Tag Archives: time management

Time’s A-wastin’; What Can I Do?

10 Mar

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.” — Dion Boucicault

These two quotes represent opposing views of time. Which speaks more to you?

As we prepare to set our clocks forward tonight, I find myself slightly miffed at the prospect of losing an hour. While my practical side understands that, by some slight of hand, the hour will fortuitously appear back in the bank next fall, right now it feels like thievery.

Perhaps this is because time has been my nemesis lately. I seem to be preoccupied with finding some, particularly this mythical “free” time I hear so much about.

According to the internet, time is money, time is of the essence (of what, I’m not exactly certain), time [supposedly] heals all wounds, it and tide wait for no man, it flies, it runs out, it marches on, and it drags. The time can be right, ripe, near, or at hand. We can make it, spend it, keep it, mark it, lose it, save it, and kill it.

I hear time can stand still, as it did for “almost a day” for Joshua in the Bible (Josh 10:8,12,13) or even go backward like the 40 minutes that backed up for King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20: 9-11). However, being neither a leader nor a king, I’m rather certain that option is not available to the likes of me.

About the only thing we can’t do with time, I suppose, is understand where it goes.

calendar_daysSince taking on a “part-time” job a few months ago (has it been seven months already? My, how time—oh, nevermind). Anyway, since then, I’ve developed an enhanced appreciation for the stuff. It’s true that we appreciate something more when it’s no longer ours. At the end of the day I become frustrated that I accomplished so little of what I used to . . . in what I call my “free time.”

I’m in awe of America’s forefathers and all they accomplished in the time they were given. George Washington ran a country and a plantation, and still found time to write more than 17,000 letters (which have been preserved in a handy 52-volume set, in case you ever find YOUR free time). Newspaper man and Philadelphia postmaster, Ben Franklin served as the U.S. ambassador to France and “dabbled” in science and inventing. Aside from entertaining the ladies, his more reputable interests included demography (study of populations), the wave theory of light, meteorology, refrigeration, electricity, oceanography and ocean currents; he played the violin, harp, and guitar, he was an avid chess player, he established one of the first firefighting companies, invented the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, and travelled back and forth to FRANCE, for Pete’s sake. Still, he found time to write Poor Richard’s Almanac for more than 25 years and produce the first monthly magazine in America.

All I want to do is write a weekly blog.

Mind you, our forefathers didn’t have the internet or television to slow them down. Or electricity. And they travelled by boat and horseback (only one of which, come to think if it, seems conducive to writing).  In a strange sense, technology seems to have made us less productive.

In analyzing this perceived waste of my free time, I’m realizing that my frustration is not how with little I receive, but whether my pursuits during that time are worthy of having it in the first place. Some days this is what drives me; other days it’s what drives me nuts. Then it dawned on me. . .

It’s ALL free.

Time is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Not a second of our lives is promised or deserved, let alone the hours, days, weeks and years we seem to accumulate so effortlessly. Some of us operate so far into the future we fail to see the minutes sitting right in our laps today.

timeI want every minute to count.

The first words I utter each morning—well, after “Are you kidding me? I just got to sleep!” and after whatever I mumble to my husband, which can vary depending on how long ago “just” was—so let’s say the first coherent comment I make each day is “Heavenly Father, thank you for one more day on this earth.”

Lately I’ve started balancing that thought by asking at the end of my day, “God, did I use it prudently?” He wisely doesn’t answer. Or perhaps I close my ears because I really don’t want to hear. Either way, I know the answer.

Time isn’t my nemesis. I am.


Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.—Ephesians 5:15-16

Deadlines & Rocket Surgery: Lessons Learned from a Lil’ Ball O’ Hate

16 Jun

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” — Douglas Adams

So, the big Caged Sparrow debut date came and went, and I’m still staring at a not-quite finished project. I tried so hard to make the promised deadline, but life had other plans. Good plans, mind you…purposeful and fruitful disruptions, but disruptions nonetheless.

I am reminded of something Carrie, my former boss and now great friend, used to say whenever someone would complain that we’d missed an arbitrary deadline because of changing priorities. Usually some self-appointed informant would storm into her office all purple and blustery and announce, “That document! It’s LATE!”

As if we didn’t know.

Carrie would calmly look him in the eyes and ask, “Late for what?”

Best boss ever.

Lil' Ball O' Hate

Tony-the-illustrator’s rendition of Ms Carrie in Mother Hen mode

Carrie has more common sense than anyone I know. She’s a tiny thing, who can tie a belt around an NFL jersey and still look ready for a Vogue cover shoot (not an exaggeration—I’ve seen her do it), yet she packs a lot of spitfire in that little frame, particularly if someone tries to strong-arm one of her Quality and Dissemination chicks. You’ve never seen a more effective mother hen. (Heheh,that’s why we lovingly nicknamed her Lil’ Ball O’ Hate.)

I loved working for Carrie for many reasons; she’s not only wise, but also funny, brilliant, calm in the face of (our) perceived calamity, and she can do some amazing things with chicken and a can of Cheez Whiz. Working with Carrie taught me to focus on the larger picture—what’s really important here? That may be why so many of her words of wisdom are echoing around my brain this week.

Carrie is full of…wisdom. (Missed opportunity, Q&D Gang, I know.) My favorite Carrie-ism, although least relevant to this post is, “It’s not rocket surgery, you know.” Logically, I should have omitted that for the sake of flow here, but I couldn’t NOT share. So there you go.

Carrie also taught me that one of the most important steps in a project is the final “quality control” check. I was so tempted to skip this step in Joe’s book, because I was THAT close to making the deadline, and I’d told so many people it would be ready. I didn’t want the book to be late.

Then I heard, “Late for what?”

…and I realized I’m only shooting for June 15th because I set a June 15th deadline.

Yes, I could actually hit the “go live” button right now if I really wanted to. All the parts are there. Joe has given his final thumbs up; Tony, the illustrator, has patiently tweaked the cover so often the words, “just one more time, I swear” no longer carry meaning (but it’s exactly the right cover now!); and I’ve received excellent feedback from my beta readers, Mary, Becky, and Michele, who noticed a few missing words, some awkward phrasing, and one extremely improbable juxtaposition in the space-time continuum.

Which brings me to another Carrie-ism. Having people find mistakes in my writing doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, particularly mistakes found before final print. I think of the beta readers as angels who, knowing what a klutz I am, walk ahead of me clearing tree branches and stones from path so I don’t fall on my face. At the office, on the rare occasion when a typo did slip through the cracks and make it to print, we could count on some arrogant know-it-all to toss a copy of the manuscript on her desk, offending typo circled thirty times in thick black marker.

“Sure, I see it,” she’d say, and then grin. “But did ya happen to notice the seven thousand words here that we got right?”

So, yes, I could have rushed through the last few steps and uploaded the final version, but as my hand hovered over that button, I thought of Carrie again.

I remembered her more than once staring down a petulant customer, usually someone who thought an editor can zip through a 75-page passive-voice nightmare between the two-hour staff meeting and the mandatory pot luck luncheon and have enough time left over to design a cover for it. After all, editing is just reading, right?

“Look, Bud,” Carrie would say, “you can have it right or you can have it right now, but not both.”

Page One edits

One day when I’m famous, I’ll tell the story of how I rewrote the first page of Caged Sparrow a gazillion times and it will be funny, somehow.

So I’m not going to rush this. I’m going to finish these last changes unhurried, and then get one more proof copy so I can see for myself that the cover looks exactly the same in hand as it does on the screen, and THEN, I’ll hit the button.

New arbitrary deadline: 27 June.

Carrie would be proud of me, I think. If she’s still talking to me, that is…

You see, Carrie is such a great boss, she once left a card on my desk that posed the question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

…at which time I decided to quit my editing job.

So, essentially, this book is pretty much her fault

Best boss ever.


The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. – Psalm 145:15

My Ship Will Float, as Long as I’m Listing

4 May

I have a love/resent relationship with lists. I love them because they keep me on track—help me prioritize. Without lists I’d fall completely apart, and I’d have to change my standard salutation to “I’m so sorry…”

The resent side I’ll explain later.

Scattered through my home are myriad notebook pages, index cards, junk mail envelopes, and napkins, all bescrawled (sure, it’s a word) with reminders. I carry some from room to room as I work; others are actually filed. Filing is on my Saturday list.

Of all my memos, the most important is my daily “Priorities” list. I start this at the beginning of every week, optimistically attaching a huge “Monday” label to the top, which I then replace with a smaller “Tuesday,” and an apologetic-looking “Wednesday” as the week progresses. By Thursday, I usually have to start over because I’ve added and crossed off too much to make sense of it any more. I’ve never crossed off everything on the list. Well, I could, technically, so let’s say instead that I’ve never actually completed every task on a list.

Aside from my daily list, I keep lists of tasks other family members have to accomplish…particularly my teenager, whose most common query response is, “Sorry, I forgot.” This paper is usually left on the kitchen table so it can be easily spotted by said teenager. Somehow though, it often disappears.

Then there’s the “Some Day” list, which consists of all my promises to myself and others that I truly intend to get to, but…well, you know. This list survives on the premise that one day I’ll get to the end of my daily list and wonder what I should do next. Research phone plans? Make an eye appointment to see whether I need glasses? Visit that web page someone told me about? Spray the couch with fabric guard before it’s—what? That thing is five years old? Well then, I can cross that off the list. The good thing about the Some Day list is it kinda self-regulates that way.

I keep my Prayer List in a prominent place on a neon yellow card. Those of you with ADD know that a neon yellow card will not be ignored. I try to look at a different name each time the card catches my eye. Most days, I get through the entire list. If you’ve asked me to pray for you, know that I’m praying for you.

My “books I want to read” list gets longer every day. I rarely update this because I like remembering those I did read, and I jot notes beside them: Unbroken—highly recommend! Brave New World—good read but disturbing; Sweet Potato Queen’s Book of Love—not for me, thank you. (Which reminds me to ask you: I’m always looking for humorous books, and I’m SO often disappointed because humor requires more than a funny title…what hilarious books have you read lately?)

And yes, of course I have a bucket list. At the top is my hope to go a week without my lists. Just below that is the experience of seeing my book on a store shelf—and not because I put it there…

I also have lists of blog ideas, short-story ideas, potential publishers and magazines I’d like to check out, birthdays (a list I always seem to look at after someone’s birthday), quotes that touched me, and dogs I’d consider adopting when I one day move to a house with a huge back yard…I don’t think you should tell my husband I’m keeping that list.

So, what’s the down side of keeping lists? For one thing, I become dependent on a piece of paper I cannot always find. For another, it’s difficult to bend when a new item wants to not only work its way onto the list, but be seated at the top. And finally, some days I wonder whether I’m using the lists or they’re using me.

This past week was particularly busy, with my husband leaving for a trip that required some administrative and logistical assistance; a neighbor who left town and asked me to feed and walk her dog; a teen staring at SOL tests for which he’s woefully unprepared; doctor’s appointments; funky car noises that must be addressed; oh, and I work.

Interestingly, to me anyway, I felt peace as I worked through the lists. I was busy, and tired at the end of each day, but at peace. It was, dare I say, a fun challenge.

List of tasks

Sometimes you just have to walk away from the list…

With obsessive focus and a lot of prayer, I made it until Thursday before my ship started listing (see what I did there?). Then a sweet friend reminded me about something that should have been on my list but wasn’t, which needed to be done that day. As she was talking to me, I remembered I hadn’t picked up my son’s completed physical form from the base clinic, and that they’d said they would hold it only 10 days. I tried to focus on her words as my brain tried to calculate whether this was day 9 or 10. ADD will not let go at times like this. Nor will that voice that tells me I’ll never get it right. I went to my car and allowed myself a brief sob.

My sobs turned to prayer, as they often do, and I prayed for the peace I’d felt at the beginning of the week. Immediately I thought of my friend and former boss, Carrie. One reason I love her is because whenever someone pointed out a mistake her editors might have made, she’d respond with, “and how many words did they get right?”

She gets it. Instead of focusing on the …wait while I add ‘em up…FORTY-SEVEN tasks, responsibilities, and promises I made good on, I let myself melt into a woe-is-me puddle of self-proclaimed inadequacy over two I’d forgotten. In reality, I’m doing pretty darned well, thank you very much.

Long story short, it was day 9, and I did get the task accomplished, but not before accepting that none of us will ever get everything done. When I shed this temple and start on my Kick the Bucket list, I will leave behind many uncompleted tasks. As long as everything I do here, I do for the King, I’m doing just fine.

Ha. The devil thought he had my number…but it’s unlisted.


“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” 

–Colossians 3:24


May’s Christmas Year-round Suggestion

Invite a neighbor or two to your home for an evening, particularly some you don’t know. An evening can be so much more relaxing when it’s not one of many seasonal engagements. I recommend you nix the eggnog, however.

Time Management for Cheater Moms

2 Sep

With all deference to published authors, to whom writing milestones are no big deal, I must make an announcement:

I’ve finished the first chapter of Joe’s book!

Oh, please, please tell me it will always feel like this. For me, this is big. Baby’s first step big. Underdog team makes State Finals big. Lost ten pounds on a bread and chocolate diet big.

I know what you’re thinking. Wow, just a few weeks ago she was complaining about taking on Hebrew classes and now this, and only a month behind schedule! She’s a working mom with a clean house and folded laundry, AND she writes a weekly blog! However does she do it all?

Well, from my lofty perch atop this Mile Marker One sign, I do, indeed, feel qualified to tell you my time management secrets. But first, you must glance furtively from side-to-side, shoo all family and friends from the room, and pinky swear that this will stay between us.



So, here goes…

I cheat.

Sorry, Chika, that’s all I’ve got.

But hey, if it were possible to do it all, we’d take on even more, right? So be glad there’s no way to win. However, if you want some cheater tips, I’ve got the inside scoop. The following are five tips on what I call Faking Your Way to Finished. Feel free to pilfer as needed.

Faking Your Way to Finished

Dirty Subaru

The Perfect Car!

1. Shop to mop. You’ve got to be willing to jettison the high fashion. Gray is a perfectly acceptable, all-purpose color. Find the right shade, and you can quickly wipe down a bookcase or table on your way out of a room, leaving it looking freshly dusted! Walk close to the walls. I sometimes wear my duster inside out until I get to the front door, giving it a quick snap to remove the big fluffy parts as I flip it around. Most days you can hardly tell. Additionally, there are many cleaning products you can spray on your socks that won’t harm your skin. Dance like there’s no money for a maid.

2. Multitask. By this, I mean, eat while you drive. I have enough syrup on my steering wheel to hold up to seven Hebrew flash cards in place so I can study vocabulary on my way to work. Oh, and in case it’s not obvious, I drive a Subaru because washing it is a chastise-able offense.

3. Treat numbers like the mythological creatures they were meant to be. Establish early on in your relationships with everyone that you are not a math person. When someone points out that it’s been eight days since you posted on your weekly blog, hold up 12 fingers, shrug coyly, and say, “Yep! Almost time, isn’t it?”

4. Define your boundaries and resist temptation to cross them. Ensure every family member understands that socks and underwear are not laundry. Ergo, they do not get folded. As soon as a child is tall enough to reach the laundry basket, he can fish out his own socks. Store the basket on the floor.

5. Embrace the eccentric, particularly if it saves you a trip to the store. Cereal is the new dinner. Red stripes and green plaid create contrasting but amicable artistic statements. And, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring mushroom soup to a potluck lunch, assuming you also bring a can opener—no need to be cruel. Although I’ve yet to convince my teenager that ice has nutritional value, we do keep plenty of peanut butter and canned cheese on hand as filler when there’s need for creativity. I’ve been known to produce some amazing peanut-cheesy goodness with a base dish of nothing more than old raisins and a stick of margarine—oh, and a coupon for Papa John’s.

6. When you get to the end of the day, tie a knot, and move on. If I’ve learned anything from NASCAR it’s that there’s always room at the end of the longest line. Tomorrow is another day. In a future blog, we will discuss five ways to convince your brain of this at 2 in the morning.

So those are my secrets. I hope they help. And yes, I realize there are six items here. I refer you back to item number three for a refresher.