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Learning to Herd Cats

So, this year I’ve been lucky enough to be able to ramp up my freelance work significantly. I was worried at first that it would use up my creative juices and that I wouldn’t have anything left over for screenwriting and other fiction.

But then I remembered that creative writing does not steal juice from other creative writing.  (And as someone somewhere at some point once said, “All writing is creative writing.)  Just like actual muscles, creative muscles get stronger with more use.

What has been an issue is time.  It’s hard to figure out how to ration your time when everything feels like a priority.

Let’s Define Some Priorities

The day job pays my bills and ensures I have health insurance, so it’s a priority. My screenwriting is my passion, so it’s a priority.

The freelance stuff is something I enjoy and feel compelled to pursue for a variety of reasons, so it’s a priority.

Working out and not eating everything that pops into my mind or line of sight keeps me healthy, my brain functioning better (endorphins? yes, please!), and my clothes fitting (and since I threw out all my old clothes in bigger sizes, this is important), so it’s a priority.

Chipotle & Starbucks - A Writer's Best Friend

Feeling justified at being facebook friends with people you only know because they work at Starbucks and Chipotle is totally normal, right?

A social life of some sort is important because it gives me forces me to take a break from my workaholic tendencies and interact with people other than the awesome folks at Starbucks and Chipotle . Plus my boyfriend is cute and I like to look at him. So that’s a priority.

Boyfriend: Bane or Boon for Productivity?

To Do
Get boyfriend to take semi-serious picture. - Check!
Make smiles a priority! - Working on it!

Priority Management — aka, Herding Cats

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  I don’t have the answers yet.  Working 12-14 hour days is my norm right now, and I constantly alternate between feeling like I should be doing more with my time and wishing I had four to eight more hours in the day. And I know it’s the same for a lot of working writers and other creatives out there.  So help me out.  Tell me how you’re keeping your head above water so I can steal it.  Here are a few tactics I’m making use of at the moment.

Google Docs

I’m a total spreadsheet nut, and gDocs is the best option for me because I can access it wherever I am. I have a multi-page spreadsheet with every single freelance item I have due, when it’s due, how long it takes me, how much I’m charging, and how many words the final product is (if applicable). When an item has been paid, I move it to another page, and I keep another page with projected income for the month.

Evernote

Evernote is where I create my Weekly Goals.  I try to keep them to about a month in advance so I can add future tasks and events. I have several categories on each Goal Note, starting with a variation on the GITS 1-2-7-14 method and including each freelance item I have scheduled for the week plus other goals like work outs, meals I want to cook, and other goals (like “vacuum,” a box that has remained unchecked for longer than I will ever admit to beyond warning you to watch out for the fur tumbleweeds blowing across my parlor floors). If I have an event scheduled, like a birthday party or a family get-together or a special date night, I’ll add it under the Other Goals because checking off boxes is inexplicably satisfying.

Post-It Note To-Do Lists

This is how I prioritize for the day, and it gives me a chance to check off even more boxes (or line through items, depending on the mood I’m in, because I like to stay unpredictable like that).  This is also a good way to keep myself from assigning 87 tasks a day because you can only fit at most about 40 on a standard-sized Post-it. That is almost a joke. I mean, it’s true, but I try to keep it closer to about 10 — and that’s still overkill if we’re being honest.  But it’s a process, people.  I like post-its because they also fit perfectly inside or on the cover of my pocket moleskine notebook that goes with me everywhere.

So that’s me.  And it’s sort of working.  Most of the time.  For now.  What’s working for you all?  How do you define your priorities, and how do you prioritize them?  Give me some tips!

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