Monday, December 16, 2013

Attorney Time

Post by Jenny

Regarding the title to this post, rest assured that I'm not involved in a litigious situation…though if my neighbor’s three standard poodles keep at it, I might be. (Just kidding! Kind of.) No, this post was inspired by a recent lunch with my former boss, who is an attorney.

When I started in the three-attorney law firm, I had never worked for bill-by-hour professionals, and I was surprised by how assiduous they were at keeping track of their time. Every action performed for a client was tracked in tenth-of-an-hour increments. A telephone conference, for example, might be a .3, and an office conference a 1.2…you get the idea. At the end of the month, the client received an itemized bill for time spent. (And although six minutes of billable time doesn’t seem like much, it all adds up in a hurry.)

I often think of this timekeeping system when I’m struggling with my time management issues. If I kept track of my writing time in the same way, a good day would look something like this:

Work on draft -- 1.6
Research agents -- .5
Submit queries -- .3
Review contest submission -- .2
Green tea, dark chocolate, and newspaper break -- .3
Jot down short story ideas -- .2

And I do have days like that. But I have more of these days:

Clean up maple syrup that has glued placemat to table, wash placemat -- .2
Chase puppy who is running through house with my underwear -- .1
Telephone conference with mother -- .3
Remember son needs cookies for school party and run to grocery store -- .5
Cookie, green tea, and newspaper break -- .3
Laundry -- .6
Make excessively elaborate salad for lunch -- .3
Eat salad -- .4
Dog referee -- .7
Second telephone conference with mother -- .3
Work on Sunday’s crossword -- .4
Read blogs – .8
Run to Target for important item I forgot to pick up when I went to grocery store -- .7
And if I’m lucky: Cram in manuscript time before school is dismissed -- .4

Research shows that dieters who keep a food journal are more successful than those who don’t. I think it’s also true for time management. Accountability leads to better self-awareness and, hopefully, better habits. (But sadly for me, minutes will always be much easier to burn than calories.)

What helps keep your time management on track?


RichardK said...

There are so many projects going on at once in my house that I have to mentally set myself as soon as I get up to accomplish them. Without this lock I tend to meander about from one project to another. The best way for me to time manage is to leave the house and do my work elsewhere. Without the usual distractions my scheduling is more precise.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Oh my. I never thought of keeping track of my work and chores as though it were billable time. Entries like daily nap 1.00 and watching Survivor season finale 3.00 don't sound very writerly.

Abbie Taylor said...

You know what they say about the best laid plans. This was a good post.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap:
Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Shirley Drew said...

Great post! Glad I'm not the only one who gets derailed by everyday life!

Sarah Sullivan said...

Excellent point! I need to start doing that.

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