Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Deadlines, Schedules, and Staying on Task

This week in My Writing Life…
I am trying something new that is working really well for me. I’m using Microsoft Outlook to keep track of the writing tasks I want to do each day. And so far it’s fantastic!
I have always known that I am highly responsive to external deadlines. External rewards, too. I work really well under pressure, as long as that pressure comes from outside of myself (like during NaNoWriMo, for instance). But keeping to my own deadlines and schedules? That doesn’t work so well for me. Until now.
My beloved mentioned that he has to set reminders to tell him to go on his breaks and go to lunch because otherwise he gets really wrapped up in his projects at work and forgets to leave his desk. I was intrigued with the idea of getting my computer to tell me when to do things (yes, I know I’m way behind the times on this—I just never looked into it!). I mentioned wishing I could get my computers to do this for me, and he told me that I can, and that I’ve had the program for years. Years! And I had no idea what it was for! (Oh yes, I am embarrassed, but oh well…)
Last week, I decided to try Outlook and find out if it would be useful for me. The first two days, I only put a few things on the calendar, just testing it out. And I found that having that little chime sound as the little reminder note pops up acts for me the same way an external deadline acts. It keeps me on task and keeps me moving!
I am spending much less time fooling around on the internet (although I do schedule myself some e-mail and online play time). I’m not playing much solitaire at all. I’m definitely not spending an hour or more at a time just vegging in front of the computer when I’m feeling unmotivated or indecisive about what to work on. I am amazed and thrilled by this! I’ve even set a reminder for three different times during the day that pops up and asks me, “Are you doing something you want to be doing?” Even if I am vegging out when that pops up, I can’t go back to it after that question.
I’ve decided I’m going to get a PDA, maybe for my birthday, so I can have my little, tinkly reminders with me even when I’m not in front of the computer. Because when I’m at home, I’m not in front of the computer that much, so it would be nice to have something reminding me that I meant to pull out my notebooks and write or pull out my writing books and study or whatever.
So what have I accomplished in the last nine work days by using Outlook? I’ve started my read-through and summary of Blood of the Mist. I’ve started the rework of the plot. I did all three of my blog posts on the correct days last week. I’ve read through some books I’ve been poking at and meaning to really read. I’ve pulled out a short story I want to revise and send out, and I’ve started working on it. I’ve sent e-mails I keep putting off and then forgetting. In other words, I’m doing all the things I want to be doing! I expect I will smooth out my system and really make a lot of headway as I find new ways to use Outlook, but even this early in my experiment I am seeing real benefits from this.
So that’s where I am right now. And a reminder just popped up telling me it’s time to do some work on my short story, so I’m off to do that. Next week, I'll report on the writing books I’m working with right now…

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