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How to Regain Control of Your Schedule | Keli Gwyn
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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 meย  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?

Keli Gwyn

15 Comments

  • Sherrinda says:

    I’ve been waiting for this post, but it looks like I am really waiting for the next post!!! You little teaser, you! lol

    I struggle with this and I think what I really should do is document my day for a week or two and really see where my time goes. Isn’t that what people do when they want to get control of their budget or their eating? You can’t really know how to fix the problem until you know the details of the problem.

    I’m looking forward to the next post! Does your sister hire out? *wink*

  • Wendy says:

    2 & 4 are what it all comes down to for me.

    What is my top priority and what can I cut out. I think people would be amazed at how much I don’t do so that I can do do the things I most want to do do. Just having some fun w/ you. I’m over-Starbucked today. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    ~ Wendy

  • Jessica says:

    You know I love your special cards, but if you have to cut all that sweet stuff you send out, then cut, cut, cut! Your sister sounds like a special lady. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope the new schedule works out for you!
    (oh, I’m already cut to my bare minimum, I think. lol But one thing that has to go, no more judging contests this year!)

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Jessie,

      One of the reasons I’ve chosen to cut some of my activities is so I have more time to connect with my writing buddies, not less. I treasure you!

      My sister is special. She’s wise, witty, and way more fun than I am. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Keli

  • Beth Vogt says:

    Ah, a cliffhanger post, Keli!
    And, yes, I have made a list–a long list, of all my activities. Making the list is easy. Cutting the list down is harder. But I am doing it–slowly. One activity at a time. And I am also learning to not say “Yes” to anything else while I am focusing on deleting things from my To Do list. That’s also the tricky part.

  • A wise sister you have there…I’m sure she gets it from her more mature sibling. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think I did better of viewing writing as a job when I had a day job. It was just part of my everyday world. But now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, my day job is so different from being structured and working on a laptop all day. It will take some work for me to find that perfect balance.

  • Keli, I’m in the midst of analysing all this too. After a year on sabbatical I’m finding it tough to rekindle my old groove. I really need to get back into the longer daily writing spirts and see some accomplishments happening.

    I thought I figured out which story to tackle first to polish of the five I have done, but just today I was looking through all of them to figure out my May goals and a different one stole my heart. It’s a first in new series (the one that finalled in the 2009 Genesis), whereas the one I thought I should be polishing is the fourth book in the first series I started (none of those books are polished in that series yet).

    Help!!

    How many stories did you write before you sold, Keli? Which do you recommend I work on for polishing to get feedback on at the conference in September? The first book in a series I most recently started working on, or that fourth one in a series?

    Hmmm, I think I’m starting to get my answer just by typing this all out. Wonder if you’d agree?

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Eileen, I’m excited that you’re getting your groove back. It can take time. I spent a year not writing much after I discovered the wonderful world of cyberspace and crawled out of my writing cave. I studied craft, started my blogs, and waited on the Lord. Getting up the nerve to dive back into a story was tough.

      I completed five inspirational historical romances before I sold–and 50K of a feeble attempt at a contemporary that is languishing on my hard drive. The Lord used a conference experience to make it clear historicals are what works best with my voice.

      Like you, I took a good, hard look at the five stories I’d completed. I loved all the stories and their characters, but one story and set of characters stood out as the strongest, so that’s the one I chose to work on. What may seem odd is that two of the others had finaled in the Golden Heart, but I knew those stories weren’t as marketable. Since I wanted to sell, that was a factor in my decision.

      I think you answered your own question about which of your stories to work on. You said, “. . .a different one stole my heart. Itโ€™s a first in new series (the one that finalled in the 2009 Genesis). . ..” About the other one you said, “the one I thought I should be polishing is the fourth book in the first series I started (none of those books are polished in that series yet).” I think a story you love trumps a story you feel obligated to work on any day. Your heart will be in the first, and that alone will serve to make it a better story, wouldn’t you agree?

  • Sounds like your sister is very wise! ~ I’ve always been one of those Moms who has trouble saying “No” – – trying to help with whatever my kiddos were involved in, Church activities, etc.etc.etc. (plus teaching school!). Then….due to my major back issues, I was “forced” to let go of almost everything—which was difficult. ๐Ÿ™ ~ Now that I’m at home most of the time and writing, I don’t feel overcommitted as I used to feel. What I’m struggling with now is truly viewing my writing as my “job”—but I’m working on it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Alison Stone says:

    Your post came at a perfect time. I have always been a big volunteer at my kids’ schools. I have slowly handed over some of my responsibilities this past year, keeping only a few key posts at both the school and church. Just yesterday, someone called to ask if I’d considering serving on a PTSA board (yet again.) I told them I’d sleep on it. Well, I slept on it, read your post, and just sent her an e-mail declining!

    I am still volunteering, but I need to do it at a level where it doesn’t make my writing suffer because I want writing to be my full-time (paying) job! Thanks for the reminder.

  • Tana Adams says:

    If I made a list, I might fashion a noose out of it and hang myself. I’m afraid of itemizing my life in that way.

    On aside– thank you for being so very supportive of my new ‘venture. I don’t really know all the things the Lord has planned for me, but I’m glad I listened to His prodding because it has been a most excellent adventure. Aren’t all things with Him? =)

  • Rita Garcia says:

    Ouch, Kal just stepped on my toes in a big way! Thank you, Kal, and thank you, Keli.
    Can’t wait to read part two. I sure needed this one!

  • Linda Hoye says:

    I love the wisdom of your posts, Keli. I recently signed up to receive them by email and I am challenged by every new post you publish. It is so easy for us to allow our schedules to get out of control, isn’t it? I have a full-time corporate job AND I am working on a book and trying to build my writing career. Free time? What’s that?!

    Thanks for your continued insight….

  • Thanks for the post Keli. If I honestly look at it, I think I spend way too much time “talking” (and by that I mean FB, blogs, email, etc.) about being a writer instead of just being a writer.

    I’ve been working on re-prioritizing too.

  • MaryC says:

    One of the things I find hardest is analyzing how I use my time. I could do what Sherrinda suggests, but I fear I’d react as Tana says. I think one of the hardest things to calculate as a writer is how much of that seeming “down” time is really time when the brain is at work – culling through ideas, synthesizing, imagining. It might look like I’m just playing another game of Solitaire but….

    Or maybe I’m just making excuses. *g*

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