Tackling the Big Gorilla
– How to Add a Large Project to Your Schedule and Still Be
Stress-free around the
Cheryl C. Malandrinos - All Rights
Once October starts, the rest of
the year flies by. In addition to writing projects, the kids’
schedules get busier and my volunteer activities
It has been three years since I
participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I
hesitated to join in because I know how busy this time of the
year always is for me. I sat down and asked myself a very
Can I work NaNoWriMo into
my jam-packed schedule?
To answer this question I had to
consider what commitments I already made, and figure out where
I was wasting time so I could create a realistic schedule that
would allow me to add in a sizable project like NaNoWriMo. This
schedule also needs to leave me a bit of room for the
unexpected and not make me feel overwhelmed and
You can create a schedule that
will work for you too.
The first thing to do is take out
a piece of paper or fire up your computer—I go the paperless
route because it’s one less thing to lose—and make three
Under each heading, list all you
have to do for the next two months, noting deadlines where
necessary. Then the real work
Review each item on your to-do
list to see if it’s something you must work on, can delegate,
or change the deadline on. You must also discipline yourself by
eliminating distractions and interruptions, and also consider
if you have the time to dedicate to
Let’s talk more about all of
these and see how to create that realistic schedule you’re
Delegate What You
The easiest way to remove things
from your to-do list is to delegate what you
You mean I am expected to
allow someone else to handle things I only trust myself
I know how tough it is to give up
control of things because I struggle with it every day; but
unless you want the entire holiday season to pass you by
without enjoying a minute of it, you need to ask for help.
Household chores, errands, even meal preparation can be
delegated to other members of your household. Even small
children can assist in keeping the living areas of your home
clean by picking up their messes before bedtime. Yeah, people
might gripe when you ask, but they will enjoy a less stressed
you and appreciate spending more time together during the
Are These Firm
If a large writing project comes
your way that you want to add to your already jam-packed
schedule, it might mean you have to consider changing deadlines
on smaller projects.
This should not be done without
giving it a great deal of thought.
Some things to consider
is the impact to my relationship with this client
if I ask for an
asked this client for an extension in the
is the impact to my overall business if I can’t
meet this deadline?
is the overall impact to my business if I take on
this larger project?
Once you’ve damaged a
relationship, it takes a tremendous amount of work to repair
it, if the client even allows you that opportunity. Constantly
asking for extensions gives the impression that this client
isn’t important to you.
On the flip side, if a large
project will have a significant positive impact on your overall
career, it is worth finding ways to make it happen.
Going with less than five hours
of sleep for a month is not the right way!
Talk to your clients, always
keeping them informed of your progress on their projects—if
that is what they request. If it becomes necessary to move a
deadline, let them know in plenty of time and be ready to offer
them a new “firm” deadline for the completion of the
Planning ahead is vital to
creating that realistic writing schedule you’re looking for.
Some ways you can plan ahead before tackling that new project
Spend a few hours
preparing menus for each week of November and December,
including your holiday menus.
If your holidays
usually include baking, prepare cookie dough ahead of time and
Shop in bulk so
that you can cut back on the number of errands to pick up food,
household items, and office
Amazon.com becomes my best friend during the holiday season.
Over 90% of my holiday shopping is done online, and I take
advantage of free gift wrapping services when they are
your holiday cards and envelopes pre-printed. Remember, your
time is also worth something!
If you’ll be
entertaining during the holidays, ask friends and family if
they would be willing to bring a food
Many of these suggestions will
work anytime of the year.
Interruptions, and Time Wasters, Oh
Distractions, interruptions and
time wasters can threaten any project, no matter the size. It
is especially important when approaching a large project during
the holiday season to eliminate any and all things that steal
time away from your writing.
Setting aside a time during the
day to return phone messages and emails will help keep your
writing time focused. It is important, especially when you’re
juggling multiple projects and family or volunteer activities,
that you discipline yourself not to check email or surf the
Internet when you should be writing.
Don’t fool yourself by saying
that it will only take a few seconds. It rarely takes a few
And as you train yourself,
you can train your family to respect your writing time
and not interrupt you when you’re
Now that school is back in
session, it seems the girls have a sniffle every other week.
With the fear of Swine Flu, parents are encouraged to keep
their kids home even for what might seem like minor ailments.
That means more days at home for them and less writing time for
While you never know when you’re
child will be home from school, if you have items readily
available to entertain her you’ll still be able to get work
done: books, crafts, and even an hour’s worth of television or
video games will help. Since my office is upstairs, I often
carry my laptop downstairs to be with the girls if they’re
home, but they also have small foldable couches that can be
moved into my office if I need to be
Do I Have Time for
We all like to give back to our
community. It sets an excellent example for our children and
makes us feel good about ourselves. The problem is we find it
hard to say no even when we don’t have the
Look at your list and see how
many items are under the Volunteering column, then ask yourself
if it is realistic to be involved in those activities when
you’ve just committed to a large writing project and the
holidays are quickly
My work schedule and my
daughters’ activities keep me very busy all year long, but
especially around the holidays. I knew I had to cut back. I
dropped out of one committee and cut back slightly at church.
I’ve made a point not to commit to any new volunteer efforts
until well after the first of the
That two-letter word, “no” can be
difficult to say, but remember, you’re not saying no forever,
just for now.
One thing that will help keep you
stress-free around the holidays is getting the right amount of
rest. Burning the candles at both ends helps no one, and
certainly not your writing.
Do you want to be miserable and
irritable during the holiday season or do you want to enjoy
spending fun times with your family and
Get the required amount of sleep
each night so that you’ll be ready with a well rested mind to
tackle your writing and anything unexpected that comes your
I’m excited about participating
in NaNoWriMo this year. You can be excited about your next big
project too, even if it comes around the holidays, as long as
you do what it takes to create a realistic schedule that allows
you to balance your family, your writing, and your volunteer
the Author: Cheryl
Malandrinos is a freelancer who specializes in helping
writers increase productivity through time management and
organization. She has also written articles on everyday
life in the 1800’s, gardening, parenting, and women’s health
is also a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your
Book Promotion and the editor of Musing Our Children’s
quarterly newsletter, Pages & Pens. Her first children’s book
will be released in 2010. You can find out more
about Cheryl by visiting her website at