goals.
I like goals. I make them all the time. It’s the reasonable part that usually trips me up. I forced myself to do that over the last year. I figured out how many words I can write in an hour and gave myself a goal per day. From there I could plan my work. If I needed about three hours of solid writing time each day, I had plenty of time for all the other stuff I had to get done. (Um, Pinterest anyone?) Then I knew how long it would take to complete a first draft and could go from there. Voila, my publishing schedule was set. With some buffer because… Life.
Write a To-Do List.
I like to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Writing a book takes a long time. It can be discouraging because even as the words appear on the page it takes forever until you feel like you’re actually making progress. My to-do list became a good friend. Words this week? Check. Newsletter? Check. Laundry? Check. Playtime with kids? Check. Exercise? Check. I already feel more accomplished.
Prioritize and Keep Moving.
Don’t forget to prioritize your to-do list. If you know what really needs to be done but you aren’t ready to tackle it yet, do some of the smaller, easier tasks. Getting a few checks on your list inspires you to keep going. Yes, you need to finish that manuscript, and the vacuuming can (probably) wait until tomorrow, but if it’s bugging you, get it done and go back to your manuscript fully focused. It’s okay to do something else as long as you go back to the most important items on your list.
I already confessed I get distracted easily. When we first moved, we had boxes stacked to the ceiling. (I wish I was exaggerating.) That was the biggest distraction I’d ever faced. I couldn’t work. At all. Those boxes stared me down every minute of the day. But I had deadlines and I wanted to get back into the flow of work. I couldn’t let it get to me. So I rewarded myself. Knowing once I got started it would be a while before I’d stop, I played a game. If I hit my goal on word count, or editing, then I could go through boxes for an hour or two. I was able to focus because I knew I could get everything done, eventually!
This is my achilles heel. When I have plenty of time to finish something, I put it off until later. Tomorrow is my favorite day to get things done. Then I end up with thoselate nights and busy afternoons I despise. To combat this, I bought a newplanner. Even more than I hate procrastinating, I hate being wrong. I set my word count goal for the day and push myself to meet it, because I don’t want to be wrong. When I have a goal for one day instead of for the week, I’m less likely to get overwhelmed by how much I need to do. Overwhelm leads to procrastination (no one said it had to make sense) and then it’s just a snowball from there.
At the end of the day, you’re still going to have more you want to do than time to do it. It happens to all of us. Create your list for the next day and keep going. Because if you do everything today, you miss out on the things that really matter. The things that are the most important. Like spending a day at the pool with your kids. Or going on a date with your other half. Or finishing your latest manuscript.
Don’t beat yourself up for that messy kitchen so you can enjoy life a little. Just put it on your to-do list. It’ll probably get done before that manuscript your editor is waiting for!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning and just released her 23rd novel. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more!