One of the things, as an author today, that troubles me more than any other is the dreaded Time Management issue.
I think it’s funny that writing is seen as a wonderfully quiet contemplative activity: long stretches of time spent basically contemplating your navel – or at least the navels of your characters. It’s supposedly gentle and languid…
Right. In truth in think at some stage in history that was true. Heck, even when I began writing, that scenario was more true than it is now.
Now it’s so different. In fact it’s almost frenetic – keeping up with all the social networking necessary today is almost a job in itself and if we’re not careful it becomes the job!
So, how do we control that? I admit these are tips given to me by friends as I’ve searched for a way to juggle everything, those that I’ve researched – as well as a few that I actually have already mastered.
#1. Buy yourself good quality kitchen timer and use it. Facebooking, blogging, emailing, tweeting… We can kid ourselves that its all promo, but basically? We’re kidding ourselves. Sure promo’s important, but the bottom line is that writing is hard work, and often the lure and seduction of chatting to friends and like-minded people is just toooo seductive but the bad news is that it can suck time faster than it takes m&ms to shoot up a vacuum cleaner pipe. My tip? Decide how much time you need to blog, FB and tweet etc and set your timer accordingly. Say you decide that an hour a day is a reasonable time to spend on promo/social networking – then set that timer for an hour.
#2. Limit your email time. Decide if you want to be an author who writes books or a social butterfly who answers every person’s query on every email loop. I love emails – adore them. I’m a chatter and I love the interaction with smart, funny, warm people. Email was made for me… BUT if you find you’re not ratcheting up words on the novel, then you have to enforce some personal tough love. Use email as a treat. For every 1000 words, you get to spent 10 mins checking your mail. Sounds fair? I think so. Now I just have to make it work! LOL.
#3 Cull your online groups. We love our groups, but we need to be realistic and even a bit brutal about how much they’re costing us in terms of wasted writing time. Despite hint #2, an email presence is a good way to build our name recognition, but choose those groups that offer something in return for the time you invest. It doesn’t matter if that’s support, information, promotion opportunity or light relief – but it must be something that you can measure and realistically justify. Ideally you’ll retain those groups that can do the most for you professionally. My one warning here is that you must give as much as you get. If you’re on a loop, participate when you can – be a giver as well as a taker. But remember there must be balance – your writing must come first.
#4 Make a Blog Calendar. Know in advance what you’re going to blog about as that will save you thinking/stressing time that could be spent on your ms. Perhaps dedicate days to specific topics/themes. Maybe one day is the Writing Life and another is an article, tip or a review or author interview. You’ll find by having dedicated topics it also narrows the focus and makes it easier and quicker to find topics to fill those days. It’ll also help when you are asked to host a visiting blogger, or someone doing a blog tour, as you’ll know at a glance when you’re able to host.
#5. Prepare blogs in advance. With a list of blogs in front of you you’ll find it easier to stay organised, but even better is that you can start to write them up if you find yourself with only a few minutes. Waiting for the kids at sport training? For an appointment to begin? With a few minutes before you have to leave but not enough time to get into your book? Start your next blog!
This next tip was given to me by the amazing Annie West, and I’ve found it invaluable: When I’m struggling with a ms and about to have a brain implosion because the clock is ticking but the word count isn’t moving, Annie advises to get ahead with my blog posts and save them as drafts. This is also doubly affective because it will not only get you ahead and save time on another day, but the creative process and shift away from your troubling ms, is likely to kickstart your muse.
#6 Turn off all other distractions such as the telly. It’ s amazing how many minutes can drift off in to the ether when we allow ourselves to be distracted. I admit I love television, and it takes quite a lot of self control on my part to walk away from a good story being played out before me. One of my own ways of handing this was to invest in series of my fave shows – and that way I’m not so tempted waste time there that could be spent writing. I put them on my Chrissie, birthday and MD lists – and it helps out the fam as well.
#7 Let the machine pick up the phone calls and don’t be tempted by mobile messages. The great thing about technology is that if we use it correctly it can actually help us organise our time. Letting the machine take the call and the mobile take the message means we can glance or listen – and decide on the importance of the call. If it’s not up at #1 (red alert) I can choose to deal with it later, at a time that doesn’t break the flow I’ve got going with the book.
#8 Set office hours. Whether you work fours hour a day or fourteen, stick with it. Make sure everyone else knows you’ll be working for those specified hours.
#9. Don’t break the Chain. A few weeks ago I mentioned the great Jerry Seinfeld tool Don’t Break the Chain that encourages us all to write every day. I actually find this a good time management tool because I’m aware that I really, really want to be able to put a star on my Don’t Break the Chain chart. Childish? Maybe. I prefer to think of it as training. Sticking that star on my chart helps my mental state – it inspires me to keep forging ahead. It’s empowering. I’ve structured my chart to suit my needs. A hot pink star means that day I actually made my daily word target. Other colours indicate word count levels of a lesser level. I love hot pink, it’s my fve colour and I strive to get that colour on my chart, so I make the time.
#10. Be Organised. I’ve made this number 10 when in reality it should be number 1. Maybe I left it to last because in many ways it’s the hardest. For things to work smoothly and for you to make the most of your writing time, I believe you have to try to have everything else around working as smoothly as you can. I stress, as smoothly as you can… Nothing is perfect and there will be things you simply have to walk away from or accept as they are. But if it’s in your control, try to get it working effectively and smoothly. I find doing this removes some other stresses, and leaves me more relaxed and focussed to work on my story.
They’re pretty basic hints and I make it sound easy, right? Well basic doesn’t always equate to easy and trust me, I’m still struggling through this but I’m determined to get on top of this issue this year. Join me as I try to make the most of my time management. I’m on a mission to get more productive time out of my day.
I think it can help if we simply remember why we’re here – and for me, that’s to write books well enough so I can continue to stay published. And that must be my priority.
If you have any time management tips that could help – please share, I’d love to hear them.
Take care and I hope your day is productive!