Friday, February 8, 2019


How best do you manage your time and resources? What tools are helping you manage life while you complete your next work? Websites? Apps? Tricks of the trade?

by Paul D. Marks

One way to manage time.
Not as well as I used to in answer to the first question.

I used to be very disciplined. Self-starter. Fire in the belly. And I still am to some extent, just not as much as I used to be. So, the question is why. Lots of reasons, of course. I have a dog that’s getting older and I want to spend more time with her. I have some personal issues I’m dealing with and they can be distracting. Life.

There’s really no web site or app that helps me manage my time. I have to do that myself. In fact, if I go to a website I’ll probably be wasting time, even though I might enjoy the content.

So, here’s some things I do, or try to do, to manage my time and resources – the old-fashioned way:

Prioritize – The first thing is to figure out what’s important. What are you working on and if more than one thing, which is the one that needs immediate attention, like if you have a deadline looming. On top of that, there’s day to day things that need attention so where do they fit in? Make a list. Put off till tomorrow what can be put off. Break bigger projects into smaller units. Some say do the most important tasks first, sometimes I do, but sometimes I blow off the easy ones first. Part of the reason is because they are easy. But part of it is because it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and that gives me motivation to tackle the bigger projects. The key is not to spend all your time on the small things.

See the trees, or a single tree, not the forest – If you look at the big picture, the forest, you’ll stop dead in your tracks. So break things down into smaller tasks. Plan to write a chapter or part of one, not the whole book in one sitting, not that anyone could really do that...

Computers can be helpful.
Set Goals – I’m very goal-oriented. It’s how I’ve achieved various things in my life from an early age. Even when I’m reading a book I look ahead to see where the chapter ends, I’m racing for that goal post. Still enjoying the journey but also racing for that goal. And I always know where I am in a book. A third through, half, whatever. Also running for that goal. Same when I’m writing. I’m very conscious of where I am in a story. I write in the three act structure most of the time and I’m very aware of what part of that I’m in. But you also need set goals outside of specific projects. What is it you want to accomplish? How to plan to get there? If you want to run a triathlon you have to train. If you want to write a story or a novel you have to prioritize and set goals – then sit down to do the hard work.

Be organa-zized.
Be Organized – Or as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver might say be “organa-zized”. Make lists. Prioritize the items on those lists. Make things easy to find, whether physical objects like a pen or cyber objects like files on your computer. Early on my files were all over the place. But a few years ago I organized things into folders that made more sense. A novel folder. A novel correspondence folder. Story folders and subfolders of those for works in progress, finished but unpublished stories. Finished but published. Unfinished. The key here is to keep things up to date and move them when their status changes. Like the old saying says, a place for everything and everything in its place. Easier said than done sometimes, but worth making the effort.

Eliminate Distractions – I’m not as good at this as I used to be for a variety of reasons. But still, focus your energies. Focus on the tasks at hand. Try to avoid checking your phone, your e-mail, Facebook, etc. I’m not very good at this. I like to check in. But I work at home. We live in a semi-rural area. So I look at these things as my “watercooler.” Amy, my wife, or others who work in an office can gather round the proverbial watercooler and shoot the breeze, while taking a mini break from their work. These things, social media and e-mail, are my mini-breaks. My watercooler talk. That said, there comes a time when you have to turn them off and hit the work.

A nice uncluttered office.
Environment – Have a place to work that’s conducive to working. I like my home office. I have a nice view. I have album covers on one wall and lobby cards on another of various movies that I like. And, though my office is a bit cluttered, I can mentally tune that out. Some people like to work in a coffee shop or at the beach, but I like everything at hand and if I work in those places I don’t have all that, plus I get too distracted and want to socialize.

Just Say No – Take a page from the Nancy Reagan playbook and just say no. Sometimes you have to turn down social engagements. Sometimes you have to turn down doing things for others. I get asked to blurb a lot and that’s a lot of reading and consequently a lot of time. I try to help as many people as I can, but sometimes it’s just bad timing and I have to say no. I feel bad but it has to be done.

Delegate – I’m very lucky in that Amy, takes a lot of the burden off of me so I can have the time to write. And I am a full-time writer so you’d think I’d have endless hours of time to do that. But it’s amazing how your day gets “nickel and dimed” away from you with little chores here and there.

Don’t Fritter – I know when I was younger and starting out I would often turn friends down to go to the movies or whatever. And I know some of them resented it and those friendships disintegrated over time. But, while it’s important to engage socially, don’t fritter your time. I could play all the time, but you have to be disciplined and sit down and get the work done. Lately, I’ve been having trouble focusing because of the issues I allude to above. But I’m figuring that’s a temporary state of affairs. Mostly I’ve been very disciplined and hope I will be again soon.

Here’s the real tip, the trick of the trade: just sit down and do it. Turn off the apps, don’t go to websites…except mine, of course. And work your butt off. As Hemingway said, just open a vein and bleed. That’s all there is to it.


And now for the usual BSP:

Colman Keane interviewed me for his blog, Col's Criminal Library. Check it out:

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Jacqueline Seewald said...


Excellent advice for everyone!

Susan C Shea said...

Yes: prioritize. Hard to do at times. Being under a publisher's deadlines helps me. Paul, are "lobby cards" from movie house lobbies - posters of the movies they're showing?

Good post!

Jackie Houchin said...

Good post, Paul - wish I could follow your example. I do 5 out of the 8 suggestions/points. I can't seem to delegate (Do I think that only "I" can do it?). I do fritter away a lot of time (Sigh, it's fun to fritter... and to eat them too!). And I let multiple distractions interrupt the "Goal" I have for the day. End result? I only get about 5/8 of my planned work done.

Thanks for the shake up!

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Jacqueline!

Paul D. Marks said...

Definitely hard to do sometimes, Susan. Deadlines do help. I used to be very organized and disciplined. But because of certain circumstances I’m less so these days. But trying to get back on track.

Lobby cards are the smaller “posters,” for lack of a better word that would be in theatre lobbies. They’d usually come in sets of 8 or so, give or take. They measure around 11X14, give or take. They’re smaller than posters or one-sheets. I'll send you a private message.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Jackie. Frittering is definitely fun, especially on the computer where there’s so much to explore. But I think if you’re getting 5/8 of your goals done you’re doing pretty good. That’s a better batting average than good hitters.

GBPool said...

That's a great list, Paul. I do some of those things like set a goal... singular. That would be to put out a book a year. Sometimes I put out two, but they are usually very different types. It's easier to stop writing on one and move to the other for a while. They don't get confused. But usually I write them one after the other. And I do clean up my office a few times a year. That makes me feel like I'm serious about this stuff. And I find things or at least look at some of those notes I stuffed in a folder. A few times I used that shred of an idea and turned it into a story. That's why I like the folder idea you mentioned. They keep me organized. Happy Spring cleaning.... if we ever get over this winter.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comments, Gayle. And I'm better about this stuff in theory than in practice, especially these days. Sounds like you're on a good road though. And if you're getting out one to two books a year, that sounds good to me!

Kavita Pheerangee said...
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