Stop Thief!! Beating the Time Bandits

Happy Black Friday! Casey here.

Everyone knows there are only 24 hours in a day. And we all pretty much wish we had more time to get everything done.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t change the laws of physics. So unless you want to move to Venus (where a single day lasts 243 earth days not to mention it’s totally inhospitable), you have to use the limited time you have wisely.

You have to identify and eliminate Time Bandits. In order to do that, you have to be brutally honest about how you are spending your time.

Just like dieting, where everything you put in your mouth can land on your hips, every moment you spend playing on-line internet games, is one more moment where you aren’t writing.

Identifying Time Bandits can be tricky because it’s not alway immediately obvious that you are about to robbed of your precious writing time.

Here’s a real life example. This happens to me frequently on the weekends. It starts with an innocent question from my hubby – “Honey, what are we doing for lunch today?”

I look up from my laptop, where I am clearly at work, yet it is not perceived as work by anyone but me, and say, “I don’t know. Can’t you make a sandwhich?”

This response is met with a derisive snort. “How about _____ (insert, Chinese, Pizza, hamburgers, whatever)?”

Soon, the sons have emerged from their mini-man caves and start to chime in. Next thing, I know, I’m in the car on the way somewhere to eat. I have just lost, if I’m lucky, an hour of writing time.

Hold on. I know what you’re going to say – “just say NO.” And sometimes, I do. But, I also want to eat (hey, I’m human!) and I do like spending time with my sons (before they completely grow up and move away).

Clearly, for me, this is an area where I can combat the Time Bandit. In order to make up for lost time, I have to give up watching television (love that DVR) or not read before bed that day.

So how do you know if you are about to be hi-jacked by a Time Bandit? Please note, I am not adovocating that you must ignore all responsibilities or become a hermit.

1. Mundane chores are appealing. If you find yourself thinking that cleaning the tub (and you normally loathe it) then you have a Time Bandit. If you have teenagers, make them do it (bribes work better than threats) or learn to live with some dirt.

2. Social Media – I know this is obvious. But we’ve all experienced “the promise” where you swear to only spend a half hour and the next thing you know two hours have elapsed. Get a timer. Or in my case, I had to go nearly cold turkey to get back on track.

3. The Boob Tube – yes, I love it too. I have plenty of shows that will gladly rob me of my “precious” (writing, for anyone who doesn’t know who Gollum is). In the last two years, I have gone on a severe television diet. I avoid most shows that may tempt me and only allow a few favorites to DVR (any Haven fans out there?). I’m sorry to say, if you have hours and hours of DVR’d programs or are spending hours watching TV, then you have a Time Bandit.

4. Your family – see my example above. We all love our families BUT in order to be successful as a writer, you have to actually write. Sometimes, your significiant others don’t realize they are Time Bandits. You need to politely call them on it. Of course, there has to be compromise. Perhaps you can agree to have a nice dinner together instead of going out for lunch.

5. You – Yes, you are your own worst enemy. If you peel the mask off the Time Bandit, you might see your own face there (kind of like in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke sees his own face in Darth Vader’s mask). One thing I’ve learned is that if you are waiting around for the Muse to strike you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Treat writing like a job and write something, anything, until you get your brain in the place it needs to be to work on your latest WIP.

If you can write an entire book, then you can come up with creative ways to conquer those Time Bandits.

How about everyone else? Remember, the first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. Please share your Time Bandits or your suggestions for managing your writing time.

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11 thoughts on “Stop Thief!! Beating the Time Bandits”

  1. Are you stalking me, Casey? I have fallen prey to all of these “thieves.” Of course I have no more teens or toddlers at home, and my husband is fairly self-sufficient and supportive, but when I’m not “in the mood” to write, I will find ANY excuse to not write. My thieves are a little trickier because they are disguised as “nuns”…you know, the time consumers that are positives but still derail a writing goal faster than you can say “did you get that walk in, yet?” “C’mon, there’s housework to be done.” And my favorite, “You need to work out so you might as well do it while you watch that show you DVR’d last night”–Hawaii Five-O, anyone? Nothing more motivating than getting sweaty with Alex O’laughlin.

    Now, I know all of those things need to be done to manage some balance in my writing life, but I am not above using them to avoid the hard work. Although, I’ve wiped out the Scrabble thief entirely, and the social media monster is very quiet these days, my sneakiest deterrent is in my own head–the voice that tells me, “you deserve a break…you work too hard.” The trick for me is in knowing when to listen. Fun…and useful reminder post, Casey!

    1. Hee hee!! I could be stalking you!! I do the same thing with working out and the DVR – why waste time when you can be doing two things at once? Or, another thing I tell myself – I can daydream while washing those dishes!!

      And I agree, the trick is learning how to overcome your own internal BS o’meter!

  2. Perfect timing! I have 8 days left of my nanowrimo challenge to 60k. I need to write 4000 words a day to get there. I’m eliminating those time bandits harshly beginning now! As soon as I’m done with this sentence, I’m closing the internet and getting 1000 done! :)

    1. I hear you on the word count. I’m in the home stretch of Mystic Storm. I will be so relieved to finish. I’ve been working on this book on and off since Februrary. Good luck on reaching your goal! :)

  3. “I’m also guilty,” she said hanging her head in shame. In addition to all mentioned above, I have to deal with this crazy vertigo which makes the computer screen look like it’s moving. All this during final edits is not adding up correctly for me. Well, off I go … back to work. Sure hope I’m placing the correction in the right sentence since they are all swaying …

  4. Casey, I think you are stalking me too. But I have run out of memory as well as time, so I cannot multi task anymore and hang on tighter to time. But, life does get in the way and you know what, I love goofing off, eating out, and shopping. And, taking courses, writing courses. So, I just quit taking my last course, no matter how many I am longing to take, I am saying that big NO. All that variety makes us better writers, don’t they? Great post.

    1. Variety is the spice of life, but I’ve found that too much craft advice can paralyze me too. So I’ve learned to pick and choose, otherwise, I wouldn’t get anything done.Thanks for stopping by Gail! :)

  5. Ah, the Time Bandits. Yup, they plague me too. Still working on catching the little thieves and putting them behind bars! A daily list is helping me. I allowed myself to go to B&N and buy a cute planner/calendar, and I’m trying to treat things like exercise and writing time as appointments. I think it’s working fairly well, though I know there’s more stuff I could eliminate. I already don’t watch a lot of tv, so the first thing to go for me is always reading time. I feel kind of bad about that, but that’s my reality right now.

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