Thursday, October 04, 2012

How to Handle Competing Priorities

Like most women, I have about a dozen "to do's" on my list every day.  Heck, every hour.  Work, family, writing, friends, volunteer work, they all pile up every day and every day I must attack the pile.

Lately, we've heard that multitasking doesn't work, but we still do it, don't we?  Right now, I've got my smartphone beside me as I type this out and I have several windows open on my browser, all touching on different topics and all waiting for my attention.

In my writing life, I have second edits due back to my publisher next week, I have an entire novel I'm trying to write by mid-month, I have a submission I have to send off to my writing group which meets this weekend, and I want to read entries for the So You Think You Can Write contest.  Oh, and this blog post.  Does that sound like enough yet?

I can't do everything at once -- nor do I want to -- so how do I handle it?

Set Time Frames

Most of the writing tasks I have to accomplish will take an extended period of time.  Some have concrete deadlines (like my edits), while others don't.

Make a list -- mentally is okay -- of the tasks and how long you estimate they will take to complete, or, if they have a deadline, when it is due.

The Snowflake Method

The snowflake method is a debt reduction strategy I recently read about where you pay the minimum balances on all of your outstanding debts, but you pay off your smallest debt first by putting all of your available funds into that payment, then when that's paid off, you roll the extra payments into your next smallest debt and so on until you've paid them all off.  The idea is to promote a sense of accomplishment as you see your number of debts be reduced.  Another version has you paying off your highest interest rate debts first.

If any of your tasks can be completed in a short time, say less than fifteen minutes, do it first.  Do it now.  So, I would finish this blog first then I would send off my chapters to my writing group.

Set Mini Deadlines

After I've tackled the tasks that can be completed quickly, I move on to my larger ones.  These are high priority tasks that need to be completed by certain deadlines.

The edits will take a few days and I have about a week on hand.  I set out a block of time in my schedule -- the weekend should be okay -- to complete them.  That's my deadline before the deadline, which gives me time to catch up in case I fall behind.

Writing the novel is another larger task and I know I have to dedicate more time to it, but at this point I'm not sure how much time I will have on hand.  So I set a different kind of goal.  Every day from now until I decide that I need to have my first draft completed, I will write X number of pages a day.

In between all of these other tasks, I will be reading entries to the contest...such as when I need a mental break from writing or editing.

This may not be the best way to balance all of the millions of things that come up every day but it is a guideline and I always feel better with a plan in hand.  Try it and see if it works for you.


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