Tag: lists

Confession Time

A few months ago I wrote a blog on my new “chunky list” method of time management. I proudly proclaimed my affection for lists and recorded my successes.   I haven’t talked about lists much lately.  There’s a reason.  I’ve fallen off the page.  My lists are short and general rather than long and specific.  Some very measurable things, like laundry, get done in their regular time slot (Monday) but others like “write” aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  My productivity has fallen in recent weeks along with my drive to finish the story.

Enter my friend/critiquer/encourager/fellow-traveller from the other side of the world. We met several years ago on an on-line course.  The presenter said “pick a partner.”  I decided to find someone as far away from my usual world as I could.  My partner, AB, had the same thought, so now a Canadian and an Australian are travelling the road of life and writing together.  We e-mail each other every Monday with an account of our week.  Sometimes the e-mails are full of glowing achievements, thinking aloud about plot/character problems, or the sharing of a highlight in our personal lives.  Other times our exchanges consist of a tirade about the unfairness of the world/family/work/fate, take your pick, or the clueless comment made by a husband.  As our friendship grows, there are more of the personal notes in our correspondence but always something about the writing.

Last week I was moaning about being stuck and she was complaining about lack of inspiration. We both have January birthdays and the horoscope for our year was not encouraging! AB proposed that we set a word count goal and tell each other what it was, then report back.  I’m always up for a challenge.  I set my goal, the same as AB’s as it turns out, and then my week went haywire. Unexpected errands, a power outage, freezing weather and a weekend away, made the goal hard to attain, but I wasn’t going to report failure on Monday morning.  I wrote while I waited for the car to be serviced, I wrote before breakfast and after supper, I sandwiched in some coffee shop writing between trips to the grocery store and the pharmacy.  By Friday night I’d reached my word count and went off on a wee holiday with a clear conscience.  On Monday morning I wrote to my friend trumpeting my success.

           I’m not giving up on my lists, they are an excellent tool for me, giving me an overview of my week, illuminating a timetable to accomplish all my tasks, highlighting where and when the writing can happen, providing a roadmap to the end of the book. I’m very fond of my lists.  However, I forgive myself easily for not reaching my goals, especially when it’s Christmas and I have a new book or three and a really hard jigsaw puzzle.  That word count is just a number I made up.  It doesn’t matter to anyone else.  But having declared my intention to AB, I had renewed motivation to get there.  We’re both Capricorns and hate to fail!

So, if you’re feeling stuck, whether it’s with writing or sticking to a diet or managing your budget, or any other life goal, I recommend finding a partner to hold you accountable.  I met AB more or less by accident but we hit it off – a lovely piece of serendipity — but there are other ways of networking.  Some of my writer’s crowd have set up small critique groups, our chapter has a goal-setting exercise every February, a couple have a relatives who serve as  sounding boards and task masters.  There are on-line sites to help writers set goals and achieve them.  Here are three suggested ones.  Some charge, others are free.

The Writer’s Circle

Absolute Write

There’s even an app for that at Novelicious

It’s important to find the type of group/partner that works for you. I’m not a chart-type of person so if I have to fill in boxes, the system won’t work for me.  If you love tables and graphs and fill-in-the-blanks type accounting, then you should look for like-minded people.  If you want to keep it strictly professional, maybe one of the paid circles is your choice.  If you like to mix in some personal stuff, then a friend with similar goals may be more your style.

Of course, just like in real life, no one writing partner will fulfil all your needs. I have writing friends whom I meet in person, we brainstorm, commiserate, encourage, share information and sometimes exchange recipes.  I love our gab sessions.  Fortunately, friends in person and friends on-line is not an either/or situation.  I can have both, eat my cake and have it too.  How often does that happen?

It has been said before but I’ll say it again, writing is a lonely business. It’s easier with company.

Lists Revisited

It has been two months since I began my experiment with lists to order my writing life and some of my “real” life, so today I’m going to review and assess the method.

If you missed my original post on the method, you can find it here.

So, I give you my take on the experiment.

Pros:

  • Making a list for a week, then dividing it up over the days of the week is a useful exercise in time management.
  • The list helps me realize how many demands there are on my time so I don’t beat myself up over not getting to everything.
  • Making a list helps to prioritize tasks.
  • Writing down my tasks relaxes me.  I don’t have to keep remembering what I meant to do.
  • Making a list reminds me to make time for exercise and other healthy activities.
  • There is great satisfaction in putting a tick mark beside every accomplished item.
  • The list gives me permission to play when I’ve finished every item.  As writers know, there is always more to do.  Homemakers know there is always more to do.  Setting a specific goal gives us a finish line for the day.  We can chose to work more, or we can play.  Play is vital to the creative life.

Cons:

  • Life is busy and it is not possible to itemize every activity of every day.  Sometimes, when life has taken me off-list and into something wonderful, I add it to my list after the fact.  When life takes me off-list into a time-waster, I gloss over it and scramble to catch up the next day.
  • In the beginning I often bit off more than I could chew, especially if the list seemed too short. It’s important to break tasks down to their component parts in order to create a realistic list.

Conclusion:   I plan to continue to make a weekly list and break it into daily tasks.  As a tool for time management, the list works for me.  It helps me focus.  It makes me happy.  It forces me to set realistic goals, then pushes me to accomplish them.  Since the first week, I’ve had some great days and some disasters.  I continue to refine my list-making so there are fewer disasters.  I’d recommend this method to other writers but with one caveat:  the list is only a guide.  Family, friends, colleagues, even pets, have emergencies.  At those times, forget the list and follow your heart.

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