Cate M asked:
In the real life category, how do you multitask productively when half the tasks are a day job you want to advance in, and half the tasks are story tasks, plus the work that should but is realistically never going to happen, i.e., the ironing basket? You seem to do a lot of multitasking.
Multi-tasking means doing several things at once and it’s a bad, bad, bad idea for writing because it fragments your focus. Better is to figure out what you have to do, the time you have to do it, and make a realistic schedule to follow, one thing at a time. So . . .
1. Make a list of what you want to accomplish each day, each week, etc.
2. Estimate realistically how long it takes you to do each thing. Round up.
3. Find out how many hours your daily to-do list will take. Notice that it’s more than twenty-four hours so that even if you didn’t eat or sleep, you still couldn’t do all of that in one day.
4. Now put the tasks on that list in order of importance, the most important at the top. Be realistic and be savage about what really is important to you, not what you think should be important to you.
5. You have sixteen hours in a day (because you’re sleeping eight hours, and no, you can’t get by on less that that, stop punishing your brain and body because you think you’re SuperGuy or SuperGirl, you’re a human being not a robot). Add up the times on the list and when you get to ten or twelve, draw a line under the last one. (Where do the extra four hours go? Traffic, doctor’s appointments, school plays . . .)
6. Delete everything else from the list. You can’t do those things, you don’t have enough time, and they’re not super-important to you anyway. Stop trying to put twenty pounds of activity into a five-pound day. It wastes your time and annoys the day.
Generally speaking (and I do mean “generally”) most working-an-outside-job and/or raising-children people who really want to write can spare half an hour to an hour a day to write. That’s about it. If you live alone and you don’t care that your house looks like a landfill (that would be my house) you have more time, but the combination of work and family means that it’s really tough. Maybe you only get half an hour a day. Maybe some days–doctor’s appointments, school plays, houseguests–you don’t get that.
The key is: That’s okay. This is your life, right now. Organize it, definitely, but organize it so that you’re not suffering, so that things get done without rushing around and without guilt, and if they don’t get done, well, hell, that happens. Tomorrow is another day. Get rid of everything that isn’t essential, tick the tasks off your To Do list, and stop feeling guilty. Guilt is a real creativity killer, not to mention a savage assault on the quality of your life.
Also don’t forget to dance around the house singing into a salt shaker like a microphone at least once a day. It’s done wonders for me.