Friday, April 30, 2010

Multitasking and Achieving Your Dreams (plus a WIP excerpt)

I’ve been thinking about time management a lot lately, while watching TV*, spending time online and working on my zombie novel. Apparently all this multitasking seeped into my WIP,** in the form of my subconscious, telling me to get my BIC*** and concentrate on my writing. What’s the line from my WIP?
Unfortunately, things that you want to be real are usually dreams, and things that you hope are nightmares can turn out to be real.
Yep. Even the zombies are telling me I need to concentrate on one thing and work at it to make my dreams come true (otherwise they will only remain dreams and the nightmare will be reality). Not everyone would read the sentence and think it means more BIC time, however, I know how my Muse works. It’s telling me that if I don’t do what it wants, it will abandon me to my Evil Inner Editor, and I don’t want that. Seriously. My Evil Inner Editor is a shape-shifting demon that turns into what currently scares me. He uses that form to bash my ideas and writing skills, which turns me into a puddle of jelly. Nobody wants to be around a blob of jelly with eyes, especially when it’s mint jelly. [Shudder.]

Help, I've been turned into a mint jelly blob! Again.
Help, I've been turned into a mint jelly blob! Again.

Is multitasking always such a bad thing? No.****

When multitasking works:

If you’re multitasking and still getting your work done and spending quality time with your family, then congratulations, whatever you’re doing is working! (How do you make it all work?)

When multitasking doesn’t work:

If you’re unable to get your work done because you’re unable to concentrate, or if the only time you spend time with your family is when you’re ignoring them because you’re doing several other things at the same time, it might be a problem.

Tips for slowing down and single-tasking:

+ Concentrate on one thing at a time.
(This could help speed things up, improve the quality of your work, or allow you to finally complete your project. You might even enjoy what you’re doing more, too.)

+ Handle things only once, if possible.
(Respond to emails after reading them, read articles, magazines or newspapers, then file them or get rid of them.)

+ Have a schedule.
(Use each scheduled time for the activity you’ve chosen, so you know you can concentrate on that one thing. You also don’t have to fit in other things because you know you’ve scheduled them for later.)

Tips for times when multitasking is necessary:

+ Use TV commercial breaks to get things done.
(Load the dishwasher, read an article, or write an email during breaks. Try to do activities that can be easily picked up again if you don’t finish before the show comes back on.)

Moo TV.

Moo TV.

+ Use multiple updates.
(Sometimes you can update several online things at once, like Twitter and Facebook.)

+ Watch your favorite shows during meal times.
(This doesn’t work for everyone, or for all the meals you eat each day, but it can work. It allows you to keep watching your favorite shows and not feel guilty about the time spent watching them.)

+ Do something that takes brainpower at the same time as something mindless.
(For instance, listen to a book on tape while you clean the house, or have game night with the family while your 300 page ms is printing out in the next room … just make sure you’ve loaded enough paper in the printer.)

Do what you can and don’t feel guilty.

Sometimes chaos gets the upper hand. We can always get order back if we slow down to figure out what’s important and plan how to make our dreams a reality. If all else fails, remember that writing is easier than crab fishing. Illustrating is too.

* I watch a lot of TV, probably too much. However, you can learn things about writing while watching TV, promise! (I recently posted about watching TV and writing: Are your characters like TV characters?Writing story and characters by watching TV. – Writing is easier than crab fishing.)

** WIP = Work In Progress

*** BIC = Butt In Chair (which is where you have to be to get your work done)

**** I’m not an expert on multitasking. I’ve just been thinking about it a lot lately. I also blogged about Time Management Tips and Managing Online Time. I was trying to find solutions that work for me and might help others.