What Is Best In Life? Time Management for Geeks and Writers With Lives, Part One

Let’s face it. Time management gurus just don’t get it.

I’ve read about every time management, productivity, and organization book out there. I’ve tried methods from all the experts, I’ve tried planners and apps and tools, and nothing seems to work. Moreover, nothing seems to help the weariness I feel at the end of the day when I know things didn’t go as well as I wanted them to, and I could have done better. By the end of the day, I’m exhausted, and to have only completed half the things I wanted to? That’s pretty defeating. On top of that, how many of those things were actually important to me vs. being just things I “had” to do?

There are a lot of things that your average time management guru doesn’t get about geeks or writers (or game designers, etc). First of all, we’re geeks. Geeks are passionate people. Our interests consume our lives. And we often have many of them. Our day jobs are the least of our lives in many cases. They are what we have to survive, to pay the bills, to put food on the table…and to pay of the things that are really important to us. There are those of us who are lucky enough to have day jobs in the fields we are passionate about, but let’s face it, those are rare cases. And even when our jobs are in fields we care about, it can be draining to do those things when you have to rather than when you want to. After work, we need the time with our geekdoms to refresh ourselves, to fill our buckets. But geeks and writers being normal people as well, we have families and chores and shopping…

Another thing time management folks might not get is that writers and many geeks are freelancers. We don’t always have regular hours. Our days don’t often look alike, depending on what projects we’re working on, or if we are scrambling to pay bills, or if suddenly we find ourselves (heavens forbid) with an empty slate. 

That being said, time can be managed in ways that allow us to pursue our geeky interests, spend time with our families, get the day job done, and end the day feeling like we accomplished the things that are important to us instead of wondering why our souls feel so empty. And yes, you might even be able to get some sleep.

Now, there are a million ways of managing your time, and no one method will work for everyone.  My way is a conglomerate of many, many different methods. I’m a big fan of taking what works for me and leaving the rest behind. You should never feel pressured to use an entire system if only one piece actually works for you. So even if your takeaway from this entire series is one thing, then I’ll consider this a success, because every little piece adds up to make a whole thing that works for you.

So, what’s the first step? Well, before you can manage your time, you’ll want to know what exactly you’ll be filling your time with. This way, you can shape your day around the things you want, instead of having a day with empty slots to fill with “have-tos.” It’s a subtle difference, but really, it is a difference. I want you to think about what you want to fill your day with. And yes, some of these things will be things like, “my day job.” Like it or not, your day job gives you money that allows you to do awesome things. “Paying bills” and “household chores” need to be done to give you a nice place to do the things you are passionate about. When you list the things that will fill your day, look at it in that way. How do these things help you fill your bucket?

Here is my list:

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You’ll notice that things like my day job and my hobbies have sub-entries. Basically, anything that could possibly have it’s own slot, I separated out just to be specific. If I just wrote “hobbies,” that is pretty generic. Sure, some people only have “woodworking” as their hobby, but being the Renaissance Geek that I am, I need to separate them out. I enjoy all those things, and they are all important to me. Hobbies often get pushed aside as “extras.” NO! Why would you do that? Why would you take the things that you enjoy doing most and put them as a last priority? No. List them all out. It’s time to take ownership over your time, what you love, and who you are.

My publicity work is also divided into subcategories, because each of those need to be done every day or week. They all need individual attention.

Now, once you have everything listed out, look at some areas that might overlap. You’ll notice that on my list, under hobbies I have “movies/shows” and “games” with family written next to them. These things overlap quite often. I’ll watch movies with my family, and we play games almost every day. So right there, I’m killing two birds with one stone. If I did some sort of fitness activity that my son also did, I could include family in that. Or if I blogged about my hobbies, that could overlap. Fitness and self care overlap. Don’t agonize over it too much. Don’t get bogged down into details or force things to fit together. If two things just naturally go together, match them so that when you go to make your schedule, you’ll have a better idea of how to split up your time.

So, what is on your list? Throughout the week, jot down the things you think of that are important to you, but that you just haven’t been able to squeeze the time in for. What are things you enjoy that you’ve almost forgotten about? If you could do anything with your life, what would it be? What makes you you? Make a list and save it—next we’ll be working on blocking out your time!

About Melanie R. Meadors:

A writer of speculative fiction and lover of geeky things, Melanie R. Meadors lives in a one hundred-year-old house in central Massachusetts full of quirks and surprises. She's been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion.

Her short fiction has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. She is a freelance publicist, publicity coordinator for Ragnarok Publications, and the Marketing and Publicity Specialist at Mechanical Muse. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

What? I Can't Hear You Over My Nerd-Rage!

Nerd-rage. Let’s face it, it happens. One minute, you’re talking with someone about something you’re both passionate about, and suddenly, BOOM, war breaks out. How could this guy think Jedi was better than Empire? And he likes Star Trek V? SERIOUSLY? Who DOES that? I’ve seen strangers go on to Facebook pages of folks they don’t even know and completely trash them because they’ve never seen a Doctor Who episode prior to 2005, and I’ve seen the best of friends not speak for a month because of an argument over Firefly. On the latest episode of the Once and Future Podcast, Anton Strout and Ryan Britt discussed this phenomenon a bit, and it seems to be fairly prevalent. 

Where does it come from? A unique form of geek entitlement? A need to compete for nerdy survival? Because let’s face it, we’ve all experienced it. I mean, I consider myself a fairly accepting and positive person. Yet every now and then, I’ll see something like a person, who I know hated Star Wars two months before, start posting about it and I’ll start feeling kind of judgey. Are they being fakes? Are they just trying to fit in? Why doesn’t it put them to sleep anymore? Who are they trying to impress? But then my brain kicks in, and I say, “Who cares?” The more popular something I love gets, the better chances there are that even more awesome things will happen with it. Of course, there’s also a greater chance someone will screw it up, but that’s another post. Another thing that hits me now and then are people who only watch the shows of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones (you know, the series more accurately known as "A Song of Ice and Fire"?). Those guys are FAKES, right? I mean, how many hours, days of my life have I spent reading comics and novels, and these people just watch a few episodes and think they are real fans?

Well…yeah. Who the hell am I, or any of us, really, to judge who gets to be a fan of what? If something makes someone happy, why piss in their Cheerios? Are we really that miserable in the nerd community?

It seems that some of us are. Every day I see people on social media trashing others for their beliefs and their passions. Someone always has to one-up someone else, or prove they are better, or prove that their fandom is better. It’s really easy to get caught up in the cloud of negativity if you aren’t careful. I’m not talking about those of us who might slip into a wave of maybe too much passion for a subject we love. I’m talking outright bullying, people who get off on power trips, and who, in the end, are simply insecure idiots trying to make themselves feel important. Does this qualify as nerd-rage? In part, I think we all have to accept some responsibility for these people because it’s happening in our community. It’s something that we have to own, and in the end, hopefully take care of.

Matt Forbeck, author of the Marvel Encyclopedia, the Magic: The Gathering comic books, and award-winning game designer and novel writer, had this to say on the subject: “While it’s easy to get swept up in the latest wave of nerd-rage in which we often seem as a collective to be feeding on our most rotten parts, I never forget that the one thing that binds us together is the passion we have for the things that move us. For every outraged Gamergater, there are thousands if not millions of happy geeks who just want to share the love for their favorite things with their fellow geeks. Those awful bits are just a few grains of grit in a mighty hero sandwich. No one wants them there — and it’s best to remove them straight away — but they’re too damn small to ruin everything. Not if you don’t let them.”

Chuck Wendig, author of the recent technothriller, Zeroes, is no stranger to rage within the geek world. His Star Wars novel, Aftermath, was the target of contempt from many so-called fans of the franchise because, they claimed, he dared to make Star Wars characters…well, go where no Star Wars characters have gone before (Ha! Take that, haters! I’ve crossed the streams!). Even so, he maintains a positive outlook on the issue. After all, most fans loved his book, and it spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He says, “For me, fandom is about being positive. At its core, you enter fandom because you Love A Thing very much, but that love can become protective, even obsessive. Then you go to the Dark Side. Be a fountain, not a drain! Share the love instead of spreading hate. Remember why you got into it in the first place!”

This is something I agree with completely. Remember when you had a hard time finding like-minded people to hang out with? Remember that time you and your best friend got your asses kicked for acting out scenes from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on the playground? Were times really better back then? Do you really think everyone should be berated for liking things, or are you just jealous people can have a good time now in relative peace?

Of course, just because we love something doesn’t mean it’s without faults, nor does it mean we shouldn’t give some constructive criticism to perhaps make it better. But the key here is constructive criticism. I’ve seen people get the very thing they ask for, say, a television show featuring a female protagonist superhero, and completely shred it. Rather than seeing it as the first step in a process of society making progress, they will treat it as an all or nothing situation. The show must be PERFECT in order for them to approve. What happens then? Well, since the show was groundbreaking to begin with, many people didn’t approve of it to begin with. When even the people who begged for a show shred it, the station cancels it and leaves us with nothing. This could be avoided by people controlling their rage and instead, communicating with the creators, working together to perfect their vision, and maybe coming to an understanding of WHY perhaps the creators made certain decisions. We can critique things with a level head without the rage.

“For me, being a geek/nerd is about passion and enthusiasm, it's being so excited by a story that you can't help but share that passion,” says Michael R. Underwood, author of geeky speculative fiction including the recent Genrenauts series. “And while it's important to critique works (especially parts that are sexist, racist, homophobic, and so on), I think that the most useful artistic critique comes from a desire for works to improve, so they can better encourage, entertain, and inspire. And that puts that critique into a greater effort of shared enthusiasm, of building up more than tearing down.”

If you feel the need to comment on someone’s project, love, or nerdery, ask yourself where it’s coming from. Are you wanting to berate someone, or are you trying to help? Pay attention to the words you use, too. I mean, sure, your five year old nephew has Darth Vader wielding a six-shooter. You want to tell him (and perhaps his parents) off, but what can you do to help the poor soul rather than tearing him down? I mean, maybe he has a good reason for this…heresy. Talk to the kid, find out where he’s coming from. Maybe he’s exploring a new side of something, and a really cool thing will come from it. Do the same with adults. If someone makes a mistake, don’t jump on their case. Remember that time you asked your niece if she was into Mind Craft? No, me neither. Let’s say no more. We all screw up. We don’t have to be dicks about it.

Delilah S. Dawson is the author of speculative fiction for both teens and adults (including the very recent Star Wars novella, The Perfect Weapon. Her thoughts sum up the topic perfectly. “When you get down to it, nerd-rage springs from the same place as nerd-love. We get so passionate about the things we geek out over that characters become real people, and when we feel they aren't being respected, we get mad. It's important to remember that no one can take your fandoms from you and that new episodes or storylines can't change your existing relationship with a world or character. If you didn't care so much, you wouldn't get so mad. So if you're online and about to unleash hell in the comments, try turning off the computer and picking up your old comic books or turning on your favorite movie. Focus on what you love, not what you hate. No one can take away what you love. Except Joss Whedon, who thrives on taking away what you love.”

DAMN YOU, WHEDON!!!!

About Melanie R. Meadors:

A writer of speculative fiction and lover of geeky things, Melanie R. Meadors lives in a one hundred-year-old house in central Massachusetts full of quirks and surprises. She's been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion.

Her short fiction has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. She is a freelance publicist, publicity coordinator for Ragnarok Publications, and the Marketing and Publicity Specialist at Mechanical Muse.