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Arranging My Plate

Note: If you’ve somehow landed here from the IWU New Year’s Blog Hop, please note that you’re here by mistake and I’m not participating in the current hop. But you are nonetheless welcome to hang out here and peruse my blog.

That’s right, dear readers, there is another Blog Hop going on this week, so if you didn’t win that Kindle Fire during the Holiday Hop, here’s your second chance.

I was originally planning to participate, but then the new year threw a whole bunch of work at me all at once and something had to give. So, no giveaways here on my blog this week, although I am planning something for after things settle down a bit, so don’t wander too far away for too long.

Speaking of being overwhelmed, this time management tip from the International Freelancers Academy arrived in my inbox the other day just when I needed it the most. I was feeling sick and overwhelmed and had actually just drafted a resignation letter for one of my contract jobs because I was so overextended. I haven’t sent that letter yet, but let me tell ya, this particular job not only pays the least of all of my current gigs, it’s also the most demanding and stressful. The only reason I’m hesitant to resign is fear that if I do, all of the other jobs will dry up all at once and then I’ll have nothing, a fear that is neither unfounded in the freelancing world, nor unprecedented in my freelancing career. So I’m going to give this piece of advice a whirl and see if I can continue fitting them in without losing my sanity or letting them push all of the higher-paying work, not to mention my writing priorities, off of my plate.

Basically, this tip suggests diagramming all of your projects as a jigsaw puzzle to help you visualize how to fit all of the pieces together in your work day. I tailored it a bit and diagrammed it as a plate instead of a jigsaw puzzle, because that just makes more sense to my brain, and because since I’m always talking about my plate being too full, I thought it might be useful to see just what that looks like.

Also, instead of listing every single project and trying to fit them into this chart (because that would just make me want to shoot myself), I divided them up into broad categories, and then charted each category on the plate, like so:

The plate itself represents an eight-hour work day (my days usually go longer, but that’s mainly because of interruptions and distractions; so I’m charting the actual time that should be spent working). I have five categories of stuff that I need to get done each day: Writing & Publishing, Marketing, Freelance Writing, Web Dev & Graphic Design, and e-mail and miscellaneous little stuff that always has to get done.

Writing & Publishing is pretty self-explanatory — this is my noveling time, and I try to make it the first hour of my day (because otherwise it won’t get done). This covers all of the various tasks from drafting a story to revisions to formatting and book design, depending on which stage I’m at with a particular story. If all my dreams come true, this category will someday take up about two-thirds of my plate, and Marketing will take up the remaining third. But for now all I get is one measly hour a day to just be a writer.

Marketing covers all of my various book marketing tasks, as well as blogging. It also covers marketing my freelance business and looking for new clients. It’s actually quite a lot of work to cram into one hour a day, but right now I’m just counting my blessings that I actually have other work and don’t need to spend all day hunting for work and trying to hawk my wares.

The biggest chunk of time is for Demand Studios and other freelance writing jobs. DS is actually paying pretty decent money right now and they would actually take up the rest of my day if I didn’t have other client obligations.

But I do, and so I’ve carved out two hours for client projects — mainly web development and graphic design stuff. This is where the object of that letter is going to have to fit in, and only after my other (better-paying) clients are taken care of. And when they learn that they’re relegated to two hours a day on days when I don’t have more important things to work on, that letter might just become moot; but that’s what they get for being both the lowest and most difficult rung on my income ladder.

Before I did this little exercise, I asked myself how useful it would really be, but now that I’ve done it, I think it has helped me feel less frazzled and more like my work is actually manageable. I know I have readers who are juggling multiple projects and feel like they’re spinning a lot of plates — hopefully, this exercise will help you guys figure out how everything fits on just one plate. And hopefully it will help ME attain my 2013 goal of budgeting my time better and finding more balance in my life.

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