Time Management and Motivation for the Writer in You

SECTION 1: TIME MANAGEMENT

The concept of “time management” is a misnomer. You don’t manage time, you manage your activities within a framework of time.

The Greek word, chronos, means amounts of time, like “20 minutes” or “two days.” Kairos means the specific time when something occurs, like “at two o’clock” or “next Sunday.” A good part of maximizing productivity is understanding “Fit,” matching what needs to be done with the resources that will be available at a specific time.

If I am doing writing or on-screen editing, I can drag my laptop most anywhere. To print out something, I usually need to be at home. The time I spend driving to appointments is not a good time to do an in-depth manuscript analysis since the drivers behind me seem to get upset when I miss lights. What I can do is take along a voice-activated tape recorder and capture my ideas hands-free. Again this works for snippets of ideas, not complex plot development that requires serious thinking. I have a car to drive after all.

Although laptops have gotten increasingly inexpensive, some of you may be interested in the AlphaSmart alternative, which gives you a portable 2-pound dedicated word processing unit with up to 700 hours on 3 alkaline AA batteries. When you get home, you port your documents to your desktop computer through USB cable. The cheaper of the units is $219 at Alphsmart Direct – http://www.alphasmart.com.

TIME AND MONEY

Some people will tell you, “Time is money.” It isn’t. Your time is more valuable. One dollar is the same as any other dollar, and you can always go out and earn more if you find yourself running short.

Not so with time. A particular hour is different than other hours…your hunger or tiredness vary, the daylight is different, and whether people or stores are available can be very dependent on the hour of the day. The time you choose to do something can be very dependent on the resources available at the time.

Time is also limited. You cannot earn more hours unless you have a lot of money to pay someone else to take care of the mundane stuff. That, or a good spouse, but they’re usually expecting you to clear the way for them, which turns the whole thing into a zero-sum game (I win, you lose – You win, I lose).

The computer and e-mail give us more flexibility than we have ever had before. If I decide to get up at 3 a.m. and pay my bills, I can do that without even worrying about whether I have the correct postage, since I can print that off on my computer or pay online.

Other things require that I meet an outside schedule. It usually works better to shop for my groceries when the store is open. Some people find that it works to plan rigidly. In my case, when I am run out of milk (and I keep a few boxes of soymilk in the cupboard to tide me over), I pick up new milk on the way home from one of my other obligations. Special trips out for one thing or another eat time.

QUESTIONS:

  1. WAsk yourself, what do I need to get done?
  2. What is a good time to do it?
  3. Are there other things I need to do that can be done along the way?

GETTING YOUR FOCUS

Think about your ideal future. Setting goals forces you to choose where you want to go in life and tells you where to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also become aware of distractions, including other people (who usually have not found their own direction and subconsciously want to feed off yours), that would lure you from your course.

Many of my coaching clients come to me seeking direction. I don’t give it. I ask them to think of four things.

  1. What did you enjoy doing as a child?
  2. What will your life look like five years from now? Where would you live? What will your days look like hour by hour?
  3. What do you want people to say about you when you die?
  4. What are you willing to give up to get what you want?

I have been told that the third question is the toughest of all, but it can be very powerful. If your goal is to have people remember you as a nice person, and you spend your time verbally slamming other people and cutting them off in traffic, the likelihood is that you will not achieve your goal. To achieve your goal, you have to start living it…today.

Goal setting can give you long-term vision and short-term motivation. It focuses your acquisition of knowledge and helps you to organize your time and resources.

By setting sharp, clearly defined, achievable goals, you can measure your progress and raise your self-confidence by acknowledging you are worth setting goals.

SMART GOALS

To bring your goals into sharp focus, use the SMART mnemonic.

  • S Specific
  • M Measurable
  • A Attainable
  • R Relevant
  • T Time-bound

Instead of having “to publish something” as a goal, it is more powerful to say “To publish my first novel by December 31, 2015.” A lot of preparation has to be completed beforehand, but you have set your “stake in the ground.” This is using time as a tool to help you accomplish your goals. If you don’t set a specific deadline, you probably won’t do it. We keep thinking that we can do things “tomorrow,” but tomorrow never comes.

Almost four years ago, I decided I wanted 5,000 recipients of my motivational newsletter in four years. I’ve got 3,900 today, so I am right on schedule.

LIFETIME GOALS

Mark McCormack’s book, What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School, outlines a 1979 study of Harvard MBA students. They were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Three percent had written goals and plans, 13 percent had unwritten goals, and 84 percent had no specific goals.

Ten years later, the 13 percent of the class who had unwritten goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent with no goals. The three percent with clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

In Goals!, Brian Tracy identifies four reasons why people don’t set goals:

  • They don’t understand the importance of goals. If the people in your life—family, friends, colleagues, and so forth—aren’t committed to clear goals, you probably aren’t either.
  • They don’t know how to set goals. The goals may be too general—often based on common fantasies. Goals need to be clear, written, specific, measurable, and time-bound.
  • They fear failure. Failure hurts, but is often necessary to achieve the greatest success. Do not unconsciously sabotage yourself by setting your bar too low. Failure means you are challenging yourself and giving yourself the room for awesome achievement.
  • They fear rejection. People fear others’ criticism if they fail. To prevent this, keep your goals to yourself until you have proven results. Make a habit of daily goal setting and achieving for the rest of your life. It may seem that you are making small, insignificant steps—but they add up. Periodically review your and modify plans to reflect your changing priorities and experience.

Whenever you add something to your list, determine if it moves you closer to what you want, or further away. Some broad categories to consider:

  • Artistic: Do you want to achieve any artistic goals? If so, what?
  • Attitude: Is any part of your mindset holding you back? Is there any part of the way that you behave that upsets you? If so, set a goal to improve your behavior or find a solution to the problem. “I can’t help it,” or “someone else made me,” are disempowering mindsets that do nothing to move you forward. When you tell your mind you can’t do something, it delivers. When you tell your mind that you intend to do something, it starts working on how to make it happen.
  • Career: What level do you want to reach in your career?
  • Education: Is there any knowledge you want to acquire? What information and skills will you need to achieve your goals?
  • Family: How do you want to be seen by a partner or by members of your extended family? (I would argue that it is more important to ask the question—how do you want to be seen by yourself?)
  • Financial: How much do you want to earn by what stage?
  • Physical: Are there any athletic goals you want to achieve, or do you want good health deep into old age? What steps are you going to take to achieve this?
  • Pleasure: How do you want to enjoy yourself? – you should ensure that some of your life is for you!
  • Public Service: Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, how?

Think about these areas, and then select one goal in each category for what you want. Be careful that you are not listing what other people think you “should” do. Take this list and put it in order so that the most important thing you want is at the top. When you start working toward what matters most to you, there are two results:

  • You will find a deeper satisfaction with your life
  • You will find yourself energized/enthusiastic about what you are doing.

TO SET EFFECTIVE GOALS

  • State goals positively. The internal message: “Don’t make this stupid mistake,” is negative. It’s like when I was dancing, I was told…don’t look at the floor, or that is exactly where you will end up.
  • Be precise: Set a precise goal, putting in dates, times and amounts so that you can measure achievement. This is your stake in the ground. Many times project failure is due to sliding requirements so nothing is ever complete. Define what “done” looks like. If you add to that later, make it a new requirement. If “done” changes because the goal is no longer relevant, make sure you redefine your new goal. In project management, this is called “change orders.”
  • Set priorities: If you have several goals, prioritize. You will avoid feeling overwhelmed and be able to direct your attention to the most important ones.
  • Write goals down: This crystallizes them and gives them more force.
  • Keep operational goals small: Keep the low-level goals you are working towards small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward. Derive today’s goals from larger ones.
  • Set performance goals, not outcome goals: Don’t set goals that depend on incidents outside your control. Base your goals on personal performance, where you have control.
  • Set realistic goals: Set goals that you can achieve. Avoid the unrealistic goals others set for you., often ignoring what you want and can do. If you set goals that are too high, because don’t know your obstacles or the required skill you need.

Goal-setting software can help you define your goals, manage your time, and track your progress –a free trial version of GoalPro 6 can be downloaded from the Success Studios web site at http://www.goalpro.com/entrance.cfm?ID=50762.

BREAKING IT DOWN

Set a 25-year plan of smaller goals that you should complete if you are to reach your lifetime plan. Then set a 5-year plan, 1-year plan, 6-month plan, and 1-month plan of progressively smaller goals, all interrelated. Some people find it helpful to visualize this by creating a “life map,” a poster where they collage pictures that represent what they want to achieve. Others create categorically-indexed notebooks they can refer to and update over time with drawings and photos that represent their direction.

Both writing things down and visualization are powerful tools to discipline the unfocused mind. I say discipline, but there is a joy in the achievement of your goals that cannot be matched by any made-for-television movie (unless it is yours).

Create a daily to-do list of things you need to do today to work towards your lifetime goals. This may include reading books and interviewing people who have already “walked the path.”

It is essential to review your plans, and make sure that they fit the way you want to live your life. One effective tool for decision-making is to set your mind “as if” the decision had already been made. We have the capability in our waking hours to make anything seem as if it could happen (I refer to it as logicizing), but if we go to sleep with these thoughts, our inner barriers come down.

More than once I have had the experience of waking in the middle of the night, thinking “yes!” or “no!” and knowing what my subconscious feels about the whole thing. If your subconscious is not in agreement with your logically-constructed goals, you will not be motivated enough to “get there” or you will feel no satisfaction when you do.

It is the difference between “trying” to do something, and actually doing it. In fact, take the word “try” out of your vocabulary…it takes your energy away. The word “intend” is far more empowering.

And mistakes? I have found there is a lesson in or a reason for every mistake I have ever made…although sometimes it has taken fifteen years for it to become apparent. So don’t hang onto the past with “woulda-shoulda-coulda’s.” You need to drive your car looking out the front window, not the back.

ORGANIZATION

Creating a list of tasks and writing it down can be a tremendous help. How detailed you get determines the workability of the list. One study showed that 30% of listers spent more time managing their lists that completing the tasks on them. The purpose of writing a list is to build a tool you can use—one that records your thoughts so you don’t have to keep thinking about what you need to remember.

Prolonging the planning activity (procrastination) is an effective way to avoid doing the tasks required. Creating the illusion of preparation may be an attempt to avoid doing the wrong thing. By not doing anything, the individual doesn’t make a mistake. In writing, this can be the situation where the writer decides to check his or her e-mail, clean up a corner of the office, replace the light bulb, adjust the thermostat, open the window…all in an attempt to create a proper working environment. Writer’s block is often caused by fear of not writing well enough, so the writer keeps walking around the blank piece of paper, afraid to put anything on it.

Myth: You’re lazy.
Truth: A creative is always working unless paralyzed by too many choices, perfectionism, or lack of resources. Organization keepc this under control.

Too many choices can be the ‘mess’ that surrounds you. Perfection is that little voice in your head (your editor) that says you shouldn’t write unless it’s correct the first time. This ‘logical’ side of your brain can shut down your ‘creative’ side. I have found it effective to tell my inner editor to “wait your turn, I will let you edit after the creative side has done its work.” This seems to work—the concept of turn is a logical one that seems to satisfy the internal editor.

Lack of resources may merely be a matter of not being able to find or adapt what you have. Asking others for what you need does not always work, but sometimes the answer is yes. The answer couldn’t have been yes if you hadn’t asked.

Myth: Creativity precludes you from being organized.
Truth: Disorganization can get in the way of your creativity.

Organization has to do with how you arrange your tasks timewise, but it also has to do with how you arrange your space. Having your tools readily available can make a big difference in getting those ideas down. Too much stuff that has more to do with who you were, rather than who you are and where you are going is not just distracting, it eats your time. I know I periodically have to go through things. I do those tasks when my creativity is about burned out.

Myth: You hate structure.
Truth: Chaos is not creative.

If your writing is chaotic, others will have a hard time making sense of it. It is only when you organize it that the story flows and others can understand what you have written, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. Chaos would be unrelated words scattered over a page, in different fonts, different languages, different sizes, and different angles. Few, if any readers, would stick around long enough to find out if you had a message. Creativity is making new connections from existing things, putting ideas together for the reader to experience the marvelous “aha!” of understanding.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Are the things I am doing relevant to where I am going?
  2. Do I love my direction?
  3. Do I own the things in my life, or do they own me?

PRIORITIZATION

What I need to get done is not the half of it. Picking the right times to do things is a great help in organization. In prioritization, deadlines rule.

When I am doing work for other people, it usually needs to get done by a certain date (kairos). I also have a pretty good idea of how long the job will take (chronos). If I back up the required amount of time from the deadline, I have the latest date to get started on the project, provided no other emergencies come up. Small chance. I double the expected amount of time, usually gaining a little ‘wiggle room.’ I also quit worrying about things with a further along deadline, as long as I know when I need to start.

Other people’s paying jobs take priority over my own non-paying tasks. Delivering work on-time and on-budget builds the kind of reputation you want with publishers and others for whom you work. This is why, when someone suggested an extended Tampa Writers Alliance writing competition entry date, my response was no. It was a lesson in reality and would have compromised the work I needed to complete—editing and compiling the winning entries into the Wordsmith anthology.

I also prioritize based on my most effective working times. For me, creating new work requires more energy than editing. I know I do my best writing early in the morning. As a matter of ‘fit,’ I schedule my most-intensive writing hours when I can produce the most, and slip household maintenance in when my brain is fried. Every person’s most effective time is individual. When someone recommends writing at a certain time, it is according to their circadian schedule. It may not work for you.

Myth: You have unlimited energy.
Truth: You have to focus your energy on what you are passionate about so you don’t get distracted by “the small stuff.”

To prioritize your task list, you may find it effective to split the items into an ‘A’ list (most important), a ‘B’ list (next most important), and a ‘C’ list (least important).

US President Eisenhower used a method popularized by Stephen Covey, where tasks were assigned to quadrants in a two dimensional grid, based on whether they were important or not important, urgent or not urgent. Important/urgent tasks are done immediately, important/not urgent tasks next with the objective of preventing them from becoming urgent. Not important/not urgent tasks can be dropped. They are not worth your time.

Work in priority order. If you pick something to do that is not important just because it is easy and you can get it done quickly, it still is unimportant—and moves you no closer to what you want.

Tasks in the unimportant/urgent category are often other people’s responsibilities that they are trying to dump in your lap. They may tell you these tasks are important, and it may be for them—you have to decide, Is this important to me? Whether you take over ownership of the work or not is your decision.

POSEC, an acronym for Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing, highlights the importance of managing your personal responsibilities to better meet collective responsibilities.

  1. PRIORITIZE your time and define your life by goals.
  2. ORGANIZE things you have to accomplish regularly to be successful. (Family and Finances)
  3. STREAMLINE things you may not like to do, but must do. (Work and Chores)
  4. ECONOMIZE things you should do or may even like to do, which are not urgent. (Past-times and Socializing)
  5. CONTRIBUTE — Pay attention to the things that make a difference. (Social Obligations)

OPAS—OTHER PEOPLE’S AGENDAS

Myth: You don’t follow through.
Truth: You may be easily distracted.

If you cannot follow through on things that are important to you, it may be because you are working on too many other people’s problems. Narrowing your focus to work you truly own can result in a lot of external complaining since you are no longer cleaning up other people’s messes. If your work environment is not set up well, you have to figure out what doesn’t work—and fix it. If other people are constantly interrupting you, you may have to take a time out to find a way to physically separate yourself. This is a common problem for people who work at home. Either:

  • select a time when other people are less likely to find you (early morning, late at night, or while they have other activities)
  • Post a sign by your work area and put out a note pad or chalkboard so they can let you know they need to talk with you. Then, you can schedule your time to talk with them at your convenience (Let them know they are not to interrupt you unless the house is burning down, or someone is bleeding to death.)
  • Move to a location where you are less physically accessible (the local coffee shop or library)
  • Remember, there is a reason for answering machines on telephones and off-buttons on cell phones. Use these tools—don’t leave yourself open to be used by them. You don’t have to answer a ringing phone. Know that people are not just going to give you respect, you have to demand it and be firm about it.

(B>FEAR OF FAILURE/SUCCESS

Another reason people fail on follow-through is fear of failure…or fear of success. When we fear failure, we put more importance on a one-time incident than it deserves. If you are going to get upset because your work is rejected (which it will be), you may decide not to let yourself be judged. If your goal is to be published, you have just set yourself up for failure. You will only fail when you quit making the effort to succeed.

Fear of success is often actually fear of change, particulary if it’s change to what has worked in the past. Maybe whatever it is hasn’t worked, but at least, it is something we know how to do. Uncertainty about where to start and when to begin making a change can paralyze us. Fear that change may require more work (time investment) at the beginning often holds us back. “I don’t have time to think about doing it differently…I just need to get it done,” is a common mantra of those overwhelmed by tasks. Knowing it will take effort and time and arguing that change is not necessary translates to a lack of will power. If you don’t feel like changing, you won’t unless someone or something else forces you to do it.

People feel that success will require them to be different than what they are, so avoid what they perceive as too great a transition. The mind has a difficult time telling the difference between real experience and imagined experience. Make the image of your success as real as possible, and you will find that you move in that direction.

Myth: You’re irresponsible.
Truth: Your priorities are different.

Irresponsible about your own life is one thing. Irresponsible about other people’s lives merely means you are giving them the responsibility, control, and power to manage their own lives. Your responsibility is to take care of yourself, to put on your own life jacket first so you have the ability to help someone else, instead of joining them in flailing around and drowning. Yes, your priorities are different—you are steering your own ship. When you shift responsibility back to where it belongs, your friends and family will resist that change. It was easier for them when someone else took care of their problems. Don’t feel the need to be a rescuer—the message you are sending is others are not capable of solving things.

TAKING TIME

Myth: You’re impulsive.
Truth: You may have to learn to stop and think.

Or maybe, you know how to stop and think, you just don’t have the time to do it. If you are running too fast, you’ll often find your body rebelling, and forcing you to slow down. Frustrating, particulary when there is so much that needs to be done. Ask yourself,

  • Are you doing what needs to be done, or is busy-ness just a habit?

Sometimes our creativity runs away with us, and we are not even aware of the passage of time. This “high” is reward enough to get us addicted—to writing, to painting, to running. When we have the luxury of undesignated time, we may find ourselves sitting back, stagnating.

“Originality does not follow a time clock, although you often have to.” (Silber, p. 23) Time for doing your creative work is not given to you—you must take it. All the excuses you make, all the reasons you say you can’t, are exactly the reasons you won’t. You can argue for whatever you want, and you will be right.

HOW TO FIND THE TIME

  1. Schedule personal time on your calendar first.
    How often do you find yourself listing all the other things that people expect from you or that you expect from yourself, and trying to get those things done? If you finally “get it all done,” you often have little or no time or energy left over.
  2. Restrict your time with those who have no respect for your time. Don’t waste time with those who drag you down.
  3. Remember, when you say ‘yes’ to something, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.
  4. Accept the fact that you don’t have to please and be liked by everyone.
  5. Combine and alternate activities. When you tire of one project, shift to another. Recognize that research for one project can be tweaked and rewritten for another non-intersecting market.
  6. Adapt your schedule so that you are working at more optimum times.
  7. Prioritize. If you have a particular important project, what else can you let slide?
  8. Remember that 20% of your efforts produces 80% of your results. The other 80% of your work only produces a paltry 20% of your results. This is called Pareto’s 80/20 rule.
  9. Stock up and save time.
  10. Schedule time to recharge your batteries (time to unmind).

TIME AND ENERGY WASTERS

  • Thinking/worrying about/postponing a task
  • Creating inefficiencies by “doing” before “thinking.” Measure twice/cut once
  • Responding to interruptions that do not pay off
  • Making unrealistic time estimates that lead to crisis management
  • Doing urgent rather than important tasks
  • Poor organization, incomplete planning. and lack of contingency plans
  • Failure to set goals, organize priorities, and complete tasks

TIME SAVERS

  • Establish goals; daily, short-term, long-term priorities; personal deadlines
  • Manage the process, not the result
  • Concentrate on one task at a time. Multitasking can lead to burnout
  • Throw unneeded things away, eliminate time-wasting activities
  • Organize your workspace and keep things simple
  • Get rid of busywork (don’t do it), use checklists and to-do lists
  • Know when to stop a task and adjust priorities
  • Set aside time for high priority tasks and for reflection

ENERGY DRAINS AND GAINS

Identify energy drains—sickness, rainy days, depressing news, poor diet and those things that take away your strength. Doing work you do not love drains your energy. Constantly asking “why” questions, as if the answer could change the past, drains your energy. Asking “what” and “how” questions focuses your mind on potentials.

Curiosity about the world and a willingness to try new things can be energizing. Minimize things that take your energy away (including negative people) and include those things that optimize your power level. I found that minimizing my exposure to newspapers and television gives me a lot more time and energy (including emotional energy) to do my work. Make a list of things you enjoy, then honor yourself by including those activities into your immediate and long term schedule.

REWARD YOURSELF FOR ACHIEVING GOALS

When you reward yourself for achieving a goal, you build the self-confidence you deserve. With the experience of having achieved this goal, review the rest of your goal plans:

  • If the goal was too easy, realize you can “stretch” for a harder goals
  • If the goal was too difficult or took too long, make the next goals easier

Adjust your direction and set new goals based on what you have learned. Let go of goals that are no longer relevant. You can save a lot of time by releasing what you no longer want, rather than continuing just because it was something you wanted in the past.

Part of motivation can be the reward system you set up for yourself. Rewards can be as simple as looking out the window for a minute, or as elaborate as a trip to Hawaii. Congratulating and acknowledging your efforts can make you feel good about yourself. The more you fortify yourself with self-appreciation, the less the impact of the naysayers in your life.

FEEDING THE ARTIST

WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get): Make sure you get a solid 8 hours of sleep, and try to fit in naps as needed. I have found when I have completed too much creative work, a nap can be just what I need to continue later with renewed energy. If I keep trying to slog my way through, it doesn’t work. When you first wake up, use the time to focus on the needs of the day. Feed yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally with things that are GOOD FOR YOU. Don’t expect optimal performance from junk food and trash mental programming.

Use your commute times. Listen to books on tape or motivational presentations. Keep a voice- activated tape recorder and digital camera in the car so you can record your thoughts or stop and get some idea-stimulating pictures along the way.

Take a lunch break. Recharging your batteries is essential. This gives you a chance to step away from your work. Often you will come back with new insights. Additionally, you reduce your chance of burnout when you take care of your body’s needs.

Go with the flow. Plan your day around your natural energy flow. Take breaks, stretch, and take a few deep breaths to refresh your thinking. If you are a “morning” person, plan your most challenging work for early in the day when possible; if you are a late-day person, plan the opposite. When you find yourself tiring of one type of activity, switch. Don’t keep pushing past your limits—you will exhaust and frustrate yourself. Time management is not about following someone else’s schedule—it’s about finding what works for you.

Ease into the evening. On the way home, review the day’s successes. So often, we focus on what went wrong instead of what went right. Then use the commute as a time to prepare for the next part of your day. Play music that relaxes you. Visualize a wonderful evening with the family, or an evening of performing tasks. Whatever it is, visualize it being the best experience possible.

Remember that anything new feels uncomfortable at first, until we master it and make it our own. If you are managing your time, you will do things differently. Embrace the change.

SECTION 2: MOTIVATION

In writing, as in life, it’s not necessary to “feel like” doing something in order to do it. Once you’ve started, you often feel more motivated to continue. Maybe you just focus on getting a piece of the work done, a chapter, or even just a few pages.

Your list of all you want to do is not sacred. Don’t be afraid of pitching something off the list, undone. It may also help to ask yourself whether the task really is required to achieve your goal. If you find yourself balking, maybe it’s just busy work, and your subconscious recognizes that, even if you don’t. You don’t have to do it, just because one day you wrote it down. Your list is a “living” list, growing and changing to meet your needs.

Myth: There’s too much to do; I can’t handle it all.
Truth: Don’t try to eat the whole elephant at once. Pick one thing to do and complete it. Write that last sentence and put it aside. When it is done, you no longer have to think about it.

Myth: There’s plenty of time; I can do that later.
Truth: Do that later raises the question: Does it really need to be done at all? If it does, schedule it.

Myth: I’m busier than usual right now, so it makes sense to shift some tasks off to another time.
Truth: When are you not busy? Tasks expand to fill available time.

Myth: Re-scheduling something to a later time is procrastinating.
Truth: Re-scheduling is taking control and adapting to priorities and time constraints. If you re-schedule something more than 3 times, ask yourself if it is something you really want to do. If it’s important, start now.

Myth: This little task is not important.
Truth: Maybe it’s not immediately important. My dirty dishes often stare at me at the end of the day. I walk away. I know washing them is important. I also know that it’s on schedule—I wash dishes in the morning while I’m making coffee.

TIPS:

  1. Determine the priority of writing in your life
  2. Establish a time and place for it
  3. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable
  4. Turn off the editor that tells you all the reasons you can’t
  5. Your strategy for time management is what works for you
  6. Promising yourself you will get around to it probably means you never will
  7. Arguing for all the reasons you can’t do something does nothing toward moving you to a new reality

QUESTIONS

  1. Why do you want to write? How important is it? Is it recreational, or do you want to make a living at it? This is a personal thing—there is no right or wrong answer.
  2. Where would it work for you to write? When? How are you going to make space in your life for it? What are you willing to give up to make it happen?
  3. What blocks do you have that might prevent you from writing? Are you willing to let them go?

REASONS TO NOT WRITE:

  1. Other people are expecting you to do something or counting on you to do it. Ask yourself whether it really is something you are doing for yourself or if you are just doing it to keep other people happy or quiet. (There may be the hope that if I sacrifice long enough or hard enough, they will appreciate me…and maybe even like me.) Clue: I seem to have more people liking me when I stopped worrying about whether they did or not.
  2. You are expecting yourself to do something. For years I have done it; it may not be the right thing for me now. I may have to redefine who I am.
  3. You are trying instead of being. If I say I am trying to stop smoking, I may get stuck forever in the trying. My definition of myself is someone who is trying to stop smoking, not someone who doesn’t smoke. There is a difference. How do you identify yourself? Do you say, ‘I am trying to write?’ or do you have the courage to say, ‘I am a writer’?
  4. Someone else says you can’t do it or that you won’t want the results. Evaluate the validity. I was told not to tile my back porch or put in French doors. I did both and I love it, and those who have been to my house know that back porch is one of the best features of the house.
  5. There are people you tell your plans to that will tell you that their way is better than yours. (“This is what I want,” you say…and the other person says, “Oh, you don’t want that. It will be better if you…,” and you feel like a balloon poked with a pin.)
  6. You may feel you can’t do it. There is a saying on that one, “Whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.” Success at something is extremely dependent on your belief in success.
  7. Habits are tremendously hard to break. This is not even expecting something. Quite often, a habit becomes the unseen background to our lives, and sometimes stains every thing we do.
  8. Have you ever known someone who can’t even get started on the important things in their life because they are too busy putting out fires? Living in crisis mode can even become a habit, and there are people who will continually set up their lives and drag you into it to maintain the adrenaline high.
  9. It’s easier to not worry about it now. More than once, I have seen people put down their car keys at the time they no longer need them, and then not be able to find them at a later time because they didn’t put them in any place particular. It is a lot easier to have a place to put the keys, and know they will be there when I go to find them. (Establish new habits.)
  10. I am trying to keep track of too many things. This is what file folders are for. You don’t put your house insurance records in the same file as the recipes you want to try and your grocery coupons. In the same way, you put your office supplies in one location instead of storing one pair of scissors on a garage shelf, another in one of the kitchen drawers, and your pencils in various locations throughout your house. It is too difficult to remember the details of each particular item and a LOT easier to find a logical way to group it with similar things… Office supplies in one location, art supplies in another, linen in one closet, clothes in another.
  11. I don’t have the space in my life for writing. Who has control over that? Who are you giving control over that? Set a time and place for your writing, organize your materials, and make it something you don’t even have to think about.
  12. You may not even recognize it needs to be done. Ignorance can be bliss, but not knowing there is a vicious dog behind the fence means you can get bitten.
  13. The task is not yours to begin with. There is a lot out there that masquerades as something you can really have an effect on, but when it comes right down to it, the results may be under someone else’s control. Perhaps that someone will tell you that your behavior has an impact, but be careful. You may be told that what you do will make another person happy…but what is really the logic of that? You may do everything you can to meet this person’s requirements, but it is that person’s choice whether to be happy. Likewise, nobody else can make you happy…that is your choice.

What is your reason to not do your writing?

What is your choice?

SECTION 3: A LAST NOTE

I have had people ask me how I got started in making writing my full-time work. These are a few things I did.

  1. Work for someone else where writing was a part of the job.
  2. Start marketing while employed. Build a website listing experience.
  3. Learn the craft. Take courses, attend conferences, read writing books and magazines, and WRITE!
  4. Be able to set and keep your own deadlines. You have to be extremely disciplined to keep working when nobody is patting you on the back.
  5. Volunteer to do editing and writing for organizations and public school systems.
  6. Volunteer as a speaker at schools, organizations, and conferences.
  7. Enter contests and list awards on your website.
  8. Learn to live frugally (and joyfully) and set aside about two years of living expenses. Your job may not provide adequate income for a while, and as a writer, you will probably continue to live frugally. If you can’t enjoy it, you will need to keep your day job.
  9. Keep active in writing organizations and build your reputation. My Tampa Writers Alliance has given me marvelous exposure in the community, enough so that most of my clients come to me through repeat business, my TWA connection, or word of mouth.

REFERENCES:

Mayer, Jeffrey J. Time Management for Dummies, 2nd Edition. New York, NY: IDG Books Wordwide, Inc., 1999.

Silber, Lee. Time Management for the Creative Person. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_management (retrieved 10/9/2007)

http://www.mindtools.com/page6.html (retrieved 10/9/2007)

http://web.ncf.ca/an588/time_man.html (retrieved 10/9/2007)

http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadtime.html (retrieved 10/9/2007)

http://www.adv-leadership-grp.com/Energy_Article.html (retrieved 10/9/2007)

http://www.lifemastering.com/en/harvard_school.html (retrieved 10/21/2007)

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