Follow the bouncing ball

One of the series that I’ve been working on has talked a couple times about determining what schedule you want to post on.  If you decide to post a lot, be ready for the flip side of that – time management.  And that is what brings us to what I’m writing about today.

I’m usually pretty good about keeping to my self-imposed schedule.  But, there are times when I drop the ball.  I don’t do it often, but it does happen.  And, when it does, it really throws a kink in the schedule for a while.  Mostly because, then I’m scrambling to catch back up.

By MichaelMaggs Edit by Richard Bartz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The issue of time management is especially critical for authors.  There is so much that they take on with each book, though as they build their catalog, some of the time constraints can be rethought.  So, when you’re writing, be ready to follow the bouncing ball.

Time to Write

As an author, I don’t care if you have a day job, or are a full time writer, your stories take up a rather large part of your “free” time.  So, rather than have them overrunning your life, set aside time to work on them.  It can be an hour, it can be several hours, it can be just a few minutes, but make sure that time is part of your daily routine.  Other wise, you’ve already lost the battle before it begins.  Especially for people who have to juggle several conflicting projects at once.

I know that most of the advice is to set a schedule so that writing is the majority of your time.  However, I tend to disagree with that.  I tend to advise others who ask about time management to balance writing and other activities.  So, if you have 10 activities you need to do, set aside about 1/10th of your available time for writing.  That’s why I also don’t give advice about how much time to set aside.  Everyone’s schedule is going to be different.  How you schedule your time is also going to be different, depending on what you feel needs to be the top priority.

Prioritizing

Yeah, I know.  This probably is classed in the same category with all those four-letter words you don’t use in polite company.  But, this is something that needs to be taken into consideration.  What is it you want to do most?  What next?  Go through the list of projects you’ve got, and rank them in order using at least two criteria.  The ones I use are:  How long do I expect this to take?  How much do I want to see this completed?

A lot of times the projects will not be listed in the same order, so don’t be upset when it happens to you.  What the lists do, however, is help provide a guideline for what you really are wanting to focus on.  This can be your writing, or it could be your marketing, or it could even be yourself for a few hours.  The main thing is that if projects fall in the same place on both list – pay attention to that.

For me, that’s usually what I’ll put back on a fresh list of things I’ll get to.  especially if the time question is answered with a “short”.  If I have something that’s “medium” or “long” I may start it, but that’s just because I’m usually really good at juggling a multitask chaotic schedule with several projects in the works at once.  Not everyone can do that, and it is something you’ll have to learn about yourself.

Focus

Another word that often gets shoved into the corner and told to be quite.

Once you start on a project, give it your entire focus.  If you are worried about over running your time, set a timer for the project.  Just make sure you stay on target.  If you’re writing – just write.  If your editing – just edit.  If you’re marketing – yeah, you get the picture.  In today’s digital age, social media, which is where most of the marketing occurs, is highly addictive.  Once you log into Facebook, Twitter, or even your blog, and start surfing the articles, tweets, or posts, time can rapidly get away from you.  That is not a good thing.  Especially if you wind up getting drawn down the rabbit hole of reading, but not interacting.

That’s what actually caused me to drop the ball yesterday.  I thought I’d written the article to post last night, and so I wasn’t focused very well on the dates.  I just saw the list, and didn’t notice the gap.  Since blogging IS part of my marketing, I thought this piece of the puzzle had been wrapped up for the week, and moved on to Facebook.  Then, to add insult to injury, I wound up chasing down a multitude of rabbit holes in the warren of information that comes out every day, and missed the fact that the article didn’t post on time.  It wasn’t until I checked the morning for any likes and/or comments that I’d goofed.

Acknowledge

No, this does not mean acknowledge your fans and readers (though, that should be part of your regimen somewhere).  It means if you make a mistake, acknowledge that to yourself.  Look at what caused the mistake, and determine if there is something you can do in the future to reduce the chances of the mistake happening again.

Notice, I said reduce the chances.

Mistakes are going to happen, and the towering pile of projects are going to come crashing down from time to time.  I had it happen to me in the latter part of 2015 when my classwork outgrew my ability to finish it in just a few hours, I’ve had it happen during the summer months when I’ve taken on too many other projects along with the blog and writing.  Many times, an exploding schedule is from taking on a project or four you don’t realize are quite as big as they wind up becoming.  You can help plan for that, but no plan is ever going to cover every contingency.  All you can do is try your best to reduce the chances of having it happen again.  And, for those who are writers, parents, and employee/employers, projects have a pretty solid reputation for blowing up out of the blue and overwhelming any ideas of what you’re going to be doing tomorrow because you’re trying to put out brush fires that started today.

Scheduling

The last piece that goes along with any discussion of time management is scheduling.  Everyone has some type of personal schedule, so figuring out how to make that schedule work is going to be something each of you will have to do.  Everything I’ve mentioned above is a suggestion, some ideas will work, some won’t.

Here are a few other ideas that I’ve seen mentioned, especially for the working writers:

Get up a little early to write before the house starts waking up, so you can focus on your words.  (You can also stay up a little later for the same purpose.)

Set aside certain days to focus on your social media – that way you’re not as likely to be worried about getting drawn down into the warren and overrun the time you’ve set aside for this.  Especially with media platforms that allow you to preschedule posts or tweets.  Take the time to set up your posts, so that when you are on social media, you can socialize.  It may mean a day or two that you might need to be “absent” from the media storm while you write the posts and set up the schedules.

Evaluate your normal routine, and set aside time that is just for you.  Even in the chaos of everything else, sometimes having a short break of pure calm can really help make the rest of it flow smoothly.

From your priority list, develop a schedule around your top two or three priorities.  Know that there are some pieces of the schedule that may have to be dropped every now and then, but it also ensures you have time to do what you feel is most important.  This can be family, or time, or a job, or even taking care of yourself.

And the last suggestion, one I have the most trouble implementing:  Stick to your schedule.  No, it is not cast in concrete, but it is strongly recommended that once you have a schedule, you stick with it.  That way, the chances of having a tidal wave of exploding projects is minimized.  If you’ve never had a set schedule before, it may take a while to find the right tweaks that work for you.  Sticking with the schedule once it works, though does help make time management much, much easier.

 

What do you do to help with time management?  I’m a work in progress, and always eager to learn other ways.  What you have to say may not just help me, but may also be something another reader needs to hear as well.  Leave your ideas in the comments below.

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