There never seems to be enough hours in the day. They speed by, as though some nefarious timekeeper knows what you’re trying to accomplish with your life and, cackling, they spin the clock like an over-caffeinated Wheel of Fortune contestant. I’ve talked about time management before on this blog, but there’s an uglier part of keeping life in order that isn’t mentioned as often. And that’s how to choose between the many, many things you want to do.
I’m not talking about fear of missing out – though that’s a real thing. No, here I’m talking about when there are so many things that you want to do for your job but you don’t have time to do them all. Note the key word there is want. Yeah, I went with bold instead of italics because it’s that important, and it’s something I struggle with every day. From recording audiobooks, to writing blog posts like these, to getting words down on the next novel, to running ad campaigns, all of these are things that demand time investment. If I tried to do them all, I would, like an overstuffed suitcase, explode and send a bunch of my dirty laundry over a bunch of strangers. It would be uncomfortable.
So how I’ve been dealing with this lately?
Using two criteria:
- How important is it to my bottom line? – in other words, is this going to bring in more income? For example, putting my books up for sale in a new store.
- How much damn fun is it? – in other words, how much damn fun is it?
Ideally, something that’s fantastically entertaining to do will also bring cash raining from the ceiling. The reality tends to be on scales. Writing a new book and running through a new story, for me, tops the marks in both. However, it’s unrealistic to just type new fiction for 8-10 hours a day. Just like you can’t play basketball or drink beer for that long (or, you can, but good luck doing it for multiple months in succession). So if I’m leaving 3-4 hours a day for non-best activities, what do I choose?
For me, I like to use a general set of deadlines. Things that are lower on the scale, particularly in both metrics, but that still need to be done I give a deadline. Set a date and block off the time. That way, when I have to spend the time updating my accounting or updating ISBN #s or updating sales pages, I can make the argument to myself that these things need to be done at this time and I’ve otherwise used my days efficiently on things more fun/higher earning.
All of this, of course, depends on having that long term mindset. Meaning, this sort of career isn’t like winning the lottery (it can be, but it’s bad to plan on that). It takes time to build up. Time to get used to doing all those things you’re not used to (hi, Twitter and Facebook marketing!). Eventually, though, you get there because you spend your time where it counts, and don’t forget the necessary, if unsexy, items. And that’s the most important part.
You get there.
Opening lines for today: Ender’s Game – this one’s a classic that a lot of you might have read in school. Or when the movie came out (book is way better). There’s a boy, a battle school in space, and a lot of musing over whether it’s moral to eradicate something because you can, or because you’re scared of it. I loved the book, and wrote an essay for an AP test in high school about it, thoroughly ignoring the test’s suggestions to use more hardened classics like The Scarlet Letter or Huckleberry Finn. I also loved the sequels and parallel novels off of this one. If it hasn’t made its way into your mind’s library, make room for it.