Last week, I wrote about The Art of the To-Do List, and advocated that quality of time spent working on something is more important than quantity of time. A dear follower of mine wondered how I feel about the progress I’ve been making on my writing-related projects in light of this less structured system. It seems counter-intuitive, almost, to throw out the clock and live moment-by-moment at a time when not one but two books are wrapping up and deadlines are looming.
Here is what’s going on right now: I am in the final editing phase of a small family business history, a comprehensive book in which I have collected dozens of memories from the business’ customers, family and friends to create a portrait of the business’ 50 years of operation. I will self-publish the book. I am hard at work tying up these final edits, but because of the volume of memories people sent in to me, I am managing a workload far greater than I envisioned when I first set out on this project. (And that’s a good problem. People responded to my call to help keep this business’ legacy alive.)
Meanwhile, a publisher is interested in the book of personal essays I have been shopping around for the past two years. She wants to publish my book Tough Love: A Wyoming Childhood, this year. I am preparing to submit a final version of the book to her, to begin the publishing process.
And meanwhile, I am the mom of a two-year-old, with another on the way.
Is this nuts? How did it happen that all of these balls are in the air at once?
Yes, I say. It IS nuts. But it’s a series of happy circumstances that all somehow came together at once. Tough to juggle right now? You bet. But look at what’s happening.
It’s all totally exciting.
So enter again my throw-out-the-clock task management system. Here is what I’m finding. Using the time I have to write to simply move forward on a project, rather than trying to force a goal out of that time (ie. finish editing 1990s section for small business history in one hour) instantly relieves unnecessary pressure and helps me to work smarter. By replacing concrete goals with the simple idea of moving forward, I make progress every time I sit down to work. And I find so much more satisfaction in that. I produce better work, because my mind is free of the cluttered “have-to’s.” (ie. You have to finish this in 45 minutes. If you don’t …”)
But what IF, you might ask, using this system, I fail to get the necessary work done on time? What IF I miss a deadline?
This same follower who asked about my progress said she simply has to take time for the things that are most important to her.
I agree. And that, to me, is where faith comes in.
Right now, getting the work done well is more important to me than any deadline. (I realize this can’t always be the case, that we all have hard-and-fast deadlines that need to be met and that’s just a part of life. But I also think we can make deadlines, especially self-imposed ones, much too important. Certainly, this IS a delicate balance.) Right now, not neglecting my son or my duties as Mom is more important than finishing the 1990s edits in an hour. If I make a deadline but in the process fail to meet my son’s needs, I do not consider myself accomplished.
And I trust that, by moving forward one step at a time and keeping the most important things in focus, my work will be completed and strong in the appropriate time. And right now, for these particular projects, that’s what matters most.