- by Roxanne Rustand
I attended an excellent writer’s retreat this year, and one of the topics–time management–really hit home. Time management is not an easy skill for a lot of writers–especially for me, with the Internet just a click away and e-mail, eBay, Craig’s List and YouTube beckoning so seductively.
Being a little jaded about the whole topic of time management–as these principles always sound good to me in theory, but are ever so hard to stick with beyond a single day, I wasn’t expecting to gain much useful information. But the presenter was wonderful and I have now turned over a new leaf. Here are several of the principles she covered:
Do important things–not the urgent things–first. Example: how many of us actually do get on our treadmills or go for thirty minutes of brisk walking per day? Americans are a sedentary lot. Exercise is critically important for good health. But it’s something all too easy to put off…day after day.
Use the military’s philosophy of “hurry up and wait.” If you have an hour and need to take care of a task requiring thirty minutes, how many of us procrastinate until the last minute? Do it first–and you’ll feel far less stress, guilt and panic. Apply this to the bigger projects in life, such as book deadlines, and it can free you up for all sorts of other opportunities that might come along.
Set a timer for productive work time. Turn off e-mail. The telephone isn’t your boss–don’t feel obligated to answer it. Anyone with important reasons to call will leave a message or call back. Set quotas for your tasks–whether its writing pages or cleaning your house, and think of meeting that quota as a way to earn permission to have fun later, rather than making it a guilty pleasure. This is actually something I’ve done, in part, for some time–I downloaded Mac Freedom and can turn off all access to the Internet for any length of time I select up to 480 minutes. It’s wonderful!
The speaker also talked about the myth of multi-tasking–how trying to focus on too many things at once can make it impossible to do well at any of them. In one of the many letters he wrote to his son in the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time. This steady and undissipated attention to one object, is a sure mark of a superior genius; as hurry, bustle, and agitation, are the never-failing symptoms of a weak and frivolous mind.”
I would absolutely love to hear your own thoughts about time management and productivity–and what tips you might have!
The All Creatures great and Small Place