Time Management: Keeping Track

When Misha mentioned that her theme this month was keeping track, I immediately thought of time management.

Most writers are not blessed with being able to write full time. We have to balance work and family with that writing time.

And if you’re self-publishing (like I chose to do) time-management becomes an even bigger issue. There’s no editor or agent to give you deadlines or reminders to keep working. You’re on your own.

So how do you make the best use of your time? Here’s my list of suggestions. I wrote them specifically for writers, but you can expand this to apply to most activities.

1. Commit

The very, very first step to improve time management is to make a mental commitment to your new schedule. If you don’t want to improve your time management, you probably won’t.

So start by listing your goals. Perhaps you want to set aside time to write for one hour every day (that’s my usual time goal). Maybe you want to focus on reading more. Whatever it is, list your goals, and make a promise to yourself to commit. 

2. Keep the goals realistic

I am so guilty of this, especially around New Year’s. I make all these crazy resolutions, like I’ll go running for an hour every day, or I’ll cook dinner every evening (yeah, right).

Figure out what is realistic for you. Once again, if it’s a big change, you’re less likely to follow through. Start with one small change (like setting aside 30 minutes a day for writing), and then build up to something bigger.

3. Figure out your most productive hours

I am definitely an early bird. My most productive time of day is 6 AM, when I have the first mug of coffee in my hands.

But I know not everyone is like that. Honestly assess yourself and decide when during the day you’re most productive. Maybe inspiration hits during your lunch break. Maybe your best ideas coming after dinner. Make sure you’re setting up your block of writing time to coincide with when you do your best work. 

4. Write it down. 
There’s nothing like seeing your schedule in black in white (or on the computer screen, as the case may be).

Personally, I am a Google Calendar addict. When I’m not writing, I’m tutoring, so I use Google Calendar to keep my schedule straight. 

I set up a block most mornings to write. The nice thing about Google Calendars is that it will sync up to my phone, so I can always keep track of my schedule.

The other nice thing is that you can leave event notes. For my writing blocks, I’ll leave a note with how many words I wrote that day. It helps me to track my progress and keep me motivated toward my goal. 

5. Find a way to enforce your deadlines

It can be hard to hold ourselves accountable, so find a way to set some kind of enforcement for your deadlines.

For my first book, ‘Bright Star’, I was having trouble keeping myself motivated through the editing phase. To keep myself on track, I booked a freelance editor about 8 weeks in advance. My deadline then became getting through all of my corrections and rewrites BEFORE I sent my work off to my editor. Having another person to be accountable to makes a world of difference.

Don’t have an editor? Then set up a deadline with a friend or relative. You can agree to show them a draft of your work X weeks out. Knowing that another person is counting on your work definitely helps motivation. 

6. REWARD YOURSELF

This is my favorite step. If you meet your goals (i.e. — writing for an hour every day for a month, or getting your draft ready before your deadline), treat yourself to something! You’ve earned it. Whether it be a nice dinner out, a bottle of wine, or some cheesecake (oh, yum, cheesecake), giving yourself a little pat on the back makes it easier to stay motivated to make the best use of your time.

**********

You can find Nickie Anderson on her blog.

Her first book, ‘Bright Star’, was released November 9th. It is available at the following retailers:

It’s bad enough that Sadira Pascal’s father doesn’t make it home to celebrate her fifteenth birthday. He might be a busy hovership engineer pulling overtime on a new design, but he’s always been home for the important things. It’s worse when she discovers her father decided to ride on the maiden voyage of his newest ship, the CAS Bright Star, without even telling her. But things really fall apart during Sadira’s field trip with her class to observe the hovership launch. Instead of a successful flight, she watches the Bright Star fall out of the sky. 
The Central government confirms her father’s death, leaving Sadira to pick up the pieces of her former life. While she struggles with her loss, Private Baruj Haddad tries to convince her that her father and the rest of the Bright Star crew are still alive. At first, Sadira doesn’t believe there’s any hope. But then she stumbles across a message that makes her think maybe, just maybe, her father is still alive. As she digs deeper into the Bright Star’s crash, Sadira uncovers secrets about her father’s work, secrets that put her and everyone she loves in danger.
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Time Issues

I feel so guilty that I haven’t been writing a YATT post in such a long time. And it’s rather stupid, because a lot of my Tuesday posts were YA related. Sigh.

Still, going back and adding the badge feels like cheating, so… here I am, still feeling guilty.

AAAAAAaaaaanyway.

I’m really starting to miss when I was still in high school. Wow. There was a phrase that I never thought I’d use.

But no, this isn’t an attack of nostalgia on my part. I’m not missing the hanging with friends, or all the other things that people miss about that time of their life.

No. I miss that I had A LOT of writing time. I mean, six hours at school? With me finishing the homework before the class was finished? Yeah… writing…. writing… writing… writing.

Nothing to do in the afternoon? Pht. Write.

I almost want to cry at the amount of writing time I wasted.

Especially now, when my writing time has taken a huge hit. See, my quiet working days aren’t quiet any more. So there goes eight hours out of every work day. And then there’s the fact that I’m exhausted when I’m done working. Two hours more. Six to eight for sleeping… Three for eating with the family. Two a night for random non-writing activities… That adds up to 23 hours. I have one freaking hour to write. Per day.

That is unacceptable.

Un. Ac. Ceptable.

I am going to crack.

And soon.

Where do you create time to write? I’m already at the point of changing my sleeping patterns to fit it in. I’m even *shudder* pre-writing my blog posts. I really don’t want to dump non-writing activities because that will make me a hermit, but I already dropped one because it was wasting writing time. Any suggestions?  

How We Write

Hi all! Today’s the last GPF for the next four weeks, since arranging for guest posts that suit the A to Z Challenge would be too much of a pain. GPF will continue in May, however, and the first two Fridays are open. So if you want to become one of the illustrious people who post on my blog, please read this post and contact me so that we can arrange it.

In the mean time, I want to welcome one of my favorite and most talented blogging friends (and I know, because I critted his work recently), Allan from Publish or Perish. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this post, Al. 


How We Write

When I volunteered to write this post for Misha I thought to myself that I would knock something together in half an hour or so. I imagined I would write about something related to the creative process. That I would write about something like plot development, or characterisation, or perhaps editing.
Then Misha reminded me of the deadline she had for submitting this post. I realised that I had not thought about composing this post, let alone put finger to keyboard (I use pen and paper for almost nothing these days). The reason is of course like so many people today I am time poor. I suspect that most of us who write do so by snatching moments.

That fact made me think about how we find the time (let alone the mental space) to write. 

Writing seriously takes time. Be it poetry, non-fiction, biography, pulp or literary fiction completing works is time intensive. My best estimate for the time it took me to complete my first novel was the equivalent of six months full-time work. That does not include the time other people spent on it for me. 

That time was spread out over years. During that period I was working full time at a day job and being a parent, husband, etc, etc. This is something that is common to the vast majority of writers I know. Almost none of the writers I know (either in the real world or cyberspace) have had enough success to allow them to write professionally. 

I won’t fall into the trap of assuming things are necessarily rosy for that group. Writing as a career is going to have all sorts of its own pressures. 

So where am I going with this ramble? Time for writing. 

My first novel Veiled in Shadows took years to get from idea to print. Most of the time it did little more than languish. Then something changed. I changed jobs. I was working in the community sector in mental health and disabilities; I stayed in the sector but shifted to a program for homeless people. I was managing a set of programs that provided meals and other services (information, showers, laundry and a string of other things) in the heart of Melbourne. Most “soup kitchens” focus on the evening. Our focus was making sure people got breakfast. We started before dawn, so we closed early, my staff finished by 12:30 and I was usually out the door by 2:00 pm. What that meant was a few hours in the afternoon to myself.

Guess what I did?

Not hard was it? I usually spent that time writing, in mere months I finished off my first book (already mostly done). Then began on the second. 

Then I changed jobs again. I shifted out of the community sector into government. I am still in the homeless sector, but now I coordinate some state wide programs and provide policy advice. That left me a problem; I was going to lose my writing time. My commute time would double because I would be travelling in the rush and I would get home at the same time as the rest of the family.

Losing my writing time was not something I could bear. So I had to find a solution.

I switched from driving to catching the train.

So my commute has morphed into writing time. 

My WIP is still progressing (about 5-10 times quicker than my first book).

So the moral of my rather convoluted tale is one key to writing as a non-professional is to set aside time. Time to write. In my experience fifteen minutes set aside for writing on a daily basis makes all the difference. 

Maybe your active day (like mine does at the moment) begins before dawn and finishes only an hour or two before you hit the sack. But maybe your writing does not have to halt. Get creative with time. Perhaps there is something you can do differently to carve yourself a few minutes. I was lucky; I found a solution that gives me an hour or two each day. But it wouldn’t have happened if I had not taken the time to think about it.

Good luck!

Yay I edited!

Yesterday I finally started editing again, but it’s still slow going, because I’m not as in the story as I was beforehand.

On one hand, I think I should read it from the beginning again, to get deeper into the story. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not so into it.

I have two reasons for this.

The first is that distance is good while editing. Very good. I know that the stuff I changed really did make the reading better.

Another reason is that while the beast isn’t chewing me up, I might as well take it a bit slower while looking for my crit partner(s?). So… I might actually have at least a few weeks while having a life.

Imagine that.

So… I’m just going to take it a bit slower and maybe get some reading in. And also take a nap a little later, because my beautiful dog insisted on barking at random moments all hours of last night…

Another thing I decided to change while I’m at it: Sundays. They are now no computer days. I took one last week end and it was such a beautiful feeling that I want another one.

So that’s where I am. What about you? Anyone else editing? Anyone coming back from an editing burn-out? How is your writing going?

Oh look! An interruption!

Today was one of those days. You know, where you start with the best of intentions to be productive, only to end up… well… not.

I even woke up an hour early today, but I swear there were time-gremlins in the house.

Of course, I did get other stuff done, like cleaning house, editing a business plan and checking up on financials. The last two were the main time-sucks, but hey, variety is good.

Today I got to give my left brain a stretch… or something like that.

In the mean time, I managed to do a bit of editing to Part 4 and send Part 3 off to a second round of crits. So all things considered, I didn’t do too badly edit-wise. On the other hand, it’s a crawl compared to what I’m used to.

BUT! I decided to cut down on my computer/editing time, as last week I clocked about 13-16 hour editing days. Which is sort of ridiculous, when one considers that I have more than five months left to finish Doorways. Point is, it isn’t healthy.

Maybe today is a good cue for me to kick back a little and finish Persuasion. Yes, I am only on my second Jane Austen book. Yes. Still. What can I say? My characters called open season on regency period ladies and gents… ;-P

What do you do to chill out when your editing/writing revs go into the red?

I’m still alive (for now).

Hi all! Just wanted to let you know that I’m still alive. Just a little busy.

Yesterday in particular, thanks to a water leak in my mom’s wardrobe that resulted in her having to wash all her summer’s clothed in hot water, a leak in the washing machine’s piping that led to a flooded kitchen and finally a cold geyser that resulted in a half an hour dish washing task taking five times as long.

Long sentence.

Massively long day during which I did almost nothing productive.

I didn’t even look at my economics.

So anyway. I’m far behind my study schedule, so I’ll have to cut this short.

Remember to come check out my Rule of Three Blogfest entry tomorrow!

X

Yet another dilemma…

Warning! Gratuitous Cute Kitty Picture to follow…

There is a reason though. Two, actually.

One is that I finished WiP2 this weekend. So… Those thousands of errors I conveniently pushed aside for later? Uhm… yeah… I’m talking rewrites. AND research. Of course, I’m loving the latter, but I’m not sure if I should be taking it on right now.

See, my Doorways crits are coming in. So far I’ve gotten two back. My courage flagged at the sight of the amount of work I’d need to do for round 2.

If I want to be finished with edits any time soon, I’m not sure that embarking on WiP2 rewrites will be the smartest thing. Especially when my time is sort of a rare commodity until the very end of October.

Of course, there’s NaNo, but I think it will be better applied to writing another rough draft (WiP3), so WiP2 won’t be happening then either.

So now here’s the million dollar question: When will I be able to do it?