Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Juggling act.

As a freelance editor, I have to juggle jobs based mostly on deadlines given by my clients. But the longer I do this work, the more strange my method of prioritization seems to be.

For example, as I write this (when I should be doing paying work) I have the following five jobs in the works:

  1. Copyedit one ms, due today
  2. Fact-check one article, due Thursday
  3. Proofread one galley, due Friday
  4. Copyedit another ms., due Monday
  5. Proofread another galley, due next Wednesday

The wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn, as once I was, might say, "I shall work on job #1 until it is complete, then go to job #2, then #3, and so on, in the order in which the deadlines occur. And if I can manage to turn anything in early, it demonstrates my dedication and tells the client I am ready for more work."

But that has not proved to be the way I have found best to manage my time. Why?

Say I focus on the first job and touch no others until it is done. If it turns out to be in worse shape than initially expected, I am going to be lucky to get it out the door on time; if it runs late, and there's always a chance one will, it's going to push all the other jobs back as well.

So I budget the time initially for all the jobs based on dividing it among the days I'm available to work. Say that means job #1 requires I copyedit 50 pages a day, and if I can make that goal it will be done on time. Okay, but job #2 is a fact-checking job, which does not conform to an easy X-pages-a-day schedule. Now what? And if both these jobs turn out to be complicated, what happens then? I've already had to plan to do 40 pages a day on job #3, but that has a bit of flexibility since it's a later deadline---but not much flexibility, because it's two freaking days away! Of course, jobs #1 and #2 are supposed to be gone by then, so I'll be able to pile on to finish #3 at the end of the week. And, by the way, job #4 actually is a rush job that was assigned after job #5, which called for a schedule alteration on the fly, and it looks like job #4 will keep me working all weekend....

It really winds up being more art than science by this time. But I absolutely must be flexible, because, whatever the quantum physicists say, in practical terms time is not flexible at all.

And of course, we all know what time equals.

I supposed for people whose home-based business includes projects with much shorter deadlines---baking cupcakes for a party, maybe---or much longer ones---planning the construction of a bridge---juggling deadlines is complicated in other ways. But words are my bag, baby; how do you roll?
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