Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Making the Most of Every (Writing) Minute

The “busy season” is officially upon me; every year, beginning with my boys’ birthday in late October, time starts ticking at super speed. Before I know it, Thanksgiving and Christmas have whizzed past and I find myself smack-dab in the middle of the “winter slowdown” (this is what I call January and February, two of my favorite months—for this very reason!).
This year, I am determined not to let this time go by in a blur. I plan to enjoy my busy holiday season with my family, and I also have several writing projects to tackle. The main way I hope to accomplish this is by being more mindful of my bits and pieces of writing-friendly time, which has always been a challenge for me.

Over the past year, I have read and heard many writers talk about effective time management. Their main suggestion has been to “use every spare moment for writing”—in doctors’ waiting rooms, at kids’ sports practices, in the car pool line, during bits and pieces of down time at home, etc. But ever since I first began writing seriously, I have been one of those writers who needs a block of free, uninterrupted, perfectly quiet time in order to write. Also, the house has to be clean, all laundry needs to be done, and I need to be in a peaceful, serene mood. (Yeah…you see why this didn’t work too well for me, I am sure… ☺)

This is something I have consciously attempted to change this year. And I think I’ve found at least a bit of success since right now, as I’m sitting at my dining room table writing this post, my dog is barking, my husband is working in the office beside me, and the t.v. is on in the living room while I am writing!! (Those of you who know me personally will get this.) Over the last several months, I have learned to write with background noise (something that is a *major* accomplishment for me), and I have become much more aware of the bits and pieces of “free time” that randomly occur in my life. This has made me a more productive writer and has also taught me to focus much better—two things I really needed to improve upon!
In an ideal world, all of us writers would have hours of quiet writing time every day with the background noise (or not) of our choice and no interruptions. But in the REAL world of kids, careers, and general craziness, this seldom happens unless that time is officially scheduled—like tomorrow, where I have dedicated several hours of quiet writing time.

For the rest of the time, however, here are my suggestions for making the most of all of your potential writing time, both during the busy holiday season and in the new year ahead:
Pay special attention to snatches of potential writing time that pop up on a daily basis. Like I’ve heard many times before, we really DO have much more “free time” than we are aware of—like in carpool line, at doctors’ waiting rooms, at kids’ sports practices, etc. Keep a small notebook handy so you can write down ideas, or keep a draft of a chapter or manuscript with you to edit.

Also recognize small chunks of time you have while you’re at home. Until recently, I needed at least 30 minutes to get into the “writing mindset,” but I have retrained myself to be able to write for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. It is truly amazing what you can get done in a short burst of writing if you just try! (This realization really blew me away—I never believed it before I tried it.)
Schedule your writing time each week and put it on your calendar. Even if you are only able to schedule one “official” writing session a week, put it in there and make it count. (I am starting to add my gym time to my calendar, too—hopefully this method will work for exercise, as well!)
Limit the time you spend on the internet. This is something I am striving to find a balance in, even now. I spend a lot of time reading others’ blogs and perusing writing websites, and I get so much out of this reading time, so I have started scheduling this time, as well. I usually designate an early morning each week to do this. (It is a great reward for accomplishing a writing goal, as well!)

Be flexible about what your ideal writing scenario is. I know that not everyone will need to do this, but for people like me, who think they need a perfectly-quiet-peaceful-serene atmosphere to write in, try writing when it is loud at your house or when the kids are playing in the same room. You just might surprise yourself!

If noise really bothers you, invest in a pair of headphones. You can play quiet music or tune into the Simply Noise website to block out noise around you so your shorter writing periods are more productive. There are also noise-cancelling headphones you can buy, but my husband says they are quite pricey.  

Give yourself some grace when it comes to household chores and other commitments. For me this has meant allowing myself to write when (gasp!) there are dishes to be put away or a pile of laundry to be hung up. Also, I have learned that everything does not have to be *perfect* to have friends over or host something at my house. Don't let a desire for perfection get in the way of your happiness and contentment as a writer, family member, or friend! Balance IS possible!  
Accept that sometimes, life will require us to hit the pause button, and that this is o.k. I’m including this in my list of ways to make the most of your writing time because the pressure that follows such an interruption can sometimes paralyze us as writers. So if you find yourself taking an unexpected break from writing, when you are able to begin again, take a deep breath and be willing to start small. (I share this from experience, and think that this may be the most important advice that I have personally benefited from.)
Be flexible! This goes along with almost every suggestion above, but still is important to remember!

These are just some of the things that I have found helpful over the past several months. I’ve still not mastered these 100%, but am working on it every day. If you have any more tips for effective time management to share, please add them in the comments! Happy writing!     

10 comments:

  1. Super great tips, Becky! I've really been struggling w/balancing social media of late. I think I need to write first, and then visit all my friends! =)

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  2. Such good advice. Will check out the noise website. I, too, am trying to claim time as it presents itself rather than opting for the 'perfect' moment. My recent run of extreme business has made me rethink time management. Thanks, Becky!

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    1. Sometimes busy is good, right? I am so glad you found this helpful! = )

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  3. Dear Becky,
    Putting the pause on writing to enjoy life or to tend to major problems in life is a great idea. Our life experiences are the basis for our writing. Our characters and their emotions emerge from our life experiences. Sometimes life pushes the pause button when you didn't give it permission, it's best to relax and be calm knowing that time for writing will come again.

    Thanks for your great ideas, Becky.

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    1. Thanks so much, Joan! Thanks also for all of the wisdom you have shared with ME! = )

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  4. You may have reached that good place where the kidlings are not so little that their needs trump all at every minute. I remember that time as the point where I could dedicate a couple of hours to writing every week day, and thought of it as the beginning of the new phase. That is- the phase where *time management* became a real possibility...
    And it doesn't seem like it, but having little ones will pass faster than you think. You are right to pause a bit and marvel at it all.

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    1. Time is going by WAY too fast! I have recognized that I need to value every minute with my sweet boys, and am working at finding that *balance*--it is almost within reach at this point! But, yes, that is partly because they are so independent right now. Such a change! = )

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  5. Fantastic advice. I'm having to do a lot of time management this month. I have an online writing class, NaNo and PiBo...oh, and ordinary life. Needed this one. Thanks. Now I need to get off the internet :).

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    1. Johnell, I have never been brave enough to tackle NaNo--I can't believe you are doing both! WOW! I always wish NaNo was FebNo. . .I have much more time then. Good luck! I am so impressed! = )

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