|Feeling Free Yet?|
The 5th in a series on organized writing
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the 5th and final part of this organizing system. By now you should have a fully scheduled calendar, complete with time for yourself, time for fun, time for writing/editing/promotion, and time to get your house tidy and your routine obligations finished. Today, we’ll celebrate by finding time for more fun and new adventures. We’ll take a “big picture” look at the calendar to see if a quick tweak helps your at-a-glance view. And finally, I’ll talk a little about what to do down the road if the system no longer seems to be working.
We normally begin by opening the calendar to your weekly view, but today we’re doing something different. If your calendar program has a To-Do list or note feature, switch to that. Otherwise, pop open your notepad program, list-making app, or an old-fashioned paper notebook and pen. There’s a very important and extremely FUN list we need to make.
7. Make a 3-section FUN list in Notepad or your calendar’s To-Do list.
Your FUN list will have three sections. The first is for things you like doing already (and maybe haven’t found time for lately). Label that section Like to Do. The second is for new things or places you want to try that require minimal advance planning. Call that Want to Try. The third is for those things/places you dream of trying that require advance planning and/or funding. Label it Someday.
Okay! Now for the fun part. Write down as many fun things as you can think of that you either Like to Do, Want to Try, or dream of Someday. Don’t worry if you have too few or too many. You can always add or remove items later. When you’re satisfied with the list (for now), stop and get ready to smile if you aren’t already.
Some examples from my own list: Like to Do’s including the movies and visits to the library. Recent Want to Tries this year were going to an outdoor musical and taking up Tai Chi. We’re planning to visit the Natural History museum and Huntington Library & Gardens. A Someday at our house is a family trip to Disney World. A Someday needn’t be travel, necessarily. Maybe you want to go back to college when the youngest starts school. Whatever it is, write it down!
8. Add Want to Try items from your FUN list to the calendar.
Run down your list of Want to Try things and organize them by how eager you are to try them and when it’s most feasible to do so. (No use putting “skiing” first in the middle of August, right?) Once a month is usually sufficient to keep things fresh and interesting. If you're feeling adventurous and have a full list, twice a month should work without overextending yourself (you don’t want “too much of a good thing”). Where do you place them? Any free space leftover on your calendar. That space is truly “free” because you’ve used the Smart Time approach to block out sufficient time for appointments and such, right?
What if you don’t have sufficient empty space in your tightly packed schedule? No worries! You have a day OFF, remember? And I promised we’d find fun things to put in it. Here’s your chance! Just one or two each month, though. We still need room for your Like to Do’s and eventually, your Somedays.
You might have caught yourself cracking a smile as you started seeing cool things you’ve wanted to try populating your calendar. Exciting, isn’t it? Each one is not only an adventure you’ll likely enjoy, they will help give you a new perspective and energize your creativity so you can give more to your writing and other life pursuits. Fun time is productive!
9. Add Like to Do items from your FUN list to the calendar.
Stick Like to Do’s on the schedule now. Use your empty spaces and days OFF. If necessary, you can add relatively simple Like to Do’s, such as hobbies, to your FREE hour, but not more than once or twice a week. It’s easy to fall into the trap of filling that FREE hour with tasks, but even fun ones undermine the purpose of having downtime.
And now for the coup de grace:
Some someday items, like the Disney trip at our house, are hard to schedule on the fly like this because you need to figure out a budget, the best time of year to go, etc. Others are a little less taxing. Start with one of those first, ideally something you can look forward to within the next 6-12 months. I want you to experience success with a Someday as quickly as possible so that you see for yourself that it can work! Getting one under your belt will get you excited to add more adventurous ideas.
If all your Somedays will need a good deal of planning, that’s okay. Pick one and click forward a year or two on your calendar. You don’t need to worry about a precise date. Click on January 1 of the year of your target date and pencil it in. Now schedule a recurring event once a month leading up to it. Call this “Someday planning”. Slate 30-60 minutes for it. Each time it rolls around, spend that time researching and dreaming about your Someday, budgeting, and as the date approaches, moving the target date to a real one and handling reservations, tickets, signups, etc.
Challenge yourself to make your Someday happen. Life tends to come along and bump a lot of our secret wishes aside. Vow that this will not be one of them Make that Someday become a fond Yesterday. You deserve it!
Time to party. You’ve got time plotted out for just about everything imaginable, including elusive hopes and dreams. Give yourself a pat on the back and pop open the calendar to your monthly view. Impressive, isn’t it?
Your schedule looks all neat and streamlined, but maybe you’d like certain items to really “pop out” at you, say, an important appointment or a deadline. (You remembered to include submission deadlines when scheduling your Must Do’s, yes?) Not a problem. Click the red tag item and go into the editing options. Set the color for that event to red. Voila! You can see your “hot” items at a glance in your month view. You COULD go on to color code all sorts of things, maybe having different colors for different types of tasks and such. However, I find that it gets too busy and nothing can really stand out. I recommend giving a few select items the red highlight and letting the rest share equal billing.
Help! The schedule isn’t working!
It happens to all of us at one time or another. We start off strong with a new program--a diet, writing schedule, or budget--but over time, things don’t work like they once did. We find ourselves faltering, and finally, we give up. This system is built for success, but it can fall by the wayside like any other. It’s happened to me numerous times. I find myself stressed, overtaxed, and out of time for things that used to flow through my day easily. The good news is, we can get back on track in one afternoon.
Inevitably, when this schedule no longer works, it’s because I’m no longer following it. And if I’m not following the schedule, it’s because it no longer works “As Is”. The key to keeping this system running is to review the calendar regularly so that it stays current with your needs.
Every three months (and yes, by all means, schedule time for this) OR whenever you feel the program is no longer working, pop open the schedule and look at the monthly view. What’s missing or no longer current? Maybe your work schedule shifted, or Johnny started a karate class that cut into your personal time. Maybe you thought you’d built enough Smart Time in around appointments and tasks, but you’re frequently running over. Or maybe you don’t feel writing is getting done because you didn’t slot enough time for it. No problem! Life is a fluid entity, and your calendar should be no different. Alter your Smart Time, shift writing days, and cut out obsoletes as needed until you’ve got it in ship-shape.
When you’re finished, reward yourself by coming up with one new Want to Try and add it to your next day OFF. Then get back on track!
There you have it! In ten steps you’ve created a whole new system of organization for fun, writing, and your daily life. I’m so excited for you! Feel free to drop me a comment with any questions, successes, or issues you have in using the system. Now, go forth and be organized!
Part 2: How to gain an extra hour every day
Part 3: Take a day OFF and be more productive
Part 4: The Smart Time approach to cleaning and appointment management
Part 5: Find Time for Everything You've Always Wanted to Try
I'm J. Rose Allister, wife, working mom, and the author of over twenty-five books. Somewhere in between one and the next, I love hanging out here on my blog and over on Twitter. Give me a comment or follow-I love chatting with people! And if you enjoyed this post, consider sharing with friends and subscribing for updates.