I’ve got a couple big projects in process right now. I’m working on a guidebook for the Philanthropy Roundtable that looks at issues of teacher and principal quality. How should philanthropists best invest to make a difference in those areas? I’m also writing a feature for City Journal on innovations in school meals programs. Schools are working to meet the new nutrition standards, but there’s always that tension parents experience too — how do you serve healthy meals that kids will actually eat? And, of course, I’m starting work on Mosaic. I’m collecting time logs, and networking my way into more of them (got access to a professional women’s networking group featuring a high number of high-earning moms? I’d like to talk to you about ways we can work together). These projects are in addition to the usual shorter pieces I write for various places.
In some ways the variety is good. One way to keep one’s energy up during the day is to shift gears. If I’ve been writing for a few hours, doing a bit of research on a completely different topic can perk me up. So can having a phone conversation. However, I have to devote enough time to each project to feel like I’m making progress. Progress is motivating. A lack of progress is pretty de-motivating.
So right now, I’m time blocking my days. This morning, I worked on writing the draft of the Philanthropy Roundtable book from 8-10 a.m. Then I worked on finding sources for my school meals piece from 10-noon, sending several emails to people I’d like to interview. Then I had lunch. Then I worked more on the Philanthropy Roundtable book, but I could tell (when I wrote this in mid-afternoon) that my energy was flagging. I kept getting distracted. Part of the problem is that I sometimes hit a mental word count maximum for the day. I put in about 3000 words on the teacher quality book. This blog post ran another 500 or so. The emails add their own writing component, though I tend not to count that. I might be able to crank out another piece tonight based on some interviews I did this afternoon, but we’ll see. 4000 words is pretty close to what I can reasonably do on any given day. So writing drafts of longer pieces is often about how I manage within that limit. If I have 3 projects going, is it better to do some words on each, or more words on one?
In general, I’d say more words on one, and do other components on the others (finding sources, interviews, editing, etc.). But I’m curious how other people manage multiple projects at the same time.