PAPER OR PLASTIC (WHERE THE COMPUTER IS THE PLASTIC)?

I’ve tried to put everything on the computer. Names and addresses of everyone I know. All the financial info. A calendar. Photographs. A map program that uses GPS. The family tree. And that’s just the personal stuff. For my writing, everything original I write, of course, now gets written on my laptop. But also the trackers and market lists, notes about each novel or story, writing advice, quotes, and so on.

When we lived in the small space of a forty-foot motorhome all the time, this is a great idea. Now that we’re back in a brick and stick house, I still think it’s a great idea.

But I write a lot of short stories, and submitting them is much work in itself.

I found out tables are my friends.
Wooden Table by Anonymous - A wooden table by Benji Park. From old OCAL site.

No, not that kind of table.

I used to have:

A notebook in which I put:

  • A table to track everything I submitted with title, where submitted, date submitted, date back, and a yes/no column for whether accepted or rejected. This was kept in the front of the notebook.
  • Behind that, a table for each publication and what I’d sent to them when, and how long it took to hear back.

A manila file folder for each story in which I had:

  • A table to track date, where sent and response for the front of the file.
  • Correspondence and contract(s) for the story.
  • A clean printed copy of the story.

All these trackers, the manuscript and notes for it were put onto my laptop after a awhile. And there they still sit. It took quite a long time for me to get used to using the ones on the computer.

Today I was checking out some markets. I have about twenty stories at any given time that need to be submitted. So of course I’m always looking for new places for my work. I have in mind one place to submit to this week (my goal is one sub a week), but when going through my list, I found two other places where a couple of stories might fit. How to keep track of those? Used to be I could just jot a note and stick it in the physical file. So, I made up a notes form (yes, another form) for each story. It now contains the submission table at the top, and other notes about the story, plus I can list possible markets I come across to submit to if it’s rejected. And I just stick any other info about the story into this notes file. Which is called [Title of Story] notes.docx. I use caps for the title of the story file and the notes file name in small letters.

Often, I find the submission guidelines on-line and need to keep them someplace. Easiest thing in the world is to bookmark them, right? Yes, except you wouldn’t believe how many bookmarks I have. I was putting these new ones at the top, and important ones got pushed farther and farther down, and I had a jumble.

I hate jumbles. So eventually I made yet another table to keep the names of all these wonderful publications with a direct URL link to their submission guidelines. I also have a column for word count so I don’t have to look that up each time. And to make it easier on myself, later I added a column to put in the title of my latest submission.

Another trick I tried was to have a document in my computer labeled Notes. This is where I type in random ideas and thoughts plus URLs to go to when I have time. I guess I should have one of these documents for writing, too. The trouble is, I tried this idea several years ago, stopped using it and have never gone back to see what’s there. So I ended up still using a small legal pad to jot down things that catch my attention.

Yes, paper can get lost on the a real desktop. But ideas and jottings can get lost on that virtual desktop, too. This is as close as I can come to a pretty good system.

Someday I’ll find the perfect system. You think?

END OF THE WEEK OR BEGINNING?

Planning and preparation are essential for getting things done, especially those things you really want to do.

Time management experts seem to be in two camps about when to do what.

One camp says to start your week by:

1.    Cleaning off your desk
2.    Clearing out your emails
3.    Checking your calendar/planner to see what’s coming up
4.    Review what you did last week to be sure something urgent doesn’t need to be done first
5.    Write out your to-do list for the day
6.    Prepare what you need to accomplish the tasks on your list (gather equipment, files, phone numbers, for example)
7.    Sketch out to-dos for the whole week.
8.    Do something hard as soon as you can after all this other stuff is done. This is now called eating the frog. If you get the worst, most unpleasant or most important task done every morning, it will set you up to have a great day. Read more about eating the frog in Brian Tracy’s book:

(Click on image to go to Amazon.com for more info.)

The other camp says to do most the above at the end of your week.

It wouldn’t hurt to do it both times. Especially if:

1.    Things pile up on or in your workspace on your days off
2.    Emails gather like dust bunnies on your days off
3.    Your memory isn’t what it used to be, so you need to check your calendar/planner again.
4.    You can probably skip the review either at the end of the week or the beginning of the week.
5.    To-do list could be done either day—your pick
6.    Same with preparation
7.    When you arrive at the beginning of your week and have your to-do list all ready, you can begin quicker, fresher
8.    Don’t leave anything hard, if you can help it, for the end of the week

One note about email. I do suggest checking it both end of work week and again at the beginning. Anything urgent should be handled right away no matter what day it is. And if you don’t check the beginning of every day, some of the work you planned to do may no longer be necessary. Definitely something to keep on top of.

This may seem a little overwhelming to do twice a week, but once you get into the habit of doing each thing, it won’t take long, and you’ll be glad you did.

HOLIDAY TIPS FOR ENTERTAINING

Entertaining can be a chore (you have to invite everyone from work because that’s the way it’s done at your office or your partner’s office), can be stressful (you’re new at it, or unsure of some aspects, or just generally have stage fright about such things, like this and making speeches), or can be loads of fun.

Of course, you know your attitude can make a difference. That and a lot of prior planning and some experience with entertaining either small or large groups.

the toast by johnny_automatic - man making a toast at a dinner partyFirst, tell yourself over and over again how much fun everyone is going to have. Think up some topics of conversation to have handy in case it lags. If you feel pressed for time, delegate. Either pay for someone to cook and/or clean, or get family members to pitch in. If you can’t do either, scale back on what you will serve for food. Can you just make it a cocktail hour instead of a full meal? Can you have some relatives and close friends bring food? Can you lock some bedroom doors if you don’t have time for a thorough cleaning?

Have you planned what you’re going to wear, what you’re doing for decorating, and what you’re going to serve for food and drink? Plan what you’ll wear first, then decorate, then plan and make food ahead.

Have signature drinks and food that are quick and easy to make. Things people always want you to serve. Try for one for each course, so if you’re asked to bring something for a specific course for someone else’s party, you’ll have making it down pat. This means an appetizer, a main dish, a salad, a vegetable casserole, and a dessert. Also think about a nice punch. Fill in with what other people bring, with beer and wine, if yours is a drinking crowd, soft drinks. Use easy things like chips and dip, a main course you can make days ahead and freeze, a simple but fabulously elegant dessert.

Be sure you have enough serving dishes and utensils for everything. If possible, use paper plates, napkins and so forth for a large crowd (unless you can afford large services and people to do the clean-up). If you buy special serving dishes and other things for the holidays, be sure to have one spot where they are kept so it will be easy next year to get them out to use again.

Most important of all, when the big day comes, relax, plan  to enjoy your own party, and go with the flow. Most likely it will be fabulous. Anything that goes wrong can be something to laugh about at next year’s party. Remind yourself that you’ve done the very best you can, and let it go at that.

MORE ABOUT TIME MANAGEMENT

Think about it—the more organized you are, the more time you have to relax and be really happy.

Routine and organization are essential. Think ahead, plan for the unexpected, and focus on exactly what you want to achieve at any given time. You can learn to do this. And you can unlearn bad habits. Believe me, you were not born this way. You have control.

Here are some hints. Pretend someone very important is going to show up tomorrow and see how you’re doing. Pretend you are being paid for getting each task done. Each task, not for a day’s work. Think about how it will make you feel next week if you’ve done everything you’ve set out to do this week. (How will your future self feel?) How will it make you feel if you don’t accomplish everything on your to-do list?

And speaking of your to-do list, you have one, right? Be sure it’s not too long or too short, but just right. You know from past experience how much you are likely to accomplish in one week. Have a running list of everything you want to accomplish. But choose from those tasks wisely to make your weekly list manageable.

After your list is honed, schedule your activities. Write them down on a calendar, just as you would a doctor’s appointment. These are appointments with yourself to get stuff done. Today is Monday. I do these time management/organization posts on Monday for a reason. Most of us start off the week with high expectations. We hope to be able to look back at the week when it’s over and pat ourselves on the back for getting things done. The new year is coming up. Also a great time of feeling as if you can, this year, get your life the way you want it to be. Start now by planning ahead. Your future self will thank you.

 

 

CLUTTER CAN WEAR YOU OUT

No, not just cleaning it up. Living with it. It seems to nag you. It’s always taking up space in your head as well as in your workplace or home. It can slow down your work pace as you search for one piece of paper or a single object in all the mess.

If it seems overwhelming, pick a certain time every day (after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, before bed are all good times because they are easy to remember). For fifteen minutes, work on the clutter. Then you can stop. Because the next day you’re going to work for fifteen more minutes, and so on until done.

First handle the latest papers or objects that have shown up in the space you want to clear. Always have a trash basket nearby. Maybe you want to tackle a craft room. You’ve recently been shopping and piled a bunch of objects on a table, plus you haven’t put away stuff when finished with it. Start when the latest purchases. Remove packaging and throw them away. Put the objects in a designated places. The next time you go shopping, do not consider the trip over until every item you bought is put away. And the next time you stop on a project for the day, do not leave a mess. Put away tools and materials you’re finished with. Lay out the project nicely for the next time you want to work on it.

If it’s your office, start with the day’s mail. Throw away junk without opening. Open every other piece, throw away inside junk and the outside envelope unless it contains a return address or other information you might need—if so, staple the envelope behind the paper. Glance at the piece of paper and put it in your inbox to handle later (bill or to reply, for example), or in a pile to file away (or if your files are handy, simply file it), and throw out anything you can after reading it, or put it in a spot you’ve designated for reading later. Once you’ve done the daily mail, start with any other paper and do the same with it. If you don’t file as you go, save a few minutes at the end of your fifteen minutes to file.

For the kitchen, begin by figuring out where you want everything to be for ease of use. Then empty out one area, go through the rest of the room and gather everything that should go in that area, putting things away in cupboards or drawers as necessary. Of course, throw out things you never use, or donate them.

You may stop after fifteen minutes, but sometimes you may want to go a bit longer. But don’t wear yourself out, because the next day you won’t want to do anything. The trick is to make this a habit, and skipping a day is not good for habit-making. So, go easy on yourself. Be sure that you remember to always put away purchases you bring home right away and that you clean up and put away everything you used after doing a project, making a meal, or doing office work, or anything else. Habits are easier to break than to make, but if you try this system, you might be amazed at what a clutter-free environment you end up with.

GETTING READY FOR DECEMBER HOLIDAYS

If any time of the year needs planning ahead, this is it. Here are some basic suggestions to keep you from driving yourself (and everyone else) crazy. I hope you’ll find at least one or two tips that will help you during this hectic season.

HOLIDAY GREETINGS:

There are greeting cards to send out. You have that all organized, right? Every year you have a printout of people’s names and addresses of cards sent. Maybe if you send out a newsletter, you even have a code on the list to indicate which people received it. And you mark who sent you cards last year before putting them away or discarding them. If you were wise you bought cards on sale after Christmas to send this year, and you know where they are. If you don’t enjoy doing the cards, just plan to do a few a day until they’re finished. Take a break from something else and address and sign some, then go back to whatever it was. And if you don’t enjoy standing in line at the post office, you can buy stamps on-line, as well as order packaging materials. There’s even a calendar to show you when to order. You can print out a shipping label and order a pick-up of your parcels. Once you set up an account, the following years should be a snap to do any of this:

https://www.usps.com/

DECORATING

Most of us have lots of stuff to put up or out or on a tree, something for the front door, yard, roofline and so forth. I hope you have everything organized in boxes from years past. If not, make a vow to do that when you put everything away this year. My only real advice here is not to over-decorate.

FOOD

See tips for Thanksgiving prep:

http://www.janchristensen.com/lets-talk-turkey/

This is the time of year I love to try out new recipes. Only on the family though. Anything I take for a potluck or other meal, I’ve tried at least twice in the privacy of my own home. You know why.

ENTERTAINING      

Ask for help. Have everyone bring something to eat or drink because you’ve been frantically cleaning house, decorating, shopping for supplies, and making a few dishes yourself. Right?

GIVING GIFTS

Lots of people recommend buying them as the year goes by. Great advice. Be sure you have a designated spot to put them, and make sure you label them somehow (sticky notes are good). Also be sure you keep a list in your purse or on your smart phone of what you’ve bought and for whom. If you haven’t done all this, and you love to shop, have fun. If you haven’t done this because you don’t like to shop, I recommend you do it on-line. You can even have the items gift-wrapped and sent to out-of-town people. You can also buy stuff you need for entertaining on-line. Clothes to wear. The possibilities are endless!

What great tips do you have for getting through the holidays? Let’s have them in the comments. Remember to take care of yourself, get plenty of rest. Now is not the time to start a new project or take on anything extra. Treat yourself as well as you’d treat a beloved friend. You deserve it.

LET’S TALK TURKEY

This is the time of year to make master lists and schedules and do some major planning. Today let’s talk about Thanksgiving.

With this major holiday coming up, wouldn’t it be great to have a shopping list you’ve refined over the years so you have everything on hand if you’re making the big meal, or even a dish or two to take to someone else’s celebration? If you don’t have one yet, make one. I like to do this on the computer so I can make changes when needed and print it out again so it looks neater. You can also rearrange the items by where they are located in the stores more easily using your computer. And if you have a smart phone, you can do the list on there and not forget and leave it at home.

Of course, all your decorations, special place settings and so on are in one box. Right? If not, this year buy a special box just for Thanksgiving.

  • Make a list of what you’re going to serve for Thanksgiving dinner if you’re preparing it.
  • Make as much ahead as you can and freeze it.
  • Set the table the night before.
  • If you can afford it, have a cleaner come in a few days in advance.
  • Buy prepared veggies and other food from the grocery store. The bakeries make really wonderful breads and desserts nowadays. Look around and see what you can use to fill up the table with no-to-little work.
  • Use other devices besides your oven to keep things hot if you run out of room. Use the crockpot, thermos containers, or even buy one of those new buffet warmers or smaller triple crockpots. Anything cooked ahead can of course be warmed up in the microwave.
  • Be sure to include some cold dishes that just have to be placed on the table. For example, Waldorf salad, a layered salad, a macaroni salad or coleslaw.

And here’s how many calories you’ll burn (700, it says) preparing the big meal. And how many you’ll consume. Sit down for this:

http://shine.yahoo.com/shine-food/burn-700-calories-cooking-thanksgiving-dinner-151900055.html

Now, get a good night’s rest, relax, and enjoy the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

HABITS FOR STAYING ORGANIZED

I’m watching the Olympics, so I don’t have a lot of time to do housework. Here are some habits I’ve trained myself to use over the years. Because I do these most of the time, my space is neat and uncluttered. Try it for yourself.

  1. Put stuff away after use. Most things need to be behind closed doors or in drawers. Have a designated place for everything.
  2. Put everything away after a shopping trip. And if your space is really cluttered, throw away two or three items you no longer need while you’re putting things away.
  3. Handle paper as little as possible—take care of it (answer it, call someone about it, mark it on your calendar, etc.), file or toss it. Open mail next to a wastebasket. Don’t even open something you know is junk, just toss it.
  4. Deal with dirty clothes properly—put in hamper or basket, wash when you have a load. Put away as soon as dry.
  5. Don’t leave the kitchen with dishes in the sink or unwiped countertops, food left out, or any other kind of mess. Immediately after finishing a meal, deal with the cleanup.
  6. Don’t leave any room without picking up everything that needs picking up.

Once all of this becomes habitual, your space will look fantastic, ready for company, and you will have saved yourself a lot of time. Win-win!