Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On finding time for your goals.

It's the first day of school here, and even though it's still pretty warm outside, it's overcast and a little rainy; it FEELS like a school day. I'm channeling my first-day excitement into a new copy of my to-do list, which is less daunting than I'd feared, and plotting out my next steps and my priorities for the next few days.

I talked a little in my last post about my desire to create more structure for my days, especially to carve out more time for reading manuscripts during "the work day." It's a real job hazard of working in publishing that the work-reading can take over all of your leisure time. An editor whom I follow on Twitter posted today that among her plans for her "day off" today was to finish editing a manuscript. Most (acquisition/line) editors do most of their editing at night and on the weekends, so this is not at all unusual, but I was struck by it all over again: editors use their time off to do the work that most people think of as their primary task.

Editors, at least at the bigger houses, spend an incredible amount of time in meetings, and when you add in emails and phonecalls and lunch dates with agents, there really isn't much time left in the day to read or to edit. But I, as an agent, have a lot more, um, agency to set my own work-day agenda. I attend far fewer meetings, and at least most of the time I can schedule my phonecalls for a time of day that's convenient for me and my workflow.

Thinking back on my two hours of reading goal, I'm reminded of a close family member of mine, who upon her retirement a few years back, took up exercise in a big way. She is diligent about it, seven days a week, unless she's got a terrible cold or is traveling, and I think both the exercise itself and the routine make her really happy. We talked about it recently, and she told me, "I have to make it a priority, or it doesn't happen. I start inventing excuses."

This, it strikes me, is true of a lot of things in our lives. I love watching TV, and can easily while away the entire evening that way. But when I spend a lot of time watching TV, I have (deliberately or not) made my TV time my priority. (Remember NBC's slogan, "Must-See TV?" And how many times have you heard the phrase "appointment viewing" or "appointment television" applied to this or that HBO or critically acclaimed drama?)

So even in the face of a to-do list full of a million other tasks, I've decided to make my manuscript reading a priority today.

How about you? How do you carve out time for the things you care about?


Anonymous said...

I've really struggled with this a lot. The best strategy I've found for sticking to commitments is a two-pronged approach:

1. Make your goals specific and measurable so you don't have any wiggle room.

2. Tell other people about them so it's harder to back out.

Jenny said...

Actually setting a time works wonders for me. Usually goals just float in my head, but getting out of the house to the local cafe and saying 'writing only for the time I'm here' works wonders. It helps too if I do it with a friend, for accountability.