I wish I could say that my taxes were completed and mailed.
I wish I could say that my office was clean, organized, and that I could see the floor.
That’s right – I can’t see the floor.
This weekend I got hit with the need-to-be-organized bug.
The biggest task? Shredding.
I thought my shredder had died but it had merely overheated. But that was months ago, sometime in 2009, and I haven’t kept up with my shredding so everything, every draft, final version, note, research document et al is littering the floor of my office waiting to be shredded.
I shred all my writing.
Not because I’m paranoid, simply because I like my life private and my writing shredded until it is ready to be read. Most of what needs to be shredded is early drafts of short stories and a couple novellas.
Worse, a friend was investigating a new personal organizational model so I of course had to jump on the bandwagon. Which was fun and rather informative. We are reading “Getting Thing Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen.
Happily I was able to get a copy from the library.
So, what have I learned so far?
The major thing I’ve learned was not in the book. I’m having a difficult time dealing with what is possible vs. what is do-able.
There are a lot of writing opportunities out there – articles, short stories, novellas, etc. Most have deadlines and often the deadlines cluster. The thing is – how do I keep track of all the opportunities without making them feel like “real” deadlines.
In the book, Allen talks about the psychological impact of things undone.
He calls these items “open loops”. Each open loop keeps playing in your head usually reminding you what needs to be done when you can’t do anything about it distracting you from focusing on the tasks at hand.
I realized that all these possible open loops, each thing I might write, were making me feel unsuccessful. Since I made each of them a calendar item and I only follow through on about 1/3 of them it was sapping my sense of achievement, making me feel like a failure.
Now in reality these writing deadlines are options not givens. I need to keep track of all of them but choose which ones I commit to. Since life is always moving and changing and day to day there is only so much I cannot control I need some method to track the options that leaves them options and doesn’t make them action items.
My solution, which wasn’t in the book by the way, was to keep two calendars.
My Outlook Calendar has all hard deadlines – things that must be done by a specific day or at a specific time.
My Google Calendar is a time based collection tool for all the possible projects I can choose from. It is a reference not a plan.
This was a big deal.
This morning I got up knowing what was real and what was possible and that I had options.
I’d tell you more, but Donna is coming to clean my house in a few hours and I need to finish shredding and recycling everything on the floor and getting things picked up so she can clean.