Invariable when you ask someone who has been going on about writing a book why they haven’t yet done it, they will say…almost 100% of the time, I can’t find the time. If you ask them why they haven’t completed some other project, you will get the same answer…I can’t find the time. Every day, we see people who juggle multiple balls, run multiple companies, and still find time to go on vacation and write their books. So how do they do it? They are experts in time management.
This is true. It is all about managing their time and organization. If you are a procrastinator by nature, wedded to chaos and stress by getting things done at the last minute, you’ll have to go through some behavior modification and that’s not what this article is about.
First and foremost, if your aim is to become a writer as a career…be honest with yourself. Do you have what it takes to become a career writer? Are you a social butterfly who can’t sit still? Don’t like being alone? Are you romanticizing what writing as a career really means: long hours, aloneness, discipline, self-management, skill, and a tough hide? Think of all the rejection to come.
The number one thing after self-assessment is organization which must become your best friend. We’ll say it again. You must be organized! Create a system where you can easily find information, so you don’t spend hours upon hours looking for the things you need. Have a folder with your research…with various drafts of you work…with your notes and everything else you need to write. Delete files that are no longer needed and label your files, so they tell you exactly what is in each. The one thing you don’t want to do is interrupt the creative process by spending hours looking for the information you need to effectively complete your work. By then, your inspiration might be gone.
Schedule your writing time at the highest point of your energy level and yes, you may have to give up a bit of sleep in the creative periods, but it could all be worth it. If you have a day job and normally get up at 7:00 am…maybe get up at 5:00 am and write for two hours.
Set goals and targets and meet them. If you say I will write ten pages. Write ten pages. A typical book is, let’s say, 250 pages. If you write ten pages a day you could plausibly write your book in 25 days. It may take you five times that by the time you rewrite and edit but with discipline, you could have a book in six months.
Plan ahead and create a project plan that will inform you how interruption of your time will add to your target.
Keep distractions to a minimum. Turn off your phone and skip surfing the web and social media. I personally have my days scheduled to a tee. After my breakfast I acclimate myself to the day by doing a puzzle or two. Once I sit down to write, I keep distractions to a minimum…I silence my phone and work for two to three hours. After lunch, I check and respond to emails and make phone calls…then I do any tasks on my to-do list that needs to get done. My to-do list is long, but I simply divide them in four quadrants…based on priorities and needed results. When I can, that means in the summer, I take a walk for 30 minutes or I dance in front of my TV. Then it’s time to get back to work and I work for another 3-4 hours. I am done by 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., ready to have dinner and watch Korean dramas. My weakness is when I run out of time, I ditch my exercise and that is the worst thing in the world to do. Exercising sparks your brain and keeps your body healthy especially in sedentary careers.
Make a habit of touching something once: I was going to either act on it, file it or ditch it. Many people shuffle paper and think that's working. They like to do the easy things and pile up the things that require effort. Switch that. Do the hard task first, stop procrastinating and introducing distractions that make you always late and a dollar short. It should be annoying to yourself and its certainly annoying for other especially if your procrastination impacts their time.
Work on only one task at a time…multitasking does not work…period.
Manage stress. Planning reduces stress. It gives you a predictable roadman to the finish line. Crashing on a project is unhealthy in every way. Meet your deadlines and that will not only give you leisure time but reduce an enormous amount of stress.
Lastly, learn to say no. Many people, especially family, will think, “Oh, they are a writer, so they have all the time in the world…let’s just ask them to pick up the children, do the laundry and run errands…and make dinner.” Let your repeated no train them to respect your time.