Friday, August 6, 2010

Keep Your Life in Balance

Feedback on my post regarding managing your time was to get more concrete examples. I thought I did that but I'll hit the nail on the head this time and discuss my approaches to keeping my life in balance, my writing moving forward, and how I handle those curves in the road that life likes to throw at us to make sure we've not gone to sleep in the middle of the movie. (Was that a mixed metaphor? Shame on me.)

Let me start by saying I'm not expert. I do know an expert in the field however. Any one interested should pop over to A professor at Boston University owns and runs the site. Check it out if you are interested.

The next thing I should say is you need to be able to prioritize each event or task in your life. High priority items are more important that low priority items. Additionally you should assign a weight to it. A weight is how soon does a task need to be completed or how soon will an event happen. The more weight you give to something the more immediate it is.

With this understanding, let me say that the main thing that I do is group everything into categories. I do this because some things are more important than other things and some things can wait while others must be immediately attended to. What I find is certain categories of tasks has a common priority or weight. Sometimes both. So this is a convenient shorthand. Simple tasks usually get more weight and a higher priority because I can get them done and out of the way, giving me more time for the complex stuff.

One category of mine is: Things that Require Me to Leave the House: for example, food shopping, anything medical in nature, car repairs, and so on. The things that me keep me, my house, or my car going. Simple errands are in this category too. For example, when I need to drop my wife at the hair/nail salon.

Note that other types of shopping can also be in this category. But increasingly I shop online for things so these tasks less time and don't take me out of the house.

In general, these items have topic priority when they occur but there are scheduled and important or there is an immediate need.

A second category is work around the house. This includes do-it-yourself home repairs, yard work, clearing snow (why do I live in the Northeast again?) or other chores. Generally I use these tasks as breaks between writing sessions.

Note that home repairs that requires a professional (like the plumber, the carpenter, the electrician, or the cable guy) are treated more like the first category.

The next category is personal projects; things I want to do in my spare time that are not writing-related. I have many such projects and since I started focusing on writing and working on my first novel, these are regulated to the weekend or when I need to clear my mind. These items have the lowest priority and no weight at all.

I also have a category for fun and social events. These are sometimes scheduled and sometimes not. Events in this category include going to the movies, spending time with my wife, relaxing by reading or listening to music, listening to an audio book, or watching TV. The weight and priority here is not uniform, unlike the other categories.

And, of course, I have a category for my writing projects so I can prioritize and weight them.

My general rule is writing projects take top priority unless another tasks or events needs immediate attention.

This approach works fairly well for me. If you try it, let me know if it works for you.

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