Some Thoughts on Time and Structure

Time_WarpI had planned to write an instructional post on the use of spreadsheets in writing a novel, but life happened this week. Right after the deadline for this post got moved up, my whippets decided that this was the perfect time to wage a war, or more specifically, my younger male whippet, Zephyr, decided it was time to beat up my older female whippet, Zoe. He attacked her repeatedly last week, leaving her cowering near the front door, begging to be let  out of the house. The next four days were incredibly stressful. I got little done. I hovered over them waiting for the next attack. I called a dog trainer friend of mine in a panic. I thought horrible thoughts of what would happen if they never got along again.

Before the week of the whippet war, I had already been struggling with time management issues. I shouldn’t have time management issues since I have a part-time job with flexible hours and no kids. I should have plenty of time, but I don’t. Every Sunday, I diligently fill out my calendar. I note the hours I should be writing, working, and walking the dogs. I notate times to pay bills or grocery shop. I follow the schedule, but still I wasn’t getting everything done. I read Lisa Borders post on time management twice, including every article she linked to, searching for where I was wasting time. Nothing was helping so I decided to switched tactics and started tracking my time in quarter-hour increments to see what I did with my days. I did manage to identify things that wasted time (social media), and where most of my time went (dogs). Still it was not enough.

Then the whippets got into it. I decide to control Zephyr’s movements in hopes of keeping him calm. His days were strictly structured. I managed every minute of his time. He was no longer allowed to race up the stairs in a haphazard fashion after a walk. He had to perform a series of tricks or obedience moves at the bottom of the stairs and again at the top. He was then forced to wait briefly in a sit stay. After every exciting thing (eating, walking, playing), he is now required to spend two minutes in his crate in a cooling off period. Zoe has quickly picked up on the new structure of their days and goes into her crate after every walk without being asked. And you know what? It’s working beautifully. Zephyr is a smart, energetic dog, who has really taken to the new shape of his days. The two whippets are back to getting along. Their play can still escalate quickly to being aggressive, but I don’t fear a random attack on Zoe by Zephyr anymore.

As I did in a previous post, I am going to look to my whippets for a lesson. Perhaps I need a change in the structure of my days to get more done. I have long been a fan of writing a little bit every day to develop the habit of writing, but maybe it’s time to take the flexibility I have with my work and use it to shake up my schedule, to actually be flexible. I have decided to do things in big chunks instead of a little bit here and there in the hope that achieving short term goals will help with unrelated longer term ones. I have prioritized the major things that need to be done and am going to focus on things one at a time, even if the one thing takes weeks to complete. This way I will be focusing on things as a whole instead of in part. As for my very long-term project, my novel, I have also decided to forget about squeezing three hours out of my day to write. For now, I am going to spend one full day per week on writing and try to get it to two full days. I will still spend an hour each morning over tea either writing or doing research, but I’m not going to stress about not get enough writing done. I’ll save that for my one day per week. As much as I don’t anticipate Zephyr having to perform tricks for the rest of his life every time he comes into the house, I hope to get back to a daily routine of writing, but for now I’m going to shake up the structure of my days in hopes it’ll have a positive affect like it did on my whippet.




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