The Complete Writer
Section IX: Creative Strategies
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Managing the Creative Workload
Creative workers, especially those of us who are self-employed, often find ourselves trying to cope with a workload that entails tackling too darned many things at once. Managing this workload can be a real challenge.
Normally, I organize my workdays and keep more or less on track by using to-do lists posted on white-boards, one hanging in the office and the other on the door that leads out to where the car awaits.
Sometimes, though, these may serve more to discourage than to help get work done.
Listing all the tasks that need to be done today leads one to try to accomplish 87 gerjillion things on deadline. And that is untenable.
Overload and the to-do list
One day I happened upon another approach.
What if you didn’t set yourself a slew of tasks, an endless to-do list, but instead aimed to get just one important thing done during any given day? That would free up the day to do things you would like to do (as opposed to have to do). And accomplishing one thing a day would mean five goals would get done during a week.
Five things accomplished in a week is a whole lot more than zero things accomplished in a week.
So on a Monday I set out to do the following:
- Start building a Goodreads presence, somehow
- Proofread 30 Pounds page proofs; order twenty hard copies to fulfill orders
- Meet with client; work on his book
- Post another Camptown Races book
- Plug the latest Fire-Rider collection; update websites accordingly.
Five chores. By Thursday, I’d accomplished four of them.
I resisted listing any daily to-do chores. The goal was to get through five projects in a week.
Without the nagging pressure of a horde of tasks waiting in the wings, I found myself focusing on a given project for longer periods and with fewer self-imposed interruptions. The result: I got through a lot of work, including some unplanned extra chores for a client. This spun off quite a few other small chores that also got done . . . so in fact, more than five tasks were accomplished that week—before Friday rolled around.
Effectively what had happened is that setting fewer goals meant more things got done! Many, many more things.
The take-away message
Focusing on the bigger picture makes it easier to get moving, and five things to do in a week are less discouraging than ten in a day.
And if one strategy isn’t working, try something different. Even if it’s a tried-and-true strategy, sometimes changing gears (or getting a little help!) can make a big difference.