Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for Managing Your Time

I was going to start by stating that there are 168 hours in a week, and we use X number for sleeping, X number for working, X number for entertainment, yada, yada, yada. But we know all that. And we know how hard it can be to carve writing time out of our day. And that’s not what this post is about, it’s about managing your time, not finding time.

I’m going to start with a confession. I’m terrible at time management. I have a lot of free time to write in but I get very little writing done sometimes. That’s because I allow myself to be distracted. A friend phones and I answer, knowing she just wants to chat. She goes on about work and the kids and bake sales and before you know it I’m thinking about home made chocolate chip cookies and when I get off the phone I go to the kitchen and start baking instead of going back to my writing.

So the first thing you need to do is take yourself seriously so that others will too. Get rid of the distractions. Turn off that television and unplug the phone. Put a sign on your door (or on the back of your chair if you don’t have a room of your own) that says you are not to be disturbed.

Set yourself goals and make yourself a writing schedule. You can use scheduling software or even just a day planner to do this in. If you record what you want to accomplish in your writing time you are much more likely to use that time constructively. Also, you’ll get to check off goals from your list which is motivating in its own right.

Deal with distractions by making notes of them. Keep a notepad nearby so you can keep track of who called, or other distracting thoughts and issues. This removes the distraction from your mind to be dealt with later.

Get organized. Whether you have an hour or eight hours you’ll get a lot more accomplished if you don’t have to go looking for notes or research.

Be realistic and don’t set yourself up to fail when managing your time to write. You know how much you’re capable of doing. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write for four hours when you know your attention starts to flag after two. You’ll only become disappointed with yourself when you fail to reach your goal and that in turn will make you feel less motivated.

Don’t let e-mails and social networking suck up your writing time. Establish a time of day for checking e-mail and use social networking as a reward for getting your writing done.

Schedule yourself a break or two. When you schedule yourself a break you’re giving yourself permission to stop writing, so you won’t be filled with guilt over it. Just make sure to get back to work when your break is over.

If the schedule you set up for yourself in the beginning is not as productive as you thought it would be, remember that it’s not carved in stone. Perhaps you’ve scheduled your writing time for the afternoon but find the morning works better for you. If this is the case then by all means change it. You’re the boss, after all.


Anonymous said...

I find that my smartphone is my biggest distraction to writing. When it keeps lighting up from texts, it very easy to divert your attention away from your book. My phone has to be not only off, but physically somewhere else when I write. It's also really easy to get lost in research since the internet makes everything so accessible. It's very hard for me to make a note to research something for my writing later and keep pushing ahead, instead of just switching over to a browser and looking it up right away, and subsequently getting sucked into the internet.

Juliet said...

I too am sooooo ADD, I'm always getting distracted, then saying to myself, "back to the task". So I keep on trying. Thanks for the post

Elizabeth McCleary said...

Distraction can be a huge problem. I think a lot of us writerly types are highly distractable. It's a by-product of creativity. But as you say, they key is to have structure to your writing time. It will probably look different for different people, but find something that works, and stick to it! :)

Keiths Ramblings said...

I'm not one for scheduling anything. I write when my head is buzzing with words and ideas. I simply stop whatever I am doing and get down to it. If was to look at my watch and it told me is was my designated 'writing time', I would probably just sit there with a blank expression and an empty page! Let's face it, we are all different and long may it be so.

'Bliss': a short story with 4 neglected M words