Taming time

Lion tamer
A lion tamer at Bertram Mills Touring Circus, Ascot/Edward G Malindine/

By Jaye Marsh

Time management was a popular topic to start off the year for Editors Toronto branch meetings.

A full house of approximately 40 people greeted the guest panellists at our new venue. Thanks to Greg Ioannou, lifetime member of Editors Canada, the Toronto branch now meets at the Centre for Social Innovation, a lovely multimedia-capable space on Spadina Avenue near Queen Street West.

The evening’s program, held on September 26, was about “Time-management for busy editors.” Program chair Lee Parpart invited four panellists: Jennifer D. Foster, Jeanne McKane, Dr. Nicole Lyon Roccas, and Jayne S. Huhtanen.

Jennifer gave us a list of practical tips and guiding principles that work for her: knowing your needs, discipline, attitude, and creating the right space in which to work. She reviewed her unsuccessful experience with the Pomodoro technique (setting tasks and using timers); making lists; using a hard-copy calendar; the importance of checklists to relieve the memory banks; taking regular breaks; exercising; setting rewards; and learning to say no. At the end, Jennifer stressed the importance of surrounding herself with positive, kind people who are supportive and respectful of her and her work. The end result? A favourable effect on productivity, motivation, and efficiency.

Jeanne offered a great visual presentation with fun graphics that hit home faster than any amount of words. She suggested creating routines for repetitive tasks to reduce stress: every Wednesday, send out invoices; every Saturday, review and set your tasks; at the end of every month, send out unpaid invoice reminders. This sort of organizing creates what she called a practice that does not need a list, it’s just the day you do things. It also helps with transitioning from work to home, especially useful for freelancers, but also for anyone with competing needs and timelines.

She manages her time by breaking down tasks into their smallest pieces, turning ongoing work into a set of tasks, and scheduling smaller tasks. She also uses lists, a long-term planner (she had a handy spreadsheet that tracked her days over multiple years), a paper daily planner, and schedules everything, including self-care.

Nicole is a list person, too, batching similar tasks and practising advanced planning to avoid wasting time. She likes to “routinize,” which includes weekly tasks such as preloading social media posts, bookkeeping, drafting blog posts and other writing, emailing clients, writing monthly birthday cards, checking finances, and paying bills. Similar to “everything has its place,” for Nicole “everything has its time.”

After her presentation, the audience cajoled Nicole into talking more about her thesis project on the philosophy of time. I got the sense that we all wanted a tiny bit of the esoteric and academic in our presentation, not just the practical. To that end, her book is due out soon: Time and Despondency: Regaining the Present in Faith and Life (Ancient Faith Publishing, January 2018).

Our final speaker was Jane, a life coach who helps her clients focus and find balance in their lives. She suggested that to create clarity, we write down all of our life goals, commit to two of the list, create a plan to achieve these goals, and keep working the tasks created from the plan. She suggested some things to do to manage our time: If an emergency task gets added, one task comes off the day’s to-do list. Remind yourself daily of your big goals. When faced with procrastination, break up the item into smaller tasks and do the worst task first. To manage distractions, Jane suggested we turn off all of our notifications, use timers and hang a do-not-disturb sign on our door. Like the other panellists, Jane also emphasized self-care.

During the Q&A, more people had comments than questions, sharing their own ideas. One person asked about coping with project management, which requires constant online engagement—you can’t just turn off the emails or only check them once a day. Nicole suggested filters: create alerts only for the project you are on right now, so that you don’t have to see the non-emergent emails until you choose to.

All four presenters took pains to point out that we should customize all tips, suggestions, tools, and methods for ourselves or they would not work in the long term. Whether you use lists, calendars, timers, or a combination, tweaking the tools for your needs and workflow is the key to making them work for you.

After the meeting, the room was abuzz with folks chatting about what they’d learned and connecting with each other.

Jaye Marsh is a professional flutist, editor, and designer in Toronto. Her passions are music, knitting, and words—in no particular order. http://www.theredscribbler.com

This article was copy edited by Sarah Newman.

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