Monday, October 20, 2008

time management tips from the procrastination exterminator

When I registered for the SCBWI LA conference this year, I listed my occupation as “procrastination exterminator,” in addition to writer and illustrator. At the time, it was wishful thinking, and as evidenced by my behavior last week, I tend to go off on tangents with projects that aren’t necessarily the ones I should be working on. I don’t think I can ever completely curb my tendency for tangential projects, and I wouldn’t want to (Sheila the zombie cheerleader is another example). However, I need to be a little more focused in getting the things I need to do done, so I can go off and play afterwards.

Everyone has their own time management system. Here’s what’s worked for me in the past and what’s new. Use the tips that might work for you, and share your tips in the comments if you want.

15 minutes of fame: Each person reportedly gets (at least) fifteen minutes of fame, the same should be true for your procrastination projects. Set the timer for 15 minutes and dig into that task you don’t want to do (even if it’s your WIP and you really do want to write or draw that scene, but just don’t know how). When the timer rings, hopefully you will be so engrossed in your project that you won’t hear it, but if you’re not, you can always try again later. Set the timer again the next time you work on it. Repeat until you’re done or you don’t need the timer anymore. Works for chores as well as creative endeavors ... thanks mom.

Get a cheerleader:
Your cheerleader can be anyone that helps cheer you on and supports you with your goal. I have Sheila the zombie cheerleader. If I do what she says, she won’t eat my brain. She’s new to the cheering team. My husband, parents, and writer/illustrator friends are part of the team too. Luckily they don’t want to eat my brain, they just want me to use it to be creative and get my work done.

Set goals: Set realistic goals so that you can achieve them. If you’re a big goal setter like I am, write down the big goals, then break them up into smaller steps and use those steps as goals along the way to achieving something bigger. It’s a lot easier to get things done when you know it’s possible, instead of having something hanging over your head that’s hard to finish in a day or a week or a month.

Make a to do list: Write down what you can realistically accomplish each day. Some days you might not finish it all, and some days you might get done early. If you have lots of things to do, make a big, huge list, then take a few of those items and put them on a to do list, for today. Tomorrow you can take more things off the big, huge, master list. Just like setting goals, your to do list should be manageable, so you can feel a sense of accomplishment each day. Plus, it’s really fun to cross things off the list.

Play: Sometimes you need to chuck the timer, the goals and the lists, and completely ignore the cheerleader, who will be confused as to why you have gone off on a tangent. Playing and following your bliss is important. You have to do that once in a while to connect with your creative side, and maybe you’ll even come up with a brilliant new idea or character. Just make sure to get back to your timers, goals, and lists when you’re done, otherwise you may never get anything done. Besides, if you don’t get back on track, Sheila will find you and eat your brain.

How do you manage to manage your time and control your tangential projects?

Note: THANK YOU to everyone that’s entered my WIP title contest so far!!!! There are so many excellent titles to choose from; I don’t know how I’m going to decide. If you still want to enter, there’s time. The contest ends tomorrow at 5pm EST. Winners announced on Wednesday.


  1. Great tips! I may have to get me a zombie cheerleader! grin...

    If I have trouble getting into a story...whether it be finishing one or starting a new one...I give myself a deadline...the one thing that I noticed when I would take a writing course is that I would have a deadline to turn in my assignments and I would make time to do I give myself deadlines...I write them on the calendar so they become real deadlines...if I get close to making that deadline, then I start playing music that reminds me of the story and/or the MC...that usually gives me enough of a push...

  2. I love/hate deadlines! When I have a class or a conference coming up or something, I really have to dig in to get things done, but I usually get it done. Maybe there are a couple of things more I want to do, but for the most part it's all there. So deadlines are great. That's why I'm doing NaNoWriMo too.

    I haven't figured out how to do the self imposed deadlines yet though.

  3. I have been sluggish the last few weeks so I really needed these tips. I like the timer one, that is an awesome, easy idea! I make a to do list on a general when I get to it basis, but a daily one might prove to be more useful!
    Thank you for the procrastination blasters!:0)

  4. I'm in procastination denial. I'm not ready yet to admit that I need help. But these are great tips for when that time comes! ;0)

    I love that you put that on your registration! LOL!


  5. You're so organized. Will you be my cheerleader?

  6. Kelly, hope the tips help and you're not sluggish anymore (I've been sluggish lately too, must be something in the weather, or the water).

    Christy, I always try to put something funny on my application, because Lynn reads the strange ones. She read mine this year! One other time too ;)

    Carrie, I'm so NOT organized - yet! I'm working on it :) I'll cheer you on, if you want. Go Carrie Go! Go Carrie Go!

  7. Great tips! I'm a huge procrastinator and a huge list maker. Sometimes they overwhelm me though so I loved your idea for breaking them down.

    Keep on procrastination exterminating!

  8. Thanks for stopping by Sara! I'm a big list maker and huge procrastinator too, so I have to keep working on it or I'd never get anything done! Hope the tips help.

  9. Thanks for the tips! I'm a big procrastinator, and inspiration is always helpful!

  10. You're welcome Brianna. I'm a big procrastinator too, so if we all stick together, maybe we'll get something done!