Guest Blog by Lisa England, JourneyCraft
One of the most exciting recent developments in my blogging life is getting topic requests from readers. Like all writers, I want to communicate as effectively as possible—and one of the best ways is by finding out what you (the reader) want to know!
It’s especially nice when readers take the time to share.
Today’s audience-sourced topic arose recently, while I chatted with a filmmaker friend. “You seem to get so much done as a writer,” he told me. “How do you manage your time?”
It’s a great question—and one I’m happy to address today.
But first off, let me say: I am not always productive. No creative person is. Yet, with some personal experimentation, and disciplined decision-making based on the results, we can boost our likelihood of both starting and finishing our creative projects.
And once finishing—and moving on—becomes our habits, they are (thankfully!) as hard to break as our old habits of unproductiveness and procrastination.
I should also say that I do not believe that a busy life is an excuse for neglecting creative work. Yes, each life is different. Some of us have children at home. Others have aging parents. Some face high-pressure executive jobs. Others work multiple minimum-wage positions to pay the bills. Yet no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in, or what time-management challenges we face, all of us can learn to do it better.
For my part, I am married. I have a full-time job as a copywriter and strategist for a digital agency. I have another soon-to-be full-time job launching City Beast Studio, a sequential art and multimedia intellectual property development firm. And I do Rise of the Tiger which (counting gallery exhibitions, artistic collaborations and the weekly writing) is quite a part-time job.
Here are five ways I juggle that busy schedule to make writing my priority.
1. Discover your best writing hours.
I’m a firm believer that our best hours should be devoted to our most important pursuits. Start by making a list of your priorities. If you’re serious about writing, then it ought to be pretty high on that list. So why do you relegate your creative work to the leftover hours—the times when you feel crappy, hate every word you scribe, and feel so depressed about your future, you may as well stab yourself with your pen?
Your writing deserves better.
For myself, personally, I had to come to a point where I admitted: my best hours are early morning. And that means I have to rise between 4 AM and 6 AM every morning to get several hours of good work in before I head to my day job. For others, that best time might be the dead of night or on lunch break.
If you don’t know your best time, experiment. But once you discover your peak hours, channel all your ingenuity toward allocating that time for writing. Block it off on the calendar, if you must. Whatever you do: keep that time sacred for you and your work.
2. Record goals in a visible area.
Once you know your best writing time, decide what you want to accomplish long-term, then this month, then this week. Record your weekly goals (and possibly the long-term ones, if you feel the need) in a highly-visible area, preferably where you write.
I have mine above my desk on a white board. Not only does it feel GREAT to check things off that list . . . but it keeps me focused while I’m in my writing room.
Personally, the writing times I’ve wasted most were times when I had only an amorphous idea of what I wanted to write. I would fiddle with one thing one day, another thing the next, always tossed about by my own whims and uncertainty of what I should be doing.
Save yourself the trouble, by taking the time to decide and then posting those decisions where you can see them every day.
3. Embrace small chunks of time.
One of the biggest time-management lies we writers tell ourselves is that if we don’t have a huge block of free time, or a whole day open just to write, we cannot get anything done. This simply is not true.
Most of us do not have long, uninterrupted days to spend writing. (And if we did, our writing actually might not be as good as when we write around the chaos of everyday life!) For most of us, our writing time consists of an hour here, two hours there, or (for some of us) even less.
Instead of bemoaning this phenomenon, embrace it. Believe that you can get valuable work done in a short span of time, and that those smaller units of work will add up to something much greater.
Once you embrace those smaller time chunks, you’ll be amazed what you can do with them.
4. Throw out #1-3 and just do something.
This is actually what I told my friend, who asked how I get so much done. “I have a pact with myself,” I told him, “to get something done, toward my goals, every single day.” It may be as small as writing a blog post. It may be as grand as finishing a manuscript or delivering a graphic novel treatment.
Whatever it may be, I make sure I’ve done something. That way, I am always moving forward.
And therein lies another grand deception we tell ourselves: that the small things don’t count. Well, they do count. They add up fast. And once we’re busy doing small things heartily, suddenly big things are getting done.
So what are you waiting for? Shut off your internet and go write on your current work in progress—be it a novel, short story, screenplay, comic script, or client project. Even in just ten or fifteen minutes you can tackle something. And when you have, you’ll be further ahead than you are now.
It’s all in how you manage your time.