© Gaye Wilson 2008
One of the most useful strategies I’ve used for this particular project, and one that I will use again, is keeping track.

Keeping track of what, you ask?

Keeping track of whatever will help you (a) reach the goal and (b) reach your next goal.

For this current project I have been keeping track of:

  • the hours spent on the project: it is essential to know this, so that I can charge the client for my time.
  • the number of pages I have edited per hour: I seem to be averaging five.
  • the number of pages I have proofread per hour: this one is not as simple to quantify, because I was not doing my usual thorough proofreading because the time was running out. I definitely need to note how many pages I proofread on my next job.
  • the amount of time I spent formatting the document. This particular one had issues that I hope I don’t get again. Unfortunately, I didn’t note specifically which bits were formatting and which bits were editing. I’ll need to do that next time.
  • extraneous items that need to be included in the invoice at the end of the job, such as the cost of phone calls, postage etc.

For larger projects, or multi-faceted projects or projects that need a lot of resources or take a long time, you would need to keep track of some other items:

  • who’s doing what
  • when each phase needs to be completed and how on track you are
  • problems/delays
  • what’s been done
  • costs

 This is only a very short list of what can be tracked on a job.

I keep track of my projects using an Excel spreadsheet I developed some years ago. I plug in the date, the time I start work, the time I finish work, and a short description of the work. I can also track what has been sent off and when, and interim payments, and I can see at a glance what my productivity is like by using graphs.

Someone else who uses spreadsheets to keep track of business stuff is Gayla, of Mom’s Gadget. Have a look at her blog entry on how she uses spreadsheets.

What else do you keep track of, and what tools do you use?

 

© Gaye Wilson 2008
What happens if you are working to a deadline, but there is no way you can meet it?

You have a couple of options:

  • contact the person who set the deadline and see if you can renegotiate it
  • enlist help

Maybe you can combine the two options.

Other ways you can enlist help are:

  • Brainstorm with a friend or your mastermind group how you can meet the deadline
  • Ask a process-oriented friend for ideas on how you can streamline what you are doing
  • Tell the people you work with that you need to stop talking or attending meetings until the project is done
  • Ask your family to do some of your chores, to give you more time to work on the project

The All Paths to Victory Strategy states that you do whatever it takes to achieve your goal. If that means you ask for additional help, then go for it!

 

© Gaye Wilson 2008
When you are working hard on a job, especially one as physically and mentally challenging as editing or proofreading (amongst others), it really helps to take regular, refreshing breaks. I have found on this particular editing job that I stopped seeing errors after about an hour of intense concentration. Getting up, taking a walk, drinking a glass of water and maybe playing with the dog all helped when I got back to work. I would pick up the job, re-read the last paragraph I was working on, and immediately see the problem that had been eluding me.

This tip is applicable to almost everything you do. If you are a workaholic who doesn’t take breaks, your health will suffer. If you don’t take annual holidays, your health and relationships will suffer. If you have multiple tasks to do, changing to another one when you are weary of the first one is a good way to refresh yourself, and when you come back to the original one, you’ll be able to cope with it a bit better.

 

© Gaye Wilson 2008
After reading a post about tracking jobs on David Seah’s productivity blog, I thought about how I schedule the actions I need to take. I’ve been thinking about the best ways to do things for some time, hence this blog, and am experimenting with different strategies.

The one I’ve come up with this week is the Corkboard Scheduler.

I had a corkboard sitting idle that I’d bought for something else. I had a bunch of square paper (9x9cm or 3.5×3.5 inches). I had pins. I had index cards. I put them all together, and came up with this:

Corkboard Scheduler

Across the top are six index cards. Each one has a label. The first one is a different colour than the rest, and it represents the jobs I want to work on This Week. The remaining index cards are categories of actions in my life. I was limited to only five categories by the size of the corkboard.

The idea was this: use one piece of paper (I’m going to call them note squares – they are about the size of a Post It note) per action. Write the name of the job/action on a note square. Pin the note square under the appropriate index card category. When I plan to work on the action on a particular note square, I unpin it from the category column, and pin it in the This Week column.

This looked good.

I found that in some cases I also wrote the date the action was due at the bottom of the note square. This gave me a deadline, and allowed me to see at a glance which actions needed to be put in the This Week column. I could also write the date the note square was written, so that I can track how long it’s been on the Scheduler. If it has been on the board for months, maybe the action does not need to be taken.

The advantage of this Corkboard Scheduler for the visual thinker is the ability to see at a glance what needs to be done, and in some cases, when. The note squares under each category tell me what projects are on my plate, the ones in the This Week column give me a visual nudge that I need to work those tasks into my time for this week.

The size of the corkboard I’m using limits the number of categories I can use, and the number of actions I can pin under each category. I can only use five categories and five actions in each category. This is fine, because that means that only the most important actions appear on the board. If I have too many, I won’t be able to focus on achieving each individual victory.

If, however, I find that I have more items that need to be recorded on the Corkboard Scheduler, I can use the other side for future projects.

I’m sure this is not a new idea, but I haven’t used it before, and I’m playing around with it to see how useful it is for me.

How have you used something like this?

 

© Gaye Wilson 2008
Well, after the hassles with the computer and getting behind on the daily targets, I got sick. So sick that I couldn’t concentrate, and therefore could do no useful work on the project. I tried, believe me, I tried, but it didn’t work very well.

So I went to bed.

For two days.

Now I’m back again, and managed more than the quota for today. Tomorrow I should be able to finish the first pass of the job.

Strategy used: if something happens that stops or impedes progress, don’t beat yourself up about it. Deal with the situation as necessary, and then bounce back when you can. Feeling guilty that you’re behind won’t help.

 

© Gaye Wilson 2007
Well, I didn’t post yesterday, as I had intended. I had to do the grocery shopping yesterday, amid hordes of post-Christmas shoppers, and didn’t get home until half the afternoon was gone. I did manage to get some editing on the project done, and I made sure I had reached the original target for the day before I knocked off. This means that I am where I should be according to my original time estimate, but am behind on the revised estimate of doing extra pages each day.

Therefore, the strategy mentioned in my previous post about doing more than the daily target whenever possible has paid off. I’m on schedule, even though I had to do some extra-curricular activity yesterday and could not put in all the hours.

This leads to another point. When I was planning the daily targets, I didn’t take into account the possibility of doing anything else. I didn’t factor in the shopping trip, nor did I factor in the possibility of a computer crash.

Which is what happened today.

I logged onto the computer and the internet this morning to update this blog, and the computer froze. I rebooted, and it wouldn’t. Boot, I mean. The local computer shop was singularly unhelpful over the phone, insisting that I bring the computer in. No, they couldn’t possibly take me through the BIOS setup over the phone to see if the problem could be fixed that way. Grrrr. The computer shop is a one hour round trip away. If a phone call could fix the problem, that would save me two hours of travelling, two days of no internet connection (because I’m sure they will insist on a 48 hour turnaround for what is probably a simple problem), and some aggravation.

So, the blog isn’t being updated today. It’s being written today, but won’t be uploaded today. I discovered this morning, looking at WordPress for Dummies (more about this fantastic book later), that I can change the date of a post, either to a future date or a past date. I’m sure I’m going to be using that facility to post this entry, when I get the computer working again.

Oh, how can I be writing this on a dead computer? I’m not. I’m doing it on an AlphaSmart 3000. More about this nifty device later, too.

Lucky I have another, non-internet connected computer to do my editing work today, and that I backed up last night. Well, not lucky, exactly. Yet another strategy to lead to victory.

© Gaye Wilson 2007
Christmas is over, and I’m back at work.

Yesterday I did five more pages than my goal number. Today I did two pages more than my goal.

Why?

Because of the tight timeframe for this project, I need to ensure that I finish it on time. The All Paths To Victory Strategy states that you do whatever it takes to complete your goal. In this case, the daily goals I set myself originally were best-case-scenario. If something happened to make me miss a daily goal, the whole project would be in jeopardy.

A case in point. We had a thunderstorm today. Thunderstorms are not good for computers, and I’m doing this job on the computer. I had to shut the computer down and unplug it while the storm was around. If we get another one tomorrow, the time available to work will again be shortened.

So this is the second strategy I am employing to get this job done: do more than the daily goal, if possible.

Tomorrow I will post the third strategy to completing a goal.

 

© Gaye Wilson 2007
Well, I did 30 pages yesterday instead of 25 before I had to stop and do Christmassy things, and am now up to page 75 of the manuscript.

I discovered that having a specific number of pages to complete for the day was a very powerful focus for me. Whenever I got tired or distracted, I remembered that I had to meet a (self-imposed) quota, and that if I didn’t meet the quota today I would be behind for the rest of the project, probably submit it late, and have a very unhappy client.

I don’t want unhappy clients. I want happy ones who rave about my service.

So, two days of meeting a quota feels good. The project is on schedule, and now I can have a day off to celebrate Christmas with my family.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

 

© Gaye Wilson 2007
Christmas is only a day away, but I’m working very hard on a rush editing job. I have to edit and format (including standardising the bibliography) 350 pages of academic research, and I have to get it done by 9th January. I only just got the job yesterday. And it’s Christmas time!

Editing takes a long time. Formatting bibliographies takes a long time.

So how am I going to do it?

The whole job looks overwhelming and the timeframe is a nightmare. It needs to be chunked down. I find numbers very soothing in circumstances like this.

So I’ve counted the pages and the days I have to do it in. I figure if I edit 25 pages per day, I might just make it. But that means I don’t do anything else in that time. I’ve allowed myself Christmas Day off.

We’ll see how it goes.

 

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