We all know it takes a lot of work to get better at writing, because the only way to truly improve is to keep writing. I used to not worry so much about time management, but in the last two years as I started working towards a career in writing, it became a bigger focus for me. Each day I have to direct my own schedule and for the most part, no one is looking over my shoulder making sure I get my work done.
So out of this need for self direction was born a need to productive with my time.
There are lots of ways to do this and I’ll show you some of the strategies that have worked for me, and some that haven’t but might work for you.
This one is probably my most simple tool. I set a time I’m going to work and I work for that time. Usually it’s 25-35 minutes. I also have sprinting buddies that I email when I’m ready to go, to see if they want to join in. At the end of the sprint, we email each other again and report what we got accomplished. Having a buddy is an awesome way to make yourself accountable…And honestly? Writing can be a lonely job. This is the writer’s equivalent of co-workers.
Also, if you’re a little competitive like me and you have friends who are sprinting with you, have them report their word count. I’m a slow writer so seeing that my friends have twice the word count I do in some of our sprint, spurs me to write more and try to get faster.
The Pomodoro Method
I was originally introduced to this method by my best friend, the queen of time management. It goes basically like this,
1, You work for 25 minutes and give that work your complete and undivided attention. I use Chrome as my browser, and you can even get an add-on for it that blocks sites like Facebook and Tumblr while you’re working, so you have less opportunity for distraction.
2. Once your 25 minutes is up, you take a 5 minute break. Play clash of clans, watch that youtube video your sister sent you, and check facebook. When the 5 minutes is up, you jump back into your next work session.
3. Focus on your work for another 25 minutes. Then take another five minute break. Once you’ve done this process 4 times (2 hours) take a longer break, usually 15-30 minutes.
I sometimes lose track of time, so you can use the timer on your phone or you can even get a tomato timer from The Pomodoro Technique’s website, you can also find more info about this method there. I also tend to draw squares with my times on them, so I can keep track of what my work sessions were, like the picture below.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been able to get myself into using these as much, but I have friends who they work really well for. This is sort of a watered down version of it, I’ve seen people with much more elaborate tables. Mine table is pretty basic, To Do, Doing, Done.
Where I fail with this method, is that I forget to move things around. I will have things that were done, and forget to move them over. So I think I’m more of a list maker and less of a table user. Which leads us to our next tool!
Goal Setting and Task Lists
Each week, usually on Sunday night, I make a list of what I want to accomplish for the week, then I break that down into daily tasks for each day of the week. I generally write it on a google doc and put it on a post-it note that I can physically cross tasks off of, which will both be pictured below. I also tend to write them in my day planner, and sometimes I put them into HabitRPG, which is awesome for productivity and for fun!
The great thing about goal setting, is it really feeds itself. Each week you make a list of what you want to get done. The most important thing to do when you make your list, is to make sure that these goals are getting you closer to what you want. If I want to be a writer who writes fiction, if my goals are learning the trombone, I’m probably not going to be getting much closer to my dreams.
Also, make your goals things you can accomplish and things that are realistic. For most people, writing the first draft of their first novel in a week isn’t realistic. There are a few of us out there that can do it, but they are few and far between. Make sure they push you a little too, we all need a challenge if we want to get better.
So those are some of the ways I keep myself on track as I work toward a career in writing. How about you? What methods have you found that help you stay on track?