Wednesday, August 11, 2010

3 Ways to Manage Your Time

Time is a beast that every writer must tame otherwise it slips through our fingers with all too much ease. Family duties, job demands, and general living all have a stake in our time. On our list of priorities, writing has a tendency to drop to the lower ranks. Before we know it another year has gone by and we are no closer to finishing our novels. So what are some ways we can manage our precious time?

1. Prioritise. How important is writing to you? Are you happy with it to remain a hobby or would you like to make a career out of writing? These are the questions you need to ask yourself. If you want to make a career of it, then you have to treat it like any other job. When it is time to go to work, then you need to find a way of switching off from all other distractions and write.

2. Schedule. A great way of finding time to write is schedule a time to write. This not only helps you, but it also helps your family members. They will get used to the time you devote to writing especially if you have a regular schedule for it. They will even help you to stick to that schedule.

At this point I need to add that some people – me included – don’t like the rigidity of schedules. I can’t stick to one rule for schedules because I need a level of flexibility. I try to write every day. I try to start writing my WIP at 9.30am at the latest Monday-Friday. I take 30min lunch break (sometimes 40mins) and then I write some more until 2-3pm. If my writing is cooking then I’ll keep going. I don’t often write past 4.30pm, although it has been known to happen on that sweet rare occasion. Of course, that schedule goes out the window on the weekends, but that’s ok, as long as I find some time to write.

3. Make Goals. The best way I’ve found to manage my time is working with word count goals. My minimum goal per week is 7000 words. My daily word count is a loose 1000 words a day. Some days I can only squeeze out 400 words. That might sound sad and disappointing, but with my weekly goal, I can play catch up without having to bemoan the lack of progress. Some days I’ve written 1000 words in an hour so I keep writing and take great joy in the bonus words. With these relatively easy goals, I’m able to feel a sense of achievement with my writing and I’m able to push myself more if I’m close to a self-made deadline.

Of course, you don’t have to give yourself micro goals to help you manage your time. You can give yourself a broader goal. For example, you can tell yourself you want to finish your first draft by September.

When all is said and done, there is no point comparing yourself to anyone else. You have to find what works for you.

What are some tricks you’ve found that help you manage your time?

29 comments:

  1. Oh man I tank at schedules. I was full out writing for a week when I decided to take this seriously again. But I started feeling the burn out. I am hoping that it is because of a fix I have to make and that is more like coloring inside the lines for me. I would much rather be all out creative, but I have to fix this one tiny little thing first. So, I took today off because that sounded like way more fun. Sometimes I think I need to install straps to my chair and lock myself in.

    Prioritize... that's the word I needed to hear. And do I want this to remain a hobby or am I looking for a career. Thank you for reminding me why I sit here every day!!

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  2. I am HORRIBLE at time management. I have nothing to contribute here, unfortunately. Someday I'll get on the ball. Usually I just do what I love (writing) and ignore what I don't (my freelance editing). So much for paying the rent! :)

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  3. I can't stick to time frames either. Some mornings I'm hot, other days it's the nighttime that works. Like you, what works best for me is the word count goal.

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  4. Impressed by your discipline! Great post!

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  5. Prioritizing truly helps for me. Just aiming to work on those that matter the most first. Great tips as usual. God bless you sister. Thank you.

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  6. I guess I gave up managing my time when I retired from real world work and took up writing. I call myself a binge writer, and that's pretty much how I write my books. The only thing I seem to organize well is my blogging schedule. Can't quite figure that one out...

    Patricia

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  7. Michelle, yep, I think we all sometimes need straps for the writing chair. Especially when the weather is warm outside.

    Rosie, you have more to contribute that you realise. Remembering that we love to write is often enough to keep us writing :)

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  8. Laura, word count also helps me to see my progress which in turn helps me to feel all good about it all.

    Dawn, disciplined? I like that, but I don't see myself that way at all. My goals and schedules are very loose and flexible. I'm continually getting distracted. That's why I need SOMEthing to keep me on track.

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  9. I don't exactly have any time management skills or advice; I just write and hope I can get enough done in one sitting (usually I'm satisfied). With the life I live, I've got to be flexible.

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  10. My time management is based around my daughter... whenever she lets me, I write. its that simple.

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  11. Amanda, that's a great way to be. As long as you are satisfied, it's all good :)

    Erinn, Hehe, yep family can be demanding ;)

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  12. Having a word goal when I sit down to write, and having an idea of when I'd like to have my first draft done is the best way for me to look at it. I don't really do a schedule, per say. My blog gives me the chance to write every day and I think that habit is most important.

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  13. "Get Started!" is my favorite time management tip :)

    Good post!

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  14. Jessica, absolutely. Any kind of writing is a benefit.

    Mohamed, ha, I love it. "Get started!" is a very good tip!

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  15. Oh, I love those 1,000 words in an hour days. I call it 'the groove'. Wish it came around more often.

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  16. Mary, Yes, I so wish they would happen more often. I'm currently in a bit of a rut. I have to force words out like I have to force out the last bit of toothpaste in the tube. So frustrating!

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  17. Great post. When I take my writing seriously and tell others I am unavailable then others tend to take me seriously too. That is one of the best ways I have found to get stuff done.

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  18. Tabitha, yes, exactly. When I first started taking writing seriously, it took a while to train the family ;)

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  19. Making sure my family takes me seriously and when I say I am writing, they back off!LOL

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  20. I definitely try to all three of the points you mentioned! I find that even when I have "scheduled" time, I still am interrupted numerous times during that writing time. It's my life stage and sometimes it can be frustrating (especially when I'm working on something I need to get done!). But that's why it's so important for me to have Saturdays as a day I can write without the usual interruptions!

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  21. For me, the goal-setting is the most important. I have a very active toddler and run a small business with DH, so my schedule is never my own. But if I can keep chipping away at the goal little by little, it gets done.

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  22. that's miss lynda! every post a new treasure trove of good advice!

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  23. Terri, Family can be a wonderful support. We just have to 'train' them first ;)

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  24. Jody, oh yes, I know the feeling. Interruptions are frustrating when the writing is flowing (even when the writing isn't flowing).

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  25. Kristen, yes! I used to be so busy that I was a chipper as well. But it's just as satisfying writing this way as it is being able to have a whole chunk of the day dedicated to writing. I think as long as we keep writing then we are doing good :)

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  26. It's crazy how much one person likes to fit in to a day! Especially when you add writing to the mix!

    I find that structure is key. Blogging is a ton of fun but I make sure to blog thirty minutes before work each morning and then the rest I have to let go so in the evenings I can write. From 5pm-6pm is my writing time. One hour before dinner. It isn't the best system, since it hasn't exactly being implemented but I try!

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  27. Great tips! I am very schedule-oriented, so making a strict schedule and sticking to it usually works for me.

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  28. Jen, sometimes it takes trial and error - and practice - to make a system work :)

    Talli, I sometimes wish I was more like you. Strict schedules sound appealing, I just can't do it.

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