Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taming the Beast

Good morning, everyone! Whether you're a lion tamer or time tamer, we all need sustanence to make the morning start out right! We're about to face huge organizational issues where donuts just won't cut it! I've brought in an omelette bar with Chef Pierre at the helm.

Last week in Seekerville, Glynna Kaye talked about Living Intentionally. I drank in every word. The term squeakiest wheel gets the grease defines my life. I can’t even begin to recall a time when I wasn’t at someone else’s beck and call. By choice, my mind you. I’m a wife, mother, admin assistant and many other things by choice.

I am an active heroine in my own life : )

Still, anyone who multi-tasks (yes, Glynna, I believe 100% in the research on this insane phenomena) knows life tends to overlap, overbook and over commit which winds up in over exhaustion!!

There are so many ways to keep track of schedules, often times, those many ways are used all at once.

Let’s take my life for example : )

We begin in the
home. Each Christmas, the family chooses the wall calendar which will hang faithfully in the kitchen with all the events, appointments and commitments scribbled all over it. Over the years we’ve proudly displayed 12 months of Tecomate Bucks, Old Outhouses of the West, Lighthouses, etc. This year our choice was Classic Ford cars. No matter the photo representation, the meat of the matter stands that if it isn’t written on the calendar, it won’t get done.

Now we move on to my day job office organization system. Here we employ a number of reminder formats. On my worksurface I have a monthly calendar desk pad. Comes in handy for jotting requested work that comes in over the phone. Took me a while to remember to write the person’s phone number down with the work request.

Then I have my journal calendar that goes everywhere I go in case I have to check conflicts or schedule 4-H events and barn time. This journal includes blank pages so I can take notes at meetings and not have to worry about losing important info.

Finally, if you look on the office partition behind me, you see a calendar featuring purebred horses, kind of like a pin up calendar for the equine set. This calendar comes compliments of our Horse Council and is filled with tiny post-in notes so I know what to include in the calendar of events for our 4-H newsletter. Lots of meetings change, so instead of whiting out all the info, I pull and repost a sticky note and pray nothing changes after the newsletter goes out : )

Step into my office at home and take a peek at my writing calendar(s). Let’s begin with the wall calendar to the left of my computer. All the Contest Update information Tina faithfully doles out each month is inked in place and I circle the contests I’d like to enter, a friend has entered, or one I’ve committed to judging. Tough to keep all the info straight, you know!

On the shelf over my monitor I have a flip card calendar that does nothing more than show me pretty pictures and keep me aware of the day’s date : )

My burgundy bound Day Runner calendar is a day-by-day affair. I keep track of writing hours, expenses, mileage – everything Danica Favorite-McDonald talked about in her post on keeping tax records. I hate it when I’m not real diligent about keeping these records. I mean really, how difficult is it to keep track of what you’ve done that day while the computer is turning off? Not hard at all, which is why I feel like such a ninny when I forget.

Oh, and don’t forget the calendar that goes with the story timelines! I have a timeline that shows me when each book is set within each specific series. I need to keep track of characters aging, pregnancies running their allotted nine months, national events, etc. Robin Lee Hatcher once gave a workshop about keeping your story line organized. She talked about being aware of passing time and season changes. Pretty embarrassing when your editor asks how many nights in a row can your H/H walk beneath the light of a full moon : )

Whew, that was a walk down memory lane, LOL! The sad think is, like Glynna mentioned, there are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a week. Know your limits; understand what’s important. I can’t say I’ve mastered my scheduled, but it sure makes it easy to say no, and have the jam-packed schedule to back it up : )

Your turn! Share! How do you manage your lives? What tricks have you stumbled across to make juggling all the components easier?

Include your email address and you will be placed in a drawing for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People 2010 Year-In-A-Box Calendar.

You can never be too early to get a jump on the New Year!

Blessings to all!-audra


  1. yummy on the Omelette bar and thanks;
    I have a calendar in the kitchen above the phone where I write appointments, etc.
    I have a calendar on my supply cabinet which is to my right by the computer desk. Here I write chats, etc. for blogs and contests sometimes.
    I have a Buxton daily reminder that I carry in my purse with cell phone #'s, telephone #'s, addresses, daily activities, to-do lists AND I always have a pad and pen on my kitchen cupboard ready to add 'to buy' things or 'to do' activities.


  2. Good morning! I can't believe I'm the second commenter. That's what happens when my empty stomach wakes me up in the wee morning hours. Those omelettes hit the spot...Thanks! :-)

    I also keep a calendar in my kitchen, but the real holder of my life is my Blackberry. It syncs to my work calendar, so I have everything in one place.

  3. Thanks for the omelettes! Just got DH out the door for work. Now I can set down with my coffee and Seekerville. In my happy place!

    We have one big calendar for everything. We have several freebies to choose from -- from the fertilizer dealer, the feedmill, the mechanic and the tax preparer. We use the one with the biggest pages.

    Then we write everything down.

    For my WIPs, these two sites help a lot:

    Calendar for any year is one of the choices on this site: (Sorry, I don't know how to make a hot link ...)

    I included moon phases when I generated a calendar for my years in question.

    I printed out a copy for 1863 then realized that this year's days and dates corresponded. Well, coolness! Then I had some big calednars for my WIP. I took notes on crop production for that year.

    For sunrise, sunset, moonise, moon set at places all over the US, I used this one from the Naval Observatory:

    I think I found these originally from mentions in Seekerville and-or the ACFW loop.

    Helps when I need moonlight, or dark of the moon for my characters' activities.

    Have a great day!

  4. Keeping my every day life organized is always a challenge. Like you, I have a calendar I carry and my husband checks my calendar often to add events to his and mine if either of us are missing an important date, and I have a desk calendar at work that I have to keep updated with my pocket calendar as well as the main calendar of meetings in the office. This is a must, though it's a pain, because if I forget an important meeting then I don't have the appropraite paperwork completed beforehand. And, at home, if I forget a child's game, or homework, etc., then everything is thrown out of whack and I loose my writing time. That's definitely a no-no.

    For my stories, I've found that I love Microsoft's OneNote. It's basically set up like a spiral bound notebook. I've added pages for my story outlines (broken up into acts), my H/H backgrounds, any charts I use, etc. OneNote even allows you to color code pages, which I love! So I made my heroine pages pink, my hero pages blue, my villian pages green, and so forth. (Changing colors helps me remember which character I'm dealing with down the page so when the title disappears I still know who I'm working with if I'm interuppted.)

    Well, the description of your omelette bar has made me hungry so I guess I'll go and have breakfast!

  5. Omelettes? Sounds good. I need the protein.

    My wife thinks I'm disorganized, and to some extent I am. But I do keep the timelines for my stories on an Excel spreadsheet and a little note close by of my goals for that day and week (though sometimes it's the goals from last week, as I didn't complete what I needed to do).

  6. Good morning to all who are up so early on this Thursday morning! It's frigid here in Colorado and I had one rough time getting out of bed!!!

    Robyn, LOL. You sound so much like our household : ) Especially the *to buy* list. Woe to our budget if I go to the store without a list! Yes, you are talking to an impulse buyer supreme!

  7. Oh Sarah, I am so not in your league. I get hives thinking someday I have to start using a Blackberry. Watching folks zip around on those little handheld devices intrigues me to no end, but this poor brain is so wired for paper reminders!!

    My hat (or scarf and mittens) are off to you, Sarah!

  8. Atta girl, Ann! No endless handholding under a full moom for your characters : )

    When I wrote historicals, I always tried to get a calendar from that year. Can't say I referred to it often, but when I needed the info on a specific holiday, I was grateful I went to the trouble of finding the resource ahead of time.

    Thanks, Ann!

  9. Dianna, sounds like you are the mirror to my life. I hate having to make up work that bites into my writing time!

    Thanks for the tip on MS OneNote. I'll have to find it. My fingers work so much faster on a keyboard than writing longhand. I think the OneNote might help!

    Stick around and grab another omelette!!

  10. Walt, LOL! Goals? I write them down and then wonder what I'm supposed to do with them : ) Accomplishing goals runs on a completely different brainwave pattern than my creativity, LOL!

    Everyone thinks I'm disorganized by looking at my desk just because THEY can't figure out my *piling* systems : )

  11. Omelette bar.

    Yum. Wonderful. Rainy here and omelettes sound SO warm and comforting. Eggs rock.



    Oh my stars, I have none. I have a local school calendar to tell me when my urchins have off and have half-days so I know when to order more mind-numbing drugs...

    Okay, kidding, but only slightly.

    Family calendar has everything else on it. It's the yearly Catholic diocesan calendar so I can keep track of church things and family.

    That's it. I used to have more when my own kids were here, to keep track of all their stuff, but these two suffice.

    And I've taken a page from Mary's book and started my own Yahoo group that reminds me of things I need to do because otherwise I forget, and with this venture into publication, I don't want to be mortified.

    Next step: Get a blackberry or a Droid or something and learn how to use it to my best advantage so I can keep everything at my fingertips. Can't be that hard and it's so handy.

    No pun intended. Maybe.

    Brought more coffee, a delicious blend of Jamaiccan Me Crazy and a fresh pot of that wonderful blend Tina had at her house in Denver, a whole bean from B.J.'s wasn't it, Teenster???

    Marvelous. And sweet cream with a side of skim milk (you guys remember, we had it last week and no one used it, so it's still here. Maybe a little sour. Think 'yogurt'....)


  12. One calendar, Ruth? Oh my goodness, girlfriend, you're way more organized and on top of things than I'll ever be!

    Just think of peas touching mashed potatoes touching turkey on the same plate. I don't mind this happening with my food (I'll eat anything!), but don't go tossing and mixing my responsibilities!!

    Woe to the person who shuffles my stacks together, too...

    Fill up, Ruthy! You've got a long trip ahead of you!!!

  13. Oh, my, this is timely. I just posted on facebook that I need to get organized! Yesterday I forgot my dentist appointment! In my defense, it's the first time I've EVER forgotten a dentist or doctor appointment, but I was horrified at myself. And it just shows how I need to have a PLAN and I need to implement said plan.

    First of all, I AM going to clean my office THIS MONTH. You would be horrified if you could see it, Audra. Truly shameful the stacks of papers on my desk and the bookshelf beside my desk. All my research notes for all four of my completed manuscripts are just stacked up ... somewhere in this office, in no way organized. But that is going to change. I am going to go through every single stack and put everything in files.

    I do use either pocket calendars or a calendar in a file on my computer to keep up with my stories' timelines.

  14. Good morning, Audra -- love the omelette bar and the blog! Especially the line:

    "I am an active heroine in my own life" : )

    Grin. Love that!

    How do I tame the beast? Uh, not as well as I'd like, unfortunately ... all too often, I'm afraid, it tames me, but I find that when deadlines loom, I rise to the occasion and block everything else out till I get done. Period.

    And, WOW, the calendars you have!! I only have one dayplanner that I carry with me everywhere, but then I don't have a high-powered job like you where I have to stay on top of things!! Uh, that's the benefit of being old enough to "retire"!! :)


  15. Morning Audra, Love the omelettes and my dear friend, I love it. You have as many calendars as I do. Although I never thought of a calendar for my wip. I have a chart, but a calendar sounds so much easier. Hooray.

    And Melanie, I was once told that a truly creative person always has a messy desk. That is why I don't freak out about my office. My house stays neat, but the office. Yikes. Not even my housecleaner dares to step in there. She and hubby are afraid of getting lost. LOL

    So calendars are a MUST. Love this post Audra.

  16. Wow, my mind is reeling! That's a lot of organization!

    I have never been diligent about keeping a day-planner, but I'm giving it another try now.

  17. Good morning! Audra, I thought I had a lot of calendars, but I'm blown away by all of yours.

    I use the daily flip calendar on my writing desk to record writing obligations and book deadlines, blog and book club appearances--everything that has anything to do with writing.

    The dayplanner on my kitchen desk holds personal appointments and social events.

    I have a calendar from our children's zoo where I record submissions and deadlines for contracted books--a back up for my flip calendar, but easier to check.

    I have a 250 year calendar, not to record anything, but to check the days/dates for my historicals. For example to see when a holiday fell. Thanks for the link, Ann! It's far handier than my hardcopy.
    My books take place over a short period of time so keeping track of the timeline isn't difficult.

    I never carry a calendar with me because I'd forget to put things I'd committed to on the main calendar at home.

    Anyone use Microsoft Outlook to keep you on schedule?

    Thanks for the omelette, Audra!


  18. I have a Yahoo group with only myself as a member and I send email reminders to myself ALL THE TIME. For everything. I depend on it so much an entire section of my brain has completely ceded power of my life and given that job to Yahoo....a disconcerting thought! :)

  19. Mornin' Melanie : )

    I've forgotten vet appointments and luckily, groveling for forgiveness comes easily to me, LOL!

    And Mel, you say *stacks of papers on my desk and the bookshelf beside my desk* like it's a bad thing. I prefer to think of it as saving time by having all info right at your fingertips : )

  20. Hi Julie!!

    NO WAY AM I ORGANIZED!! I just try and look that way : ) I so envy folks who have a task and stay at it until it's done.

    You are on a pedestal, my dear : )

    Sandra! Heh,heh,heh, I use charts too, but I thought I'd keep my topic to calendars today, LOL!

    And Janet? Sounds like you depend on the hands on stuff as much as I do : ) LOL, at first I thought you kept a calendar FOR the children's zoo...

  21. Mary, the thought of a Yahoo group is interesting. Does it send you reminders or do you access it? Gotta grab all the new and improved ideas that come along, you know : )

  22. Erica, don't worry about the diligence over a method. This is the reason I have so many different calendars : ) When I come across one method that does it all for me, you'll see the News Flash across Seekerville, LOL!

  23. I'm a big believer in "writing" things down so I don't have to use brain energy to try to remember. I love paper planners, but to minimize the weight and size of what I carry, I now use an electronic planner (a BlackBerry). It's Outlook-based because that's what my firm uses and puts on our laptops (I'm a lawyer who'd rather be writing). EVERY appointment goes into Outlook, whether it's work-related (conference calls with clients, inoffice meetings), personal (gym app'ts or hair app'ts), or family (kids' band concerts, dinner out with my husband, birthdays, etc.). EVERYTHING goes in there, and I set it up with reminders so it will ding at me an appropriate amount of time before. If it's a meeting, I note whether it's in my office or elsewhere; if it's a conference call or outside appointment, I put the phone number in there. I do what my calendar tells me to, and if it doesn't ding at me, I don't do. I carry a BlackBerry that synchs wirelessly and automatically with Outlook, so I have all this calendar info with me wherever I go, along with my address book, to-do list, etc. I love paper planners, but the BB is so small and easy to carry, I've learned to love it.

  24. The problem with my stacks, Audra, is that it's so haphazard and I don't know where anything is! I have research and notes from four books all mixed together! Not good.

  25. Hmmm, everywhere I turn in blog-land lately people are talking about time management and taking ownership of your life. I think it's safe to say a cosmic force is trying to get my attention!

    We hang a calender in the kitchen and I try to write everything on it. I also buy a daily planner that I keep with me. It usually gets forgotten about until I dig around in my bag and re-discover it, fill it with goals and obligations and then forget about it again.

    Grr...time management gollums!

    Happy Thursday,

    gypsyscribe (at) gmail (dot) com

  26. Hi Laura!

    From what I've heard, Outlook is an awesome tool. Our office uses it, but for the life of me, I haven't figured out how to program it. Besides, Outlook doesn't like me at home -- bummer. I've tried, but it just won't cooperated with me.

    The whole BB thing? Please, don't make me use it! I have a hard enough time using my phone to text!

  27. High five to you, Jen : ) My purse is never-never land, too.

    I try clipping coupons and putting them in the handy coupon organizer -- I forget to use them. Bummer. Sometimes they're a great deal!

    LOL. Life would be dangerous if I wasn't such creature of habit : )

  28. OH man, Audra,

    Do I have to tame that beast?

    I try to keep calendars and such, but you sound like you have it down to a science, I mean I don't usually think about writing down the contests my friends have submitted for.

    Whew I'm tired just thinking about it. LOL

    Actually I'm tired because we just had our yearly inspection with the FAA (four days worth) for our Business. And passed with flying colors, but only because we try to keep organized. Otherwise like you say things fall apart.

    I can relate to getting lost, at certain times, especially while running an office, I can let things slip at home and in my writing. But then I have to go back and put everything back in its place.

    I'm actually trying to calendar out a story with a bit more depth which I could have done in the beginning if I'd been more diligent.

    So your post is timely and a good reminder that some list just have to be kept.



  29. Oh dear, Tina. A four day inspection? I'm feeling for you, babe!!! Glad to hear you pulled through and lived to talk about it : )

    For a while I tried to keep organized by using sticky notes...but I'm sure Julie has a post ready for that sometime considering she is the Seeker Queen of Stickies : )

    Good luck in trying the calendar to add depth to your story. Sometimes it's the little things that help the most : )

    I just put on some French roast coffee and replenished the water for tea or hot cocoa. Brrr, it's cold here in Colorado!!

  30. Audra,

    Thanks for the coffee, and tea, the sun is out over Grand Junction, but it's very deceptive. Cause it sure ain't warming it up much. And I was planning to put on my bikini and tan, (well scare off the neighbors)

    I had to laugh cause I have stacks of paper that I know exactly what they are and how they're filed. And if anyone so much as moves them I can go balistic.

  31. Calendar?? That is my problem, I try to keep it all in my head and someone gets forgotten! :) Thanks for the great post I learned alot about my non organization skills!!


  32. I use Outlook. Family members are color coded. I keep track of appts., school functions, as well as my elderly parents appts and shopping expedition. Outlook is synced to my smartphone. I also post everything to two white board calendars on the fridge. This month and next month. I also use Yahoo widgets on my desktop. The best one is called "Due" a to do list which I used to keep track of when bills need to be paid.


  33. Milissa! All in your head? THAT thought scares me to death!!

    You go, girl!!

  34. CJ, my computer at home seems to reject the notion of Outlook. I can't even send or respond to email through it.

    The Outlook at work is constantly reminding me to take unattended containers home from the refrigerator : )

    I'd love to have pop-up reminders at home...maybe someday...

  35. my 'main' calender lives in my purse...other calenders are scattered all over the house...


  36. The only "trick" I use is to always carry around a running "to do" list. It keeps me busy and I never forget to do anything important.
    I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.

  37. KarenK,

    Scattered -- I love that term : )


    LOL, I'm always running around with a to-do list, too : ) I can't seem to lose it : )

  38. Great post.

    Single most important thing.

    The word NO.

    Second most important thing a legal pad.

    Third most important thing, in the words of Bill Phillips, "Half of getting what you want is knowing what you have to give up to get it."

    Realize this journey requires sacrifice. Who ever told you that you could do it ALL, lied.

  39. Forgot my e-mail address.


  40. Yikes! I got tired reading your schedule. I hope mine isn't so crowded someday... LOL

    My time management probably isn't the best, but I try not to overbook myself with anything. I have a planner in the kitchen and that's what I use to remember appointments, etc.

    I love how you let someone in your family pick out the year's calendar! What a cool idea. :-)

  41. Whoops. Not your schedule, just your list of different planners, etc. LOL

  42. Audra,
    You're definitely our calendar girl!!! I've got an office calendar for writing deadlines and events and a kitchen calendar for all the other stuff.

    And I do write lists -- weekly and daily of things that need to be done. Then I scratch through each item when it's completed and gain a bit of satisfaction, knowing I've accomplished something -- even if it's only checking my email!

  43. Audra,
    Coming in late, but such is life :-)
    Ooh, calendars are great ideas. Note: ideas is the operative word there. At present, I can't find mine :-)

    I think the only thing organized about my life is my routine. It's pretty constant, so I cram the outliers in around the schedule - and there are LOTS of outliers, especially laundry. You should see this massive pile of Mt. Washmore. Scary.

    I'm afraid my desk resembles, Melanies in a lot of ways. I usually only have two books going on at a time, but scattered notebooks all around filled with possible 'new' ideas.

    I'm fond of three-ringed binders, because I can cram as many loose papers into the pockets of those things and 'look' organized. :-)

    The personal files I've made on my yahoo account has helped me a lot with all my writing/university appts and items 'due'. Having different files for different email address, ex. blog review file, agent file, ETSU brain injury clinic file - that's about as organized as I get. I'm working on the other stuff, though.

    Unfortunately, my desk at work looks surprisingly similar to my desk at home ;-) And I even have a G.A. at work ;-) sigh...

  44. Walt -- gotcha : )

    Silly goose. My schedule isn't all that full. I need all the forms of calendars to remind me to do the few things expected of me, LOL!!

    Debby! Checking email is a treat for me. I never have to add that to a list, just pray for time to read it : )

  45. Excellent post, Audra! Only now I have this image in my mind of you surrounded by--and being followed by--calendars! They're stalking you, calling your name...

    Okay. That's spooky. I'll stop now. [grin]

    I have a monthly spiral bound calendar that's my life. It stays right beside the computer. And we have a huge family calendar on the wall in the kitched that's ridiculous. It's got big squares, but most days we can hardly squeeze all we have to do in the allotted space. I also have my PDA, which I love! I set reminders for everything and get a nice little chime when it's time do do something--like pick up the kids at school! :)