Pratical Time Management

I can waste hours talking about time management but at that point it is more about procrastination than truly using my time wisely. So I thought I’d back up the theoretical with some practical, how I personally manage my time.

I’m not nearly as time starved as others out there. I have the luxury of working from home. But rather than having a block of time to work, I have to find the time in between house keeping, running after a three year old, chauffeuring a five year old to school and supplementing his education at home. Add in time with my husband after an exhausting day for the both of us and unless I am being intentional with my time I go to bed each night too late to wake up to early to have done anything work related.

My time during the day is certainly not wasted. I enjoy the time with my children and I know it is important to keep a healthy and clean house, however if I’m not intentional I find myself wasting the moments of quiet (relative quiet, it is never truly quiet with a 3 year old) on facebook and reddit.

The first time I open my lap top, I no longer fire up firefox and check my email. I immediately open scrivener and get to work. There will be interruptions, there always are but I’d rather tell my child, one more minute while I finish this sentence than one more minute while mommy finishes this meme. Its all about priority. If something is important to you, whether it’s work or pleasure, make it the first thing you do when time allows. So how does a day for me look?

Any time there is a lull, when I know I have at least five minutes to check my email or play a facebook game, I work on most important project at the time. I continue to work on this project, in between inevitable interruptions until I meet my word or page goal (depending on if it’s new work or editing). I work down my list until I have it finished for the day. The priority of the list is dependent on deadlines on whether I’m editing or drafting first. Once that is done, any other free time is spent on social media building brand. This is where I get to check my email, play on facebook and chat with friends. I get to call this work even though it’s far more fun and rewarding.

I spend the relative quiet of driving my son to school twice a day to work on plot problems and think. Driving is a great time to get lost in your own thoughts, just be careful. On longer rides, I find listening to podcasts or audio books a great use of my time.

I also spend most of my evenings before bed reading. Reading is second only to actually writing in importance to being a working writer. The downside to my nightly sessions are if I’m at a really good part, I don’t want to stop which equals zombie me in the morning.

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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.