Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Prioritize

My husband tells me I try to do too much. I can't do martial arts, Middle Eastern dance, one-to-three game sessions, and writing group every week, on top of writing and working a full time job. Oh, and trying to learn Arabic or Egyptian hieroglyphs, not to mention all the reading I do and my addiction to Plants Vs Zombies, plus finding time for laundry, dishes, balancing the checkbook, and spending time with a husband, two cats, and a dog.

Yeah. I try to do too much.

Oddly, I expected this would have been even worse while I was unemployed, but there were many projects I meant to do that I never got started on. I think this was because, suddenly having so much free time, I had to decide just what I was going to do with myself. And I decided that I couldn't pass up that opportunity to try my hand at writing full time.

I've been writing as a hobby for a very long time. And, as a hobby, writing ranked roughly equally with all my other hobbies—-it was just a hobby I stuck with a lot longer than most of my other hobbies, short of reading.

But now, suddenly, it was more than just a hobby.

Granted, I had made writing my #1 hobby before. The first time was when I decided that I was going to finally finish my novel. I dropped out of my martial arts class for three months, stopped going to dance practice, and made sure I parked my rear behind the keyboard whenever I could. And, wonder of wonders, I finished the bloody thing. That still ranks as one of the best feelings ever, when I finished my first novel for the first time. (Many of you writers will understand what I mean by finishing it "for the first time.") The second time I made writing my #1 hobby was when I wrote a short non-fiction book, my very first contracted work. I had a schedule and I stuck to it, and turned in the project early.

But this time was even more so than that. This was not a hobby anymore, this was business. This was when I proved whether I could do it, or if I was truly just a hobbyist.

What allowed me to do this was prioritizing. See, when writing was at the same priority level as all my other hobbies, I was only moderately successful at it (novel finished, but still unpublished), just as I was a moderately good dancer and a moderately good martial artist. But when I moved writing up my priority list, I was able to become more successful.

This sounds like common sense, but many of us go through our days without a clear sense of priorities. My top priority is my marriage. Beyond that, what I've mostly wanted out of life is to be happy. Simple, but frankly it's not terribly effective.

I've tried making written priority lists before. This works for some people, but I am not one of them. (This is strange, because I love making lists. I used to kill downtime at an old job by making lists of the most efficient way to grind out tradeskills in EverQuest. Ahhh, the number of Misty Thicket Picnics I made…the account is deactivated, but the carpal tunnel is forever…) But right now, my list looks something like this:

  1. Relationship with husband
  2. Covering the basic necessities (food, shelter, etc)
  3. Relationship with friends, family, and pets
  4. Chores (dishes, laundry, etc)
  5. Writing
  6. Reading
  7. Hobbies

I'm hoping that writing will be lucrative enough someday that I can combine it with Covering the basic necessities, but at that point it'll actually drop below Relationship with friends, family, and pets, because the husband will probably be the one doing the steady financial providing.

If lists work for you, great! If not, sit down and try to figure out what is most important in your life in a way that makes sense to you. For me, it was finally setting a more concrete goal than being happy. My new goal was to get fiction published. Now that I've done that, I'm working toward getting my novel published, and building my fan base will help with that. That means more stories for you!

Once you have a goal or a list or whathaveyou, figure out what steps you need to take. What do you need to do to achieve your goal? How can you best allocate your two resources (time and money) to make sure your priorities are being met in the proper order? And are you prepared to sacrifice things of lower priority for things of higher priority? Decide what's most important to you now, while you have the leisure. When the crunch time comes (job loss, overtime, deadlines, family emergency, etc) you'll be ready.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you to get this down! I've been meaning to make a list for months, but that's prioritized at about #23 right now...