Time Management

It is the 16th day of Blogtober, and the first day of the last half. Last night’s post proved short, and tonight’s will probably be even shorter. That’s a good thing, because I’m behind on Synthetic Dreams and I want all the time I can grab to gain some ground.

Tonight’s topic was going to be “Overcoming Distancing Language.” But it turns out, I haven’t actually learned that lesson well enough to articulate it. I learned something, and my experience with Spin City improved me as a writer. However, when I went to describe distancing language and find examples in early drafts of Spin City, it proved challenging.

So let’s talk about time management instead, which is more broadly useful.

Prioritize

The first step in time management is prioritization. Managing your time is like creating a budget, only the resource you’re managing is chronological rather than financial.

I can already hear one of you shouting “TIME IS MONEY” and you’re not wrong. But money you can save. If you do absolutely nothing, it’s possible for money to remain stagnant, or even accrue. In regards to time management, if you do nothing, the time is lost.

When you’re creating a budget, you list all the items you need to buy or pay for, listing it in order of importance and cost. With time management, you list the activities and projects you want to accomplish in order of importance, slotting some items into immovable slots.

For example, you may not want to budget for sleep because there’s just so much you want to do. However, you must budget for it because you’ll die without it, and it has to happen during a particular set of hours. So don’t forget sleep. A “real job” might also fit into this category.

List the important things first and be honest with yourself.

Pad for Your Humanity

When you’re building yourself a schedule, remember that you are a human being and not a robot. You are a complicated creature with needs you may or may not be able to articulate. There may be times when you need to stare at a screen for an hour and a half playing solitaire, and that’s all you’re going to be able to accomplish during that time.

Also, being human, you’re going to make mistakes, so pad your time out to allow for that. Sometimes mistakes mean unfortunate setbacks, and those setbacks and cost minutes, hours, or days. Make allowances in your budget for those kinds of unexpected occurrences and they won’t break your time budget.

You may think that you’re capable of writing 30,000 words in 3 weeks because you’ve done it before. You’re human. Give yourself 4 weeks. If you finish early, you can use the extra time to do something fun. You’ll thank yourself when you hit a plot wall that stops you in your tracks.

Write It Down

Something happens in your brain when you write down your schedule. Endorphins are released each time you tick off an item. By writing down your schedule and not just keeping it in your mind, you create a sense of accountability.

Also, having your schedule written down makes it easier to check and know during times of stress.

Digital Tools

If you don’t want to write your schedule down using pen and paper, you can use a calendar program like Outlook or Google Calendar to document your schedule. The added benefit of using a tool like this is that you can put alarms and reminders on the most important items.

Do as Little or as Much as You Need

When building your schedule, go as granular or as abstract as you need to. Some people need to get down to the minute level. Other people feel confined and trapped by that kind of micromanagement, and just need to put down the things they want to accomplish in the day.

As for me, I’m a little bit lazy, so I tend to make my schedules a little bit more abstract.

Here is my basic schedule for this month:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday:

  • Regular job
  • Write blog post
  • Spend at least an hour on WIP

Wednesday

  • Work from home
  • Go to Starbucks in the afternoon
  • Write blog post
  • Spend at least 2 hours on WIP
  • Maybe clean litter box

Saturday

  • Write blog post
  • Spend at least 4 hours on WIP
  • Clean litter box

Sunday

  • Go to Starbucks
  • Write blog post
  • Spend at least 6 hours on WIP
  • Do laundry

That’s fairly loose, but it’s also full. My time crunch this month is not as critical. Next month, instead of assigning time, I will assign myself daily word count minimums.

When I was in two bands as well as a couple of committees, it made my writing schedule even more difficult to manage.

Parting Thoughts

The difference between a goal and a dream is planning. If there something you want to accomplish that doesn’t have a clear end in sight, start it by assigning it time in your schedule. Give it some priority so that all the encroaching minutia doesn’t crowd it out.

Sometimes, wanting to finish a project, like a book, requires cutting other parts out of your life. It’s what I had to do with band. It might be what you have to do with online gaming, or social media, or some other distraction that keeps wiggling its way onto your clock.

Your missing, should you decide to accept it, is to write down your own weekly schedule. Get as detailed as you’re comfortable with. Then see how well you can stick to it.

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