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What are you putting up with? – for writers

My top ten time management tips

I’m writing a series of posts on time management, to celebrate the launch of the new edition of The Small Steps Guide to Goal Setting and Time Management. In the last post I talked about keeping a note of the niggles that get in the way, particularly the small things you can do something about. Sometimes the small things (like replacing an uncomfortable pillow or finding a fix for your tech) turn out to be big things (like getting better sleep or working more efficiently).

Why SOC?

Here’s a quick reminder of why I’ve found pictures of socks to illustrate this series of posts. Effective, value-led time management involves knowing your values and organising yourself accordingly, at least some of the time. In fact, I’ve been arguing that genuine time management isn’t possible so must be a euphemism for organising yourself in this way.  As well as how much time we spend on an activity (plus when we do it and how efficient we are), there are at least three other facets of this kind of self-organisation.

  • Space – where we do the thing often matters as much as when and for how long,
  • Other people – acknowledging that our lives overlap with those of others (and, importantly, that includes the people we care about and human fallibility), plus
  • Context – social, political, cultural, plus our immediate environment.

For more on this idea, check out the first post in this series, on my number one time management technique, and the second post, which applies those ideas to the writing life. SOC often gets forgotten when it comes to lists of productivity tips, so I’ve used socks as a visual reminder in each post!

SOC and putting up with things

I’m bringing up SOC again at this juncture because it’s useful to use as a thinking tool when we’re working out our writing-based niggles. Are you putting up with things when it comes to your writing space and the things you use in it? What about other people? Anything niggling you that’s interfering with your writing time? Space and Other people are part of your context, but what about the rest of your life?

From thinking to practical steps

So, SOC is useful as a thinking exercise, but what can you do practically? If you have no idea how to make things better, you could try writing in different spaces (kitchen table, in bed, in a café, at the library) and at different times of the day, for different lengths of time,  to work out what you like in a writing environment and what you don’t.

Otherwise, I suggest the following:

  • Review the exercises in the previous post on this pro tip and apply them to your writing life.
  • Make sure everything in your writing environment is working for you as much as it can be – it doesn’t need to be perfect.
  • Pick the ‘one thing’ that would improve your writing environment or equipment and work on that. (Most recently, for me this was the speed of my computer.)
  • Using a notebook that you keep in view in your writing space, try recording how your sessions went (just for a line or two) and note anything that got in the way.
  • Work on your mental load – it might be there’s something that’s distracting you that you could easily fix.
  • Based on the above steps, work out whether there are any ‘quick wins’ available to you. (Buying a pack of notebooks and pens, for example, or setting up your computer so it comes on and turns off at set times.)
  • There might be ‘less-quick wins’ available, meaning you could take a small step towards them. I needed outside lights recently and the first step was to go and look at lights in the local garden centre.

In a nutshell

In sum, there may be some small things (or seemingly small things) you’re putting up with in your writing space or writing life generally. They don’t seem extremely important – they’re niggles or things that bug you – but sorting them out, especially if it’s easy, will make organising yourself and your time much more effective. If in doubt, start with your pillow (better sleep always helps) and your computer.

Let me know how you get on in the comments.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx



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