Keli Gwyn
Putting Your Schedule on a Diet

If your calendar is so full you get a case of the jitters just looking at it, a reduction plan might be the answer.

In my previous posts, we explored the topic of overcommitment and examined a set of questions that can help us regain control of our schedules.

The questions helped us identify what we’re doing now, what our top priorities are, and how much time we’re allocating to them. For those of us who realized we need to devote more time to our most important tasks, the next step is identifying what we need to cut.

How to Choose What to Lose

One technique for identifying what stays and what goes is to grab some cards. Not playing cards, but 3×5 cards. On each card write one major activity, such as writing, blogging, or attending a regular meeting. Add an estimate of how many hours you need for each activity per week (or month if you schedule that way).

Lay the cards out in a row, and move them around until you have them arranged from the most important task to the least. Once you do, ask yourself if there are too many tasks for the time you have available. If so, decide which could go.

Some tasks will be vital, such as caring for your children, preparing meals, or going to your day job. Others will be optional, such as social networking, blogging, or pleasure reading. Could some be streamlined to take less time?

Remove cards one by one until those that are left represent the most important tasks, which can be accomplished in the time you have available.

Easing the Pain of Loss

Eliminating some tasks will be easy. They might be things we once enjoyed but no longer do. However, cutting activities we find pleasurable can be painful. What helps me is to remember three truths.

Less is more. Having fewer activities on my calendar gives me more breathing room. I’m more relaxed and more fun to be around when I have less on my schedule.

Saying “no” to one thing means saying “yes” to another. I might be losing one thing, but I’m gaining time to devote to something I’ve determined is more important.

Quality trumps quantity. By eliminating the excess, I’m not as scattered and can do a better job on the activities I undertake.

* * *

When I sat in McDonald’s with my analyst sister last week, she helped me determine two things to remove from my plate. The first is Toastmasters. While I thoroughly enjoy the meetings and the members of my local club, I haven’t the time needed to be an active member who gives speeches on a regular basis. I’ve asked to be put on inactive status.

The second decision is to focus my blogging efforts on this blog. I’m excited about what I have planned, but ending my blogging efforts at Romance Writers on the Journey is extremely difficult for me. I’ve spent three years interviewing not-yet-published and debut romance writers, and my guests have become treasured friends. My last interview will take place August 30th, after which the site will remain with the archived posts. Being the emotional person I am, I will no doubt shed tears when that final post goes up.

I’ve spent the past week reminding myself of the truths above. I’ll be getting much-needed breathing room, will be saying yes to more writing time and more time to devote to this blog, and will be able to do a better job on the tasks that are most important.

One thing that will remain constant is my connection with you. I value you and will do my best to interact with those who comment on my posts and to answer questions. I’ve been blessed by the generosity of so many, and my goal is to pay it forward, producing posts that are interesting and informative.

* * *

Have you had to cut something you thoroughly enjoyed from your schedule? If so, how did you deal with the resulting pain?

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Keli Gwyn
How to Regain Control of Your Schedule

Overcommitment is a problem for many of us.

I blogged about the topic in my recent post, Overcommitment: Too Much on Our Plates. Judging by the comments, I’m not alone in my struggle to juggle everything on my to-do lists.

As I noted in that post, my real-life, romance-writing sister is an analyst by day. When I mentioned during our lengthy lunch last week that my overfull schedule was getting me down, Kal’s antenna went up. Normally I mentor her, but that day I reaped the benefit of her expertise.

Kal asked me four clarifying questions.

1) What are you involved in right now?

She listened while I enumerated the many tasks I perform, giving me a knowing look that led me to believe she could see something I couldn’t.

2) What is your primary focus?

That was easy. I’m a writer with contractual obligations, so writing is my top priority. Since I’m an Empty Nester who doesn’t work outside the home, I devote much of my day to writing and writing-related activities.

The answer would be different for those who work outside the home, still have children living with them, are schooling their children, etc.

3) How many hours a week are you spending on writing, and how many are you spending on other activities?

I hesitated, which Kal, being the astute analyst she is, noticed. She ventured a guesstimate based upon her research. (Who knew she was reading my blogs and Facebook posts?)

I couldn’t argue with her numbers. She was spot on. A significant portion of my day was devoted to writing-related activities rather than writing itself.

4) What can you cut out so you have the time you need for your writing?

“Cut out?” I gulped. “But everything I’m doing is important.”

Kal shook her head and gave me one of those smiles that let me know she wasn’t buying it.

And then she said something that penetrated my defenses.

“Writing is your job. If you’re not spending enough of your time working on your stories, you’re not doing your job.”

I sat there dumbstruck while she nodded in Yoda fashion. (She’s my younger sister, so I’m pretty sure she got a kick out of being the one doling out the wisdom.)

Kal knows me well, and she knew she’d appealed to my mile-wide responsible person streak. No way could I ignore her counsel. To let down those who are counting on me  would be contrary to my obedient oldest sibling nature.

We spent the last of our time together that day determining what I needed to let go of.

Letting go of tasks isn’t easy, but doing so is vital if we’re to have time for those activities that are most important.

On Friday, I will, in Paul Harvey fashion, reveal “the rest of the story” and share some uplifting truths that enabled me to make some difficult decisions.

* * *

Have you ever made a list of all the things you’re involved in?

Are you spending enough time on your top priority tasks?

Do you feel a need to cut out some activities?

Do you view your writing as a job?

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Keli Gwyn
Overcommitment: Too Much on Our Plates

Ollie, the Overcommitted Otter

How full is your plate?

If you’re like me, your plate is heaped so full it rivals a hearty serving at a holiday dinner.

My metaphorical plate had become so full I was in danger of having dogs tailing me, waiting for the inevitable spill.

Overcommitment is one of Twelve Troublemakers that plague me as a writer. I’ve explored one a week. This is the last in the series.

In the past, I was obsessed with the idea of time management. I owned a full shelf of books on the topic, could recite Pareto’s Principle in my sleep (the 80-20 rule that says 80% of a person’s results come from 20% of the person’s efforts), and had lists of my lists.

As I’ve matured (sounds so much better than aged, doesn’t it?), I’ve learned some lessons that didn’t come from books.

Time management, while a valuable tool, doesn’t add more hours to our days, despite the claims of some of those well-meaning authors. While making good use of our time can increase what we can accomplish, we still have the same number of hours in a day we always did.

Maximizing what we can get done in the time available doesn’t mean we’re accomplishing what’s most important. We can check off items on our to-do lists, but if those we choose to complete aren’t in alignment with our goals, we can fall prey to the tyranny of the urgent. By responding to the most pressing tasks first, we can end up neglecting the most important.

Practicing time management doesn’t mean we have time for all the activities that interest us. Taking on too many commitments can limit our effectiveness. We won’t be able to devote the time needed to give our best effort when we’ve taken on too much.

Overcommitment can lead to stress. I faced this recently. The needle on my stressometer was in danger of being pinned. My real-life, romance-writing sister is an analyst by day. She gave me some great advice that’s helping me make better use of the time I have. I’ll pass on her sage counsel on Wednesday.

Your Thoughts . . . and a Drawing

Are you overcommitted?

Does one look at your to-do list cause your stomach to clench?

Do you work on the most important, or does the urgent claim your attention?

One person who leaves a comment by Sunday, May 1st will win the otter Folkmanis finger puppet pictured above, along with a small surprise. I’ll notify the winner on May 2nd and add the winner’s name here in this post as well.

Congratulations to Cynthia Herron, winner of the drawing.

Harry, the Hasty Hare from last Monday’s post goes to Julie Musil.

Odds of winning vary based on number of entrants.
I’ll ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.
Offer void where prohibited.
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Keli Gwyn
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