Writers are busy, busy, busy these days. With full-time jobs, family, hobbies and events going on, it can be challenging to get writing done. That’s when managing your writing time can make the difference between writing 500 words and writing 0 words.
Here are four tools to help you manage your writing time better:
First off, before you can manage your time better, you need to figure out just how much time you actually have to dedicate to writing.
An un-schedule is tool created by psychologist Neil Fiore, Ph.D., to combat procrastination. By figuring out what you’re already doing each week, you’re able to see the specific number of hours you have available for other things (like writing).
The key to an un-schedule is you only include things you already know for sure you’re doing.
For example, you know you’ll be sleeping at some point every day, so write on your un-schedule when you plan to do this. But if you don’t know for sure you’ll be exercising at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, don’t write exercise in.
Add up all the blank spaces on your un-schedule worksheet (the hours left over where you have nothing planned) and that is the total amount of time you have available for writing every day and week.
You can download a free version of the un-schedule worksheet on the Procrastinating Writers blog.
Now that you know when you have free time, it’s time to figure out exactly how you’re spending your time. Sure your un-schedule is great and all, but it’s best-case scenario. Meaning you might plan for certain things to happen at certain times (such as sleep!), but that may not happen.
The three-day diary can help you find out exactly how you spend your time day-to-day.
For three days (in a row, if you can), keep track of everything you do on a 15-minute basis. You could also track on a 30-minute basis if that makes it easier for you.
Write down every 15 minutes what you were just doing.
So, for example, you might write: Checked Facebook (1-1:15); Wrote an email to a possible agent (1:15-2); checked Facebook again, had conversation with mom (2-2:15). You get the idea.
You’ll be surprised when you see how much time you spend doing meaningless things (and how much time you actually have to write).
Tick Tock Timer
Once you’ve figured out how much time you have available for writing and how you’re really spending your time, writing is the next step. Schedule in some writing time and when the time comes, sit down and write.
Try writing in blocks starting out. Use a timer, such as the Tick Tock Timer from the brothers of Pun Intended, and set it for 30 minutes. Start writing. When the timer sounds (or gong, in the case of the Tick Tock Timer), stop writing and take a break.
Don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. A simple strategy to get you writing.
Now that you’re getting all this writing done, you probably want to know exactly what you’re accomplishing. An accomplishments list will tell you exactly what you’re getting done.
It’s simple, grab a notebook or journal and at the end of the day, make a list of everything you accomplished that day. You can include anything from “wrote 500 words” to “taught my puppy how to ‘sit.'”
Whenever you start to feel like you’re not accomplishing anything, pull out your notebook and read through it. You’ll realize you’re doing more than you think.
And if you’re not, hey–now’s the time to start.
How do you manage your writing time?
Today’s Challenge: Download the un-schedule worksheet or keep a 3-day diary and see where your time really goes and how much you have available to write. Once you know how much time you have for writing, schedule in some writing time and then make it happen. Use the timer tool and accomplishments list to keep you motivated along the way.
About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers, a blog that offers guidance for writers who struggle to get started. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.
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