The Art of Time Management!

So I just wanted to post up something real quick on time management . Anyhow, I have been purged with all sorts of appointments this particular week:

• Looking for new roofers to replace our leaky twenty-year-old roof.

• The dentist because after months of laziness, I look like this:

Not to mention my dear baby dog has a pre-neuter surgery appointment (Sad, but true – my baby – almost six months already – can’t believe it!) What were we talking about? Oh, yes – time management. So here’s the thing – my ability to wrangle time is like Indiana running after the giant ball thing in Raiders… and I think we can all relate. Whether you are a student, whether you are a parent, whether you are a working-at-another-job-and-doing-this-on-the-side dude, this is something that requires continuous work. Something I still struggle with, especially after the weekend when sometimes all I want to do is read comics and watch you-tube videos. Ok, and if you are not like me at all (watching you-tube videos) and also have the additional responsibilities of child-rearing and other stuff, the question is: how do you manage time – aka time to write?

A few years back, this was me: your friendly neighbourhood ‘sporadic writer’ who likes to write but only when the ‘mood’ sets, busy with a newborn, did it only when I felt like it, maybe once a week, twice a week. And why even that? Because I had one idea – just one that I thought would be fantastic if it ever became a movie. In other words, this writer was passionate about the material, but otherwise unsure and not quite committed.

The present. I have managed to develop a few things: better commitment to my writing, better time management but most of all – a vision of what my professional future should ideally be… something I had to search my inner being and discover for myself. Once I did, these are the words I stuck on my desk: ‘GET IT DONE’. That’s honestly all the things  it took me because I realized – my dream is not going to come to me. I have to push all the boundaries and do my best to PURSUE IT.

And commitment is a really tough thing because ‘writing’ in itself is immensely competitive, immensely challenging and immensely time-consuming.For me, it was the one idea I had that motivated me. The one idea has thankfully now turned into a truckload of ideas, some of which will hopefully launch into something better one day.

Anyhow, without further ado (I know – I think every post I write has this phrase now), here are some tricks I am currently using to manage my ‘writing’ time:

1) Think big. When I say ‘think big’ – if you love your story, believe in it… and commit to getting it done by a certain time, no matter what.

2) Set goals. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.

3) While this is what I currently do full-time along with being a parent, for individuals with additional jobs to pay bills, I suggest goals realistic for yourself. There’s the great 1, 2, 7, 14 over at go-into-the-story.

4) Write EVERY DAY like you don’t have another one. I had a huge moment a few years back when I realized my biggest regret would be that I never even properly attempted to turn my one great idea into a film for the world to see. Commit to this and I promise – you will see results.

5) Don’t have to spend all your time working if you can’t – take breaks, but schedule them in consciously so you can return to the task at hand. I like to give myself a breakfast hour, sometimes a couple after dropping my kids to browse the news, as well as some time to exercise, walk the dog and organize myself before I start my day fully relaxed but also rearing to go. After which I do my writing in half-hour increments and set my goals accordingly on a white board. I know other writers who use a timer or stopwatch. If distractions trouble you, go to this post I wrote a while back. I thrive on the freedom app.

6) Start ‘heavy’ and then ease up. For me, initially when I was just learning the ropes, I worked harder and spent more time, now I still work hard but because I can predict the time frame of each stage, spend less time overall. The more writing you do, the better you become. More details in the next point.

6) Prioritize WRITING in your daily life. If you work all day in another job to pay the bills (which most of us do), try waking up earlier to write or sleeping later. When I was just beginning to establish my writing process and there just didn’t seem to be enough time in the day , I would get up really early – like four in the morning, the quietest time in my otherwise very noisy home. Eventually lack of sleep does catch up to you though –  so I reserve this sort of thing now only for emergencies and if I am really behind. For me, I found waking up early and working easier than staying up late, because at the end of the day, my mind would be too tired and mushed-up to be productive.

7) Look at this opportunity to write as more than an opportunity: it’s your job, your stories, your babies that will never see the light of day unless you give them life, until you take that next step and nurture them.  It is only after I mentally trained my brain to accept this fact, I was able to move forward and discipline myself to roll out my first script. I can’t remember the specific screenwriter – but there’s a famous one who used to be a lawyer by day, and would come home by night and spend an hour each day dashing through his screenplays, which ultimately landed him his first gig. In fact, there are many famous screenwriters  who manage to discipline and commit themselves to do this. I believe we all can if we really want to.

8) Speaking of breaks, I would like to add – I absolutely do succumb to the temptation of a good TV show now and then or lunch with a friend. Without getting too robotic, I try to stick to certain times of the day or week for doing these things, depending on the specific stage of work, but usually on my end, these are fairly scarce since once I start getting into the writing itself, I can’t stop. Honestly, everyone needs breaks and it’s not a bad thing at all if you don’t fall too far behind with your day’s work. But here’s the thing with me: I allot and schedule time for everything, so I can make all the odds and ends of my day work.

9) One final point regarding setting goals. Starting out, I used to be quite over-ambitious with these, but being over-ambitious can also lead to disappointment when you fall behind and don’t achieve them. There are several everyday reasons and possibilities this can happen, and when it does, it can be a bit disheartening initially. For this reason, I do give myself permission to alter my schedule and sometimes even go as far as scheduling in some ‘catch-up’ time each day. Ultimately, more than a race, it’s a creative process. Some people thrive in a high-pressure environment while others prefer something more relaxed. I am sort-of inbetween, depending on the story I am working on.

Yes, folks, time management in general is a tricky art, but it can be done. Any more tips or thoughts on this, post in comments. Look forward to hearing from you!

UPDATE: Posted the wrong links before. I have corrected them now.  

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Will be back early next week!

Would love to say I know when I can and cannot post in advance but since I don’t (and here’s the usual kids, busy writing schedule, not-always-perfect time-management excuse) hoping to be back Monday with more posts including part four of the ‘Before your first Draft‘ series,  and maybe another piece on – what else? ‘The Art of Time Management’ and something more as it comes to mind. Till then, enjoy your weekend (it’s chilly in Toronto) and see you all Monday!