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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brenda Novak: Time Management

With INSIDE, my new book, just out I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. There’s so much to do! Speaking engagements, launch parties, signings at the state fair. And yet I have three more books to write before the end of the year. Which brings me to time management. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis. Why? Because one thing I don’t plan into my day is time to relax and just “hang,” and that’s so important to relationships. Just being available to people is a great way to build stronger ties, but being available requires flexibility which is difficult for me and other workaholics to manage. If my kids want to go somewhere or create something, I can put it on the calendar and make it happen. But what about those times when certain subjects wouldn’t come up if you weren’t just puttering around the house together, cooking or cleaning or shooting the breeze? My weakness in this area is why I don’t consider myself an expert on this subject. I think I’m great at getting stuff done. People ask me all the time, “How do you do it all?” But time management shouldn’t be about accomplishing the most in the least amount of time. It should be about balance, about nurturing those around us while we accomplish a reasonable amount.

So now that you know my greatest weakness (I’ve actually had to set goals to stop what I’m doing and let the rest go until tomorrow—LOL), I’ll tell you how I manage to write three books (and one novella) a year, travel, speak and promote my books, run a major charity fundraiser and raise five kids. First of all, I do it by taking care of myself. Sometimes the hour I take out of my day for exercise seems like a waste. There are so many other things I want to do with that time. But I remind myself that if I’m healthy and have energy, I will be able to accomplish more in less time. And it’s true. If I get enough rest and exercise, I feel strong and capable, and it makes a big difference in my daily output.

Another sure-fire trick is to prioritize what must be done each day and to do the most important things first. That may sounds like a no-brainer, and yet it’s so easy to get diverted. If exercising every day is your goal, do it first thing in the morning. But if it’s more important for you to write ten pages a day, start with that instead. That way, when the unexpected intrudes as the hours progress, and the day begins to get away from you, you’ll still accomplish those things that are most important to you.

Keeping myself on an even emotional keel is another thing that really increases my productivity. This isn’t always easy, of course. Problems crop up, sorrows intrude, accidents happen. But developing some type of inner peace helps you withstand the emotional buffeting that goes along with the bumps of life. Some people use meditation. Others read an inspiring story. Still others keep a gratitude journal. All of these are great techniques. I simply close my eyes, take a deep breath, and think, “Be still and know that I am God.” This usually brings me right back to my center, and if it doesn’t, I begin counting my blessings—taking a look at what I’ve got instead of what I don’t have.

And who doesn’t like killing two birds with one stone? I print out pages from my current WIP and edit while I ride my Exercycle. I listen to research programs on True Crime TV while I clean house. I read my latest manuscript to my husband whenever he has to drive somewhere for work. And, probably the best thing I’ve done to date, I’ve hired an assistant. I thought this was something I shouldn’t allow myself—being raised by a frugal mother I felt as if I couldn’t justify such a luxury—but I’ve been able to extend my reach on so many fronts, thanks to this decision.

How do you increase your productivity? Do you agree that time management is more about balance than it is about working every minute? How do you make yourself take time out?

2 comments:

marybelle said...

I'm a list kind of person & I always do the most odious of tasks first before I lose my initial inertia. I find if I accomplish my goal quickly, then I have more down time.

Jo's Daughter said...

Not sure I'm good at managing things or balancing stuff out. I just try to do everything the minute it needs to be done. Putting it off or leaving it for later isn't really working for me. So no excuses get it done quick & then enjoy the rest of the day if possible.