The Cost of Commitment

This morning I had a call from the parent of a young student I work with telling me that in the coming weeks her first grader would be working on Time and Money.

Afterward, I started thinking, maybe that's where the problem begins, way back in the early years, when we're taught to think of those as two entirely different things.

Because of our unpredictable (and all-too-often miniscule) flow of funds and infrequent paydays, longterm professional writers quickly become savvy about budgeting their money. We have to, or we can't long survive in our chosen profession.

Unfortunately, most of us are slower at learning how to budget time, which is strange, since all of us are allotted the same number of hours per day as everyone else. The trick is, remembering that our time has the same value as people who work on the clock, that everything we choose to do with that time costs a percentage of our day... and our lives.

So the next time you feel pressured to build an online social networking presence, hang around on readers' board and "casually" namedrop your book, write "web extras" for a microscopic percentage of your fans to access, speak or do blog tours, or drive around introducing yourself to booksellers and signing stock, resist the impulse to answer the request on the spot.

Then, spend just a little time on a cost-benefit analysis, weighing the realistic potential impact of your labor against the time taken away from a deadline, a spec project, your family, or (dare I say it?) much-needed R&R?

Make a habit of waiting a day or two, thinking about the totality of your commitments, and then making a conscious choice, and I guarantee you you'll feel more in control of your life - and far happier about those projects to which you say yes.

Question for the day: How do you choose your commitments? Any time management techniques to share?


Joni Rodgers said…
Oh. Fine. You just HAD to throw the time management thing in my face!

I'm in White Rabbit mode right now: "I'm late! I'm late!"

Hating. That. A lot.
Picture me innocently whistling, hands held behind my back, eyes rolled toward the heavens. Innocently - did you get that?

(Cue maniacal laughter.)

Seriously, good luck! I'm pulling for you!
Suzan Harden said…
Gosh, I'd love to hear some time management tips. What else do you do besides saying 'no' to extraneous promo stuff?
Really, besides this, the only other thing I can add is to prioritize ruthlessly, with an eye toward healthful balance.

But that pretty much says it all, as far as I'm concerned. :)
Kathryn said…
Wow. I just read this as I'm sitting here with a blank weekly schedule, getting ready to figure out my commitments for the semester! Thanks for this nudge!

I may make a post myself about this soon, about balancing writing with teaching and other commitments. For instance, I just got back from giving a workshop. I didn't know I was going to be paid (wasn't entirely clear), but it was for people at an old job and I genuinely wanted to do it. I ended up BEING paid (and well), but even if I hadn't, I would have done it for the intrinsic value.

What I'm finding harder to handle is the requests and demands that are made on my time that I have no control over. It's when the job I've agreed to do part-time suddenly becomes more full-time, but without warning and without extra pay. That is the thing that makes me "spitting nails mad" and makes me have to readjust.

Blargh. There is a lot I could say about this.
Joni Rodgers said…

I teared up a little when I saw that.
Well, it won't be blank for long! It's never truly blank. I just reconfigure it as I go. But that's my trick--to periodically wipe everything off and get a big piece of paper that has all the time blocks mapped out and then go at it, filling back in things like teaching and all the "paid work" commitments, and then figuring out how to fit the writing around it.

A friend of mine color codes her schedule, which is an interesting approach, but a bit too anal for me. There is also an approach called "The Balanced Life Chart," which Gina Hiatt over at Academic Ladder recommends. I may post about that, as it really helped me when I was working on the novel as a dissertation. I would also be curious to see what Colleen says about the "healthful balance."

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