I haven’t done a Writers on Wednesday Post in a while, at least not one written by me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how people spend their time and why some people are super productive and some people aren’t. I don’t think productivity necessarily equals success but I do think it is a lot easier to be successful if your are productive.
Lots of people ask me how I manage to get so many things done. I work basically full-time, have a family, I have a fairly active author profile on social media, I’ve just written my 20th book and I do have a social life and I read.
I’ve thought about this a lot. Here are some of my thoughts and tips on time management. (I’m a big believer in the 80-20 rule but you don’t need me to tell you about that.
5 Time Management Tips
1. Perfection is the enemy of good
I’m not a perfectionist. I’m sure many people think this is a great failing of mine and I’m not sure they’re entirely wrong but I do think you need to get out of your own way. A first draft doesn’t need to be perfect, you’re going to go back and redraft it again and again anyway. Spending an hour finding the perfect image for a social media post is a waste of time…if it’s a Christmas post, choose a festive image and get it done. Not sending out a newsletter because you don’t have the perfect graphic is also crazy. You will get better the more you do things. Some times you will have to compromise but getting it done is more important. I’m not saying be sloppy and I’m not saying put crap out into the universe, I’m just saying don’t let perfectionism stop you from making progress. Keep in mind so much of what we do is subjective anyway, not everyone will agree that thing you spet hours perfecting is amazing anyway.
2. Set goals and stick to them
It doesn’t matter what your goals are you need them. It might be you want to write one book in a year. If you wrote 500 words a day you’d have around of 130,000 words. It will probably take you 30-45 minutes a day (you’ll get faster). That’s a book done and edited.
Write 500 a day and then edit 500 a day and you have one book i half an hour a day. You can do that.
You can post on social media 3 times a week. (Half an hour total).
You can spend one hour a week on marketing your books. (Less than 10 minutes a day.)
I think you need to write goals where you can see them. A whiteboard, a sticky note on a mirror, the back of your front door, on your car’s sun visor. You need the visual reminder.
3. Life happens in small chunks of time – use them.
I wrote a post a while back about how to make a difference if you only have 5 minutes. I think this is where we lose a lot of our time in the 21st century. We say we have no time for our author social media and yet we spend hours on platforms doing idle stuff.
I’m a big believer in using small blocks of time. If I had waited for a big chunk or time I’d never have done anything. I wrote my first book, and many since using 30 minute chunks or as long as a children’s TV show lasted. Maybe you believe you need a whole hour to write anything. That belief is a big part of your problem. There’s a way around that. If you have a 15 minute break in the day (in the car waiting for the kids, your lunch break at work, waiting at an appointment) make some notes on the next scene or chapter in your book and then when you finally get half an hour use that as your jumping off point.
Some people would call this plotting. Lots of people hate that word and many of the people who hate that word also struggle with deadlines, procrastination and time management. Don’t call this process plotting – I call it pre-thinking. I pre-think about what I want to write so that when I go to write I know exactly what I want to say.
4. Be honest with yourself.
If you have time to watch every episode or the Bachelor, This Is Us, Survivor and the Great British Bake-Off you have time to write. If you spend an hour a day on Facebook, you have time to write. Look at how you really spend your time and cut something out. I’m not saying everything, just something.
If you don’t make writing a priority it won’t happen. I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times now. I love this as an exercise in showing you where you waste time. It’s taught me excellent time management skills just by discovering where my free time really lies and where my procrastination takes place.
Be honest about who you are and what works for you – life is not one size fits all. I am not a morning person. I do not write well at six in the morning. I know that. I’m not going to lie to myself and pretend otherwise. I’m better off getting an extra hour’s sleep and writing at eleven in the morning or six at night. I don’t feel bad about that any more.
Here’s another thing to consider – maybe you like the idea of writing but you don’t really want to write. Writing is hard, it takes commitment and it’s not for everyone. Some people have one or two books in them and that’s it. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I know lots of people who spend more time reading writing books, attending talks and classes and conferences than they ever do writing. That’s absolutely fine. They love the world of writing and the wonderful people in it and the idea of being an author. I love all those things too, but maybe they don’t love the process and practice of writing as much. Just be honest with yourself if that’s you. Let yourself off the hook and have fun. Don’t spend your whole life guilty about not getting any writing done.
5. Be adaptable. Learn to pivot.
Life is messy. Plans change. People get sick. Books are published and don’t sell. Deadlines are missed. You need to learn to let the time between the change and the time you adapt be as small as possible.
If your day hits a bump at 10am and you planned to write then rather than think “I guess I can’t achieve anything today” try and think “How can I claw back some of that time and still get something done.” It might not be the same something but something. Maybe you can book some promo, maybe you can schedule some social media, maybe you can put on the washing and fill out the school notes you were planning to do tomorrow so you have extra time tomorrow.
Alter your plan, be adaptable but don’t change your goal…just change how you reach it.
This list is not exhaustive. I haven’t discussed any tools I use to help me manage my time. Time is just a construct so how we approach it and how we treat it is just as important as what we actually do with it. These tips are really all about respecting time and be honest with yourself about how you really want to use it. For me, that’s the biggest challenge.