I’ve been getting asked a lot lately how I keep everything straight. As an author, editor, and communications jack-of-all-trades, I wonder that sometimes, too, and if I wasn’t busy enough, I added 14 or so hours a week of working in a comic shop (because I can), and might be picking the horse training back up.
So how do I keep it all straight? Warning, a *lot* of process-neepery ahead.
I wish I could say I had this sleek, amazing, technologically-forward system, like Iron Man’s systems (hey, fyi, I’d love that!), but I don’t. I’m too tactile. I need things I can touch and move around, redundancies and a somewhat OCD style of self-management.
I’ve been bad, the last month, at keeping to a schedule. Travel, being sick, conventions, catching up…it’s not conducive to order. But now that I’ve got my schedule back, here’s what my days look like:
10am: Morning routine. Shower, food, bleary reading of emails and checking social media, usually in bed. Also: tea. Making a big pot of tea for the day.
11-1: Writing! This is a pretty big change to my schedule, since this used to be the last part of my day, but I never got anything done when it was last, so we’re going to try first. This can be for-hire work, or my own stuff. On a median day, I can do 1000 words and still have time to faff about with other things.
1-2pm: ‘Lunch’ break. Answer emails, eat (especially since, half the time, I forgot to eat breakfast), go over things with my partner, or play a game for a bit, it’s necessary to get myself out of the creative mood.
2-4pm: Publicity work. I’ve got clients, and I do best when I have time-crunches. Press releases, event management, etc.
4-6pm: Editing and related tasks. Editing titles for Falstaff, or working on the anthologies. This is one of my favorite points of the day, usually. Today, not so much, I was writing a contract.
6-7pm: The Etc Hour. Whatever needs to be done still.
7-9pm: Dinner, Systema, social stuff.
9-10: Another etc hour. Organizing for the next day, answering emails, poking at tasks not yet done.
10-1: Relax. Read. Play games. Whatever. Just. not. working.
That’s a week day for me, and it varies by whether I have meetings (Wednesdays, usually, as meeting days), morning appointments, or, if I start training again, going to the barn.
Weekends are the random and social time. I can go do things, write, work, whatever I need to. For the most part, they aren’t scheduled, except for comics shop stuff. But Sundays have 2 hours for pitching new work, and an hour for organizing the next week.
I work primarily with a combination of Google Calendar and paper. I’ve tried bullet journaling, but it’s too time-consuming, and my perfectionist nature goes nuts.
The Notebook Herd
I have a notebook problem. My current notebook is festooned with skulls, a “Sarcasm: That’s Original” sticker, and a Smaug “I Am Death” sticker, because come on, it’s me. I also have hand-bound notebooks from the lovely Ann Lemay, and have discovered a Moleskine problem. Anyways, this is where my big-picture stuff goes–meeting notes, brain-dumps, to-do lists, plotting, etc. All one big mess that I then break down into the stuff below and cross it off as it gets ushered into its proper slot.
I have separate calendars for things my partner and I both need to be aware of (work schedule, travel), deadlines, general events, Falstaff Books scheduling, and my daily schedule. This lets me click in and out to reduce noise. Every day has the schedule above in detail, and I can specify which project I’m working on each day–rather than trying to do Falstaff AND Strange California, I work on one a day, to keep the confusion minimal. I use this for the high-level stuff, because yay, notifications!
I don’t use the full Day Planner right now, but I have two sheets that give me days of the week. This is where I track specific tasks–yeah, Google Calendar tells me that I need to work on Strange California, but it clutters the calendar to have all the specific tasks on there, and Google Tasks just annoys me. With the pages, I can have specific tasks all broken out into separate pieces. This satisfies my OCD.
When I was a kid, I got in trouble because I wrote such tiny letters. Seriously, I had immense control and attention to detail in my writing in like the first grade, and I got penalized for it, a decision that haunted my teachers for a long time, because I don’t like being penalized for doing things well. ANYWAYS, it’s USEFUL now, because I can fit a whole task on one of those post-it note flags, which means I can fit a bunch of tasks on one page. It is also nice because when I finish a task, I can remove the flag and put it in the ‘done’ pile, which gives me that nice burst of closure and accomplishment.
I *love* Day Planner’s yearly calendars. Two small sheets, each with six months, showing every single day of the year. Did I mention OCD? I block out my travel for the next year around July, and it gives me a good, one-look way to see if I’m getting too much travel, if I have a deadline-heavy week, or if I need to avoid scheduling things for a certain day or week. These calendars are the most valuable tool I have, and have really cut down on my spectacular ability to triple-book myself. It’s color-coded, too, which helps.
Objects in Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear
And, last but not least, the sticky-note corral, where I keep notes of things that are coming up but aren’t ready to be on the calendar yet. Stories without deadlines/guidelines, clients starting in a month or two, contests I’ll be judging later. It helps me remember to follow up on things that might otherwise fall off my radar.
In closing, that’s my system. It mostly works. There are things I wish I had that don’t exist, and I really need to get better about using spreadsheets, but it works pretty well as long as I keep on top of it, and I know what happens if I don’t keep on top of it. Fear is an excellent way to keep yourself accountable! I’m sure it wouldn’t work for most people, but hopefully there’s something useful here for you.