One of the biggest reasons for not getting writing done is that we don’t have enough time. But time is one of the most democratic of commodities. Here’s The Unlocked Secret right up front today: Everyone gets the same number of hours a day. 24 hours for everyone! Yay! But it’s how we use them that make the difference.
Author Terri Main coordinates the Book in a Month group at the American Christian Fiction Writers site, and for the past two months I have enjoyed hearing all her wise words and inspiration. Today I thought I would pass along some of her tips for managing our time in order to get in more writing.
1. Understand how you are already using your time. For one week, record what you did in every 15 minute time segment throughout your day. Some can be easily designated like 11 pm – 7 am sleep or 9 am – 5 pm work. But even there, you might put 9 am – 12 pm work, 12 pm – 1 pm lunch and 1 pm – 5 pm work. Others may change every 15 minutes or so. This will help you identify how you are using your time.
2. Check your priorities. Looking at the time log you made, highlight in different colors different activities by priority. Use three priority levelsHigh – Must do for survival. Extremely important to family life. Something I’ve committed to as a moral, spiritual, physical, family priority. Something that I would sacrifice lower priority items to do.
Medium – Of importance, but would sacrifice, if reluctantly for a high priority item, but would sacrifice a lower priority item to do.
Low – Enjoyable, habitual or dragged into by others, but not personally important. Would not knowingly sacrifice anything else to do.
Look at the colors. Is a lot of your time taken up low priority items like watching a TV show you were only moderately interested in seeing. Going to a Tupperware party for someone you don’t really know that well. Reading a tabloid story about some movie star who may or may not be seeing another movie star behind her movie star husband’s back who in turn is seeing another movie star.
Those low priority squares are the first place to look for writing times. Then check the medium priority stuff. This is where things get serious. Giving up the low priority stuff is easy, but when it comes to something in the middle, you have to think a bit more. For instance, there is a sale on at the mall. There are some good deals. Not great, but you might save a bit. On the other hand, you are getting close to the end of your novel and an extra two or three hours would make a difference. There is no easy answer. You simply have to weigh the pros and cons of each and make a decision. But be sure you make the decision and don’t let the decision make itself.
3. Beware of the Tyranny of the Urgent. I forget who coined that term, but I like it. Sometimes we do something because it must be done now and not because it is actually important. Don’t let a low priority item get in the way of your writing plans simply because something has to be done quickly or not at all. When faced with something urgent, ask yourself if it is also something important and if it is more important than anything else at that time. It might be a one day only sale, but is there anything at that sale which is actually a high priority thing you need to buy?
4. If you can’t write an hour, write for what you can. This is sometimes a sticking point for people. Someone looks at the clock and says, “Oh, I have to leave for work in 20 minutes, I can’t write.” Sure you can. Writ for 15 minutes and then gather your stuff and head out the door. You may “only” get 300 words written, but that’s 300 words you would not have otherwise. Consider this. If you write 300 words a day five days a week that’s 1500 words a week or 78,000 words in a year. That’s a good sized novel from just 15 minutes a day and taking weekends off.
5. Use the “in between times.” Sometimes, I think I spend half my life waiting for something. I may be waiting for a doctor’s appointment, a phone call, a business appointment, a train or dinner at a restaurant. With the various small computers like netbooks, ultrabooks, tablets and Chromebooks, you can spend that time writing, outlining, editing, researching or making notes.
Consider writing during commercials on TV. Every hour of television has, on average, 20 minutes of commercial time. Just mute the TV and write during each commercial break which averages 3-5 minutes.
6. Word sprints. A word sprint is a short time of concentrated writing. You set a timer and write for 15-30 minutes. You do nothing but write. You don’t have soda, coffee or snacks. You don’t listen to music. You turn off the phone. You just write and write as fast as possible. It’s amazing what you can do in 15 minutes of concentrated writing.
A useful tool for this is Write or Die. It has both online and desktop versions. The program begins to flash and play screechy music if you don’t type something for a few seconds. Their motto is “It puts the prod in productivity.”
Well, those are a few of Terri’s favorite tips. Hope they help you.