15 time management tips for writers
Many writers consider time management to be at least a minor issue, while for others it can be a major issue, especially those who never seem to find the time to write. The following tips may not completely eliminate all writing time management problems, but hopefully they will minimize time management problems.
- Track your time. If you find that you just have no idea where you consistently spent time, then it’s time to start tracking your time. Take a week or two to record how you spend your time from waking up in the morning to going to bed. Use a spiral notebook, divided into columns: the left column for the start and end time, the middle column for a brief description of each activity, and the right column for the amount of time to complete that activity. Record the day and date at the top of each page. Then, review your journal to determine where you can reduce your free time from activities (or eliminate them from your routine) to give yourself more time to write.
- Set goals. Goals give writers something to aspire to. It could be a minimum word or paragraph count per day, a minimum word or page count per week, or a minimum article count per month. Meeting your goals will keep your writing progress moving forward.
- Set aside time for research only. Having to keep stopping to research unfamiliar facts interrupts any writing schedule, reduces the time available to write, and distracts writers from their writing goals. Set aside regular time to research the information you need to write down during the week. Then your writing time will be available just for writing.
- Dual role investigation. When looking for an article or other writing, do your research considering several stories, both fiction and non-fiction. Ask yourself this question: “How many stories, articles, or novels can this information be used for?” This means that you will get the maximum amount of free writing time out of a minimum amount of research time.
- Use research time to generate other ideas. Use previous research to generate as many new ideas as possible. Once you’ve created a list of titles for the week, review all of your previous research on similar topics and use it to fill in some of the details for each topic. This will cut down on some of the research you will need to do.
- Re-tilt or update an old item. Look up some of your old articles and think of some ways to rewrite them from a different angle or update the information, both of which will require only a minimum of additional research. Since most of the writing has already been done, the writing time for these “new” articles will be shortened somewhat because you only need to rework what has already been written.
- Make use of waiting rooms and other time wasters. There are many times when we have to wait in a doctor’s waiting room, wait in the school pick-up line for our kids to get out of school, wait for our kids at gym practice. Instead of sitting there bored Looking at old magazines or eavesdropping on other people’s even more boring phone calls, take your writing with you, either on your laptop or with a pencil and paper. Take advantage of wasted time by converting it into writing time. One of the best things about writing is that it is portable.
- Carry a pencil and paper with you at all times.This allows you to take notes on all the new ideas that pop into your brain at the strangest moments. Other times, you may find that your mind is wandering, thinking of something other than writing, when suddenly, the solution to that problem you have been having with a particular piece appears. Write it down right now, while you think about it. Then get to work fixing the problem in your next writing session.
- Email yourself.This is the electronic version of having pencil and paper available. As you go about the other affairs of life while at the computer, you know, paying the bills, making appointments, setting the carpool schedule, or making calls on your smartphone, you get an idea about the parts in the ones you are working on. Email yourself while you think about it, and then get on with the essential tasks of your daily life.
- Take breaks. Many of us have been trained to believe that we should stay at our desks, writing, even though our minds and bodies are crying out for a break. At those times, we are not working at our most efficient levels and consequently the words we write on the page are not the best. We need to take occasional breaks to recharge our batteries. It may be simply to take a break in the bathroom so that we are not operating from a place of discomfort. Or we may need lunch or exercise to fuel and rejuvenate our brains and bodies, so that we are awake and alert when we return to the desk.
- Eat well. Eating a healthy diet keeps our writers’ brains in good working order. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, and eat healthy snacks if your brain and body need them. Cut down on caffeine. Too much will make you nervous, not alert. Reduce or eliminate alcohol. It doesn’t make you a better writer, it just makes you an alcoholic who wastes too much valuable time writing while drunk, or at least drunk.
- Keep your to-do writing flexible. Sometimes writers find that the pieces they have decided to work on during their writing stints just don’t work for them that day. But another piece is calling them. There is no law that says you have to stick to a writing schedule exactly as you planned. Sometimes it is more efficient to write the piece that comes easily to you and save the most difficult piece for a day when it will be easier to write.
- Balance your workload. “A little silliness from time to time is enjoyed by the wisest men.” I heard that in the movie “Willie Wonka”, Gene Wilder’s version. This is a much longer version of the “Take breaks” rule above. This requires you to take a day off, or even a week or two, to get away from your desk for a while. She begs you to stop writing altogether and spend time with your family, doing fun things like going on a picnic, swimming at the beach or watching a movie, and playing board games. The only rule is that you are not allowed to write or think about writing. You are only allowed to have fun, balance work.
- Learn when to say “no.” Some writing jobs are not worth our time because (a) they don’t pay enough, (b) they will take so much time from your writing that you won’t have time for other paid jobs, or (c) they will require too much time away from your family. Learn to say “no” to these projects, unless there is a very good reason to say “yes.” Additionally, writers must learn to say “no” to friends and family who insist on calling “just to chat” during their regular writing periods. There are many good books and articles with excellent suggestions on how to politely handle these writing-time intrusions. It is worth taking the time to research.
- Time wasters. Among the many time management problems that writers run into are the personal demons known as the waters of time. Top wasters of time include: procrastination, spending too much time on unproductive “stuff” that doesn’t help us with our writing or anything else, spending too much time organizing and rearranging our writing spaces and writing schedule to-do lists . , watching television, answering emails, reading the newspaper, answering phone calls, reading (books, newspapers, magazines) instead of writing, allowing interruptions and the ever popular web browsing. By eliminating these wastes of time, or by reducing them to an absolute and strict minimum, we will have more time to write.