22 May 2010

Time Management

The trick of starting new features is to remember that you have them...fortunately, it's still Saturday (barely). So, enjoy this latest post on time management.

As an author, the end result is always the same...to write. Whether we write for our own enjoyment, for others to enjoy, or for purposes of information transfer, that's always the same.

But for most of us, that means balancing our writing time with all of the other drains on our time, such as work, family, relaxation (whatever that is), and the like.

So, here are five tips for how to improve your time management skills, and to hopefully increase your writing output in the process...because only by writing more in the time you have will you increase your chances of success in your writing endeavors.

1. Set the goals you want to achieve and the time frame you want to achieve them in.

Those who've followed my posts for long enough know that I can never stress the importance of goal-setting enough. If you don't know where you want to go, you'll never get there...and if you leave it open as to how long you want to take to get there, you'll end up with the same results (or lack thereof, as the case may be). If you know you want to write a 80,000-word novel in a year, that breaks down to around 220 words/day, give or take. If you know you're only going to be able to write 3 days a week, that jumps you up to around 513 words each day you write. If you only have an hour free on each of those days, then you'd better not waste it surfing the internet or shuffling through your MP3 player.

2. Schedule your writing time and stick to it.

Going right along with setting goals is setting a schedule. The first thing to do here will be to figure out all the time you spend already, and what you spend it on. Work, meals, sleep, extra-curricular activities. It all takes time, time you can't spend writing. Set up a schedule of what time you have free, and set up a regular schedule for your writing. Obviously, sometimes things will come up which you have no control over, and that prevent you from writing. Those will happen. When they do, just get back on your schedule at the next available opportunity (just like when you miss a dose of medicine, only you hope it tastes better). Once you get into a schedule, things will get easier...much like when you set goals.

3. Don't let distractions knock you off-course.

This is one of the big issues most writers face. If you only have an hour to spare, you want to do other things. You want to check your e-mail, eat some snacks, shuffle through your MP3 player. But all of those things aren't writing, and only keep you from reaching the goal. If it continues to be a problem (and it often will, for even the best of us), set up another schedule for those things and stick to it the same as you're trying to do for the writing schedule.

4. Be sure to schedule time for yourself.

This is an issue even more serious than the one listed above. Burnout is a serious issue, especially if you try to write every day amidst the workweek and time with family and friends. You may feel that the only way to get anything done is to use every spare moment you can to write. But even writers need down time, time to relax and let the rejuvenation take place. Treat your free time as one of those distractions listed earlier, and set up a schedule for your own personal time...then stick to it. A happy writer is a productive writer.

5. Keep your eyes on the prize.

There are those who read all of this and will scoff at the idea of time management. You can't schedule creativity, they will claim. I beg to differ, and believe that if you set your mind to do something, you will do it. As I've mentioned several times, it's a matter of setting a schedule and sticking to it. Just like goals, that takes practice. And any type of practice is only as good as the effort you put into it.

Despair may set in when things don't turn out the way you'd hoped immediately. What happens if you don't get 40,000 words in the first six months? Will you give up? The trick is to keep your eyes on the prize, whatever it may be in your own writing hopes and dreams. You CAN do it, if only you keep running toward the finish line, and the victory you achieve will be even sweeter than you can imagine.

See you at the finish line!

***

T. M. Hunter has always had a fascination with interstellar travel, earning a B. S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Kansas. Twice a top ten finisher in the P&E Readers Poll for his short stories (2007, 2009), his book HEROES DIE YOUNG earned Champagne Books’ Best-Selling Book of 2008 award. FRIENDS IN DEED is his latest novel. For more information, including links to his published short stories and novels, please visit AstonWest.com. You can also find T. M. Hunter on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace as well.