My calendars and I have gotten intimate this year in a way that we haven’t been since, oh, maybe 2015. I got sicker and sicker before we left Oregon, and somewhere around 2015, I had to jettison the idea of deadlines. For the most part, I couldn’t meet them without acknowledging that my chronic illness had slowed me to a crawl. I didn’t want to admit that, so bye-bye deadlines.
That system worked for that stage of my life, which included the move to Las Vegas. But once I settled in and got healthier, I felt restless. I wasn’t sure what was causing it.
Then I signed up for classes, and I’m a do-your-homework kinda gal. So I put my class deadlines in my calendar, and got everything done.
Ahead of time.
And little light illuminated part of my brain.
But, it was 2020, and there was COVID and an election and lots of turmoil, and I had trouble looking ahead until I knew how the election was going to turn out and when there would be a plausible end to the ravages of the disease.
We didn’t get that kind of clarity until mid-November (and vaccines!).
I wrote about that in previous process blogs and, in one, I mentioned that once we crossed into 2021, I could plan again.
What I didn’t realize was how critical that planning would up my productivity. After all, even during the worst of the illness and then the move, I was still getting work done. Just not quite as much as I would like.
Then again, I never get as much work done as I would like. I always have a list of things to do and I rarely cross everything off.
But I’m back to doing some easy things, because they’ll cross off the schedule instead of waiting until the last minute. I finished a big project ahead of schedule by reminding myself that if I missed my daily word count, I would miss my deadline and that would throw off my entire year.
Today, I got the last piece of information I needed to finish a project that was three-quarters done. I finished that project right after getting the information, instead of hitting all of my deadlines the week before they came due.
Yeah, that means I’m two hours behind what I planned today, but that’s all right. I have a little leeway built into the schedule.
I’m good at building schedules. I know how to schedule too much time for one project and just enough for another. I know that I need to plan time for major world events (like the inauguration) and major personal events (birthdays). I also need some extra time built in for exhaustion and days off and illness (which I hope will not happen even in the slightest this year).
I’m also planning for a day off after I get my COVID vaccine—whenever that is—because of the relief. I might not end up with even minor side effects, but considering how I felt when 2021 arrived, I figured that vaccination is going to trigger a massive need to celebrate and then to sleep. Just from the relief, and the ability to begin to close the door on that part of the hellish last year.
There are other elements of planning that I’m starting to get to. Working on the writing and the publishing and the concurrent deadlines has made me happier than I’ve been for a while. Once there’s even more clarity on exactly when we’ll emerge from COVID hell, I will want to add plans outside of the home—theater, a WNBA game or two, dinners with friends, a few conferences.
Can’t plan those yet, but they’re looming, and that feels good.
However, this granular detail on the scheduling has really worked, in a way that it hadn’t for a long time. Because I can rely on myself more than I had. (I worry about typing that, not because of my current health, but because of COVID. Yes, I’m doing my best to stay safe, but that underlying worry is always there. Maybe by typing this, I’ll take care of my own superstitious self.)
I’ve never been someone who needed outside pressure to force me to meet a deadline. If I create a real deadline, with real teeth, I meet that deadline. The problem with the past six years is that I used amorphous well-maybe deadlines.
Now, I’m using deadlines that rely on each other. If I miss one (dramatically miss it), then I guarantee I will miss the others. And honestly, that annoys me on a deep level. Which means that even in the midst of great turmoil, like the beginning three weeks of January, I still managed to get my word count, at minimum, and other projects as well.
In fact, since I made the switch, I’ve finished two novels (one was in progress before the switch), four editing projects, eight blogs, and several planning sessions. Not counting my running and race planning (yeah, there are a few) and way too much time consuming news (still).
That’s in the space of a month. (Those of you who read on my website, not on Patreon, will read this about a month after it was written.) I have filled out all of my calendars through mid-May with deep specificity and with looser ideas through December of 2021. I found myself a bit reluctant to plan too in-depth for the fall. Too many unknowns still.
I find it weird that raising my head out of my little foxhole and looking around has made me more comfortable in my own little nest. What I mean by that is this: When I work hard, I lose track of the outside world, at least for those hours of work. I haven’t allowed myself that luxury at all in the past year, and rarely in the years before that.
I have always needed to pay attention to the world—enough to know what to ignore. I guess I’m getting a handle on that again.
I find it fascinating that it was taking classes again that retrained me in the art of meeting deadlines. I’m grateful for that.
So grateful I’m starting another class this week. Along with my other deadlines.
And…I’m writing this as a process blog instead of the longer blog that I had planned. The longer blog requires research I still need to do. But the short-term project with its newly provided information got in the way.
Still, my calendar said that I needed to finish a blog today. I actually debated with myself about whether or not the blog could wait 24 hours, until I had time to research.
And then, because of the granular detail of my schedule, I realized I didn’t have time to research tomorrow or the next day. I’d either miss this week’s deadline, or be so late it was laughable.
Hence, the process blog.
Now I need to add some research time to the schedule so I can do a longer post next week.
I have to tell you: this all makes me smile. Because it means the system is working—which is exactly what I needed.
“Business Musings: Deadlines (A Process Blog),” copyright © 2021 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © Can Stock Photo / andrewgenn.