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Here are 7 reasons why you might want to use the principles of time management for writers in 2016…
I know Christmas is looming (only three more sleeps!) so perhaps I’m crazy to take on the topic of time management right now. But Christmas is also often when we come face-to-face with our habit of procrastination:
Why didn’t I start shopping earlier?
Why are the stores so crowded?
What’s happened to my used-to-be-carefully-managed budget?
If you have to ask yourself any of these questions, I’m guessing you probably procrastinate with writing, too. So here are seven reasons why you should consider becoming a better planner in the new year:
- Planning recognizes the immense value of time. Some people are born with more money or make lots of it, easily, in their lifetime. Others are born with the movie-star good looks of Justin Trudeau or Amal Clooney. Still others have the brainpower of Stephen Hawking or Marilyn vos Savant. As our mothers all told us, life is unfair. But in one way we’re all perfectly matched: we have absolutely equal amounts of time. The richest, best-looking, most successful people in the world have not a nanosecond more time in each day than you. And once time has gone, you can never get it back.
- Planning allows us to work smarter rather than harder. I’ve always been a hard worker and I’ve recognized that sometimes I work harder than I need to. With better planning we can all prevent ourselves from wasting this energy. One of the best planning secrets I know is to manage your results rather than your time. For any piece of writing (or project) you need to complete, make a list of smaller tasks. For example, this might include: Interview Joanne Smith; Look at the last five year’s worth of annual reports; Write a crappy first draft; Do a first edit; Complete a second edit; Proofread. Then, print out the list and check off each thing as you accomplish it. Even if it takes you several days to finish the project, the list will help you keep on track. It will also make you feel proud of your progress.
- Planning helps us to build new habits. Some people think that writing requires willpower. I’ve never bought into this notion — in part, because willpower wears out, every day. Instead, I believe writing requires developing good habits. If you have the habit of writing for an hour every morning, for example, you’ll get a lot more done than someone who doesn’t have that habit. But, here’s the kicker: developing habits takes time. That’s why you need to plan for them.
- Planning helps avoid burnout. People who plan usually also plan plenty of breaks. I like to use the pomodoro, which requires me to take a five-minute break every 25 minutes. As well, I schedule lots of walking. I work downtown one day a week and I always walk part of the way there and part of the way home. (This is no casual stroll. It usually takes me 30 to 45 minutes each way. But I plan for it and find it enormously refreshing.) On other days I always walk to get my groceries, go to the bank or pick up a book from the library.
- Planning allows us to figure out what NOT to do. If you plan you will quickly see there are inevitably more activities than you have time for. People who don’t plan discover this the hard way. They do what they feel like first and, as the day runs out, discover they haven’t even started their most important task. If you plan, however, you get to choose what you’re going to leave undone. Wouldn’t you rather have a choice in the matter?
- Planning allows us to achieve When you start to accomplish stuff that’s important to you, you’re going to feel great. That boost of happiness will inspire you to accomplish more. Motivational expert Sean Achor argues that happiness fuels success. So, make yourself a reasonable plan and enjoy the benefits of momentum.
- Planning takes time…but it also pays off. I don’t want to underestimate the time it takes to plan. I spend about 30 minutes — every day — setting my I use a free bit of software called Wunderlist to track my daily obligations but the bigger question is how much time I’m going to spend on each one. For me, it’s a bit like putting together a puzzle as I have many immediate obligations like this blog post, short term obligations, such as coaching calls with clients medium range obligations like a website I worked on for a client, to long term obligations, such as making progress on my next book.
If you don’t currently plan your time, consider making a stab at it in the new year. I think you’ll be impressed by the difference it makes.
I know everyone doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but, if you do, I wish you the best of the season. I’m going to be taking a nine-day break from my daily blog and will reappear on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
How are your time management skills? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by Dec. 31/15 will be put in a draw for a copy of Writing in Bullets by Kim Long. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.