Thursday, February 7, 2019


BUSINESS: 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 Catriona

Just my luck to follow Cathy Ace, one of the most organised, effective women I have ever met! But then, when I started thinking it over, I decided I'm pretty organised too. At work. (In life, in this house and on the twenty acres outside, the truth is we haven't got enough money to make up for the lack of time and certainly don't have enough time to make up for the lack of money. So, eight years after we moved in, it's still mostly potential. Ehh. At least we haven't made any expensive mistakes, right?)

Time is one of the two main resources for a writer. The other, as I see it, is imagination. Imaginative energy, to sound high-faluting. Brain-space, to not. And while it's a balancing act to find the sweet spot between spending time and spending money to save time, when it comes to saving brain-space, I'm all in. There's no downside, no two-way pull.

Basically, I free up my brain by never having to remember anything.

I've got a BIG LIST on a whiteboard in my office, where I write the things I've got to do that will take more than a day. 

So, currently, I need to: set up a newsletter (like I promised Dana Kay I would in September, so I need to crack Mailchimp (time), or get a virtual assistant (money) to do it for me); finish organising a little book tour on the road to Left Coast Crime; prepare to honour Cathy Ace in writing and fan-girl live questions; and . . . oh yes . . . write two books. That'll keep me going till Malice

I back up the BIG LIST with piles of stuff I need to do the items on it. They're there on a table in my study where I'll see them every day.

As well as the BIG LIST and attendant piles, my email inbox functions as a list of small things to do. I leave everything I haven't done yet in there and read it through once a day. (I've also got about eighty labelled email files to put stuff in I might need to look at but don't need to do anything about until someone else gets back to me.) This saves masses of time and saves the money I would spend sending apology bouquets every time I forgot to do something.

So, at 5.58 pm on Wednesday (having cleared the inbox for the day), I've got notes reminding me to: pull together a group blog of the Lefty nominees; get my eyebrows dyed; book a flight to the California Crimewriters Conference; print out my UK Public Lending Right statement and file it under "income" in my physical filing cabinet (Hmmm - should I mention the physical filing cabinet?); text Kris Calvin about going to the pictures tomorrow; write something for Fresh Fiction for the launch of Scot & Soda; phone the Minotaur publicist for a post-mortem on the campaign for Go To My Grave.  

There is one bit of work I've just flung money at and I don't regret it. The reason Mailchimp is giving me hives, I think, is that I'm spoiled by Bizango. Truly, having an easy-to-manage website is a huge time-saver and a simple daily (or at least weekly) source of joy, after years of tearing my hair out trying to get a website manager to keep on top of my events page. I paid $1500 to set it up and $40 a month for maintenance. For that I get an idiot-proof site I can update myself, without tears.

At the other extreme of tech-wizardry, I couldn't manage without pizza money-off fliers. Harry Potter quiz-night notices work too. It's not the pizzas or the wizards; it's the blank reverse sides. I like to have coloured paper to put important lists on (side-lists, that aren't the BIG LIST or the small list). That way the sheets don't get lost amongst the inevitable tidal waves of white paper that wash over my study while I'm doing proofs.

And that's just about it. No apps, no gurus, no bullet journals. But I do have one hot tip. Here's my February diary.

By saying no to everything I got asked to do this month, apart from two things I agreed to before Christmas, I'm sure of getting draft 1 of 2020's standalone finished by the 1st of March, at two thousand words a day, seven days a week. Then I'll take the weekend off, do a benefit for Sacramento Library Foundation and start in on Dandy Gilver No. 14 on the Monday morning. 


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Good advice, Catriona: Say no to everything.

Ann said...

Catriona, you are amazing. I've wondered how you manage such a high output. At 2000 words per day, seven days per week, I see now how it can happen.

As your Favorite Stalker, you know how much I love everything you've ever written, including the daily/monthly/yearly lists on white board. I'm a list maker too, although my lists consist more of things like get up, brush teeth, pat dogs, rest, rinse, repeat.


catriona said...

My links are showing up or not showing up as they please. So it's worth hovering over things to see.

Terry said...

Reading this made me so tired I go lie down.

Kathy Reel said...

You have my head spinning from all that you do, Catriona. I can now understand why you wanted to add a new series to your schedule last year. Hahaha! Of course, I am grateful for all the writing you do because it means I get to do great reading. I love capable people!