Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Time Management Woes by Katie Hines

Right now, I am both a writer and an editor, a wife, and a mom who is an empty-nester. Of course, that doesn’t mean family matters don’t come between me and my writing/editing, because they definitely do. In some ways, I feel like my children are young again as I spend time babysitting my two preschool grandchildren--boys, and my are they busy! I also have the regular duties of things that must get done. You know, the obligatory cleaning, cooking, shopping, and laundry, etc. Whew, and you thought staying at home was a cinch.

I’ve read on the internet and in emails different ways to manage your time, from making lists, to mental lists, to setting aside blocks of time, and so forth. Whichever I decide to try first, I’ll just dump some laundry in first. Slacks needed for tonight go in the dryer, and my husband’s permanent press shirts go in the washer.

Now I can concentrate. At first, the whole list thing sounds good, so I try that. Excited about the possibilities, I dutifully create a list and record on it all the activities I want to accomplish. Then I promptly get overwhelmed by the length of it! What to do? I decide I will make two lists: one for the writing/editing, and one for household and wifely stuff. But I still get overwhelmed because now there are not just one, but two lists staring at me.

What to do? I decide that I would put one of the lists in the drawer, so I don’t have its beady little eyes piercing me all day long, and its mouth yammering for me to pay attention to it. Problem is, whichever list I am working on, I am still conscious of that one whose priorities I haven’t even touched upon.

Forget the lists.

How about blocking out times for writing/editing, and another for family/house related activities? Sounds good, doesn’t it? But herein lies the question: Do I concentrate on household things first, or write first? No matter whichever one I choose, the other is going to hover in the back of my mind. Then I get serious. And doggone it, I am going to write first, then work on house and family.

But here comes another problem: Do I read my writing emails first, or actually write or edit first? If I read through my emails first, then I don’t feel like writing at the end of it because I take the time to read the articles and blogs, all of which can consume a lot of time. Scratch the emails. I decide to write first. Open computer, open Word. Open document. Sit and stare. Where is my muse? Turns out, I haven’t had any coffee, so I go make some and drink it thankfully.

Sit back down, open my computer again. Open document. Am sitting and staring again. Geesh, muse, just show up, okay? So, in order to jump-start my muse, I backtrack in my document one chapter, and reread what I’ve written. Fortunately, that is enough to get me going again, and I begin to write.

Then another problem occurs to me. I haven’t set a specific amount of time to write. So, how will I know when I am done? I could just write until I got “written out,” but that’s not always good because sometime you have to persevere to get past a tough spot. Sigh. I decide on a time frame, and begin to write again.

My cell phone rings.

The dilemma: Do I answer the phone and stop writing for a little bit, or do I ignore it and keep writing? I peek at the screen. It’s my eldest daughter. My fingers hover over my keyboard. The phone keeps ringing. What if she has an emergency? What if she just wants me to keep the boys? What if she’s just saying “hello?” I agonize. I have voice mail. I decide to not answer it, but wait for the voice mail signal to come through. Nothing. Guess it wasn’t important after all. I turn off the cell phone. I reread the last paragraph.

I hear a buzzer. It’s the dryer, letting me know its cycle is finished. If I don’t get the clothes out now, they will wrinkle, and I’ll have to do them all over again, or worse, iron them. Okay. I leave my computer, and head to the laundry room. The clothes are dry and I’ve averted a wrinkle catastrophe by hanging them up. Unfortunately, it takes longer to wash the clothes than it does to dry them. It took me about five minutes to hang the clothing up, so in about five more minutes I’ll need to go put the freshly washed clothes in the dryer.

Back to my computer.

Now where was I? I reread the last couple of paragraphs, check a detail earlier in the story, and am in the middle of typing a new paragraph when the washing machine beeps. Doggone, I HAVE to have those clothes dry and ready for our evening out tonight. Harrumphing just a bit, I leave my computer and go put the wash in the dryer.

Back to my computer. Again. I’m staring cross-eyed at my document, wondering what is going to clamor for my attention next. All of the sudden, a Skype picture pops up, superimposing itself over the document I’m working on. It’s my youngest daughter, checking in from college. I haven’t talked to her in two weeks. I chat with her a few minutes and we catch up.

Looking at my document. What can go wrong now? I stare at it. My muse has disappeared, along with my desire to even try to write. So, I work my way through my emails and associated blogs/articles.

I glance at the clock, and realize my favorite daytime show is about to come on. Deciding to further manage my time, I take a TV break. I’ll get back to my story later today, after things have settled down. Maybe. Whatever. Tomorrow is a new day, and I'm sure it will go better than today.

Closing my computer, I head to the living room. Surely, nothing else can disrupt my schedule now. I’m worn out from such a busy day of writing...


  1. LOL, Katie, I think you've solved the problem of why I'm so much more productive at the library or my local coffee shop than I am at home.

  2. I hear you! Of course, things aren't that bad every day, but still, there are some days when I just can't get ahead of the game.