Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Getting Stuff Done

As most of you know or have gathered, I work a full time day job (yay!) and then write, design books, garden, do light physical training, create cover art, and teach myself various business-related skills like web page design, tax accounting, graphic design, typography, and how to maintain my delicate facade of calm and competence when in fact I'm constantly overwhelmed by work and dreaming crazy dreams.

Lately I've been more overwhelmed than usual (!) with stuff that needs to get done by various deadlines. This is what I do when I have so much crap to accomplish that I don't want to do anything at all. It might work for you too.

I separate daylight and after dark activities. It really doesn't work to garden after dark, though I've done it. Ditto for trimming goat hooves, mowing, taking the dogs for a walk, staining the deck, carpentry, etc. So if I plan to make headway on one of those sorts of things, I prioritize my time accordingly.

I separate heat-of-day activities from cool temperature activities. I might get away with staining the deck, washing a car, giving the dogs baths, or even pulling tansy during the heat of the day, but mowing during the heat of the day, or rototilling, or digging up a huge plant and moving it to the opposite end of the garden might be best for before noon or after 6pm.

I give myself an hour or so playing dithering games. Those vary from the obvious, like playing endless rounds of Bejeweled, to weird, like deciding to reorganize my underwear drawer. I could try to not do those sorts of things at all, but I find that if I don't give in at least for a little while, I can't seem to focus and I end up puttering and not getting much done ... basically I dither by default. Once that hour (or so) is up, I have to stop and work on one of my real goals. Something about the time restriction, and allowing myself to waste time on my own terms, helps put me in a good working headspace.

Then I get to work, dividing my time between two or three things over the course of the day so that I don't get mush brain and start to make mistakes. I listed this last, but I seem to do much, much better if I decide in advance which two or three things on my long to-do list I'm going to work on on a given day.

When I start to hesitate, or realize that I don't have all the stuff I need to finish, or my eyes start to cross and I lose track of what goes where and whose eyes are green, I stop, dither a while, tank up on food and water, and do something different, whatever is next on the day's list.

This system has been working really, really well for me. And the more I practice it, the more I seem to accomplish.  Pretty soon I hope to announce the completion of a big project I've been working on for years. I'm very, very close to getting there. Because I'm a typical, self-sabotaging creative type I of course didn't want to put the finishing touches on this project as soon as I got home from the day job, and instead watered my garden, played Bejeweled, weeded around some of my roses, trimmed oregano back from a garden path, and made snide comments about a really, really bad movie playing in the background while I played Bejeweled. Well, I've had my fun now. According to my rule, I need to put some time into real work now, so it's off to copyedit a few more chapters in my book, and then bedtime. Who knows? Maybe if I get on a roll, I might even finish tonight. That would be awesome.

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