Tag Archives: work

Productivity

I’m uneasily conscious that I haven’t blogged in far too long. I’d say it’s been the month from hell, but it’s more like the year from hell. However, there’s only so long you can exist in an endless round of work-eat-sleep before you have to do something about it. Even if that something is to acknowledge that you’re stuck with it for the foreseeable future.

When it comes to writing, I’m not a member of the lucky tribe that smugly says, “if you want it enough, you’ll make time,” as if wanting time to write will magically make two hours of commuting (by road, so not writing time!) disappear, or reduce your dayjob workload so that it’s possible to do it all without bringing anything home. Some of us just aren’t that lucky.

Sometimes, you just have to acknowledge that unless something changes – you move house closer to work, you get a different job, whatever – writing time isn’t going to happen. And if that’s the case, put the writing away until you do have time instead of torturing yourself with guilt that somehow you’re inadequate because you can somehow magic up the time.

But sometimes, there are tweaks you can do.

My husband and I have recently started getting up half an hour earlier. It saves a few minutes on travel because there’s less traffic on the motorway at 6.15am, but mostly it means we’ve both got more time at our respective workplaces before the day gets into its evil stride. Until recently, I was using that time for writing (until this month, when workload meant that I had to use it for, well, work) and he was using it for work. It was working out for both of us – I had been trying to write in the evenings, but by the time I’d made the dinner, cleared up, and gone for a run, I was too exhausted to think, let alone write. My husband was bringing a lot of work home; he’s finding that he’s more efficient if he does it in the morning – more work is getting done in less time, and for the first time in ages, he’s having some evenings off.

So, just rearranging our schedules a little bit – getting up earlier, going to bed earlier – has made us more productive.

I’ve also made a couple of other resolutions:

  • I’m going to try to do the GTD stuff – keep my to-do list up to date, and actually do the things on it instead of procrastinating and
  • Journaling. People say you ought to do it, and there’s a certain attractiveness to the idea of having somewhere to dump all the whining and complaints (other than into my darling husband’s ears). Plus, a place to just think in print.
    • And, following from the idea of journaling… recording achievements. It’s so easy to go from day to day, always busy, but never thinking about what you’ve actually achieved through all that busyness. What, during the day, did you do that you were proud of? I’ve decided to record my Achievements in my journal.

And where, in all this efficiency and productivity, is the actual novel, I hear you ask?

Well, it’s progressing. Faster, hopefully, when I’ve got a handle on the dayjob workload and I can have my morning writing time back.

However – and this is an important point – I’ve learned a hell of a lot about writing over the last couple of years. I can certainly see why so many authors say that they’re embarrassed by their first finished (but unpublished) novel. I’d be embarrassed by mine if I’d finished it two years ago, and I haven’t even finished the thing yet.

However, I do have a finished short story which will be coming out in a New Street Authors anthology at some point soon. It’s urban fantasy set in Birmingham (UK).

No excuses left!

Well, there are always excuses, but I’ve got a lot fewer now than I had a fortnight ago.

My husband and I spent last weekend clearing out one of the bedrooms that had been a repository for Random Useless Crap (which had been useful at some stage), and rearranging it into a workroom for me, leaving him in sole position of the other bedroom as an office.

We’ve bought actual desks – one each – and I’ve got a new laptop to replace the creaky old desktop computer I’ve had for years (thus discovering that our home broadband isn’t nearly as slow as I thought it was). Now I just need a chair… we’re both using dining chairs that we got free some years ago from someone who was throwing them out, presumably because they have the tendency to come apart at inopportune moments. You have to balance quite carefully and not make any sudden moves…

But the result of all this industry and expense is that I now have somewhere in the house where it’s actually possible to work reasonably comfortably, and a decent-sized screen and keyboard with which to do it. Now all I have to do is find the time.

Some people seem to be able to just sit down at a computer and start writing, and keep going until they have a complete story (like Stephen King, or like the Mad Hatter: start at the beginning, go on till the end, and then stop). I am not one of those people. I need a plan, with step-by-step instructions. Otherwise I tend to get lost, or stuck. And the week after next, for the first time since 2006, my husband and I are actually going on holiday. Real holiday, where you actually sleep somewhere that is not your house for more than two nights in a row. We’re going to a little cottage somewhere in the Peak District, and we’re taking our respective computers, and we’re determined to do nothing but relax, plot, write and… maybe do some other stuff.

However, the advantage of having had no time (in between cooking, cleaning, ironing, studying and working) to do any actual writing is that I’ve had quite a bit of time to think about the story and the characters. And my two main characters have changed; I realised that I had a big problem with my fantasy world – i.e., that really it wouldn’t have worked the way I had it. I also found another character presenting herself to my attention. The solution turned out to be that if I merged my main character with the new character, that made a change to the world possible that straightened out the problem.

I wouldn’t have thought of it – or at least not until several thousand words down the road – if I’d had the time to start writing a while ago. Of course, one change means that other changes happen – having changed my main character, my other protagonist also has to change. So I’ve now got two completely different people, and I’ve got to work out exactly who they are now. But, it should be a better story for it.

So, the week after next is The Week For Writing. Because if I can’t get a plot plotted with a whole week assigned to just that task (and maybe some other stuff…) then I have no hope of getting anything actually written.

Let’s see what happens. 🙂

You know you always said there weren’t enough hours in the day…?

David Neeleman said: “Seat assignment didn’t matter if you’re flying Dallas to Houston and you did it 38 times a day. People just got on, you didn’t sit next to your wife, and it was a 45-minute flight. It didn’t matter.”

Tiff says: 45 minutes x 38 = 1710 minutes. 1710/60 = 28.5.

Now, if you are flying to Houston 38 times a day, which would be 28.5 hours’ flying time, that’s a pretty mean achievement since most people only manage to pack a measly 24 hours into a day. But in order to fly to Houston more than once, you also have to fly back. So add another (45 x 37)/60 = 27.75 hours. Add the two together: 28.5 + 27.75 = 56.25.

And the Nobel Prize for Physics goes to David Neeleman for managing to invent the 56 hour day.

I hope my boss doesn’t find out.

The Gentle Art of Procrastination

Procrastination.

That is what I have been doing all week (or more), and that is why I haven’t been posting anything but ‘Thought for the Day’.

Procrastination is when you have a task you know you are going to have to do, but you keep putting it off and putting it off, and doing other things instead just so you can say you’ve been ‘too busy’. It’s ultimately self-defeating, because you still have to do the unpleasant task, and by the time you do, you have to do it in a hurry.

Or, if you are an advanced procrastinator (like me), you know that The Job is quite important, so you can’t do anything less important in front of it in the queue. Which means that everything gets backed up behind The Job. You’ve no idea how backed up I am at the moment… 🙁

Still, I have now done The Job and life should get back to normal. I can stop obsessively doing all the ironing, and fiddling with my brand-new iPhone 5 (which absolutely had to be set up exactly right as a matter of urgency, you understand).

I shall now go and enter all the other (backed up) tasks on a List. There are now so many of them that I need to get them pinned down where they can’t wriggle around and multiply. They’re worse than rabbits, I tell you, and a lot less fluffy.

Of course, the Making Lists is also a technique in the advanced procrastinator’s armamentarium; one can spend so much time making lists, and then Lists of Lists, that one doesn’t actually have time to do any of the tasks on any of the lists…

You just can’t win…