Managing Each Minute: Making the Most of Your Writing Time

If this clock were a fantasy novel, it would be epic. Not urban.

MULTITASKING: A DEFINITION

I am writing this in preparation for NaNoWriMo, which will be nothing less than a race against the clock for a month to squeeze as much productivity as possible out of each writing hour, but not only because of that. I am notorious lately for mismanaging my time–sad but true–so I decided to put some tips together for myself, and for other writers, to help us do better. The first thing that came to mind is the advice (or rather, definition) of “multitasking” given to me by my university’s career office.

Multitasking, I was told by the office’s representative I met with, is often misunderstood as a concept. True multitasking is not trying to do multiple things at once, like watch your favorite tv show while you grade papers and cook dinner. Multitasking is actually the art of managing multiple projects over a period of time and completing each in a timely manner according to its deadline; basically, it’s being able to prioritize. You have to recognize what needs to be done NOW, what can wait until tomorrow, and how much time today it makes sense to devote to a given project considering everything in total that’s on your plate.

So, considering that intro, here are some things I need to start doing to better make use of the time I’m able to devote to my fiction. Here we go!

  1. NONE OF THE  “BAD” MULTITASKING. I’m horrible at distracting myself while I’m writing, usually because of the internet. No matter what I do, the internet’s right there. It’s always there, a click away. I check my school email, check Yahoo email, check Twitter, check Facebook, check the blog…. No no no. This cannot go on. I pledge to start disconnecting my wi-fi connection while writing, if that’s what it takes–and sadly, it’s going to take that. I can only hope I’m not so entrenched in this bad habit that I’ll waste even more time waiting for the connection to reestablish before distracting myself with internet things. Really, what email can’t wait an hour until I move on from writing? What retweet can’t wait 45 minutes for a “thank you”?
  2. ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE. I thrive on routine, and I do my major internet stuff in the morning, so if I set up a pattern of how to do things and take care of Facebooking, email, putting the day’s blog post on Stumbleupon, responding to tweets and following new people on Twitter, etc, BEFORE I write (instead of as I do so), I might find it easier not to be distracted during fiction time. I pledge to write a list of the order in which to handle these tasks, so that I won’t overlook one and then feel tempted to go back to it, interrupting writing time, because I realize I forgot it earlier. I can even assign a time cap to each thing; it is not necessary, in the morning, to spend more than five minutes on Facebook responding to tags and messages.
  3. WORK 50, TAKE 10. This is a tip my father once gave me in a crazy semester during my master’s program. I was taking two classes, teaching two classes, and preparing for my comprehensive exams all at once. I was working pretty much all day, every day between grading, studying, lesson planning, writing course papers, and reading for class. To keep energized, my dad suggested the policy of, each hour, working fifty minutes and then forcing a ten minute break, whether I felt like I needed a break or not. That’s the key: break before your productivity plunges. You work three hours straight and you feel burned out. But if you take breaks, you come back fresh each time, you work for longer periods over all, and you even get more accomplished in each fifty minute period than you would in an hour without breaks. Nice! If I have a day in November when my schedule allows multiple hours of writing, I will do this. And I’ll use my ten  minutes to stand. Sitting for long periods is super unhealthy, guys!
  4. GET UP WHEN THE ALARM CLOCK SOUNDS. Seriously, I need to stop hitting the snooze. I’m just being lazy. I’ve gotten sufficient sleep by the time 6:30 rolls around because I go to bed early. I’m sure I’m not the only person this applies to…. Come November, I’ll make so much progress on my NaNoWriMo novel just by getting up on time! I used to be GREAT at this, because I had to teach at 9:30, so I pushed myself to get up early and write before I taught. It was a great system. As nice as it is to not have to teach this year, the drawback is I’m just spending that hour I was teaching sleeping more.
  5. WHEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA, STOP EVERY FEW MINUTES. Facebook and Twitter are essential marketing tools for a writer, and I enjoy them, which is good in a way (since I’m stuck with them, like them or not.) On the other hand, enjoying social media makes it far too easy to waste minutes and hours of my time I could be doing more productive things. A good strategy–I’m basing this off a time management seminar for graduate students I once attended–is to stop after a period of time, say ten or fifteen minutes, and gauge whether it’s really necessary to continue on social media. Have I done everything marketing related I need to with Facebook, and now I’m just scrolling through my newsfeed and stalking friends? I am? Well, time to move on! (If you’re still legitimately working, you check back in another five or ten to reassess.) The seminar suggested a timer…. I don’t think I’ll take it that far, though. There’s a clock right on my computer screen 🙂
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12 responses to “Managing Each Minute: Making the Most of Your Writing Time

  1. All the tips here are great! I would love to see a post on how you make Facebook and Twitter work as marketing tools (or have you already done one? I’m late to this blog). I’m a little baffled by it all, but am trying to make all the connections and set up accounts etc. I know there are a lot of advice articles out there, but I’d like to hear from someone who isn’t marketing something to me – who started from the ground up.

  2. I’m gonna bookmark this post. It’s got good stuff to keep in mind. Especially that ‘work 50, take 10’ thing.

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  7. You have made some very solid points here! I really love the internets, but it can get in the way of productivity….so many awesome things to see and read. I like the idea of working 50 and taking 10. There is something very psychologically appealing about not committing to an entire hour.

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  9. Love the write 50, take 10 tip. I’lol be trying this on Monday!

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