Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Focus and planning...

Not far off what my planning sessions look like!
Man alive, I have a shed-load of stuff to try and do in the next three months! I think (think) I've drawn up a plan that will let me shift the work without it killing me, but it's really made me consider how I maintain focus when I have a gazillion different things to be thinking about. All too often I feel so overwhelmed that I do nothing, and then feel even more overwhelmed, and annoyed with myself for not getting stuff done.

When I'm writing, although I feel busy, I'm busy on one kind of thing, really - the book. This quarter though, I have a lot of very different things I need to focus on. How do I deal with that?

I know my brain and it likes blocks. There is little point in me scheduling an hour on this followed by an hour on that, because I generally need to get my teeth into something, especially when the tasks I have are all meaty, solid things that will take many hours to complete. Obviously, if I'm trying to clear mosquito tasks, I can zip through them one after another, and I frequently schedule an hour towards the end of a day (when my brain is tired) to clear them.

As all of you know, I'm a pretty analogue person. I do my planning on paper, whether that's book planning or life planning. When I was trying to sort out when I needed to be doing what over the next few months, I used a sheet of paper with squares indicating each week (shaded to indicate if only half the week would be available) and my tasks written out on slips of paper. If the task didn't take a full week, the slip of paper was smaller; if the task would take more than a week, it had several slips of paper. Some tasks could be done anytime; others had to go in a particular order. I kid you not, I sat down and shifted these slips of paper around until I could see a path through this huge pile of stuff I need to get done. Once I was finally sorted, I drew up a Gantt chart (actual tasks have been renamed!):


The upshot of it all is that I know what I need to be doing each week, to hit various deadlines that are coming up.

The downside of it all is that I won't be getting around to typing up my edits to the final book of the trilogy until September, never mind have a moment to think about the new book that's waving at me!

Why? What's looming in the next couple of months that's taking me away from it?

I can't tell you just yet, though I will be telling subscribers to my newsletter what's happening. It's both exciting and terrifying, and I hope I'm doing the right thing. But it's thrown a huge spanner in the works and shot my original plans for Q3 and Q4 of 2019 to pieces.

My days ahead are going to be busy! You can see from the schedule that in some weeks I have two or three things that need covering. The solid boxes are the main focus for the week; the shaded boxes are secondary. Red shading indicates a deadline. The different tasks are often using an entirely different part of my brain (e.g. marketing, editing, technical stuff to do with self-publishing) and in the past, I've struggled with trying to switch from one to another like that. I'm hoping that if I set aside a block of time for each task (a morning/afternoon/day) I can get through the changes of focus needed. I will be using my trusty sand-timers to help me focus and also remind me to take breaks.

How does everyone else deal with this? I feel as if I'm swimming through treacle at times.



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