Friday, June 5, 2015

Five ways to protect/manage our time

At the end of last week, I reached a bit of a breaking point. I was at the first of five baseball and/or soccer games and my desk was covered with two manuscripts (one needing a first round of edits, one needing a final pass read-through) and one of my best friends from college texted me: "Are you coming to our 20 year reunion this weekend?" and that was it. I started crying and couldn't stop for about an hour. Because I was going to miss my 20 year reunion and I hadn't gotten my kids' teacher gifts for the end of the school year yet and I hadn't started labeling my daughter's wardrobe for her sleepaway camp and I hadn't showered and I was tired, tired, tired.

I explained to J how overwhelmed I was and he looked at me and said, "Who can you ask for more time? Who can offer relief here?"

And the only answer was: my editor. But it was also the one answer I didn't want to give. Because the last thing I want is to disappoint anyone in my professional life. But, when I sat with it for a little bit, I realized that if I want to put forth my best product and my best self, that was the only option. 

The reality is, when it comes to books, sometimes we need more time. Sometimes we need more time to write, to revise, to edit, to research. And sometimes we need time to recharge. There is no one way when it comes to creating art. I'm not a huge fan of writing advice when people ask for it because for everything I tell people I do, I know someone else does something very different. Again: there is no one way.

But there are ways to honor our own time, to protect that, and as much as you want to be all the things to all the people, sometimes time management is the best skill you can have. So, without further ado, here's my 5 quick tips for protecting/managing your time.

1. Say no. God, I hate this one, but I have found myself agreeing to things and dropping the ball on them later and I need to be better about saying no because dropping balls last minute is disappointing for everyone.

2. Do not take on more things when you have 20 minutes of free time. I've gotten to the point where if I actually finish something and I don't have to be at something else in the next four minutes, I start musing on what else I could do to fill that time between X and Y. And this is a terrible idea because I end up putting more on my plate I resent later. Sit with your twenty minutes. Play candy crush or meditate or whatever. It's okay to be still.

3. Wake up early and do your most important thing first thing in the morning. Your brain is at its best after sleep (and coffee) and waking up and putzing around on social media for an hour is squandering really good brain time. Write first, update your FB status later in the day. It's fine.

4. Stop thinking the world revolves around you. Last night at the baseball game, when all the moms were lamenting all the end of the year stuff they had to do/get, I realized, "well, what's going to happen if you don't? what happens if this year you skip the teacher gift? if you don't make vegan gluten-free muffins for the school picnic and bring a bag of chips instead? who's going to die?" Yes, you want to do and be all the things, but it's really quite fine if you can't pull that off. I showed up at our school picnic in my "Well-meaning but deeply flawed" t-shirt and I thought that spoke for itself.

5. Advocate for yourself and ask for help. No one knows how much shit you have to do except you. So if you don't point out, "hey, I have a lot on my plate" then you don't get to complain when people give you more stuff. And if everyone has a lot on their plate, then it's time for all of you to say, "well, sounds like we're all slammed, how important is this? can it wait? can we skip it? how much do we care about it?" 

Happy Summer, you all! May you find yourself with lazy days and a fresh brain to imagine all the things. 

1 comment:

  1. Ok, first....Your twenty year reunion made me want to spit! (Ok, maybe a little jealous.) I just had my thirty year reunion, so there! I say this only because what I offer is advice from someone who has been there and done that: You deserve time. Your advice is spot on and a realization that age and wisdom gives you. You are correct...what is going to happen if you don't do EVERYTHING! Really, nothing other than life goes on to another day; another event. The world won't fall off its axis. Also, declining things is a very hard, and guilt gets to you... for awhile. But saying, "NO!" is empowering and eventually you are just okay with it. It does allow for more time than you imagined. And that time allows for other things that will make up for the writing. I delete the emails asking for volunteers, don't feel guilty that I didn't drive to the field trip, and I don't get involved with fixing problems that aren't mine to begin with. When people ask what I am doing and where I have been...when my kids complain that I was "in my room" all day on the computer, or my husband asks why aren't I gardening...I just sigh and say, "I just finished my second book." Ok, so no one is awe inspired or even forgiving, but I am....and it is about time!