Organization: Focus on Focus

I’m taking a break from my Time Management series because Randy Ingermanson just released this great article on the topic, and it meshes perfectly with what I said the other day about grouping like tasks together and scheduling them into your ideal day or week. If you’re writing fiction and don’t already subscribe to Randy’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, follow the link at the bottom of the post and sign up. It is fantastic.

Guest Blogger: Randy Ingermanson

Focus is good. This month I decided to try something new to improve my focus.

The plan was simple. Every day of the week, I work on only one thing. A little context here might be helpful:

My life is pretty scattered. I work half time as Director of Software Engineering at a biotech company in San Diego. I also have my website at AdvancedFictionWriting.com and another small business with my writing buddy John Olson. And I write fiction.

I like writing fiction and I like writing software and I like writing this e-zine. (There’s a pattern there somewhere.)

What I don’t like are the gritty little administrative tasks that come along for the ride. I hate those. I outsource what I can, but there are some things that can’t be outsourced.

Since I’m constantly juggling several flaming torches, some things never get done because they’re “not important”. Which secretly means I don’t like doing them.

I was talking to John about this last month and complaining that I had a pile of things that never seemed important enough to do because every day I had a long list of tasks, so I always did the things I liked doing first.

get organized
Photo by Rene Wechsler • Fotolia

John suggested that I try doing only one kind of work every day. That seemed too simple, but he convinced me to give it a try.

So my schedule right now is ridiculously simple:

Monday: Write all day.
Tuesday: Work on biotech all day.
Wednesday: Admin tasks all day. Oh, the horror!
Thursday: Work on biotech all day.
Friday: Write all day.

I’ve been trying it for a few weeks now, and here are my thoughts.

I really love Mondays and Fridays. And I’m getting a lot of words written because on those days I don’t have a long To Do List hanging over my head. I can have fun all day long with no guilt. Yay!

I’m working extremely hard on Tuesdays and Thursdays because two days out of five doesn’t make half-time. So in theory, this can’t work, but in practice it does, because when you have to put in the time, you find a way. It may mean working extra in the evenings or on the weekend, but it works out.

I hate Wednesdays. Really hate them. Wednesdays are hell on a razor blade. But that list of horrible admin tasks that I’ve been putting off since forever—that list is shrinking. When you’ve got all day to work on grunge work, there is only so much time you can spend checking e-mail and reading blogs. At some point, you have to face the list and knock some tasks off it.

This plan is still early, but I rather like it. Four days out of the work week are really fun. One day is wretched. The evil To Do List is shrinking. I have this fantasy that it’ll shrink to zero, and I can do fun stuff on Wednesdays again. Then again, I also have fantasies that I can fly.

What about you? Do you see any ideas here you can use in your own life? Can you bundle things so that each day has only One Main Thing?

Maybe your life isn’t shaped that way. Maybe there’s an irreducible part of your life that has to happen every day.

But maybe there’s a way to focus the fun parts of your life, so they’re vastly more fun, and to focus the unfun parts so they actually get done.

Think about it. It just might work. If it does, that’s a win. If it doesn’t, then you can always revert back to normal with no loss.

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
 
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 12,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

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4 Comments

  1. Doug Leppard says:

    Interesting concept. Hard to believe using such large chunks of time works. Maybe half days. My biggest concern would be emails. People don’t want to wait until you get to the day of that subject.

    1. Yes, it does depend on who you’re dealing with. But if people know, for example, that I only do personal business on Tuesdays, they’re understanding if I don’t get back to them on Mondays.

      1. Doug Leppard says:

        Randy is right, some things don’t get taken care of because the block of time was not set aside.

  2. Good article. Gives me some food for thought. I’ll revisit my schedule and see how I can make it more efficient. Thank you.

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