Time Management for Writers - Controlling Time, Without the Sci-Fi

OK, so if I actually knew how to control time, I wouldn't be doing this; I'd be off getting a note of next week's lottery numbers. We can, however, look at how to better manage the time available to us. It occurred to me that one of the blockers for many people getting into writing or trying to finish a text is finding time to do it, especially amateur writers trying to fit writing into an already hectic life. So why not take some basic pointers from the world of business and apply them to your home life and your writing? This is based upon a short tips article I wrote a while back on Helium.com that I've expanded further and tried to apply to the writing discipline.

There are lots of ways you can try and manage your time better and many people will tell you alternative ways, but I've stuck to six ways to help manage your time and be more efficient, that I've always found work for me.

1. Divide your day into time slots if possible and allocate slots to activities.

Look at all of the broad activities or types of activity that you need to do on a daily basis. Allocate time slots to each activity and keep to it. From a writer's perspective, decide when in the day you want to do your writing. Try and ensure that everything else you have to do can be done outside of this time and leave the slot free to get on with your writing. If, like me, you're not a professional writer, you'll most likely have to approach this the other way around by identifying when in the day you could reasonably expect to be able to write and then plan all of the other activities to ensure you don't encroach on this part of the day.

2. Always keep a list of your 'things to do' - when you get each one done, cross it off the list and remember to keep adding the new tasks as they come up.

From the writer's point of view, this is much more about making sure that the non-writing things don't blindside you on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you were about to get started on an important article. You should, however, be similarly organised in the practical or administrative tasks that relate to your writing. By being methodical in the small tasks that you need to do, you will find you can clear them a lot more quickly and, if things are written down, you can avoid too many unpleasant memory-related surprises.

3. Most people feel productive at certain times of the day and less productive at other times. Try and figure out which times of the day suit you best and work with it.

Have a look at the Where, When and How to Write section for more information on identifying your productive periods, as this will influence what work you do at what times of the day. Knowing your productive periods in the day helps enormously with point 1 - dividing your day into time slots.

4. Be methodical wherever possible. Don't go off on flights of fancy.

Make sure that there is a reason and a benefit to what you are doing, otherwise you may just be adding to your unproductive time.  Do the important stuff. It's all too easy to find something you'd like to do rather than something you need to do. If you avoid being sidetracked from your planned workload, you can be more effective in the long term and you will get time to do the things you want without feeling guilty about it.

5. Understand the difference between urgent and important!

This can be quite difficult. The temptation is to see everything that's urgent as important, simply because it's urgent. By making the distinction, you can concentrate mainly on what's important and you will start to see that maybe some of the urgent stuff isn't just as important as you first thought. Ruthlessly prioritise the things you need to do, so the time slot you allocated (remember point 1?) is effective and hits the important stuff. Things that are both important and urgent will obviously be at the top of your list and you can clearly see what needs to be done first.

6. Wherever possible - delegate! This allows you to focus on a few tasks being done properly rather than a multitude of tasks being half done.

Yes, this is hard, if not almost impossible to do at home, but if you can get some assistance with the mundane to make time for your writing; try and do so. Maybe you want to trade help with someone to allow them to allocate a part of their day similarly, to do whatever it is they want to do. You help them, they help you - it just might work!

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