In an effort to find some kind of normal in my life right now, I sat down this week to examine exactly what it is I do all day every day and to find a way to improve my efficacy. Figured it should take about 15 minutes.
Okay, realistically, a couple hours. An afternoon, tops.
I am now on day five.
My goal was to somehow, find some digital miracle that would tell me exactly what needs to be done every day. Automatically. No rifling through stacks of files and papers every day trying to decide what’s next. When I started Romantic Shorts almost two years ago – it canNOT be that long, but yes, I checked, and it is – I had the good fortune to bump into a publisher from Chicago online. (Lesson learned, I now do my utmost to keep track of the many wonderful people who spend so much time helping me along – alas, I do not know her name.) She spoke to me on the phone for more than two hours, talking off the top of her head, giving reams of advice and warnings. It was probably the single most productive conversation I’ve ever had.
The highlight of the mounds of information I gained from her expertise, was her idea on how to fight the A.D.D. that has always plagued me, leading me to the beginning of project after project, yet never allowing me to focus on any one in particular long enough to accomplish anything. So many great ideas. Such a tiny attention span. It is indeed a curse.
She told me to draw a bicycle wheel. In the hub, I was to write/draw/cut and paste the object of my focus. In this case, it was my website, RomanticShorts.com. In each of the spokes, I was to write in all of the tasks involved in bringing Romantic Shorts to life. That took a fair bit of time to compile. Eventually, I had a comprehensive list, sorted tasks, colour-coded for my unique Type ‘A’ personality. And finally, in the tire area, I was to list all of the reasons I wanted to do this. The finished product looked like this:
Staying on track is easier with the right wheel.
The idea was that any time I had some time – 5 minutes or 6 hours – I could go to my Focus Wheel and put some work into the task/area that both needed the most attention at the time, and that fit the time available. With this simple tool, I was able, for the first time in my adult life, to work with an idea long enough to see growth and the passing of several milestones. The feeling of accomplishment is more than a little satisfying.
But reviewing my schedule this past week brought about an enormous revelation:
I have outgrown my focus wheel.
While much of it still applies, my efforts have now become far more reaction-based. I am no longer making up things to do. There are definitive areas that require my attention. Regularly. Daily, weekly, monthly, hourly. And the list-junkie that I am, needs some structure.
Enter Google Calendar, the miracle digital tool that now emails me a to-do list every morning at 5am. (How did they know?) And so I am now learning a new routine, tweaking and growing as I go.
And so far this week, I can’t say that I’ve conquered my to-do list any better than I ever have. But I must admit, I am far more aware of all the things I didn’t get done today.
Ah, this, too, shall pass, I’m sure.
But seeing as how this post was on yesterday’s list, I’m feeling a little better now that it’s done!
Do you have any suggestions for staying on track and getting things done? What’s your secret? How important are routine and scheduling to you as a writer? Feel free to share your thoughts below.