It’s one thing to tell you I’ve conquered time management despite the added responsibilities signing a book contract brings. It’s another to show you how I accomplished this. Whether or not you have your own book on its way to publication, still dream of signing your first contract, or prefer to write shorter pieces, I hope my tips will help you.
Step One: Down-sizing
- I ended commitments that sapped my time and attention with little return. It doesn’t always have to be even, and I can give without receiving. But time is a finite resource, and allowing others to monopolize me usually takes me away from my goals.
- For the most part, I’ve stopped watching television (never high on my list anyway) and use an online game I enjoy only for brief mental rests or as a quick reward after I’ve moved a project forward. The key words in that sentence, of course, are “brief” and “quick.” I have the discipline to limit my involvement with this game. If I didn’t, I would stop playing the game.
- I deal with emails each day rather than let them pile up. I still get behind when travel or sickness throws my life out of balance, but I make sure and catch up right away. Controlling email is a matter of decisiveness.
- I now choose simple menus that require little preparation and/or clean up, and I make sure the ingredients are already in the house. I make a monthly menu and for the most part stick to it. This saves me mental energy, and its amazing what you can do when you already have a plan.
Step Two: Streamlining
- I begin each day with a bout of writing and/or editing, Monday through Friday. Weekends belong to my family.
- I work ahead on my blogs by writing new blog posts on the same day they publish. In this way, I don’t have to keep track of both a publishing/promoting schedule and a blog-writing schedule. I also schedule tweets promoting blog posts and stumble them on the same day they publish.
- I list my other work-related responsibilities and assign each a letter to sort them into the following categories: (P) Promotion, (SS) Social Networking, (E) Education, (O) Opportunities, (R) Research, (T) Technical Issues, and (O) Office Maintenance.
- My family responsibilities fall into the following categories: (H) Homeschooling, (S) Scheduling and (D) Desk Work, (G) Gardening, (K) Kitchen-related duties (like menu planning, shopping, cooking and washing dishes), (L) Laundry, (C) Cleaning, (F) Family, (M) Personal Devotions and Me Time. I don’t detail these out specifically unless needed, though. The goal is not to make long, beautiful lists, but to get my jobs done. It helps me to think in specific terms when scheduling, though. I run errands only on the weekends if I can at all help it.
- I decided how much time each day I could give to writing (seven hours) and how much I needed to reserve for family responsibilities. Failing to do this, I’d already learned from experience, would allow my work life to dominate my personal life or vice versa. I also set an ending time for household chores. If I don’t, they’ll devour my day whole. Established morning and evening routines keep me from reinventing the wheel each day when it comes to household chores.
- I determine my work schedule based on my letter-coding system as described above. It doesn’t always work out neatly, and I’ve temporarily suspended some of my pursuits when life derailed me or I received edits from my publisher, but having a Master Schedule helps me stabilize. Here’s a simplified version:
- Monday: Office Maintenance
- Tuesday: Promotion
- Wednesday: Research, Education, Opportunities
- Thursday: Technical issues, website development
- Friday: Social Networking
Do I have it all together? Not really. But I’ve developed tools to help in my daily adventure. It’s not possible to fully tame a wild lion, but I can make it behave most of the time. What about you? What are your biggest challenges, when it comes to time management? Do you have any tips to help others?
Photo credit: guilanenachez