To date, we’ve talked about divided folders for organization, as well as an event planner work sheets for keeping track of expenses, the reality of how quickly time can fly past when we are pre-occupied, and cherishing each moment we are given…but there’s more to consider. I pointed out that we all have the same amount of time in each day, down to the second…but how do we maximize what we have? This is the subject of this weeks post. Like everything else, a plan is integral for managing time usage on any given day. I’m not suggesting a regimented, set the timer, when the bell goes off switch tasks kind of plan but rather a take accounting for what needs to be accomplished, prioritize the tasks based on what must, should, and might need to be done, and factor in how much time we realistically need to complete everything on our list.
The other thing to consider is that every task does not need to be part of the plan every day. As an author the task board is fairly consistent with duties; write, edit, promote, interact with readers are the main components. Let’s start with these knowing that there are multiple other items that infiltrate the list on any given day.
Write. First and foremost, to be called author one must do the dirty deed…put words on the page. Writing for some is a habit, and one that must be completed daily. For others, the act of writing takes so long to reach cohesion that a long stretch of hours is necessary to find the force of will to stay in the chair. Which are you?
For some, the writing process is one of sitting down and letting their fingers fly to create. Commonly, this is called Pantser writing. The opposite is the Plotter, where the actual act of the writing is the final step of a long journey that began with research, outlines, character developments, scene by scene plotting, and verbal or mental fleshing out of the story to the degree that when the time comes to write the tale, it can essentially write itself. Again, which are you?
Knowing your writing style is essential to understanding how to use your time. If you are a Pantser, you have your epiphany and will spend more time in the chair writing and re-writing initially, and then in editing to streamline the work. When you plan your time for this style of writing it is a good idea to have a word count, chapter count, or other goal in mind for knowing when you have completed the task for the time.
For the plotter, the lead time to finding a comfortable way to sit is a long stretch. Managing the story for this type of author is more structured, thus the time management aspect is as well. How much time do we set aside to research locations, or to build characters, how do we plot the scenes and find the arcing threads that tie the tale together? These are the questions that plague a plotter, and once managed liberate them to sit and tell the story essentially from start to end very quickly. Because the mistakes, missteps, and detours have occurred during the plotting phase, the writing and editing phases are more streamlined. The overall process is not significantly shorter or longer for this type of writer, just different.
I’m a plotter if you didn’t know. I thank Cherry Adair every time I finally sit to write for teaching me how to hone that skill set. I fought with a story for a couple of years before I learned it, and once I did…and plotted it out, it took less than 2 weeks to write and about that long to edit, though the plotting and structuring phase took over a month to get down. It was the same couple of months it takes many pantser writers to accomplish the same story…just a different use of the time.
That’s rough and dirty writing and editing…the other two pieces, promotion and interacting with others…to me are essentially the same thing. This is where managing our time is tantamount because social media can suck you in and cause you to forget the clock quickly. In this case, the timer is not a bad idea. The same can be said for a writing buddy or family member to hold you accountable for limiting your time ‘playing.’ Another idea that my PA taught me, was to schedule regular posts or promotions to help with keeping to the limits that I have set for myself. By posting say, a month of teasers, or a week of posts at a time when I’m not interacting with others, when I get online to interact, I have freed up that time to meaningfully do so without being tied to housekeeping or getting posts up. Managing when I get to interact openly, means that I can allow myself to spend the extra time instead of racing to fit it in and get the scheduled things up too. I also enjoy it more because I don’t feel like I’m cutting myself, or someone else short on a chance to chat. win-win.
Now, I’m not going to say I’m doing it all correctly and you should do it my way. I’m not so obtuse as to presume that there aren’t other ways – there absolutely are. What I am suggesting is that the first thing you need to do as an author to help manage your time is to understand how you use it, what you need to do to maximize it, and have a sense of what works for you or doesn’t. Make time in your schedule to do some soul-searching and honestly determine what you NEED as a writer, what you WANT as a person, and how to fit those two pieces together so you don’t short-change yourself on either front. Time management is a puzzle and no two puzzles have exactly the same shape pieces. Figure out how yours goes together and build a beautiful finished product. You and your work are worth it.