5 Time Management Tools for the Busy Writer
Writers rarely have the luxury of focusing on one project at a time. In addition to the actual writing, there’s marketing, outreach, networking, research, etc. And that’s only for one project (there’s rarely just one).
Without the right time management tools, writers can fall prey to burn out, quitting, or driving themselves mad with too many balls in the air. You’re not a circus clown but you MUST learn to juggle like it’s your job. Because it is. That means juggling fire and chainsaws, not scarves. Below are five time management tools for the busy writer, that includes new writers developing their process, seasoned writers who could use a refresher, and the many folks that fall in-between.
For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.
– Benjamin Franklin
A clean and tidy workspace will help keep your project (and your mind) organized. While organizing takes time away from your writing, you’ll have even more time to focus when it’s done. Nothing breaks a writer’s flow worse than when you need to access something quickly but have to spend the rest of the day tearing your office apart looking for it.
If the thought of organizing your office feels overwhelming, hire help. It’s a small price to pay for better energy, and once everything is set up and complete, you’ll be able to maintain it with minimal effort.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
While most of us understand our priorities on a grander scale – i.e. devoting time to family, friends, and health – our daily priorities are constantly changing. Take inventory of each day and decide what’s most important based on your deadlines and goals. Now when distractions arise, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what has to be completed first.
A warning: Be aware when the people in your life put their priorities on you. Their urgency is not your urgency unless you make it so. And while you want to help others, your priorities come first. If you let yourself bend and sway to the schedule of others too often, you’ll never find time for what’s important to you. If you really want to dive into this, research The Eisenhower Matrix for a visual chart!
- Theme Days
A confused mind does nothing.
– Dallas Travers
Theme days are a lifesaver, especially for those who create their own schedule. Why? Because there’s always an errand to run or a book to read, and your week can become muddy when you have a great big ‘to do’ list in front of you with no clear order. In addition to setting priorities, look at your week and create theme days. Todd Herman talks about this in his 90-Day Year goal setting program – also worth looking into.
For example, set themes at the beginning of each week based on all the things that need to be done. Try an “errand day” where you’re out of the house shopping, picking up the dry cleaning, or running by the post office. We’re far more efficient when we step into certain modes and stay there. You can have days dedicated to everything from phone calls to finance. Of course, life happens and it’s important to be flexible, but theme days give us the peace of mind that things will be taken care of on their designated day – avoiding confusion about what to do next. Put those tiny errands and distractions in their allotted day, then focus on writing by getting into the zone and staying there.
A goal is a dream with a deadline.
– Napoleon Hill
Whether someone has set a deadline for you or it’s self-imposed, deadlines will help you move forward with the things that matter most – making priorities clear as a whistle.
When setting your own deadlines, up the stakes by asking someone to hold you accountable. Know what your weaknesses are with deadlines and tell that person what you need. Will you not complete a task unless someone actually reads your work? Let them know! Do everything you can to set yourself up for success by getting clear on what works for you, what doesn’t, then asking for what you need.
- Take Action
Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us get up and go to work.
– Stephen King
Are you a perfectionist to a fault? Don’t confuse time management with perfect timing – there’s a big difference. The goal of time management is to help one make the most of their time. Perfect timing is a fool’s errand, convincing perfectionists that they have to wait for the heavens to open up and offer divine conditions. Avoid this trap at all costs!
Do your best with what you have when you have it. Procrastination has been known to knock on your door – wearing a wig and funny glasses – disguised as a perfectionist. Take action and don’t expect things to be perfect. Get it done so you can move forward and hone your work as you gain more knowledge.
David L. Hancock, Founder
Morgan James Publishing