Monday, May 23, 2011

Success... Time Management... and The Balancing Act

Today I'd like to talk about Time Management Skills. This happens to be the area I am most... well, I'll just say it- struggling with at the moment. (And the result of my struggle is the "s" word we are not allowed to use in my family because it becomes our scapegoat.)

Drawing, painting, writing, reading, blogging, networking, emailing (and now Twittering), waitress-ing, wife-ing, exercising, living... how do I prioritize? When I'm on the treadmill, I think of how I should be painting instead. When I'm painting, I think of the other stuff I need to be doing. How to I fit it all into my day without biting my nails down to the bone, going prematurely white-haired, and losing myself in the process?

I guess my first step is to break it all down and find out what is really most important to me. You can skip on down to the end if you'd like, because I'm sure this little exercise will bore you to pieces, but I need to sort it all out in the open to find a solution. Once it is out there in cyberspace, I might feel more inclined to follow through with my solution because there are eyes that can see whether I fail or succeed. You are those eyes.

The Important Stuff:
1. Practice Makes Perfect: Draw, Write, and Read!
One of the recurring themes of this past weekend's NESCBWI Spring conference (#nescbwi11) was not only in almost every one's speech, but it also was the most important (and probably why it was in every one's speech. Actually, I'm sure it is why it was in every one's speech). It was said in multiple ways:
  • "BIC... Butt in Chair," from Jane Yolen, Keynote Speaker
  • "Follow Malcom Gladwell's 10,000-hour Rule," from "The Search for Singular Style" panel
  • "Humor is not a shortcut to hard work," from Donna Gephart's "12 3/4 Ways to Tickle Young Readers' Funny Bones" workshop
  • "Do the Work... Make your creative life your TOP priority," from Lin Oliver, Keynote Speaker
  • "Read. Write. Read some more," from Mark Peter Hughes' imagination-sparking workshop
  • "Success can take you years to achieve... but if you don't keep at it, you won't make it," from Harold Underdown's Keynote Speech
And here's another blogger's talk on the practice topic:

2. Get Your Stuff Out There
At the conference we also talked about Social Networking, Twittering, Facebooking, and self-promoting. In particular, there was a workshop called "Improving Your Online Presence," and you can find the lecture here. And on the topic of social networking, what does a children's publisher expect from us?

3. Get Moving
And because we artists and writers are Sedentary Beings, let's not forget to get our hearts pumping and our butts moving! There is an article on Illustration Island "What I Wish I Knew When I Started," where someone says they wish they had gotten into the habit of exercising every day, because it gets harder as you get older to stay in shape. Health is very important to me- how else will I live to be a hundred and fifty so I can read to my great-great-grandchildren???

4. Spend Time With Family
With my rotten upside down schedule, it's hard to spend time with family and friends. Most people are just getting out of work when I clock-in to serve the world some delicious Chinese cuisine. I'm lucky because many of my friends and family visit me while I'm working, and sometimes we even get to have a nice conversation... but I'm still working and not totally there mentally so it isn't quality time.

5. Do Something... else
My new career is super fun! I love to draw, read and write! But sometimes it is also good to step outside of the box (or studio... or house) and just find something of another kind of fun to do. Go for a walk, watch a movie, take a drive, go on a date with Hubby. But I shouldn't chastise myself for taking a guilty pleasure when I do go out and have a bit of fun. It is Life after all, it's okay to do some living!

6. Write Lists
THIS part is by far my best quality. I am a professional list maker! I have a Short-Term Goal list, a Long-Term Goal list, a Blog Post Idea list, an Audio Books to Read list... the list goes on! The cool things about lists are that I forget less, and I even get to see my progress as I cross things off. And I can almost feel myself getting calmer as I write something new down on my Master List, because I know I won't be forgetting to do it!

7. Oh! I almost forgot... SLEEP!
Regardless of what time we get home from work (sometimes as late as 1:30 am!), I need to be sure to get eight hours of sleep. It isn't good to lose out on sleep- not for the mind or the body. So what if the public eye thinks ten o'clock is too late to get up? They should be seeing my art, not when I'm eating my breakfast. I need to let go of the guilt I put onto myself for not "sticking to the schedule." It just gives me heartburn to worry so much!

8. Savoring
There is this book, called Savor, which I've been trying to read (and have yet to finish) but at least I've got the general gist of it. The author explains and teaches us how to really live in the moment of what we are doing. Don't think about other things while you are doing something- don't even DO other things while you are doing something. If you are eating, focus on the thing you are eating. Don't watch tv and scarf it down. Really immerse yourself in that thing. So from now on, I'm going to do that. With everything that I do, I'm going to savor each moment, enjoy it for what it is, and not think about the other things I could or should be doing.

And What About that Evil, Time-Sucking Thing We Call the Internet?
Email, reading the "daily news" via Facebook or Twitter, you know... the path you end up on due to your self-promoting social networking? The one that takes five hours from your day? The one I am effectively adding to by writing this huge blog post? There is an article I found on this, so here it is: Getting Sucked Into the Internet. I think it's time I really put a stop to my tomfoolery, and to start focusing on the real work.

I'm sure there is plenty more I could add to the above list, (notice how I didn't include chores on there? I did too... I wonder if that's a bad thing?) but really, life doesn't work that way anyway. Weddings and birthdays and stuff just happens, but if I have a set of rules for myself, (really simple, easy rules), then I won't feel so much pressure when things go awry.

My New and Improved Goals:

  • 30 minutes of cardio, five times per week, (or a total of 150 minutes in any combination)
  • ONE finished illustration per week. Sketch all I want, but I need to follow through and paint at least one of them. Spot illustrations count. Illustration Friday helps.
  • ONE blog post per week. Don't feel pressured to do more, just put the new idea on the list until after all my other stuff is done. Make Mondays my blog-posting days!
  • Listening to audio books on the way to work = reading. I've got a forty-five minute commute, one way. Anything else I choose to pick up is just an added bonus! If I watch less television at night, I can whittle down my pile even faster.
  • ONE writing session per week. Sit down and write. Blogging counts as writing, however I've got manuscripts to edit and stories to put down on paper. So my Special Writing Time should be committed to my stories, and nothing else. I'm working on how long that session should be...
  • ONE relaxing and fun activity. What will it be? Should it be weekly? Do I have time for that? I guess I'll try it and see what happens!
  • Make plans and visit with somebody, IN PERSON, not at work, TWICE a month. Only twice a month seems a bit lame, but I need to start somewhere. 
  • Remember to SAVOR it all.
  • As for the Time Sucker, the Internet... I will check my email briefly each morning to see if there is anything pertinent, and if there isn't, I will dutifully put away the Internet until I have accomplished some of the stuff on my list of goals. I can do all the Internet Dawdling I want on my phone when I'm on the go, and NOT while I am trying to get some work done. No Twitter or Facebook unless there is an actual message. I can post stuff for self-promotional reasons, but that will be all.

    AND! Drum roll, please...
  • I'm taking a night off a week from work for the summer. No phone, no Internet, no tick-tock of the Mickey Mouse clock. Just me and blank paper in the studio for a few hours. I think this is going to help me quite a bit, at least for now. We'll see what happens when classes start up again in September.

Well! I think I'm feeling better already! In fact, I'm going to print my goals and stick them onto my studio door to remind me what I've promised myself. I'll keep you posted on how it's all turning out, and it would be super duper nice of you to share some of your own Time Management and Balancing tricks down below in the Comments box! 

Thanks for reading, and Happy Balancing! If things go as planned, I shall see you again next Monday! :D


  1. Great post. I think we all have a balancing act to deal with. Love your suggestions.
    Happy savoring,

  2. Hey Mel!

    I really REALLY enjoyed reading this. You have your head very firmly screwed on, and your eyes fixed steadily on what you want to achieve.

    I might just have to 'copy and paste' your list of goals and stick them to my own studio wall!

    xox Caroline