Our guest today is Liz Fredericks. Liz is an efficiency and who works with public and nonprofit organizations. She has published numerous books and articles on management trends, and recently took up romance writing. After hearing her speak on Value-Driven Time Management, we asked her to share her professional expertise with our readers. Welcome, Liz!
Thank you Lady Scribes for inviting me to guest blog. In my ‘day job’, I’m a professor specializing in public and nonprofit management. This is my first blog attempt as a fiction writer and I’m thrilled at the opportunity. During the past couple of years, I’ve been delving into a long-term personal goal of writing stories under the pen name of Liz Fredericks. Despite having published nonfiction over the past two decades, I consider myself a fiction newbie and am sometimes overwhelmed at how much there is to learn. Shhh - don’t tell on me, but I have a confession. Writing my dissertation was cake compared to drafting a novel with active pacing, an original voice, a consistent point of view, fresh dialogue, a compelling theme, and riveting storyline -- yikes!
Though the nuances of the romance writing profession are daunting, I’ve relied upon superb commentary from this blog along with advice from my local RWA chapter and critique partners. An important message from these wise women and men is to ‘write what you know.’ What I know in a professional sense (strategic planning, performance measurement, and employee development and discipline) has helped me shoulder through manuscript drafts, and mountains of technical information on the art, craft and business of writing while balancing work, family and – argh – healthy lifestyle changes.
Today, I’d like to share a big scary secret about time management – it’s impossible to manage time, but we can manage our priorities. And if you understand your true bone-deep priorities, then you can carve out a little guilt-free flexibility in your day. Facing our own priorities can be frightening. It means that we should look at what we value as an end, and consider the values we use to shape the process – the how of our lives not just the result.
Years ago, Milton Rokeach, a brilliant social psychologist, developed a list of thirty-six values and divided this list between eighteen ‘terminal values’ (the end result) and eighteen ‘instrumental values’ (the process). He argued that these values transcend culture because people differ most in terms of how we prioritize the relative importance of each value. The rank of values will shift as we redefine our lives with new experiences and opportunities. Most of us cannot control certain external demands on our time, but we can control our own responses. And we can, upon reflection, be deliberate about our priorities.
In a given year, we have 8,760 hours. On January 1, we face a new year and consider all that we hope to accomplish. So much is possible. But those thousands of hours boil down to 168 hours each week and 24 hours each day. If you do an internet search on ‘time management’, you’ll pull almost 500 million hits in a tenth of a second. Most of the tips rest upon the importance of setting specific goals, prioritizing those goals, and setting up a mechanism to evaluate your progress. Sound easy? Maybe, but we all know there are as many ways to self-sabotage as there are types of candy in the world. Not that this is an issue for me. Ahem.
Now, you can find costly calendars and training modules designed to shepherd you through these activities, but I’ve adapted a process designed for large-scale organizational change projects to use for my students and myself. I don’t distinguish between professional and personal goals because success on all fronts comes from my ability to leverage – to mesh being a mom, a wife, an academic, and, more recently, a story-teller and writer.
Use three categories – ‘healthy to’, ‘have to’, and ‘hanker to’. For the year, list a few goals or wishes within each of the three categories, but consider blending ‘what to accomplish’ value-based goals with ‘how to accomplish’ goals.
Next, divide the year into three-month blocks and each month into approximately three ten day blocks. Please avoid using the familiar seven day week. I’ve found that people (and organizations) start to drop off performance unconsciously after Wednesday. A ten day (or so) block ‘tricks’ my subconscious into maintaining momentum.
Then work backwards. Perhaps you can’t devote a major effort towards a goal every day. However, you can commit to doing something to facilitate each goal during every ten-day block. If I diversify those small steps toward a larger goal (e.g., different approaches, but the same path), then I don’t get bored with repeating the same action, but still make measurable progress. The point is that not getting to something during a particular day or hour shouldn’t discourage you from continuing the quest. You’re keeping your focus on a larger block of time.
Finally, you need to evaluate your progress. Rather than do this at the end of the year when it’s a little too late to make amends, I like to review my ten-day block with a more detailed assessment at every third month. Where did the glitches come up that skewed my good intentions? Were there points where I lost sight of a bigger goal as I paid more attention to technique than purpose? Did I ignore my goals about process in deference to an unplanned end?
Thank you for letting me share these thoughts. Would you return the favor? What approaches have worked in achieving your writing goals? What strategies have helped you balance writing with other obligations in your lives? And what’s the secret to writing a novel with active pacing, an original voice, a consistent point of view, fresh dialogue, a compelling theme, and riveting storyline -- yikes!