An oxymoron if there ever was one. But, sadly (or not so sadly for the expert time wranglers out there), it is a task that even the most unorganized of us must learn. I’m not saying that you need to become some multi-tasking super human, though I’d settle for a Time Turner if you have one to spare. However, learning to manage our time, especially as writers, is an important feat we must learn if we are to one day accomplish our writing goals, whatever they may be.
Whether those goals are striving towards publication or our writing is a hobby that gives us joy; time management is the key to living our non-writerly lives and still feeding the writer within.
Mighty Planning Strategies
I’ve learned some cool tools from the bullet journal community that have helped me stay on track. By far my biggest weakness to managing my own time is not being able to say “no” to people. Below are some other strategies that I’ve found helpful when I begin to feel overwhelmed and need to refocus. I won’t go into detail over each one in this post, but if you’d like me to do a video on each one, let me know in the comments!
- Declutter your surroundings
- Create a Daily Plan: Plan your day, stick to the schedule, check off completed tasks (keep goals reasonable and manageable, don’t overwhelm yourself)
- Prioritize tasks and give tasks a time limit
- Learn to Say “no”
- Block out Distractions
- Delegate (Be the Boss)
- Be effective not efficient
- Focus (identify and complete your top three)
- Finish the job (complete the tasks once you start it)
- Stop Procrastinating (do the harder tasks first, then move on to the easy ones)
- Stay Organized (Keep a journal or iCal of your commitments and prioritize!)
My Own Challenges to Time Management and Strategies to Overcome Them
I fall victim to three main obstacles of time management. I have to be very conscientious in my efforts to combat these problems or else, like most bad habits, I just slip right into them. It’s a good idea to be aware of the areas we struggle in when it comes to time management because being aware helps us to combat them. It’s no different that identifying our writing crutches, if we are aware that we use filter words a lot, or we show more than we tell, it helps us to look for these things as we move forward. It doesn’t serve to get hung up on them, especially in the first draft, but it helps to know what we need improvement on. Time management is very similar!
I know I’m not the only person who does this: I leave the hard tasks for last in order to get the thrill of checking off the easier ones. The feeling is temporary gratification that fades into inadequacy at the end of the day. I didn’t get any “real” work done and feel less productive. To combat this, I’ve learned what I call my life hacks.
I set up my “to do” list, and then prioritize the Top Three Tasks that will make me feel the most productive at the end of the day, or the tasks that absolutely NEED to get done that day, which in effect will make me feel great for accomplishing them. There is an intrinsic motivation built in that keeps me going, knowing that (for today at least) I have done three things that make me feel like I’m not a waste of breath on this earth (lol, setting the bar super high, I know).
To help pull me out of a procrastination slump is this mantra: “I can do anything for 5 minutes”. So if I’m hating what my Top Three looks like, I tell myself that at the tops of my list, I can do the first for 5 minutes and if I’m still hating, I can stop. What tends to happen more often than not is that I begin to feel really motivated and don’t stop until the task is complete.
Spineless Like A Jellyfish
Yes, you read that right. I hate saying “no” to people. I wouldn’t call myself a people pleaser so much as I enjoy being with people and like the company of others. However, you can’t really write the next great American novel while chatting with Sally at Starbucks, can you?
Treat your writing like it’s a job. For me, it quite literally is my day job. I mean, I’m a mom and a Master’s student too, but for all intents and purposes, being a writer is my job. I take it that seriously. And so should you if you want others to take you seriously as well.
Have a full time job you say?
So did I once upon a time. I still treated writing like a job. Still had two kids, who were much younger by the way, and far less independent than they are now, and somehow wrote MORE then than I do now. Riddle me that one. Still. Treat YOUR writing like a job. A part time job that is. Or a super part time job. However you want to do it. What I’m getting at is, take your craft seriously.
Do you have 30 minutes? Can you wake up 30 minutes early? That’s a great place to start. Block out that time for yourself. Don’t let anyone encroach on it. Learn to take that time serious and your work serious in preparation for the day that you will have serious deadlines to face and serious people calling you asking you where your pages are.
So “no” to the people you have to. Say “yes” to the people that really matter: your spouse/partner, your children, your mom and dad, your bestie.
I don’t know about you, but I can be very negative sometimes. Which I genuinely abhor about myself because I like to think I’m a very positive person, but when I’m stressed, a lot of the positivity goes right out of the door.
At the first instance of negativity, take a time-out.
No seriously, this is the time for a breather. Go into ghost mode. Take a step back and ask yourself why you’re feeling so down. Talk to a friend. Your parents. Your spouse. Someone! Express that you are feeling off and that you want to feel better and need to talk it out.
I’ve found that my negative emotions, while valid because they are my emotions, are temporary. I sometimes just need my husband to tell me that he understands my frustration. Afterwards, once I’ve felt understood, I feel like I can ask for advice. I’ll be honest, I don’t want advice beforehand. I want to stew in my negativity for a bit. I want someone to tell me that they hear what I am saying. Deep down, I want to feel heard. But, despite all of that, at the end of the day, I don’t want to feel negative. I want to feel upbeat and positive and ready to tackle the next challenge.
Find someone who can effectively communicate with you when you’re feeling negative about your writing process. Who will build you up when you’re down.
And if you don’t have that someone, know that I hear you. Know that your feelings are valid and that your desire to get past them is also valid. Know that you are valued and important and that your experiences are important and should not be devalued or degraded. Know that I harbor genuine love and affection for you, my dear reader, that you’ve been specifically prayed for, and that it is my sincerest hope that today’s post is, in some way, helpful to you or encouraging to you.
So from my heart to yours, I pray that you’ll find space in your day to follow your passion, that you’ll be encouraged in your journey to do so, and most of all, that nothing I’ve said has done you injury but only served to build you up, equip you and motivate you.
I hope I’ll see you again for my next post!
Keep Reading and Keep Writing,