Sunday, June 19, 2011

My husband is something of a genius

Time management has been a problem for me, more so in recent years. There was a period, a long period, in my life when I did one thing. Worked. Almost all of my time was taken up with my one job at a time - which was often all consuming, but not difficult to manage at all.

Now, however, I have way too much going on. It all takes time. It all needs to be scheduled. There are some things that if I fail to schedule them, they simply disappear into the ever growing pile of laundry at the end of the bed, the ever growing pile of mending on the sewing table, the ever growing backlog of cool ideas I want to write about, the ever nagging project deadlines, the ever patient aforementioned husband who tends to get last place in my attention.

I have plenty of goals, long and short term. They are publicly declared, standing like doleful sentinels around my good intentions, while my creative desires flutter off following other muses into new interests. I am perfectly efficient at setting goals.

I'm also fine at devising deadlines. My calendar is filled with color coded deadlines - publication deadlines, scrapbook calls, project due dates, dates by which I need to have certain things done for the long term. Plus my calendar is filled with those commitments of which I can be reasonably sure - classes I will teach assuming I get student registrants, the upcoming Good Vibrations conference, exhibitions I hope to attend, birthday parties.

But finding the time to complete the works to meet the deadlines in the midst of my day to day frittering - that has been tough. I've started to feel like I was drowning - in that deadly quiet way that has been a topic on facebook and home schooling lists recently. No flailing or crying out - just a kind of paralyzing despair that I would never  get anything done, let alone everything - that I would have to let go of some of my beloveds.

So how is my husband a genius? For some time he has been telling me my time management needs improving, which I translated as "do more". I have been struggling to work out how I can possibly fit even more tasks into my day and still sleep. Then yesterday James said something that I heard differently - that finally clicked.

"You need a time budget."

I don't know why that seemed to be the right phrase, but it was. So I immediately set to work with a spreadsheet and a calculator to look at percentages of my waking hours, and actual hours, to work out a monthly time budget.

First I am assuming 8 hours of sleep, which has so rarely come to pass in recent years that I feel like I am banking time by not counting those daily 8.

16 hours/day x 30 days = 480 hours/month.

Looking at typical weeks, and assuming that I have signups and will be teaching all the classes that I have scheduled in any particular month, I can plan on at most 52 hours of work at Michaels. It is very unlikely to be more, and good chances are will be less, but that is 11%. 11% already gone! When I started doing this budget, I Immediately realized that I really would never get everything done, unless I changed how I do things.

Here is how my time budget looks in its raw data form:

Big Writing Craft Project    18%  86.4 hours/mth  or 5.75 hours every other day
Custom Scrapbooking        11%  52 hours/mth  or  3.5 hours every other day
Writing                                5%   24 hours/mth or 3  full work days per month (ie 8 hours)
Crafting/sewing/crochet      10% 48 hours/mth or 6 days per month
Michaels shifts/classes        11% 52 hours/mth - scattered somewhat but predictable

Daily stuff
Cooking (God help me)      15%   2 1/2 hours per day
Design Team admin              2%    20 minutes per day
Housework                          6.5%  1 hour per day
Time with Jayn*                   15%   2 1/2 hours per day
Time with James*                6.5%    1 hour per day
*actually doing something together as compared to hanging out in the same space while we do other stuff - that's the other 69% of the time I am working at home.

The idea that I only really need to put in on hour per day on the housework to stay on top of it makes things a lot more manageable. The DT work is checking and posting to message boards.

Then I went back to my calendar and I scheduled, in color codes around the days that I have classes and demos already planned - 6 sewing/crafting days over the next month, roughly every other day a long day of business crafting work (which is planned to be my biggest income stream and the most fun too), and three days per month of just writing. This will be mostly screenwriting, and by focusing on writing on those days, and knowing I will be focusing on other work on other days, I hope that more gets accomplished.

This removes the overwhelming "what do I do first" choices from my day. I already have my writing deadlines outlined from early in the year when I did my goal planning, so when I see that tomorrow, Monday, is writing day, I already know that I'm going to be working on "Mermaid Lake" story structure and character development.

Now all I need is clients.


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