Monday, March 2, 2015

Deadlines & Day Jobs

“Think ahead. Don’t let day-to-day operations drive out planning.”
- Donald Rumsfeld

There was a time in my life when I made lists and then did the things on them. I would write and rewrite lists by category: home, kids, work, school, writing, etc. And then, I would systematically tackle them. I would even add things to my list that I’d done that weren’t on the list just so I could put a line through them. I’m a little controlling, a little OCD (maybe a lot…), and no one appreciates the value of a minute more than me.

That was before school started this year.

My day job is teaching sophomore and junior English. I have around 180 students (roughly 30 per class). What was different this year? We implemented iPads in a 1:1 initiative. I love technology, but this has been nothing short of nightmare of Psycho-proportions. The time it takes to plan, grade, and implement technology has doubled. At least. The result has been the evaporation of my writing time. I’ve been sitting on a deadline to write a partial since January 15th. It was due March 1st. I wrote it Saturday and edited it Sunday. As in February 27th and 28th. I spend entire days at Starbucks writing with intermittent bouts of self-flagellation for procrastinating. Let’s not mention all the groceries not being bought, the meals not getting cooked, the family and dogs being ignored, and the meetings missed.

Why? Why would I wait this long to write a story I adore that editors are actually waiting to read. How could anything be more important than that? 

The why is pretty simple and can probably be echoed by every writer out there with a day job:
  • Add kids (I have one in college, one in middle school, and one in high school), and
  • a side job (I sell nutritional products), and
  • graduate school (I’m working on my M.Ed. in Secondary Education), and
  • an overextension of writing-related commitments (Can you sign books? Yes! Visit our book club? Absolutely! Teach a writing workshop? Out town? For free? Well, of course!)…. 

Well, you get the point. There isn’t enough time to accomplish everything. I spend an exorbitant amount of money on planners (online and on paper) and organizational strategies involving spirals, composition books, Wunderlist (which is awesome, but I’m too visual to do it all on an app), and sticky notes – all  with varying degrees of success and for limited amounts of time.

Here’s what I works for me (today, at this exact second in time):
  • I use an Erin Condren planner to keep up with meetings, due dates, etc. – it’s functional and pretty and you can buy interchangeable covers (which works well with my Gemini spirit). Learn from my mistake: the key to being successful with this planner is to actually take the planner out of your bag and OPEN IT.
  • I keep a spiral as a running to-do list. There are pages and pages and it can be completely overwhelming, but I go through the list and then I…
  • Make a list for each day.

I also email myself reminders. Constantly. Right now, I have 43 emails in my inbox and half of them are from me as reminders. By the way… I have this thing about going to sleep each night with empty inboxes (file it, put it on the list, do it, or print it). So the 20+ emails from myself are from last night.

I don’t think this really qualifies as a system… there has to be a better way! Please, please, please… share your system for staying organized; maybe some it will stick with others on the blog AND ME!

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