Friday, December 3, 2010

Prioritizing

I like to stay organized, but sometimes everything happens at once…and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.Deadlines and holidays are usually not a great combination…and that’s what I’ve been handling the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, we’ve also had painters over the past week to do interior painting. Oh, and the hot water heater wasn’t working. And two burners on the stove went out right before Thanksgiving…

Then I suddenly had an onslaught of emails, some promo stuff that needed to be done, and a bunch of stuff that came up with the kids.

So…what to do? It’s no good prioritizing what’s most important. It’s all important.

What I do when it all happens at once:

Empty my mind of everything I can think of that I need to do. If I don’t do this, my mind keeps whirring (especially at night.) Everything goes on the master list. This list is not prioritized in any way. ‘Make reservation at the dog’s kennel’ is right over ‘email agent about due dates for new series.’

Break down the big tasks into specific tasks. I have a couple of interviews to give, guest blog posts to write, guests to schedule on my blog, Twitter to update, etc. It helps to see everything written out instead of having something on my to-do list that says “Promote Book".”

Prioritize the tasks and assign days for each to be completed. I get my day planner out for this part. This goes hand in hand with the prioritization of the steps.

Delegate. No one can write our book or promote it for us. But there are people around us that can take care of other important tasks for us. My family has helped me out with cleaning, laundry, and errand-running. I’ve had a couple of friends invite my daughter over for playdates recently, too.

I’m feeling back on track and it’s mostly due to having an organized plan of attack. And having some help in the trenches. :)

How do you stay on top of everything when it all happens at once?

Elizabeth Craig/Riley Adams
Mystery Writing is Murder


17 comments:

The Old Silly said...

Good list of PMS! (Priority Management System, lol)

Jan Morrison said...

This is great, Elizabeth. And I don't know. I juggle kids and a house (chickens and a dog) as well as my work life as a therapist with clients to call back and a schedule to make sense of. I think for me it is like paying myself first (the Wealthy Barber approach) and that means that I don't let important things be fit in around the edges. I write each week on Tuesdays with Gwen (lots of other time to but always that) I see my friend, Arlo, every Thursday and I try and meditate each day to settle my mind. Also, if at all possible, I do things on the spot knowing that if I do it'll be much easier than putting it off. I like your master list...I might take that!

Margot Kinberg said...

Elizabeth - Thanks for sharing the way you prioritize. I like the way you start by stepping away from the stress you feel when everything comes at you at once. That gives one a clear mind and a calmer perspective. I think that's absolutely crucial to getting through those crazy times.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I panic. Then procrastinate. Then I get down to it. Maybe I need to adopt your plan of attack!

Bobbi Mumm said...

Coming up to the Christmas season, I really need to straighten out those priorities. Next Saturday, for example, three parties in one evening? They're all come-and-go affairs but still it's too much. Thanks for the inspiration, Elizabeth!

Stephen Tremp said...

I have to walk away from the PC, take care of finances, clean house, run errands. Just do things in clumps. But stepping away from the computer is important or I won't get anything accomplished.

Maryann Miller said...

ACK! You are living my life, or I'm living yours. LOL

When I am feeling overwhelmed, I need to clear my mind as well, and I usually do that by going outside for a while. Nothing like a quick brisk walk to settle things down. Also am learning to ask more and more help from other people. Delegated a lot of production responsibilities to other people for the current theatre production I'm directing, and got my husband to mail out postcards for my new book.

Breathing helps, too. LOL

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

The Old Silly--Ha! Good name for it. :)

Jan--Good idea--procrastination hurts us in the end!

Margot--I think it helps to just be conscious of all that we have going on--and that we *are* under stress. Sometimes I felt like I didn't even recognize the stress..until I ended up with a migraine. If I recognize that I'm stressed out, I think I attack it better.

Alex--I definitely have my moments of panic!

Bobbi--Oh gosh...I'd be a wreck if I had 3 parties in one evening! I'm not looking forward to the couple on my calendar!

Stephen--The computer is a huge time-suck, isn't it? Much as I love it!

Maryann--I think sometimes I forget to breathe!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I need people to delegate to - my cats hate to vacuum and don’t get me started on their last attempt at laundry.

Seriously, this is one of the reasons I hired and found money in my budget for a literary manager. She takes care of all the promo stuff for my books, leaving me to juggle with the other stuff. I chose that over having a housekeeper. Still, when I feel overwhelmed, I make a list of everything I need to do. Seeing it in writing takes some of the worry out of it. I then work down the list and cross off items as they get done. Seeing the physical line through the job makes me feel really great. Also, on weekends, I have a habit of writing for a hour or so, then tackling one of the jobs on the list, then repeat – write, chore, write, chore. I find the break from the mental work of writing helps me focus when I return to the computer and I get my chores done at the same time.

Hart Johnson said...

urgh! I mostly DON'T but lists definitely help. The things for other people (deadlines) happen first--especially the tangibles that get DONE and can be crossed off. The things that have people whining for them... sadly, I reinforce that whine by responding because I don't want to hear it... hubby helps, but really only if I have something OFFICIAL due... otherwise he thinks it ought to come out of blogging or something, not getting that the blog is part of my long-range plan.

Darrell James said...

Two words, Elizabeth: "Road Trip!"

Alan Orloff said...

I'm like Alex, except that I procrastinate before I panic. And I like Darrell's idea of a road trip. That always helps. (Oh, your ideas are good, too, Elizabeth, if a bit practical.)

Keith Raffel said...

I'm a lister. Love crossing to-dos off a list.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Sue Ann--Oh, cats are hopeless at housework! Believe me, I've tried to foist it on them. :)

I'll agree that I think housework and writing go together really well. Sometimes I come up with my best ideas while I'm vacuuming. :)

Hart--I think you need to suddenly have something official to do ALL the time! More writing contracts and more deadlines for you!

Darrell--Run away! Run away! :)

Alan--I have to admit that procrastination and road trips sound a lot better than being practical!

Keith--I seem to put things on the list quicker than I take them off, but I love lists, too. :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I'm a listmaker, too. Even so, I've learned that I keep having to change up what I do or my mind figures out a way to circumvent my best intentions. Right now I'm keeping one list of everything--breaking it down the same way you do into parts of a whole. I can tell at a glance what I have time to do or what absolutely cannot wait another minute or what I'm waiting for someone else to do first. Putting it on the list gets it out of my mind. Sometimes I have list of things to do with items on my list. I need a clone. Have a great weekend.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I make lists as well. Now if I could just find them...

Patricia Stoltey said...

Keeping a master random To Do List and a detailed daily To Do List helps me the most. And then on the daily list I number the items in the order I plan to do them. I had myself so bogged down in November that I ended up achy (from lack of exercise) and exhausted. Live and learn! :)