No matter what you do in life, if you can figure out how to manage your time well, then you’ll take ten steps forward toward success – however you define it. And for the entrepreneur – and really, that’s what a writer is, if the intent is to make money – it’s imperative to use time to your advantage, since no one is watching the clock for you or judging your viability to hold a job based on productivity. (You wanted to be your own boss, remember?) To be successful, time management for writers is a must.
Time management isn’t just about getting work done — though, of course, that’s the end result. Time management is also understanding how you work best, when you work best, and what things get in the way of your best work.
Time Management for Writers – Close Your Email
For instance, one simple thing I do when I really need to get something done is to make sure that my email is closed. That may sound almost ridiculous, but when you leave your email open, you know when you get mail, and when I know I have mail, I am compelled to check it. When I am not under deadline, or behind in promised word count, or feeling crushed by the huge amount of undone work I have to do, this is no problem. The few seconds or minutes I take to deal with an issue, or respond to a friend, or (ahem) get distracted by the new *insert home furnishings catalog name here* are no big deal. I know what I have to do and what my timelines are, and I am open enough to these distractions to not let them throw me off course.
But when I am under pressure – and remember, as a writer, sometimes pressure comes up suddenly, and outside of your control – I keep the email closed and only check it every few hours.
That’s one very simple tip I have shared with friends and colleagues before that a few had never considered, and here are a couple of other ones that a) you may have heard a thousand times before, but maybe this is the time that will stick or b) may sound amazingly brilliant, because you’ve never come across them:
Time Management for Writers – Use a timer
Timers can be very effective both in setting time limits, but also in measuring how you use your time. Take a typical day and try to watch the clock. How much time do you use effectively, and how much time do you waste? Are there small pockets of time you could use for quick tasks that you basically just toss away because you think “What could I actually get done in five/ten/twenty minutes anyway?” Instead ask yourself, “I have ten minutes here – what can I get done?” Surprise yourself.
Time Management for Writers – Examine your habits
Be honest with yourself. Nobody knows how you use your time better than you do, especially if you’re home alone. Do you want to be successful? Figure out what’s holding you back. If you’re playing three hours of Words With Friends each day and still making suitable progress on your goals, then it’s up to you as to whether or not that’s a good use of your time. However, if you’re playing three hours of Words With Friends each day and not making progress, then I’m here to tell you it’s not. Unless your definition of success is to play three hours of Words With Friends each day. Then congratulations! You’re a success.
Time Management for Writers – Plan
I know a lot of you look at that word and shudder, but really, this isn’t about carving out every available minute of your day. If you have a basic blueprint of how you expect your day to look, or at the very least an idea of the top three things you need to get done, then you will both consciously and subconsciously find yourself moving in that direction, and generally those things will get done. This is especially important for a freelancer/entrepreneur — you are never going to get anywhere if your day is continually a long, nebulous list of “things I ought to do” that never turns into “things I got done.”
Time Management for Writers – Do the things you want to do least, first.
You know how those niggling tasks you don’t want to do take up a lot of energy, reminding you how much you dread them, hanging over you like the Tower of Sauron? How often have you waited until the end of the day to do something, the idea of it instilling anxiety and apprehension, when, in the end, it took half the time and was ten times easier than expected? Remember that lesson. Do the cringe-inducing stuff first. Even if it is hard and takes a lot of time, it’s still done – and done is good.
Time Management for Writers – Set a goal with a deadline
If we’re talking entrepreneurship, then this tip is very powerful. Having an author goal is a small way of tying all those other things together. You know what your definition of success is. If your first step is obvious (call five clients this week), then just do it. If it’s not so obvious, then figure out what one small forward motion would be. (Brainstorm five potential stories? Make five research phone calls on the bullying story? Prepare a pitch for Woman’s Day?) You know what you need to do. Do it.
Bobbi Dumas loves good writing. Of all kinds. She also loves romance, a mesmerizing story and the company of friends. When she’s not in the virtual world or one of her own making, she can usually be found in Madison, WI with her husband, two boys, and a clan of great writers she feels grateful and honored to know (some of whom you get to meet here, too). Lucky you
Very informative. I can totally relate to the open e-mail suggestion. It is easy to get distracted. Deadlines also work well. In fact, I’m on a deadline right now. Talk about motivation.
Thanks, Rick! Yes, self-imposed deadlines are good, but nothing beats an external deadline – especially one attached to a paycheck!