Time Management for Writers

Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash

I don’t want to give you the opinion I’m a time management expert. I’m not even close. But I have found a few things that work for me that I’d like to pass along.

First, I’d like to suggest watching Laura Vanderkam’s Ted talk. I love her take on this ever-increasing problem.

Let’s face it the modern tools that help us do things faster don’t free up our time. Why not? Because we keep filling those small nuggets with more things we feel we need to do.

In Laura’s talk, she talks about how there are 168 hours in a week. For me, after I take into account, sleep, work, cooking, cleaning, and family time. I still have around 40 hours left. Yet somehow, it’s never enough. In those 40 hours, I should be able to find time to read, write and exercise. So why don’t I?

Time Management Set Backs

It’s time for some tough love. My number one time-suck is, you guessed it, social media. All those times where it feels like I’m only taking a minute to check Facebook or I take a short break to look at house plans on Pinterest, those minutes add up. Plus, you know a minute is never a minute when you’re looking at social media.

Another time-suck is cleaning. I often clean over and over. This is what happens when you have a family and pets. But I’ve recently realized that my habit of listening to a podcast or audiobook, is slowing me down. Yes, I’m killing two birds with one stone, but because I’m enjoying what I’m listening to, I don’t clean as fast. So when I’m done, I feel like I’ve wasted time because if I cleaned faster, I could have had time to exercise or take the dog on a long walk.

And another big one, that I don’t have control over, is having to go sit at the school and wait on my daughter. Her school, unfortunately, is twenty minutes from the house and the kids don’t come out on time. Most days I go straight from work because it’s silly to go home and then go to the school. However, this means extra time waiting. And did I mention they don’t come out on time? That’s a sore spot, especially when she gets let out and decides to hang around and talk instead of coming on out to the car. Hmmm.

My Time Management Advice

My first piece of time management advice is it’s okay not to fit everything in. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I think stress plays a big role in this. In another post, I talked about how I’m sometimes too tired to write. One of the factors of this is stress. If we’re stressed trying to fit everything in then we run the risk of letting the weight of it pull us down. We’re either too tired to do the things we want to. Or because we’re so tired, we don’t enjoy the things we are able to do.

And honestly, there were times in my life where writing was not a possibility. A lot of mothers or people with multiple jobs or health issues face this. But it’s okay if you can’t fit it in right now. There’s a time for everything, and your time will come. I’m both fortunate and unfortunate that my daughter is now a teenager. I miss my little girl, but I do have more free time because she spends most of her time in her room.

For those who can’t write a lot, I advise getting a writing prompts workbook. I love these. If I don’t have at least a half-hour to write, I’m not going to. However, I will pick up one of my writing workbooks and do one of the pages. You can also use a regular notebook and find writing prompts online. Or just do a 15-minute free write. These exercises keep your brain nimble and offer you a feeling like you’ve done something other than put off writing again.

And don’t forget, writing is more than putting words on paper. You have to think about plot and theme and conflict and tension. Think about these elements whenever you can. Make notes in a journal. Then, when it’s your time, you’ll have something to write.

Time Management Tips for Everyone

  • Ask for help. If you have other people in your family, ask them to cook dinner or wash dishes or sweep, or whatever chores will help you finish early.
  • Know what you’re spending your time on. If you are aware of your day, you can assess if there is something you can cut out. Spending two hours on social media? Cut it out.
  • Make a schedule. This is a hard one for me because I like to be flexible. However, I make a general schedule of things I’d like to accomplish. If you give yourself deadlines throughout the day, it’ll motivate you to get things done quicker.
  • Make the things you want to do a priority. Be sure to add them to your schedule at a time you’re likely to do it. For example, I keep saying I’ll get up early to exercise. This isn’t happening, so I need to figure out where to put it in my schedule so I know I’ll do it.
  • Be sure to fit in downtime. Don’t keep adding things to your schedule that push out the things you really want to do. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to rest.

Don’t get me wrong. You still need to hustle when and where you can. I’m not telling you to give up or be lax. I’m giving you the freedom to let go of guilt. Just because some people have been able to write a novel in a month doesn’t mean you have to. I didn’t. And will not in the near future. It takes me months to write a short story and years to write a novel.

When you’re not writing you can still be learning. Anyone who takes writing seriously knows it’s a craft that has to be developed. Yes, there are writers who have written a book with little experience, but that’s rare.

Make a plan

My final piece of advice is to make a plan and implement it. Use smart goals to figure out a writing path that would include your overall goal as well as monthly and weekly actionable items. Be sure it’s a goal you have control over. You don’t have control over making the bestseller list, but you do have control over finishing and editing.

Don’t let fears or self-doubt keep you from working on your plan. You have every right to make your writing dreams come true. By managing your time wisely, you can take steps needed to get there.

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