The dreaded expression that makes every writer cringe. Time Management. When you’re a writer, you often do it for the dream first, the pay second. But if you ever want to get paid, you have to focus on your writing at some point. I can’t be pushed off constantly.
I hate the phrase “treat it like a job”. Not because it isn’t true, but because in my life, it’s nearly impossible. I know the realities of having to run and switch out the laundry so that the piles of clothes don’t take over your house. The reality of three kids all needing my attention at once. A husband who is just as needy, as well as my own needs and sanity. It simply isn’t reality that I will sit down eight hours a day and write.
I have found my own ways around this, as we all do. Have children? Nap time or school time are wonderful periods to write. If you’re an early riser, set your alarm clock one hour earlier and hop out of bed and write. If you’re a night owl, stay up an hour later then everyone in your house. Find one, two or three hours that work for you.
Keep in mind, these hours do not need to be concurrent. One hour in the morning, one in the evening. Finding a schedule that works for you, that your mind isn’t wandering to what you need to do around the house, with the family, out on an errand run.
The next, and most wonderful, tip I have ever received is this - Don’t force out an hours worth of work straight. I am an internet junkie (aren’t we all?). I find myself switching windows and surfing instead of writing. So, instead of forcing myself to write for an hour straight and getting antsy for the internet, I break it up. I have downloaded a minute timer (you could even use an egg timer) for Windows. I set it for ten minutes. For that ten minutes I am required to focus on writing. No wandering to the internet, no glancing at the TV, nothing but Word and me.
Once the ten minutes are up, I’m allowed a break. The timer is reset for two minutes (yes, only two). For that two minutes I’m allowed the freedom of surfing my heart out, watching that TV, grabbing my sweets to snack on. Then it’s back to my ten minutes.
To make it more enjoyable, I’ve even turned it into a game with another writer friend. We use an old childhood game for this, and call it “Red light, green light”. We challenge each other, set the timer and say ‘green light’. When we hit the red light break we must first post our word count to see what we accomplished. We do this to keep each other accountable. When she's at work and knows it's my time to work, she emails me to make sure I've been writing. Accountability keeps me going.
The best, and only tips, I’ve found that work are these three. In case they got lost in the story, I’ll shorten them up for you:
1. Find a schedule that works for you. Set it. Keep it.
2. Break your time up. Allow a little play time in with the work. It keeps you sane.
3. Keep yourself accountable. Find a friend, your S/O, a daily log to make sure you're still writing, no matter how much, or how little.
Don’t change your entire lifestyle, don’t ‘declutter’ so you don’t have to think so much. Don’t get the self-help books on time management. Only you know you. You know what works for you. Find a flow, and use it. Use your own weaknesses to your advantage to give yourself ‘rewards’. The important thing to remember is, at the end of the day, it’s your words that you have to face. We love them, we hate them…but they are a part of us. We have to make time for them like we do any other member of our family.