Thursday Thoughts: A Writer’s Time

One thing many writers find to be challenging is time management. That’s especially true for those of us like me who also have a full-time job, family, perhaps even a small business aside from writing, but I think it’s something just about all writers wrestle with at one time or another. You think you have a whole evening (or – gasp! – a whole day!) so you take your time getting around to the writing, hurp-durp around on the Internet some, check your email 20 times, play a few computer games, then finally sit down to write… and next thing you know, you’re falling asleep at the keyboard. You look up, and it’s midnight. Where has the day gone???

Add Facebook, Twitter, and trying to build an Internet presence into that mix and… well, for me, the scenario above was becoming an all-too-common occurrence.

Chart - how I was spending my timeDaily goals were not being met. Weekly goals – halfway, if that. Yet, I still felt like I’d been busy! So I did something I learned in a time management course, way back when: I analyzed where did my time go… and where did I want it to go each evening?

A few things were immediately apparent: I was spending way too much time goofing off, and way too little writing. And too much time accomplishing too little (that big, light-blue block of “I don’t know”). Also, notice what’s not there: attending to the writing business, and exercise.

Chart - How I want to spend my timeI have five and a half to six hours from the time I get home from work, to the time I need to go to bed. I thought about how I thought my evening should break down, and this is what I came up with:

  • A half-hour for exercise (bonus: I read while on the treadmill)
  • An hour to read/answer email and hit social media
  • An hour and a half for dinner, and spending time with family, feeding the critters, etc.
  • An hour for doing personal/family chorse, like personal paperwork
  • An hour for writing – that’s actual writing, planning on the WIP, or revising
  • A half-hour (average) for writing -business stuff: updating my website, blogs, designing promo materials, etc.
  • A half-hour of downtime (usually playing computer games)

I read before I go to bed, that’s not counted in the above.

I came up with this “schedule” on Monday. So how has it worked so far?

Monday – so far so good, but didn’t get the paperwork done so that went over into Tuesday.

Tuesday – I ended up fighting with OpenOffice for an hour, because my manuscript had somehow become corrupted and my editor couldn’t open it. Sometimes stuff happens. This ate into my writing time. Last week, it would’ve killed it. Tuesday, I still got a half hour in on the WIP.

Wednesday: worked out almost exactly as planned, expect I spent more time on this blog, twiddling with the charts. I’m finding that the exercise is much more likely to get done if I do it right after I get home from work (I’m soooooo not a morning person, so getting up earlier is not happening).

The thing to keep in mind is this is a guideline, not a must-do. But so far it seems to be helping.

How about you? Do you have trouble with time management, whether or not you’re a writer? If you’ve found anything that helps, please share!

19 Responses to \

  1. A lot of my time management problems come from the amount of research I do for each blog entry. I am torn between wanting to have a good blog and wanting to spend less time on it. I’ve tried using one day for writing blogs, but, man, by the time I get one entry written, I’m tired and can’t think. I’m going to figure it out, but it’s taking some time.

    Unrelated, I sent a personal email a few days ago and was wondering if you got it. If not, I can resent. 😀

  2. So true, Catie! I research blogs too – don’t want to post innaccurate info! And yes, that definitely adds to the time! It’s not a “dash out a blog in fifteen minutes,” that’s for sure.

  3. I am constantly fighting the time management thing! One day I will figure it out, but until then, I am learning to prioritize. Learning to do what’s most important seems to be the hardest thing to figure out 🙂

  4. I’m so glad I’m not alone. Definitely floundering in a sea of too much to do with too little time and not managing it to the greatest benefit. I have to step back and re-group often to make sure I’m somewhat on track with all of my tasks and still maintaining a balanced lifestyle.

    As a soon to be indie published author, my carreer path has taken on a whole new dimmension to the world of time management. I’m new at this and still figuring it out, but I’ll let you know when I get a grip on the whole thing. LOL

  5. @Rhonda – just listing how I spent my time and how I wanted to spend it, helped me. Hope it helps you!

    @Angelique – figuring out what’s most important is where this really helped – good luck!

    @PJ – I’m with you on the “soon to be indie published author” – adding cover design and the whole publisher’s part of the business definitely adds to the work! I knew it would, but it’s one of those things you can’t really know until you experience it. Best wishes for your new release!

  6. I definitely have trouble with time management. I used to have control over my days, organized them to the minute… well, close to the minute, anyway. But now it seems as if blogging, facebook, twitter, shopping, cooking, homeschooling, paying bills, doing laundry and all the other pesky little things in life take precedence over my writing. No matter how I plan, I don’t get as much done as I used to. I think I sabotage myself a lot. A. Lot. I should do as you did and detail what I want to accomplish… and what I do to avoid that. 🙂 Your pie charts were great – and eerily familiar to how mine might look. 😉

  7. @Debora – I can’t imagine adding homeschooling to all those other tasks – yikes! And yes, I think we all do a lot of self-sabotage – mine is computer games. Hopefully charting it out will help!

  8. As you can see, Jennette, you are definitely not alone. I’m horrible with time management. That’s why I’m up to 2 + in the morning and I still don’t have time to write. Jesh. I’ve got to get it together. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Time Management: How’s That Working Out for You? | Jennette Marie Powell

  10. I’m a list-maker! So I tend to make lists and then rank my to-do’s in hopes that I can prioritize accordingly. Sometimes it works; sometimes life interferes. And sometimes, my brain turns to gelatin and I have to take a break from reading/writing/whatever. It’s not exactly time management, but it does help me somewhat to stick to a list.

  11. Julie, you nailed it – I couldn’t do this without lists! And breaks. I built those into my schedule. The trick is to keep them short!

  12. Pingback: ROW80: Something that Helped | Jennette Marie Powell

  13. Pingback: ROW80: Sometimes, there really isn’t enough time | Jennette Marie Powell

  14. Pingback: ROW80: Sometimes, there really isn’t enough time | Jennette Marie Powell

  15. Great topic, Jen, and something most writers struggle with. I’m failing to plan and therefore planning to fail. ROW is a great way to keep yourself accountable and I still haven’t joined it.

    Writing blog posts takes me way too long and worst offenders are the link roundups. Pinterest and reading blogs easily consume hours every day. I need to start using a timer.

  16. So true, Reetta! You’d think those mashup posts would be easy – just collect the links while we read, right? – but they take tons of time! I’m afraid to even check out Pinterest. But ROW80 is great for accountability, and a new round starts in July. Hope to see you there!