Time Management for the Time Starved

There are never enough hours in the day for anyone. Our lives are full of work, family, friends, hobbies, sleep, food, responsibilities, more sleep, more food, more responsibilities, etc. I struggle to balance the all day, every day work of keeping a household and wrangling two little ones. And while I have access to more stolen moments being home than if I was clocking a nine to five, finding more than fifteen minutes of silence and solitude is a challenge. Even after the kiddos are asleep, the husband needs some of my time as well lest our marriage dies.

So how do we find time for all of those activities that matter to us? The first step in time management is the simple realization that it isn’t about finding time, but rather about prioritizing our time. This is what separates the hobbyist from the professional in any creative endeavor. A hobbyist will create when he has the time, rather than carving time specifically. A professional not only carves out specific time but does it on a regular basis.

If only it were as simple as that though. Not only do we need to have the time to create, we need to have enough time. I tend to underestimate how much time I need for any one activity. It becomes more complicated when I don’t consider all the time requirements of a project. When I’m writing, I don’t just need the time it takes to put words on paper, I need time to think, to plan, to become absorbed.

I especially find it difficult to plan ahead the actual time. Even if I know how long I need, I never know when that time will come. Having a three year old and a five year old who never wake up at the same time or go to bed at the same time every day, planning to write before or after they are in bed are a challenge that can often times be squashed with a little bad luck.

I never know when during the day that I will have a whole uninterrupted hour to get my word count in. I simply have to be ready to pounce on the opportunity and be flexible enough to go with whatever interruptions may occur. This means I have to be active in making choices during the day.

For example, both kids are currently in the bedroom with their father, absorbed in whatever it is that they are doing. I don’t know how long it will be before one or both of them decide that mommy is more interesting right now than daddy, but at this very moment I have both the time and the quiet I need to work. And it doesn’t matter how many times I tell them that I’m working and need quiet. They are too young to not be selfish. Before I started typing this post, I had a brief moment where I realized the opportunity I had. Now I could have gone online, checked my email, checked twitter, or even started up Mass Effect. But I knew that I prioritized my writing above those things and took advantage.

But that often isn’t enough. Many times I will have the time and yet have no idea what to say. Instead I find the minutes ticking away as I stare at the blank page and as more time disappears into the ether, the more frantic and stressed I become because I know that I have only mere minutes before the blessed silence is broken. Now I have wasted that time and still have nothing to show for it.

This is where knowing exactly what you need is important. I know that I will need some time to think, to grow the words in my head before my fingers can tell the story. Thinking can come at any moment, though the best ones are when I’m engaged in an otherwise mindless task such as laundry or dishes. Housework, while I loathe it, is a writers second best friend (after the computer). It needs to be done so it gives you a built in time to live in your mind, to explore story problems, brainstorm blog ideas, and play with characters and plot. Just don’t assume that whatever you think of will still be there in the stolen moments to come. I always keep a small notebook nearby so when epiphanies strike, I can scribble enough down that it will jog my memory later. Showers work great as well and if you are really worried that the ideas will die before you can write them down, invest in those bath markers they sell to kids and just write it on the tile.