Thursday, June 3, 2010

First Deadline

I'm taking a break from science today in the hopes that others can learn from my mistakes. This past Sunday, I finished and turned in my second book. It was the first book I'd ever done on deadline. No. A real deadline - as in - someone waiting and counting on you deadline. I was two weeks late. Not the impression I'd wanted to make. How to fix this so it never happens again: the two words no artist ever wants to hear, but which, if said artist aspires to becoming a business person, must be said - Project Management.

1. Establish a post mortem habit. After every single project, assess what went well and identify what did not work. Include in that list everything that held you up, randomized your time and attention, and that dropped roadblocks in your path. Put everything down - making breakfast, doing the laundry, having to fix the flat on the aren't evaluating yet. You're listing. After you've listed, you'll evaluate. You will pick the things on that list of distractions that you're willing to allow to go on distracting you. May I suggest that you automatically allow spouses, children and pets to go on being distractions (within reason)? I understand divorce court really chews up available writing time and resources.
2. Identify areas for improvement and change. From your list, do you notice that you allowed email to randomize you? Or Facebook, Twitter, your blog, IM, etc? Give yourself x number of minutes per day to do those things, then stop and work. If you finish your day's goal, you can go play on your time-killer of choice. Not until then. Set aside one day per week for errands. Stick to it. Teach your family to clean up after themselves so that when you do vacuum, it lasts longer than three minutes. Ultimately, this second step boils down to learning to manage yourself and to…
3. Manage expectations. This was my biggest failure. I did not manage my family's expectations. I'd already written and sold a book and done it all while taking care of them...why should this second book have been any different? Because I had half the time in which to produce that book. I had no idea what that meant. Neither did my family. Now we do. I will actively manage their expectations of how many 'can you get, do, make, be, pretend...' things I can do in one week while still making deadline.

Sure. I'd built deadlines for myself before. They had no teeth. If you want to test yourself and your project management skill, give yourself six months. Build a 90k word book from idea to finished - not polished - just finished and edited and rewritten so it isn't 100% rough draft. And then remind yourself that this is the job you aspire to. Some days, that will be cause for deep despair. But then come the days when it's utterly exhilarating.

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