When Timing Is Everything

A look at the to-do list for the next few months is daunting–a new course outline to write–and then the workbook,  a wedding to prepare for, (I’m just the celebrant), creating the DVD for the new book, classes to teach, the garage sale (this coming Saturday!) and CHA (Craft and Hobby Association) where I’ll be demoing for Yasutomo and doing a book signing for North Light.

This does not feel good, productive or balanced. This feels like head rolling on floor.

This does not feel good, productive or balanced. This feels like head rolling on floor.

It’s a lot, but it’s fun to be engaged and busy. It’s not fun to feel frantic and overwhelmed, and the line between the two is very thin. It’s easy to get wrapped around your own axle. The trouble with getting wrapped around your axle is that it jams forward motion.

To-do lists are great, but this pile of work requires more than a to-do list. This weekend, I wanted to work on the samples for the DVD. But the filming is in March, and this coming Saturday I have the garage sale, and there is a lot still to be done. The outline is due early this week. So what to do?

listUsing a mind map is a handy tool. First I created one index card for an overview of what had to be done, with main steps for each job. Next came an index card for each job, breaking the big tasks into smaller steps. Approximate completion dates went next to each step.

Then the list was re-ordered into one list, ordered by due dates. That allows me to see a time allocation for the different pieces. For example, I wanted to create samples for the DVD today, but with the garage sale this  coming weekend (and I’m teaching three days this week), it made more sense to do the last bit of sorting items and shredding old files today, so the pricing can begin tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also the day for making the list of what should be included in the new class, so I’ll know what research will have to be done. That puts CHA (in mid-January) and the DVD filming (in March) on back burners for this week, with administrative work for the wedding and practicing the class I’m teaching for another instructor into later in this week.

Creating a to-do list with dates and steps is calming. Instead of feeling frantic and overwhelmed, I’m staying in action that separates urgent from important. Too much urgent and you start to feel frantic. Too much important, and the urgent overwhelms you.

Creating this balance isn’t easy, and there is a lot of adjusting as I go through the week, but the important part is not to feel overwhelmed. Once that starts, nothing gets done except laundry (my go-to job for procrastination), and my nerves get worn out.

Owning your own business is always a balancing act. Not enough work and you feel more frantic than if you have a lot of work. As I like to eat and keep a roof over my head, a busy December looks like a good thing.

—Quinn McDonald is planning new furniture for her studio to create the illusion of organization.