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Three time management techniques for writers

Time management tips

Three Time Management Techniques for Writers

Over the last few days, inspired by Vicki Jakes’ call out for time management techniques, I’ve been talking about why knowing your values and creating focus time are more important than a general concept of ‘productivity’. So I thought it was about time I reshared this! Here’s a revivified post I wrote a few years back that lists 3 time management techniques and applies them to the writing life.

1. Track your time

  • Track your time over several days. At convenient points (say meal times) write down what you were doing with your time and your energy levels.
  • Try writing at different times of the day in different environments and note the time, and your energy levels.

A pattern will start to emerge – you’ll see when your time drains are and when you have time in your schedule to write. Having a place to write is as important as having time to write – the two go together.

I’ve written about how to track your time using a super easy to use technique called The Kettle Test in this post.

2. Make a ‘not to do’ list

Make yourself a ‘not to do’ list or an ‘ignore’ list. This is a technique I first came across on Michael Hyatt’s blog, when started to apply what he says to my writing life. For example: Deciding not to work on your poetry or short stories because you want to prioritise your novel, or setting up some template emails so you can politely (and easily) decline requests.

Michael Hyatt has suggestions for how to say no here. You can also use Hyatt’s email templates to script and practise conversations where you say no to requests.

Michael Hyatt also talks about scheduling on his blog, so look there if you’d like some general advice on productivity. He’s also written a book called Living Forward that asks very pertinent questions about life planning.

3. Creative Signposting

Signposting is a creative exercise I’ve been doing with my postgraduate students for the last few years. Most people don’t do this when they’re planning a big project and it’s so powerful when you give it a go. It makes you look at how long a project will last, and how much time you have to spend on it. Do it in an honest and pragmatic way, and you’ll end up with a plan that shows you (roughly) when you’ve got time over your year to do the stuff you love to do.

How to signpost

So how do you signpost? You create a goal: I will build my own house, for instance. Or: I will finish a draft of my novel. Then you decide what the halfway point would look like, what the quarter way point and the three-quarters way point would look like. Keep breaking down the goal until you know what you’d have to achieve in six weeks’, three weeks’ and one week’s time. That way you build up a picture of how to finish your project.

By the way, you don’t have to do this over a year – pick the most suitable time period for your project. A large year or two or five year to view wall chart works when you’re signposting – especially good as you can keep it where you can see it.

Be flexible

So signposting is really a project management tool and it is supposed to be used with flexibility – it is something to ponder over and adapt. The plan or schedule you produce at the end is not supposed to be stuck to rigidly, neither is it supposed to be another SHOULD in your life. I encourage you to revise it as you go. I also encourage you to stick it up on the wall so you can see it.

The other side effect of signposting is that it makes you realise that there’s more to your project than simply getting down and doing it. You need to allow for every stage, including breathing space and planning time, plus the project management part, the evaluation and review time, and the bits that you might not actually like doing. You’ll want to factor in some time to get an overview of the whole thing.

To get your free signposting cheat sheet click here. (Downloads as a PDF.)

Want more time management tips?

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Louise xx



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