Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to Manage Time without the Benefit of a Time Machine

By Marisa A. Corvisiero

It's Saturday morning and I'm torn by all of the things I need to do and read, and the things that I should do with my family. If I didn't want to do any of any of it my choice would be simple. The problem is that I want to do it all. However, it is difficult put up a tree, and edit a manuscript, and draft a contract at the same time. I can do it in my head, but that's not fair to anyone. I guess it comes down to time management. How do I manage my time without the benefit of relativistic time dilation. I suppose that it comes down to the same old thing...the essence of time management.

As an agent, consultant, lawyer, mom and wife (not necessarily in that order, though my husband may disagree) I'm constantly juggling a number of things in my office, at home, and in my head. As you can imagine in my professional life, I often get asked many of the same questions, but the one that comes up more often than others is how do you do it all? Now, although I may smile and reply with a dismissive humorous line, the truth is that it concerns me. I'm concerned that I may appear distracted, and overworked, or, God forbid, inefficient. Because lets face it, when you're juggling sooner or later a ball or two will be making contact with the ground or your head.

As those of you out there that are in similar positions, with day jobs, writing goals and a family, etc., you know that the answer is twofold. First, it take a lot of organizing and sticking to the schedule. In other words, discipline. Second, it is plain and simple hard work. I'm not a fan of the expression, "nothing in life comes easy"... because, well, some things do. But success more often than not requires dedication, determination, persistence, sometimes a little bit of luck, and always good organization and time management.

Funny...I started writing this post as a facebook post. It was going to be three lines as I contemplated what to do next. Aside from being invited to a fabulous Corvisiero family party this eve among other plans, my boys need hair cuts before we take their Christmas picture, which I need to use for our holiday card, which should have gone out last week (in a perfect world). And we've yet to get a tree, and the boys want to make gingerbread houses, and my uncle is visiting from overseas this week, and my dad's birthday is coming up, and there are the errands to be run, and the cleaning, and the laundry... well you get the picture. I didn't even mention Christmas presents. And don't let me get into the manuscripts to read, and the queries to review, and clients' work to review/edit, and clients' work to submit, and consulting and legal projects, and the management, and the new Literary Powerhouse Consulting website (going public this week) and all the data and ideas for the PORTAL (going public probably in February) etc. etc. So that's a hand full of over shared information right there, but there is a point in me mentioning it. Many of you are in the same boat. Most of us have families, homes, friends, jobs etc. So the only way to survive is to manage our time the right way. Are you thinking that I should probably be doing some of this instead of writing this post? Yes, me too, but in a way I think that I'm writing it to help me process. I'm a writer too, and this is how my brain works. Hopefully my words of crazy will help someone else too. :)

...So (deep breath) how do I apply the time management skills I speak of? First, I prioritize. And of course a list will started. (I'm famous for my lists.) I will list the things that are the most important. What needs to get done today and what can wait until tomorrow. Then I add in the things that I'd like to do today. Then in way of a schedule, I give them priority numbers so that they are then ordered in chronology and make a tentative and realistic schedule with plenty of wiggle room to avoid stress. Note that I said realistic. Over scheduling is a sure way to NOT having a successfully scheduled day, and it guarantees stressful situations. And stress does not a happy day make.

Once the schedule is made, I try to stick with it as much as possible. This will ensure that we have a productive day and get most of it done. Yes, I said most of it. Why? Because as the expression goes, "schedules are made to be broken". What I'm saying is that it is okay to change the schedule. You don't need to stress yourself to keep with the schedule. After all, this is your schedule. So if the need comes, or if you feel like it, throw it into the fireplace and enjoy that cocoa or glass of your fav drink while you watch it burn. And enjoy it!

Which is actually a good segue into the secret of juggling, which is to remember to have fun. Yes, you need to organize, and you need to have a schedule and stick with it. But you don't have to create stress for yourself. As long as you are disciplined most of the time. The occasional slip to take care of yourself and yours is the most important thing you can do to keep your sanity. Take time to enjoy yourself, to recharge so that you can keep going. Because keep going you must!

Happy juggling!


  1. Marisa, you're too dang nice! Overworked and possibly stressed, your first instinct is to write a blog post helping others who are overworked and stressed. If you don't cut it out, we'll start calling you Sainte Marisa! ;-)

  2. Juggling indeed! Sounds like you got a plan to keep everything in check. I like that you number things and give ample room. Stress is something I hate and keeping a To-Do list can be a way to deter some of that stress. Of course keeping to that list is the trick. Nice post and thanks for sharing!

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  4. I keep three "to do" lists. One for business. One for family. One for personal. Why three?

    Simple, I discovered long ago that work issues should be kept in my office. Similarly, weekends are for my family and personal lists. When I leave work on Friday, I leave that to-do list on my desk. I refuse to take time away from family or personal time. Then, I take care of the first few "must do" items on my home/family list before I open my personal list.

    Opening that personal list gives me a rush, because it provides the reward I've been craving all week. Today, I'm finishing the installation of new hardwood floors in me entry way and home office. When that is done, I'll be soaring through the galaxy with my characters, trying to save a kidnapped baby from aliens. Can't wait!

  5. Too funny! On your way over yet?? ;)

  6. What a great post! AS I said in Facebook, even though you have a job as an agent etc, you are a mommy and a wife. Those beautiful boys need you and sometimes we will have to take a back seat for a moment and let you be with them. They deserve nothing less. Same for dear hubby, though he is old enough to understand your schedule and able to halndle it more, he still deserves to have your attenion too! We appreciate your dedication and your time but are even more in 'WOW' of you for all that you do.

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
    Sarah Hoss

  7. I watched my grandfather do everything you are talking about. I watched him almost have a nervous breakdown...then he stopped...prayed one night while I spent the night at their house after we did our nightly bible reading...then and there he changed...I was 14 then the time he retired..I was 16 n they lived right behind our house on their farm...his whole life changed...suddenly it was me working...worrying...then after his change n praying...I saw it as well as he told me...when you go home at night son...shut the door on work...leave it has n place in your home! Quoting the bible he said...worry will not add a day to your life...take a step back and see where you really are...then step forward the right way...I see a few things wrong with your post since I think like him now an worry about nothing...seriously...nothing! You have you life wrong from what you said which was -->As an agent, consultant, lawyer, mom and wife (not necessarily in that order, though my husband may disagree)...You should be a wife and mom 1st...THEN everything else comes in to you will say and a wife n mom...I'd expect nothing less of my will work itself out past that...2nd...seems you are way too busy...step money and what of everything you said that important? Live...for all you have may be gone tomorow...then if ur still here...what will you have? What would you have changed? What would you have done different if it were all gone? I'll b poor...I'll b first n worry about nothing, then let it all just will!! A little faith n trust in God n it will! Trust me!! works for me!!!! And will work for you! :o)

  8. it's really hard sometimes to manage, but you're right it's a necessity. The world has become so fast paced that more women are becoming career and family orientated. It can be done, but only if a schedule is created and stuck to. Nice post!

  9. I can definitively appreciate this entire post. We have three young 'uns, and all are under seven, so I can't exactly send them off and have them do their own thing evenings and weekends. When I'm home, my focus is on them. Nothing that "belongs" to me gets done until after they're in bed. (Notice the time this was posted.)

    Luckily, with regard to my writing, I am able to get some work in every day because:

    1. I am pretty good at "caching," dialog specifically, holding it in my head until I can get to my PC. I actually do a lot of "writing" this way on the treadmill, thinking things through, then running upstairs and typing like mad.

    2. I always carry a small notebook and pen so that I can write down scenery and descriptive passages which, inexplicably, I can't keep in my head until my 10:00 p.m. brain dump.

  10. I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief as I read your post. Be assured - it does get better! My third son has just turned eighteen and got his drivers licence and car (we're in Australia). Hip hip hooray, my life is nearly my own again. I can juggle work, writing and the husband with relative ease. It was the boys and the constant running around that was the time consuming (and most important) part of my life. Just remember the old saying - they won't remember if the floor was clean or how many books you sold, but they will remember the time you spent with them. Wishing you all a very Merry (and relaxing) Christmas and New Year.

  11. You're an A type. You like to do a lot and achieve a lot. You'll always be interesting and over committed. Nothing wrong with that.
    Looking forward to seeing the site.

  12. I revel in the process of efficient work. As I head for bed I take pride in what I accomplished that day: how I delegated activities to others who can do them better or have more time for them, how I ordered my priorities and did the best I could with them, and overall give myself a net plus for knocking things off the To-Do List. Others may think it's an achievement that my book is soon out in paperback, but it's really an approaching opportunity to work on (should I say "play with?") a project I enjoy, tough and silly and crazy and additionally burdensome as it may be. Some people not only don't understand multitasking, but they maybe can't even walk down the street OR chew bubble gum at the same time. I admire anyone else who can knock a load off their own list. My wife, for example. Despite my daily slaying of multiple dragons, she's better at it, and it often astonishes me. Maybe because she does things I don't: She's a wife, a mother, a homemaker, an employee, a Girl Scout leader, a church committee member, a taxi driver, an accountant. Maybe, psychologically, I enjoy plowing through a complex day every day just because I'm just trying to keep up with a typical middle-class American woman.