Friday, September 23, 2011

On time management

When I talk to many of the people I knew in my high school or college writing programs, many of them will say to me, "You're so lucky. I really want to write, but I can't find the time." 

As an administrative assistant, a lot of what I do is scheduling. I take the things that my bosses want to do and I distill them into a controlled chaos. I try to make everything fit, even when it's not perfect - especially when it's not perfect. Sometimes I get lucky, and things work out. And the rest of the time I can often be heard saying things like "Did you have your heart set on eating that day?" or "How much do you hate that hotel?"

So I spend most of my weekdays doing that, and then I go home and attempt to be my own scheduler. I am generally much less successful.

I would like to take a moment to express my deepest admiration to those of you who have spouses and kids. Y'all have superpowers. Or barring that, Time Turners. As a 23-year-old single woman, I have very few responsibilities, but even I don't have enough hours in the day. I get off work at 5:30, I get home around 6:30, I make myself something quick for dinner, and then I get straight to revisions. Even though I've been out of college for more than a year, I feel like I'm still trying to nail down the rhythms of post-collegiate life, to varying levels of success.

Some nights I'm much more productive than others. Sometimes my brain is on, sometimes it's off. It's certainly off by the time I'm done writing for the day. And then other things get ahead of me. The apartment's upkeep gets ahead of me. Laundry gets ahead of me. Comcast crashes again. My exercise regimen gets shot to hell. I abruptly remember that I need to allow some social time so my friends and family don't think I'm dead. That sort of thing.

The strange thing that happens with these busy days is that people get so overwhelmed with everything they have to do, they'll just leave all of it undone. They can't do everything, so they won't do anything. Some days I feel like that, and I know that weekdays are going to be haphazard. But that's why, on Fridays, I act as my own scheduler and I plan my weekend. Besides writing, what am I going to take care of? What two or three big things am I going to catch up on in my free time?

That simple method just makes everything feel more manageable, and getting non-writing things done lets me get so much more work done on writing. Productivity just creates so much energy and confidence. Instead of lying around and watching bad television all weekend, I feel like I can do anything. I can finish this tough rewrite! I can figure out what I want to do with this scene! I can go buy a shoe rack! (Don't judge. That's the best purchase I've ever made.)

So I tell my former classmates that I understand. It's hard enough to figure out how to function as an adult without adding writing to the mix. It's not an easy thing to settle into at all. But I'm learning how to be my own scheduler. I take the things I want to do and I distill them into a controlled chaos. I make everything fit, even when it's not perfect - especially when it's not perfect. And that's how I find the time to write.

I'm still trying to figure out where sleep fits into all this, though.


  1. Found you from Creepy QG's blog today.

    I try to make a schedule but I often break it--it's always hard for me to find the time to write!

  2. Schedule? I have no writing schedule. With 2 boys with homework, a puppy who always wants to play, a husband whom I'd like to see, I can't schedule. I write when I can and try not to stess that it is taking me far to long to finish. Remember it's the jouney- not the finish line. :-)

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  4. Lydia: This is totally why we need another day in the week. Or even just a couple more hours in the day!

    Cynthia: Well, this certainly isn't the way it works for EVERYONE - and like I said, I have so much respect for people who can balance a family with writing. :) But it helps me keep everything straight right now, which is what I need more than anything else!

    (Deleted and reposted for typos. Oh, Friday.)

  5. I'm that person up there you described who can't do everything, so decides not to do anything! LOL. Not usually, but when I get overwhelmed, that's what I do first. It's great that you have that experience as a scheduler to help you plan your life. Even before kids and family life, I felt super busy all the time. Life is just vibrant and full, and we wouldn't have it any other way, but yeah... stressful at times when we can't get "it all" done.

    Cynthia- you, me, same. Takes me way too long to do things, and I feel bad about it. But that's just life. See above. Gosh, this comment is long. Sorry, Becky!! Thanks for coming over to my blog today and making me feel special! :)

  6. Katrina, I am totally that person too! My recent organizational streak is probably just me over-correcting, haha. I would kill for your mad time management skills, though. You're so helpful to aspiring writers on top of everything else you have to do!

    And no worries. I love long comments! :D

  7. It is sooo hard to get everything in. I think the most important thing is to let yourself off the hook if you are too fried to write. But not so far off the hook that you don't get writing done! Sometimes I beat myself over the head that this whole process isn't moving faster. But then I have to stop, and think--this isn't worth it for me if it becomes a chore. I love to write. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that!

    I love your idea of picking 2 or 3 things. And then getting them done. What great advice.

  8. Heather, you are so right! I think one of the hardest things for me to do has been to let myself just relax for a night if I'm not feeling it. Sometimes that can be the best thing for my writing... but I have to make sure not to get TOO relaxed. I think one of the reasons I have to make a schedule for myself is because I'm secretly lazy, haha.