Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Time and Deadlines and Focus

Time is indeed the enemy. It speeds up then slows down, grows claws, whispers sweet nothings, makes promises, purrs you into sleep, then pulls the rug out from under you, laughing when you fall flat on your ass. No one has been able to control this wild animal; just when you think you've managed it, time learns a new trick and then runs away with the circus.

The only thing you can hope for is to somehow make friends with this beast, and accept the truth that you'll never really master it. Once you accept that, you can finally relax. So what if you didn't get your entire to-do list finished in one day? The list was probably too long anyway.

For the past three years, I've been on a deadline. School is nothing but deadlines: exams, papers, internships and classes. And you've got to get it all done in a set period of time, or you just keep paying more and more money.

I'm good with deadlines, but not so good at managing time.

I realized this as I was stressing out over getting all my lesson notes for my students caught up before the start of Winter break, while also finishing a book proposal, editing the new Medusa manuscript, and worrying that I hadn't read as many books as I said I would on Goodreads. My daughter was sick, my husband working all the time, the house a mess, and then I suddenly got the wild idea that I should clear out my entire house before the end of the year.

Self imposed deadlines to drive me frickin insane. I'm good at those.

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but this year I've decided to start. My goal for 2012 is to let go of the deadlines and make peace with time. There is never enough time in one day (or lifetime, I fear) to achieve everything I dream of. I'm one of those people who thrives on constant challenge. Maybe thrive isn't the right word. I compulsively hunt for the next challenge, even if it creates chaos and stress. This year, I told myself "No new challenges." I have plenty right here already.

The biggest one is Medusa's Muse. It has really struggled while I've been in school, but luckily the press is alive. How much longer will depend on how much time, energy and cash I can give it. We've signed a new book which I'm really excited about, so I need to get this publishing company back in top shape. And I need to breath more marketing energy into our previous books to see how much of a bump in sales we can achieve. I've asked a friend to join the team and help me with marketing; a new perspective will be great.

The other challenge I have, besides my new job of course, is my own writing. I have a new play to finish and another one I'd like to write. So I've made an early morning appointment with myself, just like if I was going to an exercise class. My daughter catches the bus at 7 AM. Once she's gone, and while still in my PJ's, I'll go into my room with my coffee and write for one hour. I've started doing that this week and it's amazing how much better I feel. I'm no longer wondering when the hell I'll get a chance to write; I know every morning from 7 to 8 I'll be blissfully working on my play. I know it's only an hour a day, but I'm amazed how productive I can be in that brief time.

Time is tricky, though. I'm like a little kid chasing dandelion fluff sometimes; I am constantly getting sidetracked. I get on the internet to check my mail, and two hours later I've learned about the whales in San Francisco Bay, a good recipe for persimmon pie, who the newest Disney Princess will be, how many of my Facebook friends like Tazo tea, what the next full moon is called, how to refinish an antique chair, and why it hasn't rained in California all winter. I checked one email message and then got distracted as soon as I clicked on a link my friend sent me.

I am no longer allowing myself to look at the internet before 8 AM.

Someday I'll learn time management. Maybe. I do pretty good actually, when I take into account everything I have to juggle on a daily basis. But the stress gets too high when I focus only on the to-do list and forget to enjoy my life. Forget to write. Forget to give my press the energy it needs to thrive.

Focus. That's what I need. So my New Year's resolution is to gain some focus and only give energy to the things already in my life. No more looking for shiny things over the next hill.

But wait... what's gleaming at the top of that tall mountain? I've never been there before. Maybe if I check out some maps and start hiking a little just to get close enough to see what that shiny thing might be...

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