Sorry for my unexpected leave of absence last week, guys, but it was cuh-RAZY here at MBGHQ. We had:
–4 deadlines (including one story that was over 2,100 words)
–1 How to Birth a Baby class
–1 opening for The Guy’s latest play
–1 wonderful wedding shoot
–1 mysterious case of what we can only assume was poison ivy
–1 cast party
As you can plainly see, we’re not slowing down any time soon.
One of the questions I get asked a lot lately, especially since my physique now resembles that of a kleptomaniac with a beach ball fetish, is “How do you do it all?”
The answer is quite simple: I DON’T.
Our bathroom is a biohazard. I ran out of clean maternity panties and had to resort to stuffing myself into a pair of my pre-pregnancy underwear. I had a crying meltdown Thursday night when I realized I didn’t have any black pants to wear to shoot the wedding. I’m behind on editing photos from a portrait session I did LAST weekend, and we’re more than likely ordering pizza for dinner tonight.
But on the other hand, everything that HAD to get done last week did, indeed, get done, and I will take credit to myself and The Guy and admit that it took quite a bit of organization and self-discipline to accomplish everything we needed to.
Thankfully, I really like planning and plotting and organizing, although I haven’t always been particularly good at time management, which, as you can imagine, is kind of important when you’re self-employed and don’t have anyone telling you what to do every day. I’m one of those people who, when they start on something, doesn’t want to stop until it’s completely finished, which is inconvenient when you’re trying to accomplish multiple tasks in a short period of time. And sometimes, like if I’ve had a really busy day, it’s hard for me to focus and concentrate, which often leads to procrastination (read: wasting precious time screwing around on Facebook and Pinterest).
Add to this the fact that I’m 30 weeks pregnant, and in my third trimester, my energy level has really taken a nosedive. It’s not as bad as the first trimester, when BREATHING THE AIR made me need a nap; this fatigue is definitely more physical. But the fact remains that there is now a limit to how much I can do, so it’s crucial to space out the week’s tasks where I do a little bit each day instead of everything in one marathon stretch.
So how does a task-oriented procrastinator who can’t currently take her OCD meds overcome all this?
Google Calendar is one of the greatest inventions of all time, in my opinion, but The Guy prefers Outlook. It’s a miracle our marriage has survived.
Oh, fine, not really. It doesn’t matter what kind of calendar you use as long as it has the capability to schedule reminders. (A brand-new paper calendar, purchased just after the start of the new year, used to make my heart go pitter-pat, but they can’t email me or text reminders to my phone, and so I abandoned them. The grass is always greener, fair-weather friends, etc.)
One of my freelance clients likes to give me assignments ahead of time, often MONTHS ahead of time, which is awesome. But if she gave me a story today that wasn’t due until January, I obviously wouldn’t start on it until late December or so. Nevertheless, I don’t want that deadline creeping up and surprising me, so I would schedule a reminder two weeks (or whatever) before the day it was due. That way, I could work on it in a more leisurely fashion and probably do a much better job (and glug less supermarket wine) than if I tried to cram all the research and interviews into two days.
Another example: September is a ridiculously busy month, what with deadlines and my baby shower and out-of-town guests and photo shoots and what-have-you. But a client just emailed me 12 articles to edit by the end of the month. So I looked at my calendar, and on the days that are somewhat lighter, I put a memo that says “work on editing.” I’m MUCH more likely to accomplish something if it’s on my to-do list for a particular day, and now, I’ve got six days to edit 12 articles instead of pulling an all-nighter on the 29th.
I’ve written before about how great the timer is for cleaning, but it’s also super useful for writing. I’m using it right now, in fact.
Sometimes, I get…I don’t know…intimidated? Overwhelmed? by an article or blog post. And that leads to procrastination. So I make a deal with myself: I set a timer for an hour (or 30 minutes or whatever) and tell myself that I have to work on that piece and only on that piece until the timer goes off. I don’t have to write the whole thing – I can work on the introduction or do research or make phone calls for interviews or anything at all as long as I’m legitimately working on the piece.
And you know what?
More often than not, I make major progress AND end up getting on a roll and working for over an hour.
Of course, this is also great when you need to do some work on several projects but you don’t want to get bogged down in just one thing. When the timer goes off, you put away that task and move on to the next one.
I have no idea why this works so well for obsessive compulsives and procrastinators, but it sure does.
I’m not ADD, but it’s nevertheless extremely easy for me to get off track. I’ll be answering emails, say, and suddenly remember that I need to call someone. Or I’ll dream up a great topic for a blog post while I’m answering comments. Or I’ll think of a terrific Christmas present for The Guy at 3:00 a.m. when I get up to go to the bathroom for the 44th time. And it’s always tempting for me to drop what I’m doing and make that call or write that post or get on eBay and bid on that bottle of Optimus Prime shampoo. Because what if I forget and the opportunity to make the love of my life relive one of his childhood traumas is lost forever?
But this is obviously A Very Bad Thing because it leads to me pinging like a pinball between 84,000 different unrelated tasks and never actually accomplishing anything.
The solution? Notepads. EVERYWHERE.
As I type this, there’s one 10 inches to my left, and I’ve already stopped once to write something on it: “Message Monica.” There’s one on my bedside table. There’s one in the coffee table. There’s one in my purse. There are several in the kitchen, two in my car and one in The Guy’s.
The mere act of writing something down helps me to remember it. And even if I forget, I have a visual reminder when I finish what I’m doing and get ready to move on to the next thing.
And for my many, many friends who are gestating along with me (seriously, Shreveport is currently experiencing its very own baby boom), notepads are a terrific antidote for the dreaded Pregnancy Brain.
So that’s how I make sure there’s always time to sit on the sofa, eat Halloween Oreos and watch old episodes of Law & Order: SVU.
How do you do it?