Time always seems to gain speed after Thanksgiving and the end of the Year is rushing towards us, bringing with it the tradition of New Years Resolutions and all the baggage that carries.
I think the last time I subscribed to the notion that January 1st is when Major Changes Should Be Made was back in the early 90s. My change cycle and resolutions are linked instead to the major milestones in my life.
I’ve just reached one, completing my Masters degree this past week, and I’m eagerly looking ahead, contemplating what I’m going to do with all my free time.
Free time? Who am I kidding.
All the stuff I put on hold while I was spending way too many hours per week on school has come rushing back to fill the void, and it has been joined by a whole host of new and interesting stuff, stuff that must get done, and stuff that probably should get done (like, er, cleaning the house). It’s piled up on the edges of the precipice, jostling for space, demanding attention, threatening to jump in if I don’t get.to.it.NOW. The problem is two-fold – more stuff than void, and the tendency of the stuff to find a dark corner of the void and hide.
I’m a list maker, a planner, and a note-taker. Checking things off lists provides a sense of productivity, planning helps me focus, and writing things down helps me remember it. When I worked full-time (for someone else) I maintained a notebook in which I wrote absolutely everything down. This was in addition to the formal project plans and lists for all the tasks and issues I was tracking (perhaps I should mention I’m also quite detail orientated?).
A notebook lasted between three and six months, depending on the amount of work I was handling. Each notebook was filled with scribbled notes and appeared disorganized and messy, but the process helped me keep track of all the plates I was juggling and more than once helped me c.m.a. because I could go back and find who what when and why.
When I started my own business I made some changes to the process because I now had the independence to choose what stuff got done when where how and why (I just love being my own boss!). I modified the process started under the corporate yoke all those years ago and used separate physical notebooks and computer folders for each main category of stuff – writing, business, projects, interests, etc.
Sorting the electronic documents into the folders and keeping everything together works well – if it is all on one computer. So far I’ve been using mainly my laptop – being portable is wonderful. I can take it with me and write anywhere – although I tend to only write while sitting in my extremely comfy recliner in my living room, a cat on my lap (usually Oliver) and the fish tank bubbling happily in the background.
Having multiple physical notebooks has not worked as well. I keep misplacing one or more of them, can never find the one I need when I need it, forget to write stuff down, misplace the small bits of paper or napkins I used to jot notes on when the notebook was missing, and have fallen into the trap of wanting them to be neat and tidy (still trying after all these years to be neat and tidy, thanks mom – not).
I do like keeping things separate but I have decided that I also need a ‘command central’ – one notebook to track the status of everything. I had resisted returning to my original process because I wanted to assert my independence and new job, new processes – right? But the downside of being your own boss is that stuff multiples exponentially, there is no one but you to keep track of it all, and even less time to keep track of the little you can manage. This has made me realize that this seeming de-evolution of my process is actually an evolution – because I’m tweaking and refining the process, not simply reverting back to it.
A couple gift seasons ago I received a Livescribe Smartpen (Great Gift for a Writer!) and a stack of electronic notebooks. I used the sample sized one, signed up for an Evernote account, and really enjoyed the convenience. But I never fully utilized the functionality, partly because the notebooks and pen nibs are not inexpensive (I write a lot), but mostly because I misplaced the notebook (oops!).
I will start using one electronic notebook for command central – it combines the look and feel of ink on paper with the convenience of digital storage and retrieval.
I will still keep the separate notebooks because I do like thinking out loud on paper, scribbling, drawing, doodling, the feel of paper, ink colors, pencils, crayons, etc. – plus I have amassed quite a lot of writing accouterments over the years (I collect pencils and used to write my first drafts in pencil in notebooks).
So you might be asking – what exactly does this have to do with the overabundance of stuff waiting to fill the void?
Well, I’ve taken up position at the entrance to the void and am giving each piece of stuff the third degree. If they past muster I will notate them in my handy-dandy electronic command central notebook, and keep track of why where and when they enter the void.
The stuff has already quietened down and started to form an orderly line.