Friday 1 December 2023: The month ahead

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Well, this is a long one. I’d make a drink and pull up a chair if I were you…

The dog waited until about 6:30am to wake me up yesterday, which made a relatively nice change. It’s still raving early for me, but I thought it might at least be a bit warmer. Nope… when I opened the door we were greeted with a light covering of snow! I was so happy – my first snow of the season and we thought it was going to go right over the top of us. As it is, it looked like the edge of it brushed us.

A very nice start to this, the day I write my plan for December. It’s my favourite month. Not only does Christmas fall towards the end of it, but we usually have a full two-week holiday. We don’t often get snow, but there’s usually a hint.

I started the day, when I got to it, with some calendar work. I’m reading The Organised Writer by Antony Johnston (alongside my sci-fi reading ahead of the sci-fi course, which starts, by the way, on 8 January! 😱), which I bought off Google Books the day before. It was the same price as on Amazon and I am trying to move away from buying books solely from Amazon.

As I started to read it on Wednesday evening, though, it felt a bit familiar, and when I looked into it, I’d already bought it from Amazon in December 2020! (December must be my time of at least thinking about getting organised…) Fortunately, Google Books allowed me to ‘return’ it and request a refund, which landed yesterday, by the way, less than one day later. And I reverted back to the original book I bought in pandemic year.

Anyway, I read the chapter on calendars and thought about the suggestion of blocking out time for just one project per day. One different project. I couldn’t really do that as I’m usually writing my own material as well as editing client material. But rather than creating a different task every day for the same project, I created week-long projects for The Secret of Whitehorse Farm and the editing work.

I’m not sure this will work, even if it does look a lot tidier and is quicker to maintain. I do like to tick things off as I do them on a daily basis, just so I can see what I’ve been doing all day. Saying that, I do do that with my diary. So I’m going to give it a go and see if it works. What I’d also like to do is maybe also work on just one short story at a time.

From the latest ClickUp update, it looks like subtasks can now be shown on my calendar. This is great because I’ve had to go in and strip them out into tasks of their own. Now I can leave all of the short story tasks as subtasks of the main due date task and still give them their own individual working dates.

One thing I won’t be doing is allocating the tasks actual time slots. That’s a bit too restrictive at the moment and I first need to get into a proper swing of things.

I’m lucky in that my working day is 7 hours long. I can allocate 2 hours per day to a novel or novella, 2 hours to client work, 2 hours to short story work, and 1 hour for admin. Less my 10-minute pomodoro breaks in between. I also currently take an hour for dinner. That’s a lot of breaks, although I’ll often skip a 10-minute break if I’m on a roll with something.

Recently, I’ve not been structured about my working day and I’ve not taken any breaks. Even my dinner is taken at my desk. I’d got out of the habit of checking social media and emails all day, but now those time-sucks have started to creep in again. I’d started to do that over breakfast, now I either read a book over breakfast or play a game. I know which one of those I’d sooner keep, but the other, the game, can be kicked to evenings only.

I use the breaks to get up, walk, nip to the loo, stretch, make a drink, let the dog out/in, eat dinner, empty/fill the dishwasher, empty/fill the washing machine, feed the birds, empty the bins, take the bins out, etc. Sometimes I feed the birds when I let the dog out for his first normal visit to the garden. Sometimes I’ll do the dishwasher/washing machine stuff while I wait for the kettle to boil.

But I’ve not been taking those breaks, and the poet has ended up doing most of it when he gets in from work. But I’ve not been very productive either. My word-count isn’t going up. Short stories aren’t going off to market. In the new year I also want to practice my touch-typing and start learning shorthand.

How can someone so hot on time management suck so spectacularly at it?

One easy solution is to get up an hour earlier. Another is to have a shorter dinner break (doable if I use the 10-min breaks better). The 10 minutes every hour are essential because there’s not a lot I can fit into only 5 minutes, but I can squeeze plenty into 10 minutes. If I get up earlier, I won’t be able to do much eye work as it takes an hour or so for my eyes to wake up. But I could do some housework that I’d usually do in my 10-minute breaks.

So, I’m playing at the moment, to see what I can make work.

I did my 5-minute declutter on Facebook. Gosh! I used to write a load of right crap! When my pinger went, I still hadn’t finished August 2010. I nipped out and fed the birds. (I can see them from the office window and they always make me feel guilty if they’ve eaten everything.) I also had to boil a kettle of water to break the ice on their drinkers and the bird bath.

Over dinner (at my desk! – d’uh!) I entered a few competitions and caught up on a blog post or two. The poet came home from working on site in the morning to working at home for the afternoon. He had several Teams calls booked and my heart sank just a little, as they’re quite distracting. However… he has a new toy – a headset with microphone attached! Yay! I can’t believe how much easier that was.

I shared Diane’s gig list post (quick and easy tick) and continued to finish today’s blog post (I’d already started on the to do list for December). Then I did my monthly finances. I moved back everything I didn’t spend in November to the savings account and transferred over my budgeted spend for December to the current (checking) account.

The next job I did was reboot my old 10-project all-market planner. Once I got my head around the formulae in this file, I thoroughly enjoyed using it. I did pick up new planners from the internet that had pretty graphics on, but I had to fill in four of those: a word-count sheet with all writing projects on, a page-count sheet with all editing projects on, and another one each with the daily totals.

I could use only one 10-project planner to keep track of everything. But I have more than 10 projects throughout the year. Hell, if I do successfully join 12 Stories in 12 Months again, there’s 2 projects too many right there. So I have one for short stories and one for books, but both have space for both word- and page-counts.

I’m toying with having new spreadsheets called BOOK 2 when I’ve filled one workbook up, or trying to get them to work in the same spreadsheet. But at least for the first ten projects I have a blank workbook with all the formulae worked out and, just in case, I’ve already made the BOOK 2s. I’ll finish the year off on the old spreadsheets but then, I think, I’ll retire them.

The next thing I have to work on, or the next two things, are:

  1. aim at working on what needs the most creative energy first and work through the day down to that which needs the least creative energy
  2. stop flitting onto the internet, social media, emails, etc, throughout the day and stick to set times

Anyway, I had to step away from the planning and do some work. I’ll have time to look again today and next week, and during the rest of December.

Hello December

I only have just over two working weeks in December, but I’d still like to work on the short stories throughout the month, particularly as there’s no way I’ll have 6 finished by the 31st otherwise.

Here’s how I’m hoping December might pan out:

  • new month wordcount & progress spreadsheets for December
  • The Secret of Whitehorse Farm
  • (week) daily blog post
  • weekly tech scan
  • weekly backup
  • weekly diary work
  • post the latest chapters of Diary of a Scaredy Cat to Substack every Monday
  • attend PF Writing Hour on X (formerly Twitter) every Tuesday
  • continue to edit the naval book
  • Monkey Dust admin every Monday
  • Diane’s gig list admin every Monday and Thursday
  • finances for January
  • tax return
  • take dog to vet twice
  • The Loch Ness Monster (short story)
  • The Midnight Labyrinth (short story)
  • Fallen Angel (short story)
  • The Map of Lost Places (short story)
  • The Two of Wands (short story)
  • Laughter is the Best Medicine (article)
  • monthly schedule planning for January
  • 2 weeks holiday
  • Christmas

What does your December look like?

Have a super weekend!

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4 thoughts on “Friday 1 December 2023: The month ahead

  1. December is kind of all over the place. I want to get the baking and cards and gifts and all out the door before Mercury goes retrograde on the 13th, and then just hunker down and do as much client work and my own work as possible. If there’s script work between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ll do some, but ideally, I’d like to take off from the Solsitce to the New Year. And I don’t do any queries or submissions between Dec. 15-Jan. 6 anyway.

    I’m trying to get organized for next year. I need to shuffle a few things around and add a couple of freelance clients, but I haven’t decides what kind yet. I need to finish some projects toward the end of this year/early next year and get them out the door, too.

    I’d rather take a nap!

    This weekend, I will decide if I want to join the Smashwords promo over on D2D. I don’t want all my books in it, and I’m not sure if we can pick and choose. Have a good weekend.

    1. That reminded me that you’d asked me about the SW promo thing before. I’ve answered it now, and no, I don’t think I’ll be doing it as it doesn’t seem to have any effect. We could choose which ones went into the bag before. I’ve not looked at it this time, but I’d assume it’s the same this time.

      1. I emailed them to ask, and we can’t choose. We have to submit all the books at the same discount, which would mean a bunch of the shorts would be free. I can’t see that will do me any good, especially with all the work I’ve put into promo videos and the like.


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