So how am I doing? (*** list alert ***)

So on Tuesday I started a new time management routine, just to see if it worked or not. And so far, it seems to be. I’m getting more done and spending more time on things that matter and less time on things that don’t.

Let’s take today, for example. Here’s how today’s diary usually would have looked:

8:00 housework
9:00 BREAKFAST
10:00 daily competitions
11:00 blog
12:00 writing work
1:00 DINNER
2:00 study skills (edit book) (2 hours)
(2:30 dentist – boo!)
3:00 invoices, admin, pc mtce
5:00 housework
6:00 TEA

It’s still in hour-long segments and yesterday I found out I had a dentist appointment at 2:30 … yes, really. My own writing work only had one hour allocated to it, and the book that’s due to be finished today only had 2 hours allocated to it – which doesn’t allow for hiccups like power cuts or the internet falling over (as I have to submit via the job board), and I lost a day’s work on it Tuesday when lots of new furniture arrived. Also, I have no invoices to raise this week (boo!) and pc mtce can be done while I’m doing something else, as it’s backing up critical data and can be done in the background.

So I had a think, and prioritised a bit, and postponed the dentist to next Friday. And here’s how it looks now:

8:30 housework – washing (laundry)
9:00 BREAKFAST
9:30 daily competitions
10:00 blog
11:00 writing work (2 hours!)
1:00 DINNER
2:00 study skills (edit book) (3½ hours) PLUS pc mtce
5:30 TEA

Not only does my day start 30 minutes later, by the way. It also finishes 30 minutes earlier. Yet I’ve managed to schedule in 2 hours for my own writing work, which could be cut down to 1 hour if I feel the book needs more time – but at least I still have a writing session booked in – and the book job that’s due in today has 3½ hours allocated to it. If that job gets finished early, then I can do any outstanding admin (aka filing …) or housework. But it can also run over and the poet will sort tea if necessary.

Oh yes, and I didn’t get the rubber (eraser) out once this week, once I’d settled on the schedule.

With this new system, which I’m still testing, I’ve managed to give myself 2 hours of writing time every day next week*. Plus client work gets 2 hours every day Monday to Thursday*. AND I’ve managed to fit in an hour of study (aka personal development) on Wednesday and on Thursday. So there are 2 hours I wouldn’t normally be spending on my own work. Friday afternoon will consist of errands next week (dentist + hair appointment), otherwise I’d still have 2 hours of client time then too.

I have yet to see where yoga and dog walking will fit in, although walking the dog isn’t such a necessity these days as we have such a big garden. But I think we do need to fit it in somewhere, and not just at weekends and on holidays. And we do walk the dog to the lake after the poet has finished work whenever we feel like it.

The old first 30 minutes of the day (8:00 – 8:30) are the poet getting ready for work, so I’ve knocked that off my diary. I’m still having 60 minutes for dinner at the moment, because he comes home for his dinner now and he has 45 minutes. Maybe that’s where the dog walk will come in.

BUT I’m very pleased with it and, more importantly, I’ve been able to work on CATCH THE RAINBOW every day, which is a habit I really want to get into. And you can see what I have planned for today without me having to repeat it. 😉 (Although, I may swap the writing time and client time around to ensure I meet the deadline, but I’ll still have and take my writing time, even if it is only an hour.)

So, that aside, I still need to apply it to weekends as we have another very busy one coming up.

This evening, if we feel like it (the poet has tonsillitis threatening), we might go to see a band. Tomorrow, son #1 is bringing his girlfriend to meet us and we’re going to Holmfirth too, for something to eat and to take in a comedy show. Sunday morning there’s a farmers’ market in Wentworth, but that depends on what time we have to take son #1 + g/f back to the station.

I still have a very busy day, and so I’m going to clear orf now. Y’all have a good weekend. 😀

* Apart from Tuesday. I think I have a day off on Tuesday.

Time management (*** list alert ***)

get everything doneAs most of you know, diary work is one of my most favourite of activities. This is because seeing a full diary means I have plenty of work in and gaps identify gaps in the work. I’ve always filled in my diary with a pencil, as this can easily be rubbed out if (a) a job is cancelled, (b) priorities change, or (bad) (c) I just don’t get around to doing it. I’d rather rub out a job and write what I actually did than put a cross next to it. However, now I’m wondering if pencil isn’t the best thing as it’s actually too easy to just rub something out I didn’t feel like doing today.

I’ve always been very organised in my approach to work. When I was a very busy and prolific freelancer, back in the day, I needed to be organised. And that organisation included all of the mundane work too, such as admin, pc maintenance, finance work, filing … (which, actually, often gets rubbed out and left), and so on. But I’ve also been an absolutely superb procrastinator.

Emails, daily competitions, Facebook, surfing the internet, playing games – all come very easily to me regardless of whether or not my diary is chock-solid-full. But rubbing yet another job out because I’ve not got around to it, for whatever reason, isn’t very good feng shui for the soul, if you get my drift. And it can have a debilitating effect on motivation.

The diary was my best ever work tool. It enabled me to list work that needs doing, and then tick it as I went along doing it – ticks are ace motivators. And adding “fun” tasks meant I did them for that time only, moved on, but still remained happy. When I got really good at it, I started to allocate time slots to specific tasks. But I want to stop using that rubber (eraser). I want more ticks and more output. I work in a lovely environment, with a gorgeous view, comfortable ergonomic furniture, the latest technology, and a very supportive and enthusiastic partner, who also just happens to be my number one fan.

But something needs to change.

I’m editing a book for a client at the moment on revision and study skills, and on Monday I got to the part where he recommended a time management book: GET EVERYTHING DONE, AND STILL HAVE TIME TO PLAY by Mark Forster. So, being the great procrastinator that I am, I went to have a look. And I liked what I saw. And so I bought it. And I read the introduction, at the end of which is the author’s very first exercise, which I’m going to précis here (and I’m not doing him out of any book sales, this exercise is clearly available via the “look inside” function on Amazon) (and, anyway, there’s loads more juicy material in there for you to discover for yourselves).

He calls it an exercise in mental strength. Basically, at the end of each day you choose just one task to do tomorrow. Then tomorrow, even if you do nothing else, you do this one thing. If you don’t do it, then it’s too difficult, and you need to choose something easier; if you do manage it, then you can choose something similar at the end of that day, and so on, increasing the difficulty as you go. Then, when you find you’re completing every single task quite competently, you add another to it, giving yourself 2 tasks to complete the following day. And so on, until you’re setting 3 tasks, and 4 tasks, and so on, until you’re just doing stuff anyway and no longer need to do this (unless, of course, you find setting tasks in this manner gets things successfully done).

So, on Monday evening, I decided that if I didn’t manage anything else from my to do list on Tuesday, I’d empty all the bins in the house and leave those to soak that needed it. (You can apply it to any task, not just work or writing. So I applied it to a household chore.) It was bin day anyway, and I always do put the bin out. But I don’t necessarily go around the house emptying all of the wastepaper bins, usually it’s just the kitchen bin. And I certainly don’t wash them.

And when I’d done that task, I set myself another: wash all the pillow-ticks and the mattress protector in preparation for a new bed we were getting delivered. And hang it on the line to dry.

So, here is how my diary looked yesterday, Tuesday (*** list alert ***):

8:00 housework
9:00 BREAKFAST
10:00 daily competitions
11:00 job boards (2 hours)
1:00 DINNER
2:00 writing work
3:00 study skills (edit book) (2 hours)
5:00 housework – grey bin
6:00 TEA

Meals are very important to me, so I make sure they’re in capitals. 🙂

Now, this list of jobs would normally have a list of ticks beside it and any details of what I actually did. But with furniture arriving (2 settees and a bed), and with me wanting to assemble said furniture if necessary before the poet came home (so we still had the evening together), already the rubber had come out. However, it was still a very busy day and I still got a very lot done. Here’s the revised list by the end of the day:

8:00 housework – change beds, wash pillow-ticks and mattress cover, hang washing out, bins
 9:00 BREAKFAST
10:00 daily competitions (+ much procrastination once complete)
 11:00 job boards = 3 jobs pitched (2 hours, but much procrastination once done)
1:00 DINNER
2:00 furniture delivery – entertain delivery men, arrange furniture, vacuum carpet
3:00 assemble new bed, make bed (2 hours)
5:00 housework – grey bin (the poet took it out)
6:00 TEA – poet treated me to KFC for working so hard ♥

So, this morning I decided to do it again. I decided that by 9am I would have done some household chore – this time, empty dishwasher. And in my breakfast hour, I would indeed have breakfast, read a chapter of the time management book, get washed and dressed, be at my desk by 10am.

Here’s how today’s diary looked (bear with me):

8:00 housework
9:00 BREAKFAST
10:00 daily competitions
11:00 blog
12:00 writing work
1:00 DINNER
2:00 writing work
3:00 study skills (edit book) (2 hours)
5:00 housework – grey bin (fetch it in)
6:00 TEA

But with me choosing another task to complete as soon as I completed the previous one, I was actually at my desk by 9:30 and able to bring everything forward a little. Here’s how it looks now:

8:00 housework – empty dishwasher
9:00 BREAKFAST
9:30 daily competitions
10:00 blog
11:00
12:00 writing work
1:00 DINNER
2:00 writing work
3:00 study skills (edit book) (2 hours)
5:00 housework – grey bin (fetch it in)
6:00 TEA

I have a whole hour that’s blank!

Now then, from just 2 extracts from my diary you can see how I structure and balance work, household chores and “fun” tasks to keep me motivated. But you can also see what’s first to fall to the wayside if anything else comes along – writing work and paid work. But today, I’ve completed 2 tasks in half the time I set for them – 30 minutes instead of 60 minutes. And I’ve given myself a whole new hour to play with.

In future, I can probably allocate just 30 minutes to each of “breakfast” (which also includes other activities such as reading) and “daily competitions” (although a Monday may still need the full hour as I’ve the weekend to catch up on). And I won’t sacrifice the “warm-up” things I do at the computer, such as the competitions and write the blog.

So, what to do with that extra hour? And can I also shorten “dinner” to 30 minutes?

There are 2 things I’ve really wanted to do, that I used to do, but that I’ve not done for ages. Years, in fact. One is walk the dog daily; the other is yoga. I could use one of those 30-minute slots for the dog walk, but while the yoga would start at less than 30 minutes, it gradually needs to build up to 60 minutes, but not every day. Another thing I could use the time for, either daily or in between yoga workout days, is self-improvement – study, reading, learning a new skill. Or I could spend more time on the guaranteed paid work or on the writing work.

“Writing work” can consist of anything – novel writing, short story writing, article writing, filler writing, market study, brainstorming ideas, reading (books on the subject I’m writing about, or the era, or the genre, or books on writing), research, editing, proofreading, thinking, lying back and gazing through the window … (honest, us writers are working really very hard when we do that). But it needs to be a priority.

So, while I wonder what to do with these extra time-slots, my question today is this: what would you do with yours?

Lovely cuckoo “watch”

ATT_1427703943756_20150330_092031Well, it was only a couple of weeks in the end. But here I am, back again. Did you miss me?

I’ve been very busy getting used to the new work schedule. Adding a slot in the morning and again in the late afternoon for “housework” has been a huge help. Now I do things like put washing through, unload the dishwasher, put clothes or crocks away, etc, only during those slots and ignore the chores for the rest of the day. And it means I’ve been doing a lot more work in between.

I’m not convinced about the slow cooker we’ve just started to use, as I thought they were initially designed to save time. However, looking through the instruction manual, it does say the crock pot needs switching on for 20 minutes before adding any food, which suggests you have to do all the food prep before going to (or starting) work. This would be no use to us whatsoever as the mornings are already very full getting the poet up and off to work, feeding us all, and doing the chores already scheduled.

Yesterday, however, we gave it a go but prepared the ingredients and left them in the pot overnight. I’m worried this will amount to a marinade and might take some of the other taste away. It’s switched on now, though, with an extra half an hour to compensate for no pre-heating and we’ll find out at teatime if it’s workable that way or not. If not, it’s going on ebay …

Hints and tips gratefully received. 🙂

The other thing I’ve been doing is preparing 2 new books for publication. One is TALES FROM BAGGINS BOTTOM BEST BITS BOOK TWO, which is due out on Wednesday … and still needs work for the Smashwords version to be accepted; the other is TWEE TALES TOO. Yes, I’ve finally collated enough material for a second volume of short stories. This one is due out on 1 May while we’ll actually, ahem, be otherwise engaged. I still have work to do on both, but the Kindle version of BBBBB2 is okay. The paperback may follow a week or so later.

20150330_092044

As you can see I’ve started to put book titles in capital letters. This is mostly because if I copy and paste any of the blog into another Baggins Bottom book it should save me a lot of time reformatting for Smashwords. It really doesn’t like too many bold or italic fonts.

I’ve also been working on my own fiction. There are a few short stories out there now, doing the rounds, earning their keep, and I’ve settled down to more work on CATCH THE RAINBOW and THE BEAST WITHIN, and made notes for THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME – a new Marcie Craig. Today I’m starting my GARDENING FROM SCRATCH diary too. At the weekend we bought 3 lovely new exercise books as I like to start work in those.

While I’ve been missing, I’ve registered on 2 new job boards too, and revived one I let go a few years ago. That means I now surf 4 job boards at least twice a week, but also have quite a few invitations to respond to in between.

I’ve cleared 2 jobs for lovely already client and sent those back to him, and I’m about to finish a 3rd before starting a 4th. So I’ve not really been idle. What have you been up to?

20150330_095959The poet spent his last few days over in Germany last week, we hope, and when he came home, via Switzerland, he was clutching this rather splendid cuckoo clock – or, as his German friends call it, a cuckoo “watch”.

Here he is saying hello. Do you like him? 🙂

Light at the end of the tunnel (list alert)

We’ve had a very busy time towards the end of 2014 with loads and loads going on. Things are starting to settle a bit now, and we’re achieving much of what we set out to do at the start of the year. We’re also coming to terms with things out of our control and getting into a routine with those.

I had a deadline on Friday for an 80,000-word editing job, and I had a deadline yesterday for a 78,000-word editing job. Those 2 jobs alone took up a lot of time in the past week and a half, and I also did snagging on another, shorter job about to go to print. I finished both of those jobs on time, although I was working until gone 10pm last night. The poet, bless him, made tea and supper while I worked. 🙂

Now I have 3 new, shorter jobs waiting to be started, and another snagger waiting to go to print this week. I’m also getting a corker of a writing itch.

The time has come for me to give my daily work schedule a massive kick up the bum. It has been working, but with the prospect of an extra hour a day, with the poet working closer to home and not leaving the house until 8:30am, which is too late – really – for me to go back to bed, that’s an extra 5 hours per week. I’d love to fill it with writing time.

4 seasonsI use several books on writing when I’m limbering up. And I do limber up. Yes, I do have tons and tons of ideas, but I like to do idea-generating exercises too so that they’re not too stale. (I don’t do writing exercises for exercise sake, if they’re unlikely to lead to something marketable, they’re not really worth the time and effort to me.)

The book I took on holiday to Dent with us this year was Four Seasons of Creative Writing by Bryan Cohen. July was Camp NaNo and I tried to write something every day, even if it was a limbering-up exercise.

With the help of this book I came back with first drafts and outlines of several short stories. It was the middle of July but I was using prompts for January as, at the time, that’s what the fiction editors were looking for.

So, this coming year, I’m going to continue to dip into this book when I want to, and I’m going to develop those stories I started in July but was distracted from by earning a living and life. They’ll go off on their rounds, but they’ll also be pegged for Twee Tales Too and beyond …

One of my New Year resolutions is to find an alternative to using Amazon – I have my reasons. Therefore, the link for this one you can find here. (It’s still free.)

If you have any tips for my rejigged working day, then do let me know below. Things I tend to include, value added or not, are:

  • editing
  • proofreading
  • job hunting
  • writing short material (fillers, readers’ letters, articles, short stories)
  • writing long material (novels, books, anthologies)
  • blog posts
  • admin (filing, invoicing, trips to post office, etc)
  • daily competions (I’ve won more than £3,500 in cash as well as numerous prizes)
  • personal appointments (dentist, hair, doctor, etc)

Thank you for participating.

Steady week

It’s been a good and steady week with me clearing the decks of lots of outstanding works.

On Monday I shifted a non-fiction back to the author, and to the publisher for typesetting. On Tuesday I cracked on with author revisions on a novel and returned that back to the publisher on Wednesday, and also on Wednesday I pitched for 12 editing or proofreading jobs.

Thursday was a busy day. I finally caught up with the diary, scheduling work in for this week and for next, and putting all the regular stuff in there between now and the end of June, when the diary runs out and my new one starts.

I entertained builders, who were climbing around the inside of the eaves to the house looking for a persistent leak that’s probably coming through the flashing around the dormer window. And I started looking into tenancy agreements and legal landlord requirements so that I’m not doing anything shifty with the house rental.

Last night, while the poet went to band practice, I went to see my tenant to make sure everything was okay and to give her an official copy of the tenancy agreement that we both signed.

Today I hope to finish another non-fiction, get it back to the author, and to the publisher for typesetting, and invoiced. I also have a hair appointment and will probably grab something from the supermarket on the way home to have with tea.

We have nothing planned for this evening. We have nothing planned for tomorrow, although we may go fishing.

On Sunday the poet has an afternoon gig, so that will tie us up for the rest of the day … (The last time he had a Sunday afternoon gig we went to see some friends in another band Sunday evening and he ended up getting up for the second set when their singer fell ill …)

On Monday it’s another bank holiday here in England and I think we’re off to Birmingham again to see my parents. I hope we’ll also be able to go and see the poet’s parents too, in Doncaster. (Or, depending on the weather, we may do Brum and fishing the other way around.)

On the way back from Brum, if it’s nice, we may drop into Kingsbury Water Park again, or we may try Calke Abbey, which is also on the way home.

I’d also suggested Drayton Manor Park and Zoo, which we also pass, because it always used to allow dogs. However, on checking their website just now, it seems this is no longer the case. So well done, Drayton Manor. Here are two visitors who may never come again. (I’d understand if they never allowed dogs, but when I used to take my own …)

Next week it’s the Doncaster Literary Festival. I hope we can get along to some of the events.

What are you up to this weekend?

Mad weekend

We had a very busy weekend again, starting on Friday with me frantically trying to finish some work as we were out at a gig Friday night. I got the invoice sent off and into the system anyway, because I’d been pulled off the job I wanted to finish to have a look at something that apparently couldn’t wait a day longer. But I did that too.

Friday night was a great evening with the band, the poet, the sound, the crowd, everything on form. We saw friends we hadn’t seen in a while and, apparently, the pub was the busiest it’s been on a Friday night in a few weeks, so that was nice.

We didn’t get to bed until 3am, though, so had a very lazy start to Saturday. Then when we got up we had to do shopping, we ran a few errands, and we went to do the Doncaster visit. Saturday evening was another gig, a private party this time, so it finished a lot sooner.

On Sunday, after another relatively late start, we headed off to Birmingham and after a couple of hours with my parents we headed back via Kingsbury Water Park near Coleshill (pronounced Coze-‘ill), where we enjoyed another couple of hours in glorious sunshine. We had some proper time off too, and didn’t even take any photographs. Just enjoyed the walk, the scenery, the weather, the fresh air, and the steam exhibition that was going on.

Yesterday was mostly spent finishing that work I invoiced for on Friday and I wouldn’t allow myself to do anything else until that was done. It’s done now, and it’s back to other work today.

So far today I’ve done this blog, but I also want to do the diary and, before noon, write the walks report and get that submitted. Then I have a novel to look at (author’s revisions), a non fiction to proofread and another to start editing.

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Dedicated to my diary (and a list)

I love my diary.

I like to be able to open a book and know what I’m doing or where I’m supposed to be without having to search for the phone or boot up the laptop. Last year’s diary had a lovely touchy-feely cover on it, but this year’s is a more functional, bog standard from Tesco. Last year’s didn’t have enough spaces inside for stuff, but it was nicely touchy-feely.

I like an academic diary too, one that starts in July rather than January. This is partly to buck the trend and to be filling in a lovely new diary when everyone else’s are already scribbled in. But I think it also stems back to when I was a teacher and every year started in the summer with enrolment.

Last night I started to fill in the new academic diary (2014/2015). But it took a lot longer than usual because now it’s not just my weekends and holidays that go in first; the poet’s go in there too. And his work trips. And his gigs.

Usually the session is done in one go, but last night I only managed weekends and holidays and next year’s Big Adventure (which was the first thing to go in there), and it took me All Night.

Because I’m very anal about my diary, I also had to complete this coming week of work, so that I know what I’m doing today for a start (I wasn’t writing a blog … which is one reason the diary’s written in pencil, as it isn’t cast in stone). But also because while I still have a lot of work in I need to keep sight of of when that work runs out. I need to be looking for more work now, or reminding clients that they haven’t sent me any for a while if there’s a gap looming in the near future.

I also had to add in the Doncaster Literary Festival, something that launched last year for the first time, I believe, but something we’d both like to go to this year, especially after I saw it posted on Facebook last night. It’s at the end of May.

I still have the birthdays and anniversaries to put into the new diary, and then the poet’s gigs, our visits to Birmingham and Doncaster, his fishing trips, my Leeds write-ins … then we’ll see what’s available for actual work …

We were scheduled to go back to the Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate at “the start” of this year (i.e. July), but we decided to book another holiday to Dent instead for that week.

So this is why my diary plays such a big part in my working (and personal) life. I love to fill it in because it means I have work – and a life. And here’s this week’s to do list as a result:

  • write blog post x 3
  • daily competitions x 4
  • surf job boards daily x 4
  • pay for Big Adventure
  • diary work (started)
  • write walks report
  • submit walks report to 7 x local newspapers
  • manual edits on non-fiction #1
  • electronic edits on non-fiction #1
  • send non-fiction #1 back to author
  • send non-fiction #1 for typesetting
  • author reviews on non-fiction #2
  • proofreader reviews on non-fiction #2
  • return non-fiction #2 for 2nd proofs run
  • manual edits on non-fiction #3 (will become #1 next week)
  • invoicing (hurrah!)
  • Monkey Dust gigs x 2
  • Leeds write-in (possibly …)
  • Trip to Birmingham
  • Trip to Doncaster

This is why I’m more than capable of sitting on a riverbank, doing nothing and gazing at the water. For hours. When I get the chance.

One I prepared earlier - this is last year's diary for the same period I'm starting just now.
One I prepared earlier – this is last year’s diary for the same period I’m starting just now.