AUTHOR TIME MANAGEMENT

Jeanne Burrows-Johnson

Successful Time Management with a Simple Matrix!

As I wrote the blog that will first appear on Hometown Reads beginning on November 5, 2019, I realized the irregularity with which I’ve been writing for this site. Setting aside the publication of Murders of Conveyance, the third Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery and two bouts of flu, scheduling my time has been a major challenge to my productivity this year…Thus,  time management has been on my mind.

SUCCESSFUL SCHEDULING
Every professional finds challenges in maximizing productivity. Often the problem exists in both personal and professional living. That has certainly been true for me. The Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery series is growing, and I maintain two websites, this blog, and two Facebook pages. These ongoing projects are my excuse for untimely scheduling this year. It has seemed that there are several deadlines I have faced each day and while I’m putting out those fires, I’ve failed to follow a simple time management matrix.

STEPHEN R. COVEY & DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

One of the most important philosophers in my life has been author and business consultant Stephen Covey [1932-2012].  He was a dynamic man who based his secular advice on his personal faith in the precepts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His doctoral dissertation was based on analysis of self-help books which he would add to later for the benefit of people of many professions and philosophies. For many of his readers, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was his most impactful book, which helps to move one from dependence to independence to interdependence. I found the most memorable advice he presented was the Eisenhower Matrix, a decision-making tool for prioritizing one’s activity, which he attributed to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. [Note, the President credited the concept to an unnamed college president.]

EXAMINING YOUR INBOX
Consider the following classifications for the items in your existing calendar and inbox:

 A. URGENT, IMPORTANT                   B. NOT URGENT, IMPORTANT
 C. URGENT, NOT IMPORTANT         D. NOT URGENT OR IMPORTANT

Obviously that which is Urgent and Important must be addressed first. This could be the biographical paragraph your publisher has requested for your latest book or a cover letter that you will package with gift copies. Conversely, items that are not Urgent or Important [Quadrant D] should be examined for worthiness; do they even merit being on your schedule? If they are indeed things worth keeping, can you handle them in a more effective way?

For instance, maintaining good relations with colleagues and service suppliers can be vital to your success. But rather than having frequent personal meetings, consider scheduling occasional festive events that include several of these people…or if they are not in close proximity to you, consider meaningful gifting at unexpected times. For instance, rather than sending cards and gifts for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, consider Thanksgiving, New Year, or even an unexpected surprise at Asian Lunar New Year. As to gifts, consider whether there is something distinctive about your work that would be appropriate. In both fiction and non-fiction, the focus of most of my writing is Hawai`i, so an obvious gift for me to share is Hawaiian macadamia nut candy.

Once you’ve dealt with Quadrant A’s Urgent and Important items and the elimination or redirection of the Non-urgent and Unimportant things lingering in Quadrant D, look at the Non-urgent but Important listings in Quadrant C. You have declared them to be urgent; but, they are not important in the abstract. This area of concern includes spur-of-the-moment issues that arise, as well as administrative paperwork and organization.

For me, activity in this area usually focuses on filing—especially the growing number of my biographies. These are written in both first and third person, ranging from two sentences to a couple of pages. Generic ones have a conversational tone and discuss my life in general. Others focus on my fiction [especially the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries]. Academic ones present non-fiction projects like Conversations with Auntie Carol, A Series of Hawaiian Oral History Interviews. Organized by word count, I can quickly determine bios that meet the requirements of an unexpected request. Usually, I then copy/paste contenders into a new document and create a new bio or two that can be folded into the master file.

We have now arrived at the all-important consideration of items within our Quadrant B. Why take it out of order? As Stephen Covey would say, this area of concern should be the essential focus of our attention in setting our daily, weekly, monthly, and overall life schedule. If we constantly work on the non-Urgent but Important areas of our professional and personal life, we will find there are less deadlines to be faced…and eventually experience balanced living. Of course, that does not mean that unexpected emergencies will not occur to encroach on our time periodically.

In preparing for expansion of my career as an author, I’ve faced many issues this year. They have included: redesigning my two websites, learning to insert art and audio files into this blog, creating a professional Facebook page, and completing both Yen for Murder (the fourth NS mystery) and writing an annotated introduction to the Auntie C project [including 74 endnotes]. The overlapping of these projects has been daunting at times, BUT the time spent on future editing should be manageable!

ALIGNING YOUR CALENDAR
Let’s complete our time management exercise by re-examining the contents of our daily, weekly, and monthly calendars from this new perspective. You may have pre-set appointments like children’s schooling and other activities, your own working hours, wellness appointments, etc. Even the scheduling of these could be altered or made flexible.

Are there other parents with whom you might share transportation? Would your employer consider changes in your schedule like a reduction or shift to earlier/later hours, or even remote work from your home? Can you shift medical, dental and therapy/exercise appointments to days of the week or month to harmoniously fill out set blocks of time? Within those preset appointments, you could double your productivity as I do in performing a bit of library research prior to meetings of my authors salon.

How might you delegate some of the work you now undertake personally? Should you hire an accountant for bookkeeping and tax filing? If this is not an option, consider software that can optimize the hours you do invest in this activity. I am fortunate that many obligations I once undertook have passed to my husband who is retired. He now handles shopping, bill paying, and even the preparation of most dinners, allowing me to pursue completion of inspiration in my work.

Like my protagonist, Natalie Seachrist, I am an avid devotee of list making. When I look at items falling within Quadrant B, I have found that several lend themselves to specific times of the year, when other required and/or predictable activity lessens. That usually means there are gaps in my schedule during the winter holiday season and summer, when many people I work with professionally are on vacation. These are the times that I clean out hardcopy folders, sort through old research, rearrange and re-label files. Well, this summer has passed without any of those tasks being addressed…so, I guess you know how my holidays will be spent!

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, consultant, and motivational speaker

To learn more about the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards] and other projects, please drop in at my author’s website JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com. You’ll even find Island Recipes that might inspire your culinary creativity.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

Follow Me:
Amazon, Arizona Authors Association, Apple Books
Audible, Authors Den, Barnes and Noble, Blogarama, Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited, Facebook, Good Reads, Hometown Reads

Book sellers may contact book distributors such as:
Baker & Taylor, Follett, IPG, Ingram, Mackin, Midpoint, TitleWave

THE AUTHOR RECYCLES

Is your pen always at the ready?
NEW CREATIONS FROM PAST WORK

Is your pen at the ready at all times? In past blogs I’ve talked about examining your previous work as a writer.  Not only does this allow you to measure your progress, it also provides a pool of sources for new directions in content and style.  I am a member of the National Writers Union and the local chapter recently asked me to be their featured speaker at a monthly meetingOften, their speakers read from current projects, but since I’d help to fill in the previous month with a reading of both the Prologue and Epilogue from PROSPECT FOR MURDER [the debut title of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries], I decided to give a talk on how I’ve recycled parts of past projects.  While there’s nothing novel in this concept, I thought that in detailing how I’d used pieces I’d created during my years in Arizona, I might stimulate my listeners to consider the ways in which they might draw upon works in their own files…

Wordsmiths Don’t Fall into a Single Demographic Description
When you look around any gathering of writers, you’ll find that we’re: Young and old; formally educated and barely literate in the grammatical sense; gifted melodious speakers and hoarsely halting readers; technical prodigies and flawed yet persuasive explorers of every topic imaginable.  The breadth and depth of our compositions are as varied as we are.  And usually, if we’re old enough, such variety will be found spread throughout our individual bodies of work.  

In projects of both fiction and non-fiction, I draw on a background in business, education, and the performing arts.   As might be expected, there is no consistent pattern to my output—except for the decades of public relations, marketing, and design consultation I’ve performed for executives and their profit and non-profit entities. 

Forms from the Past…
In preparing for my talk, I looked over previous work I had drawn upon for recent print, audio, and Internet projects.  Not all were inspirational gems of form, content, or style, but each item I had chosen to re-purpose fulfilled a specific need.  With every new project, I contemplate how the assignment fits within the scope of my professional history.  Not only do I look for concepts, data, and text that may yield something I can reuse, but also the bits and pieces that should be moved to the recycle bin.

…Reshaping for Today and Beyond
This year’s springtime file pruning produced some of everything.  I found business cards, ads, and brochures that could be used for marketing workshops. As I continued my file and closet clearing, I eyed posters and signage that could be augmented with a large artistic label for some future event.  I quickly dismissed them as ineffective for a speech delivered from a podium.  There was, however, one item I could share:  a copy of Stephen Covey’s famous matrix of time and productivity management The gist of this true jewel of philosophy is that if we focus on aspects of both our personal and professional lives that are important but not critical, we’ll be better prepared for challenges that may arise.

After a brief introduction of this principle to open my talk, I noted how elements of past writing had been folded into my writer’s blog [for samples, please visit https://www.Blog.ImaginingsWordpower.com].  From project inspiration to background research, through the phases of writing and editing, production, and marketing, I discussed how I select issues that may be of interest to other authors and artists.  In addition to mentioning a few of those blog topics, I provided examples of material I’d chosen to use in recent book projects.

~  When I joined with five other authors to publish UNDER SONORAN SKIES, Prose and Poetry from the High Desert,  I contributed both fiction and non-fiction.  With new and as well as re-shaped pieces, we all expanded our repertoire.  Knowing that publication of  Prospect For Murder was approaching, I included its prologue.   I also featured historical articles such asThe Holidays in Tucson, 1878,” which I read at the NWU meeting.   

~  In  Murder on Mokulua Drive [the second book of the mystery series], I’ve drawn on notes from my studies in history, plus a series of oral history interviews I conducted many years earlier.  This has allowed me to mention the first woman registered to vote in the Territory of Hawai`i in 1920, and to place a major scene in the historic and ecologically significant site of Kawai Nui Marsh.  

~  The compilation of the oral history interviews, Conversations with Caroline Kuliaikanu`ukapu Wilcox DeLima Farias has indeed proven to be an invaluable resource.  Carol was a dear friend seeking to preserve her family’s history, library and other artifacts.   Descended from Hawaiian nobility, her recollections of life in upcountry Maui in the early twentieth century and dancing hula in Waikīkī on December 6th, 1941, delight both readers and listeners.  In reshaping the layout for a book of the seven interviews and an audio edition comprised of the original recordings, I described how this resurrected project is benefiting from the comprehensive glossaries I’ve constructed for the Hawaiian and other non-English vocabulary included in the Hawaiian mysteries. 

~  Finally, I referred to the fourth mystery, A Yen For Murder, for which I examined promo materials I wrote for Highland Games and the Hilo International Festival on the island of Hawai`i during the 1970s.  This led to having Natalie reminisce about hearing a remarkable young woman play the Japanese koto at the Festival…and decades later having that woman, then a Buddhist priestess, become the victim.

In the future, I anticipate giving talks on the authorship process, for which many of these examples will be useful.  Of course, there will also be samples of flawed book covers, changing email addresses, and evolving reviews to reference.  How does all this relate to your work?  Well, I wonder what awaits you when you dive into your own files.  Will you choose to build on your dramatic successes?  Or will you determine that what was once viewed as a failed project may rise to the realization of full and positive fruition?

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, author, consultant, and motivational speaker

To learn more about the award-winning Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards] and other projects, please drop in at my author’s website JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com. You’ll even find Island Recipes that might inspire your culinary creativity.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

Follow Me:
Amazon, Arizona Authors Association, Apple Books
Audible, Authors Den, Barnes and Noble, Blogarama, Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited, Facebook, Good Reads, Hometown Reads

Book sellers may contact book distributors such as:
Baker & Taylor, Follett, IPG, Ingram, Mackin, Midpoint, TitleWave