Time management is the issue I spend the most time lamenting. There never seems to be enough of it. I work full-time as a nurse and this is a job I actually enjoy and am grateful to have, but I am also a writer. If I don’t make the time to write I feel depressed, deprived, and resentful. If you’re dedicated to an avocation that is dissimilar to your day job, then I’m sure you know what I mean. Making time amidst the other many pressing real life responsibilities can be challenging to say the least.
I remember how I’d grit my teeth during the last 15 minutes and urge my English students to wrap up their essay or creative writing assignment. Class would be almost over, and despite my repeated warnings about time management, I’d still get:
“Mrs. Escobar, can I take this home and bring it in tomorrow?”
“Can I have more time?”
“Can I go to the bathroom?”
I weigh the decision….”Nope.”
As their writing skills developed, they soon learned that while journaling and writing could be relaxing and a wonderful means of expression, in the real world when you have to produce a written piece at someone’s request (especially if payment or grades are involved), time is a luxury that must be treated as such. I have to remind myself of this, especially when a deadline is looming.
I’ll confess to you right now–I love surfing the net, watching movies, and I am an unabashed shopaholic. I’m also a busy mom of four, which means I have even less time to write. So how important is time management to me? Extremely. And I’m betting it’s something you want to conquer and make work for you as well.
The first thing I learned about time management for the writer, like my students did, was to remove some of the major obstacles that slow us down or distract us. Here are four tactics that helped me manage my time better:
- Don’t Write Tired. You know, when your eyes are droopy, you keep swaying, and you start misspelling words and reading the same line five times. Not only are you working slowly, you’re also not at your full awareness and creative potential. Sometimes it’s necessary to write at night when the house is all quiet and no one’s bothering you, so if this is the case, just give yourself a 15-20 minute time limit for writing late at night and then go to bed. Maybe you can wake up a little earlier the next morning to add on another quarter hour. This will help you produce more writing than trying to pull an “all-nighter” or a two-hour stretch at 11 p.m.
- Play Priorities. Filling out calendars isn’t much fun–but they help! Sometimes I get onto my laptop’s calendar and map out a week or two ahead and then prioritize my activities and commitments. If you know you’re going to have a busy week, then you can determine the best times when to fit in writing. Also, it helps to have a written deadline in red caps staring back at you, because then it impresses on you the desire to finish and meet the deadline. When I see an activity on my calendar that perhaps isn’t that high of a priority, then that’s an extra spot where I can insert writing time.
- Jump Into It. Have you ever felt lazy about doing something but once you jumped right into it, it was actually easier than you thought? I once read that as human beings, we tend to take the least amount of action necessary. So, if something seems like it’s going to be difficult or burdensome, we tend to shy away from it (this is how I feel about that pile of dishes in my kitchen). If I feel like I have to “do all that writing,” I may be less inclined to actually do it, and will waste time doing #4 on the list.
- Distractions, Distractions. They’re all around us, especially since with a simple click of our mouse we can escape our work in progress (WIP) and go visit social media land or watch a movie. Beware of distractions. That “ten minute break” watching funny YouTube videos will turn into an hour. I promise you. When I taught writing, this was the major downfall of most students who hadn’t completed their assignments and met the deadline. They were distracted by friends, or the cute guy/girl, or that kid that wanted to go to the bathroom. Sometimes distractions are thrown at us, sometimes we wander into them like a daydream. How do you remove this obstacle? Separate your writing activity from other activities. If you’re typing away on your WIP, resist the urge to check your Amazon ranking or if someone retweeted you. Treat your WIP like a friend that needs your attention, and by giving your writing the commitment and time it needs, you’ll be rewarded with a more satisfying session that didn’t drag on because you were distracted.
I’m a big believer in the idea that time management is more workable when we remove obstacles that slow us down or turn us from our path. Sometimes life gets in the way, or we’re tired, or busy, but just remember a small commitment to your task can go a long way. Don’t pressure yourself if you’ve only gotten in 15 minutes, or maybe even missed a day. Just start again the next day, and be consistent with getting in some writing at least a few times a week. As you keep writing and keep practicing, you’ll find that the process will become easier and more manageable.
Alesha Escobar writes fantasy and urban fantasy stories to support her chocolate habit. She earned a B.A. in English Writing and a Master of Science in Education, and has enjoyed both teaching writing and being a writer. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies, and making crafts. She is currently working on the final installment of The Gray Tower Trilogy.
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