Writers are artists, and one thing that plagues artists of all kinds is the management of time. I know that it is something I struggle with constantly (hence why my own work-in-progress is still only a third finished! Such is the life of the author.) Barri Bryan is with us on the blog today. Barri is one of our beloved ETP authors, and besides her two books of poetry, What Will Suffice and Chapter and Verse, both available in the ETP store, she also has a NEW release, her debut novel with ETP, Starting Over.
Barri shares with us today how to defeat the dreaded monster of time management.
It is unfortunate that most of the rules of time management are contradictory to human nature, and a writer’s temperament in particular. How can creativity be tied to a routine? Contrary to what you may believe, creativity can be enhanced by learning to manage time wisely.
One complaint of those who contemplate working from a schedule for the first time is “I wouldn’t know where to start.” It is to your advantage to take the time to find out where to start.
Another objection is that setting time limits puts one under stress. The opposite is true. Learning to manage time wisely can reduce stress.
A third criticism is that being on a schedule takes all the fun out of life. Welcome to the real writer's world. That world is not all dancing on the bar and shooting out the lights. Sustained writing requires dedication, perseverance, and hard work.
Each individual relates to time in a different way. No matter how we regard that old tyrant, all of us are allotted the same 1,440 minutes that come with each twenty-four-hour day.
Improving time management starts with evaluating your present use of time. I started on a Monday morning, and for that day I kept a record of how I spend my time by hourly logging in my activities. At the end of the day, I sat down and studied the results. I made notes of time-wasting activities, and then designated tasks and projects for which I would like to allot more time.
I designed a daily schedule sheet that fit my specific needs. This helped me plan my days more carefully. I reserved my most productive time for my writing. This flexible-within-limits-schedule helped me strike a happy medium, and gave me better control of my time.
I wrote a long term goal for my work-in-progress. It was reachable, and explicit, and able to be gaged. I stated in it that I was to complete my historical novel within a year of my starting date.
I linked my long term goal to short-term objectives. Objectives are targets designed to reach a specific goal. They are set in short time frames. My objectives for completing the goal of writing the first draft of my historical novel were to make an outline, do the necessary research, and then write at least 2000 words four days of each week until the first draft of my project was completed. Projected time for completing the first draft was six months. This gave me six months for second and third drafts, and provided for time for unforeseen interruptions.
After objectives were put in some order, I broke them down into smaller, more manageable objectives. I would work on my outline two-and-one-half to three hours each morning, four mornings of each week. Projected time for completion was one to two weeks. Then I would work two to three hours each afternoon until my basic research was completed. Projected time for completion was four weeks. After these projects were done, I could move to short term objectives for writing my novel. To be effective both goals and objectives require a flexible time frame and predetermined end results. I scheduled so that I spent short increments of time writing. Spending long hours on a project adds strain to my physical and mental well-being, and usually results in a product that is less than my best.
More hints for managing time:
I have learned to deal with time wasters in an effective, yet inoffensive way. I have a voice mail system. From seven AM until eleven AM, four days a week, I don’t answer my phone. I have made it known that a certain part of those days are devoted to writing.
I once felt I needed an excuse when I didn't say yes to requests that took too much time away from my writing. I have learned that I don't. My stock answer now is, "I have to say no this time."
When I succeed in accomplishing a long term goal, I reward yourself by going out to lunch with a friend, catching up on my reading, or visiting with my family.
I make allowances for crises and emergencies. When the best laid plans go astray, or important tasks fail to get done, I know I have allotted time to meet and deal with each interruption as it arises.
I do my best creative writing early in the morning. I reserve that part of my day for my creative writing. I can attend to research, editing, answering mail, and writing factual articles another time during the day.
The creative process requires time for proper development. It's important that I make time in my schedule for relaxing and breaking away from my writing routine. I have three-day weekends to do that.I try, as much as possible, to live in the present, to be open to new ideas and information, and to appreciate and acknowledge those around me. Mastering these few rules and skills have helped me to face the future with confidence, and handle crises and interruptions with grace and ease. It has also helped me to have more time to devote to writing.
To stay up-to-date on Barri Bryan and her work, visit her website here, and be sure to check out her newest work, Starting Over, available on Amazon and the ETP store.