What “Busy” Means These Days

Some people do introduction posts on their blogs, while others do project updates for their various creative endeavors. Since I teach time management as part of my dayjob and write about how to balance different roles and projects, it’s time for me to do something a little different. I’ve had some folks over on Facebook ask about the deployment of new podcast seasons of Secret World Chronicle, and there’s always the commentary about how it needs to be done ‘faster,’ with the insinuation that the narrator/producer isn’t working hard enough or fast enough on getting episodes done. Others have inquired about my production schedule for different books, why it’s necessary to turn down certain projects at the moment, and when there is space for a new project. Still others ask how I manage to balance these projects, family priorities, a writing habit, graduate school, and a dayjob.

I teach time management. Time management is really priority management, which comes down to recognizing what tasks contribute to larger goals and then focusing on those tasks. Time management also means using the available “between times” to accomplish smaller tasks and working with others toward common priorities and goals. Focus requires a way to manage distractions and interruptions, a sort of compartmentalization that allows one to deal with the little things that come up.

Here’s what a “normal” day schedule looks like during the fall semester for me. Current priorities include a dayjob in academia, an audiobook, studying for comprehensive exams, a daily writing habit, a spouse, and three children. Others come and go throughout the week, but those are the big goals.

  • 5:30 AM – Alarm goes off. Awake, shower, start coffee. Nudge two of three children awake.
  • 6:00 AM – Breakfast assembly, kids’ hair brushing, finalize lunches.
  • 6:15 AM – Spouse and two kids are out; one cup of coffee down. Check email and social media.
  • 6:30 AM – Record in studio. In forty-five minutes, I can knock out one or two chapters of my current project, which is due by the end of September.
  • 7:15 AM – Prep for work, make sure that third child is awake and dressed. Throw prepped dinner pieces in crockpot, grab breakfast and lunch things.
  • 7:30 AM – Leave for mom-commute. Take third child to school (no bus service for six years) and then go to work. Maybe more coffee en route.
  • 8:30 AM – At dayjob. During this time, I’ll teach, prep notes for the classes that I teach, communicate with students, write academic blog posts, put out fires, and troubleshoot any number of student academic crises. I’m responsible for communicating department events like group study sessions and writing workshops through our department social media outlets and the online calendars for the two courses I coordinate. I also solve some instructor/staff crises, since some people on campus remember me as the instructional technologist and think I explain things better than the help guides from which I read. For at least ninety minutes of my workday, I transcribe study notes for my comprehensive exams. I don’t take lunch, because…
  • 3:00 PM – Pick up third child. Carpool lines are an interesting exercise in social anthropological observations; I used to bring articles for class to read while I waited, but I welcome the decompression time with a chapter of a podcast piping through the speakers.
  • 3:45 PM – Return to campus. There is a twenty-minute period of settling with the third child, who does his homework in my office every afternoon. I usually spend ten minutes with him going over his daily grammar exercise, which can include anything from punctuation to sentence diagramming. Sometimes I check over algebra homework. Most of the time, I follow up on more emails and type up more notes.
  • 5:00 PM – Head home. With traffic, it takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to go 8.5 miles.
  • 5:45 PM – A whirlwind of dinner prep, lunchbox cleaning, homework reminders, and catching up on the day’s events. There are papers to sign for school, more homework papers to check, vocabulary words to review, and reading logs to sign. There’s also the back and forth of “how was your day, dear” that my spouse and I have perfected, between my understanding of his career and his understanding of my dayjob.
  • 6:30 PM – Dinner. Given the need to eat balanced and healthy meals, I do a lot of planning on weekends with groceries to make sure that we can do quick dinners during the week that everyone will eat and that produce leftovers for lunches.
  • 7:00 PM – Whirlwind of kidbaths, cleaning, lunch-packing, laundry, and any homework follow-up. If things finish early, sometimes we’ll catch part of a favorite movie together or a bit of a television show. Star Trek is always a favorite.
  • 7:30 PM – Family decompression time. If kids are settled, this is when I’ll start on any audio editing work I have or I’ll continue doing notes transcription. Other nights, I’ll begin working on a writing project.
  • 8:00 PM – Kids are in bed. Best time management secret is to have a set bedtime for kids; for me, this is when I start to get the big projects done. I might work on some more recording for an hour, but not much more so as to maintain the quality of my voice. I’ll use the evenings for more audio editing, writing, project planning, or studying. Depending upon the day, there may be an hour within this block for watching a show with my spouse, but that’s usually done in tandem with increasing word count or working on recording schedules. If I’m not on the computer while watching a show, I’m probably crocheting. I don’t sit still very well.
  • 10:00 PM – My usual cut-off for any creative projects. I try to be in bed by 11 PM, as the alarm will go off (again) at 5:30 AM.

So, that’s where the time goes during the weekdays. We get a lot done at my house because my family helps; my kids set the table, get their clothes and backpacks ready for the next day, and clean up after themselves. My spouse understands my wordcount habit, and he asks about any big days of recording where he might take the third child to school so as to afford me another hour of recording time. He works anywhere from 50 to 70 hours a week, including evenings and weekends… the life of an IT guy. He’s also doing grad school, so there’s studying and homework. We trade off responsibilities to make sure we both get our work done, and we work to make sure that we spend time enjoying our kids and each other.

The tl;dr version? I’m busy. I practice what I preach when it comes to time management. Audio’s on its way. To quote one of MY favorite authors, Mr. Sigler… the only variable is time.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 at 9:32 pm and is filed under time management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

7 Responses to “What “Busy” Means These Days”

  1. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    The fans can be pretty unrelenting. Sounds like people who want you to take their project are no better. {Sympathetic Smile}

    I wish they’d find better ways to show their enthusiasm for the series. Like ways that admit that you have other obligations as well, including ones that have to be met first. {lop-sided Smile}

    But then, I would feel that way. Partly because I’ve read your blog for enough months to have some idea of how much you’re trying to juggle… and partly because I simply do not have the energy to accomplish half as much, even when my health isn’t busy seeing how much of my life it can wreck when it crashes yet again. {resigned smile}

    Not that I want to complain about that. This is the life I’ve been given. It’s up to me to make the most I can out of it. That’s exactly what I try to do. {Smile}

    That’s all anyone can do: live the life they’ve been given as best they can. I think you’re doing remarkably well, to tell the truth. {Smile, take hand, gentle squeeze}

    If fans or others can’t understand that… well, they have their own problems, don’t they? {amused in spite of self Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. Veronica Says:

    I would guess that one percent of the people who listen to SWC come over here to DawningSky. Most people who ask me about new projects are very understanding, and I do make time for people who have always been gracious and supportive of my work.

    I hope that things even out for you soon, too. Health stuff is annoying at best and scary at worst, and you seem to manage it with grace and humor. :) That’s an amazing skill.

  3. Doc Coleman Says:

    I seriously envy your ability to wake, shower, and dress (and wake children) in just half an hour. I have never had the knack for that. My brain just doesn’t get into gear that quickly.

    You have admirable discipline. You’re busy, but you manage to accomplish a lot. Please don’t be discouraged by those who wish you could accomplish things “faster”. They want what they want and they don’t really know what it takes to produce it. Unfortunately, that’s something that is very hard to teach them.


  4. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    Thank you, V. {BIG WARM SMILE}

    Some days I can’t help wondering if that’s enough. Especially if I haven’t gotten the chores done again. Especially when I see how much some other folks can do, like the day some friends were oohing over a video of a legless gymnast who’s an excellent tumbler. I just have to remember that I’m up against different challenges. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  5. Matt Toms Says:

    Funny you should say something about people who listen to SWC. That’s how I washed up on your blog’s shores today. I have to say, after reading your synopsis of a day,I WISH I had your time-management skills. Wow! My days are a confused jumble of work, and putting out whichever fire flares up next at home, metaphorically speaking. I tried to write something about it, and realized that I wasn’t doing you or myself any service with it. *laughs*
    I do want to say that I’ve really enjoyed your work on SWC, and now I need to look over the links you have here and maybe try out a few to see what other cool stories I’ve been missing out on. I’ve been listening to podcastle and escape pod for a long time while driving, working, or doing chores, and that’s kind of how I wound up at the SWC in the first place.
    It’s been nice to read some of your posts here and to see what goes on for you in a typical day. Also, it makes me realize that I sooo need to work on a better schedule for my home and family life. *grins and goes to thaw out some chicken for supper*

  6. Veronica Says:

    One of the one percent! My first thought was, “oh no, I’m so sorry for whining,” but really, thank you for listening. :) If you like SWC I’d recommend either Broken or The Ballad of Iron Percy.

  7. scoobie ryan Says:

    You are now as you ever were. So very proud of you. Where you find the energy, I’m not sure. Perhaps I had it once. Dedah has it still.Rock on!