There’s a famous story about the management consultant Ivy Lee and Charles Schwab, president of Bethlehem Steel (then, at the start of the 20th century, the biggest steel company in the world). Lee gave Schwab a tip for increasing his productivity and told him to try it and pay him what he thought it was worth once he had tested it. The tip was this:
Make a list of what you need to do at the start of each day in the order of importance of the tasks that need to be done. Work your way down the list, finishing each task and then moving on to the next one. In this way you will at least get the most important things done.
Schwab tried it for a week and then sent Lee a cheque for $25000, (at least a quarter of a million in today’s money.)
I have no idea whether this story is true. If it is, it probably says as much about the vanity of tycoons as the value of time management. There is definitely an important point about getting things done buried in it though.
I was planning on putting the second part of my post about Macharius up today but I just don’t have the time and it is in conflict with my priorities. I would like to think these are an efficient and effective set of priorities for a writer so I’ll share them with you.
On working days my first priority is to get new writing done. I try and write something new every day except Sunday. On work days, the ultimate priority goes to work that is contracted and deadlined. I aim to write at least 1000 words of it, maybe 2000. If I don’t feel like pushing past 1000 words on my current deadlined project, I’ll try and write another 1000 words on something else, something blue-sky, a pet project that interests me. I am a fiction writer so fiction writing comes first for me every day. If that’s all I manage to do I am still happy about it.
If I manage to get some words down, I move on to preparing work that has already been written; editing or polishing something, proof-reading a manuscript or preparing an ebook for upload. I aim to do an hour or so on this, sometimes more if I feel like it.
Once that is out of the way, I will do promotional stuff or things like blog posts. When I started this blog I set myself the goal of writing 3 blog posts a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s not high priority for me, but I would like to do it if I can.
Sometimes I will change priorities such as when Black Library needs my manuscript proofed pronto. In general though, I stick with this system because I know that if I do,my books will get written and edited and proof-read and that is what my livelihood depends on.
I have another priority which is that, unless it is a real career emergency, I put personal stuff first where I can. Today we have family visitors who I have not seen in a while and I want to spend time with them so I don’t have time to write a blog post about Macharius.
You are possibly wondering how, if I didn’t have the time to write that post, I had time to write this one. The answer is simple — I wrote it in advance, knowing that at some point a situation like this was bound to arise. All I had to do was add a few words of explanation and it’s ready to go.
I will need to write a replacement for this post now that I have used it. That comes under the heading of contingency planning which may well be the subject for that new blog post.