I have been engaged in many conversations lately regarding time. Not necessarily the philosophical element, but the way to utilize it better. I used to be an expert on wasting time, finding things that I “had” to do that made me feel busy but rarely left me feeling satisfied. I used to blame the people around me for not having time, but when I did, it got lost in pretty much any way possible.
A year ago, I decided I’d had enough. Enough of my own excuses. Enough blaming my family. Enough spoiling the time I had.
However, there were some modifications that had to take place. I am naturally a morning person. In college, most of my essays were written between 4:30 and 7:00 am. I can wake up, take a deep breath and face the day. However, the job I have now requires that I be at work by 7:20 in the morning, and between exercising, showering, and the religious time I spend with my kids, trying to fit in another hour or two of writing would require me to rise much earlier than mental cognition allows. As such, I have had to retrain myself to be productive.
Chances are, if you are not gifted the opportunity to write full time, such modifications are probably necessary as well. I have a few suggestions for the best way to reprogram your productivity.
Establish a Sense of Place.
I know some people have the luxury of an office, a place where they and their writing can become one. My desk is in the center of my home, sharing the open space that contains the living room and dining room. I have three kids, a busy husband, and no room in my house to have a space of my own.
But just as the routine of putting kids to bed at night *theoretically* helps them settle for the evening better, the sense of place is more a way to notify the brain it’s time to write. I open my laptop, turn off facebook, stop the things that make me feel productive but are really procrastination in disguise, put on my cute red SkullCandy headphones, and turn on my classical music. I notify my kids and spouse that I need to get some writing in, and when they interrupt (it will happen), my response is a kind but firm, “I’m writing”.
And then I do.
Determine how much you need to accomplish every day to get where you want to be. If you are writing in nap-time, write for all of nap-time. If you have mentioned that it is necessary for two hours to be spent writing, make those two deliberate hours of working. It may be, when you are first starting, that you need to provide yourself with some motivation. You may be familiar with the Pomodoro Technique. I like this strategy as well because it gives me an excuse to be a little healthier. When my time limit is up, I will often then do 20 squats, throw in a few push-ups, etc.
Don’t think this is only a beginning technique. I had half this post written, found myself getting distracted by ALL THE THINGS and set a timer for ten minutes. I will use it as well, to jump start drafts or revisions.
If you, like me, have had to retrain your natural writing time,
Be Aware of the Cost and Benefit of EVERYTHING
One of the things I have really asked myself lately is
If something is going to take a half hour or an hour, time when I could be spending either with my family or on my writing, it has to earn that time. I have dreams – big ones – and none of them involve binge watching a series in record time, being on a higher level of Candy Crush than all my other friends, etc.
I take time out each week for self-reflection, thanks to these incredible journal pages by Jamie Raintree who founded the Motivated Women Reflection Journal Project. I am seriously considering what I want, what I’m doing to get there, and that kind of centering sets the tone for my week. I’m on the board for two community organizations because I belong to a community and feel the importance of giving back. I help edit several articles for the WFWA quarterly ezine because I like the association with an organization that is trying to encourage others. I run two clubs at the high school where I teach because I could see there were students who would benefit from that kind of affiliation and I knew I could work it in with minimal disruption to what I have going on. I am not, however, a member of the PTA, have never run a book fair or a bake sale, or anything of the like because the cost was too high for me.
Managing time, like everything else takes practice. But chances are you are reading this because you have dreams, goals, or maybe deadlines you are avoiding. We cannot escape time, we can’t earn it back, and it slips away faster than we often realize.
The trickiest thing about time is the accountability for how we spend it lies within ourselves.
Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is an editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.