Time is a Finite Resource

I spent an hour fretting at Jed last night about how I still am failing to manage my time well. Kevin asked me recently if having an assistant actually was helping me get writing done, or if it was just helping me find more household projects. Some of both?

For much of the last month of having Chris to help, I’ve been going through, room by room, organizing all the neglected spaces that had been quietly driving me nuts, but which I had no time to knock into shape.

There are four areas left — our big shared medicine cabinet (which I think I can knock out myself in 15 minutes), the kids’ board game / art supply area (a Chris job, probably for this week), my own art supplies (mostly need labelling and consolidating into some sort of logical structure, and mostly needs to be done by me, probably a couple of hours), and the kids’ toddler toys (Chris got through the bulk of them, but there’s another hour or two left to do, and then maybe an hour of my figuring out what gets donated, what gets kept). We could go *years* without organizing any of this, which I know, because we have. But it *bothers* me. It distracts me.

Jed said when we were talking last night that I seem to have a real problem getting to writing when I’m faced with mental or physical clutter. This is SO SO true. I know people who can happily write (or do math!) in chaos, but I am not one of those people. A monk’s cell sounds very appealing right now. (Lorena McKennitt has a great song, “Skellig,” based on the dying words of a monk who lived in such a cell, sometime in the 6th – 12th century.)

My head is filled with nattering. The schedule for all the events I need to organize or attend in the next few months. The projects I want to work on — some writing, some not. Home decorating and upkeep — the garage door needs fixing, the stencils I bought need painting, etc. and so on. This and that weed in the garden.

The worst is the massive and stressful backlog of e-mail — the vast majority of which is completely non-urgent, but right now, I’m not completely sure there isn’t something important I’ve forgotten in there, and it is causing a big knot of tension in my back.

I have got to figure out how to put all that aside, somehow. My strategy for the last two months has been to actually do the neglected work, with Chris’s help, to clear the decks. And we’ve gotten so much done, which is great, but one of the problems is that when one head gets chopped off, seven more spring up in its place. Work expands to fill the space, and then some, unless I’m very, very careful. And it is truly great that there are so many exciting and interesting things to work on, but time is a finite resource. TIME IS A FINITE RESOURCE. I may need to get that tattooed on my forehead.

I was talking to one of George’s assistants last night (George has several fabulous assistants, and some of *them* have assistants now), and it turns out that George has much the same problem. We have the same kind of personality, spinning off ideas ourselves but also eager to leap into other people’s projects when asked (sometimes when not even asked), to help out.

Much of what his staff has to do these days is manage his schedule and tell him he is *not allowed* to add anything to it without checking with them first. Yes, George, we see that there is a blank day on Wednesday right now. You *could* put something in there. But what you’re not thinking about is that you’re scheduled for seven straight days before Wednesday, and seven straight days after Wednesday, and we left Wednesday blank on purpose, so you could *rest*.

I forget to schedule time for rest.

But mostly, I forget to schedule the writing first. And I think I need to shift over to that. I feel like I have all the pieces in place to really have a novel be well-supported, to have a chance of taking off; people love the 20,000 words of the book that I’ve actually written — but all of that does me absolutely no good unless I finish writing the damned novel first.

Have you read _I Capture the Castle?_ A truly wonderful book, esp. for anyone in the creative arts. Huge spoilers follow, although the book is delightful even knowing this. There is a father, who will not finish his book, out of fear, etc. There is a daughter, who LOCKS HIM UP until he finishes his book, bringing him food and water as needed. Sometimes I would like to be thrown in a pit until I finish my novel.

Aside from all the professional concerns, I am not happy unless I am writing regularly. I’m just not. Posting nonfiction thingies to Facebook like this assuages the urge a little, but it’s like scratching a mosquito bite — it helps a little, but doesn’t do anything to solve the underlying problem.

You can’t really do much of anything about mosquito bites, but I should be able to block out three hours every morning to write. Whether Chris is here or not, I think I need to try, for the next month, just heading out to the porch once the kids are off to school — it’s nice and clean out there already, no clutter to distract me. Leave him a list of things to do, or if he’s not coming, leave the dishes in the sink and the e-mails unread. Have Kevin turn off the internet from 8 – 11 in the house.

There are 411 messages in my inbox. I somehow managed to schedule a doctor’s appointment for my kids for yesterday, while Kevin was teaching and I was in Santa Fe, because I had failed to put the Santa Fe trip in the calendar. Thankfully, they let me reschedule it, but if I start dropping balls like that, our lives will totally fall apart. My plan for the next 2-3 hours is to try to use the Email game to either boomerang or archive ALL of them. Not actually deal with any of them, which is what slows me down, but triage, so I know there isn’t a lurking bleeder in there.

Once that’s done, write. Just write.

3 thoughts on “Time is a Finite Resource”

  1. I am ruthless about email: I keep both my work and home inboxes under 50 items at almost all times. At work, I filter heavily and check social labels as infrequently as I can manager.

    I’m also strict about how much I try to do. As it is, I have a full-time job and two outside careers (running my dojo and running my music writing career). I also contribute to an apa that is published six times a year and I’m on a committee of the local Wagner Society. The Wagner Society takes maybe two hours a year.

    I was on a committee of the jujitsu org I belong to and quit after a year because it was nearly impossible to get anything done and the chair (there were TWO of us) really did not know how to get things done. I turned down a board membership of another org because….well, it was not something I could have done half way.

    We outsource some housecleaning and all current garden work, but I wish I could actually work in the garden.

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