Finding Time to Write, Part 1.

It’s a familiar saying to writers at any stage in their writing journey that writers write. As Linda Lafferty says at Writer’s Digest, “If you are a writer and don’t write it’s like saying you are alive but can’t find time to breathe.”

Writers write. They find time to write and if they can’t find the time then they make it; they carve the time out of their day and guard it like a jealous dragon guards a gold coin.

I need to find time to write but time seems to be at a premium for me these days. Because I like to research (I am a Librarian after all) I set out to learn what other authors did to find time to write in their busy schedules.

Let me tell you, there is a lot of information out there. If you search for “finding time to write” on any search engine you will find a ton of information and suggestions from all sorts of qualified individuals.

Common suggestions include:

  • Scheduling time like an appointment each day,
  • Use work breaks for mini writing sessions,
  • Spend less time watching TV,
  • Spend less time on social media,
  • Unplug from the internet and e-mail,
  • Get up an hour earlier,
  • Go to bed an hour later,
  • Change your work schedule to 4 days a week
  • Commit to fewer projects
  • Have a good support team
  • Make a cozy writing zone (I’m… not sure how that helps with time…)

These are good suggestions but they felt like they fell short for my unique situation. I look at this list and already know that I can’t actually do most of those things. I’m busy!

Too busy? At the beginning of her article, Linda Lafferty scoffs at a colleague who says she can’t “find time” to write. “Lose the princess ‘tude and get back to work,” she apparently said. After all, she found time to write even with a jam-packed day. Unfortunately, she doesn’t say how she found that time or what she cut to make that time.

However, looking at that list I can see that, with a few exceptions, they point to one important thing: Time management.

At Writing World Moira Allen discussed time management and suggests that you examine your time budget; figure out where you are spending your time all the way down to the time spent brushing your teeth, list your priorities, and eliminate time wasters. Likewise, Victoria Lynn Schmidt Ph.D has an article on Writer’s Digest that suggests that we keep logs of our time. “Successful authors manage their time, pure and simple…In 90 percent of cases, free moments for writing can be found.”

So how do you keep a log of your time?

I’m a procrastinator and in the past I knew that I wasted a lot of time in my day, even at work, so I sought information on time management. There are a number of websites that offer various suggestions and methods and I’ve tried several. The simplest suggestion I’ve ever found (which is repeated by Moira Allen and Dr. Victoria Schmidt) was to just keep a log of everything you do in the day, identify time wasters (uh… me!) and remove them.

What I did:

I like data and I like it to be granular– down to the nitty gritty details– so I kept a log of everything that I did for each 15 minute block of time in my day for a week. I tried to be detailed: instead of “work” I wrote “processed special event permits” and later I could categorize the type of tasks I was doing. It worked pretty well and let me find areas that I could tighten up my work-day and accomplish more when I was getting bogged down.

I also like spreadsheets (making them is a wonderful way to procrastinate while pretending to be productive!) So I made one that would calculate how much time I spent at each category of task each day to the end of the week.

So I’ll do that again this week and next week I’ll discuss the results.

Here’s my spreadsheet (Excel 2007) in case you want to follow along: timemanagementsheet

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