Ah, Black Friday. While all those around you are going shoulder to shoulder, standing in line, credit cards at the ready, or watching football, or cleaning up what was left of yesterday’s festivities, take a moment away from the maddening crowd to focus on how in the world you are going to keep that writing momentum going through the madness of the Holidays.
This was a common complaint when I was a business coach; where do I find the time to be with the family, take up a hobby, just relax and read a book – so essential to our mental health and well being?
I came up with a plan, a worksheet actually, that’s easily done on an excel spreadsheet. Just type in 8:00 am (or whenever you wake up) through 10:00 pm (or whenever you retire), down the left side and put in clock hours in thirty-minute intervals. We have a full twenty-four hours, no more, no less. So approach it logically and budget your time like you do your money.
Track Your Time
Remember back in the day when we were expected to write down how our time was spent at work so that each project could be expensed to the correct project? We’re taking a trip back down that road for five days.
Mark down how you spend your time in half-hour increments. Be honest. Just like in a food journal where you track every single calorie, you will track every single minute. (You’ll hate it. Do it.) Record everything, even time you spend staring at the ceiling.
Start tomorrow (Saturday) and go through Wednesday. You will see how your time is spent for two days on the weekends and three days at work.
Then on Thursday, review. See any patterns? Time to start thinking about carving things out. Is there a stupid half-hour TV show you can live without? If you watch one every weekday, that is two and a half hours a week you could be writing. That’s 130 hours for the year. If you were to take vacation time, that would be 3.25 uninterrupted 40-hour weeks of writing! Just for giving up one one-half hour show on weekdays.
Think what you could accomplish if you cut out two of those shows, or stopped putting time into something that has no reward?
Sister Caryn has a good strategy with a specific task. She calls it Hump Day Submissions. She focuses on her submission process on one day. Brilliant! It’s on her to-do list for Wednesdays, a habit she’s built into her weekly system, which brings me to the next organizational skill, Creative Habits.
Track Your Habits
Here’s another Excel goodie: Across the top of the spreadsheet, number each column from 1-31. Down the left side list things you absolutely have to do on a daily basis, then below that list with things to do on a weekly basis. I limit it to ten habits daily. You can have as many weekly as you like.
For instance, I hate leaving my bed unmade, but I resent the time to do it. (Maybe it would help if I didn’t have ten thousand pillows that have to be just so, but I digress…) If it didn’t bother me, I’d leave it, but it’s always scratching my conscience, so it’s on my list as a daily habit. So is cleaning the bird cage and picking up dog poo. Gotta be done. I can’t not do it; it’s not healthy for any of us if I don’t. That goes on my list. Anything that you fight doing, but you know your life will be better if you do it, stick it on there. Here’s the biggie: your first one should be to spend (however much time you’ve allotted) to your writing. That’s a habit that cannot be stopped. Don’t cheat and put things on there that you enjoy doing – the idea is to push yourself to do those things that you need to do, but resist doing them. At the end of the day you should have a list of checkmarks down that day’s column. At the end of the month having the entire sheet checked off is extremely satisfying!
The payoff on this is to see what hasn’t been checked off – now start to delegate. That way you save time on things that you know won’t get done by you. Turn around and spend that time writing. How much time do you spend grocery shopping? Maybe you and a neighbor can share that delight, or you can delegate it to a new teenage driver hoping to earn a few bucks. Think about dry cleaning and other errands that you can delegate; there’s at least another half hour you’ve saved. You can find time in unexpected places. Take a good, hard look at how you are spending your time, factor in down time, sleep time, family time, and writing time.
Track Your Payoff
After a few weeks, go back to your time tracking spreadsheet with the thirty-minute intervals and jot down how much time you actually spend writing. You will see, if you have carved out enough time from your earlier life that you have increased your time at the keyboard significantly, and you probably don’t miss it.
Now go have another slice of pumpkin pie and start making your tracking sheets. Then take a well-deserved nap.
Ah, Black Friday.