We’re all busy. Busy with work, family, relationships, housework, commute time, you name it; you’re spending time on it. But some people seem to fit more into their allotted 24 hours a day than others. How? Giving up sleep? Quitting the day job? Ordering in pizza so often the delivery guys know your name?
Although these ideas may give you more time, you don’t have to go to extremes to find time to write. I’m going to tell you my story, then walk you through a few exercises to find your extra hour. (Note – If you cheat and don’t do the homework, I can’t promise you’ll get the same results. So do the work. Yes, this is tough love time management class, why do you ask?)
I was forty when I took my first writing class. (When you’re paying $350 for a master’s fiction writing workshop you tend to make time for the work.) But after taking a few classes, I had to look at my future goals and wonder if getting a master’s in creative writing was really worth the tuition. I let life take over, again, and stopped writing for five years.
At forty-five, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having a life changing event like this made me really look at my life and what I wanted. In order to clarify what I wanted, I did an exercise – (Here we go with our first assignment.)
Exercise -What’s Important to me? Lean back, close your eyes and think about sitting on a porch. You’re going to celebrate your 100th birthday tomorrow and sitting in a rocking chair on the porch you notice a basket next to you. In the basket are slips of paper listing all the things you wanted to get done and never did --Regrets.
Pick up each slip of paper and let the feeling of loss for each item touch you. Some slips you can just toss, they weren’t your regrets, if you don’t have a strong feeling attached to them. When you’ve gone through the basket, open your eyes and write down on a sheet of paper the things you want to not have in that basket on your 100th birthday.
Is one of them writing? Having a novel published? If so, you’re in the right place.
Exercise – What Am I Doing Now? With your goals clarified, let’s talk about how to get there. First, let’s draw a box.
Divide the box into four squares. Label your squares with the following labels: Not Urgent –Not Important; Urgent – Not Important; Not Urgent –Not Important; and Not Urgent – Important.
List everything you did yesterday regarding your writing, putting them into the box where they fit.
For example – Checking email. Now we may need to break this down a bit. Are you waiting on edits from an editor? Or are you seeing what’s happening on your loops? One would go into the Urgent – Important box and the other into the Not Urgent – Not Important box. Same with tweeting, FaceBook, and other social media sites.
What about your goal for 100 words today? I’d put that into Not Urgent- Important.
Reading a CP’s draft? Depends on when she needs it back. Today it could be Not Urgent-Important, but the day before you’re meeting, it could become Urgent-Important.
Got your box filled?
If you’re like most people, a lot of your items will fall into that Not Urgent-Not Important category. Statistically, 75% of our time is spent there.
Carving out the 25th hour requires you to commit to spending more time in that Not Urgent but Important box and less time in the other boxes. Nothing in your Not Urgent and Important box? Then list what you wished you had done toward your writing career there.
Now let’s focus on the Not Urgent but Important list. Here’s where I had the ‘Write A Novel’ goal. How do you make time for something that big? Just like you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.
First strategy -- Backward planning. I want to write a 50,000 word manuscript for a call out due on November 1st – I have 90 days according to my calendar. I know I’ll be on vacation five of those days and since I’m white water rafting, I won’t have my computer. And I need a week to read and edit the finished manuscript before I hit send.
I have 78 days left. I have to write 641 words each one of those days to meet my deadline. I can do that. Thinking I have to write 50,000 words is overwhelming. 641 words a day is reachable and I know I can write more that that some days.
If you want weekends off? Take those days out of the equation, and you have your new daily word count.
Don’t have a real deadline? Make one. The year I completed my cancer treatment, two of my essays were published. I’d been carrying around the ideas for five years, waiting for someday. When my time seemed shorter, I got the fire to write and submit.
Now that you know what you want to do – how do you get there?
Second Strategy – Make an Appointment. Block out your time. For me, my writing flows best first thing in the morning, so I get up earlier than I would need to and that’s my writing time. (I think my muse likes my inner critic being half asleep.) Not my checking email or surfing blogs. Just writing. For others, it could be after dinner when the kids are asleep. But make your appointment times with yourself count. Don’t let yourself slide – You said this goal was important. Treat your writing time that way too.
Third Strategy – Get an Accountability Partner (AP). I email my AP daily, usually several times a day. We make weekly and monthly goals. Since we live over a thousand miles apart, we report weekly on email, monthly either by phone or in person. She keeps me on track. When I know I have to tell her I’ve missed my goal, I better have a good reason. When I don’t hear from her, I reach out and ask how her writing is going. And when we’re both really chatty on email, we better have made our daily goals or one or the both of us will say something.
Find an accountability partner that won’t let you off the hook too easy.
Final Strategy – Evaluate Your Progress: This could be a monthly review of your annual goals or career plan or weekly. I like the flexibility of planning weekly, it lets me move projects around and if I miss my daily goals, I know I have to work harder on the weekend to complete the list.
You don’t have annual goals or a career plan? Then get one. Unlike your day job, no one is going to sit stuff on your desk, set deadlines, or help you get promoted, except you. And don’t wait until the first of the year to set goals. Set them today.
Like Alice was told by the caterpillar while she wandered through Wonderland, if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t quite matter which way you go.
Know where you’re going and you’ll know when you get there. And you’ll feel like you gained the 25th hour for your day.
Growing up in the middle of cowboy country, Lynn Cahoon was destined to fall in love with a tall, cool glass of water. Now, she enjoys writing about small town America, the cowboys who ride the range, and the women who love them.
Lynn is the author of The Bull Rider’s Brother, a contemporary romance published by Crimson Romance this summer. The sequel (The Bull Rider’s Manger) will be published in November along with her first paranormal novella, A Member of the Council (Lyrical Press.) She’s currently finishing the second novella in the paranormal series.
Contact her at her website: www.lynncahoon.wordpress.com
Or FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/LynnCahoonAuthor
Or Twitter: https://twitter.com/LynnCahoon
The Bull Rider’s Brother
Shawnee, Idaho is known for two things. Amazing salmon fishing and the first local rodeo of the summer. For four friends, growing up in Shawnee, meant one thing, making plans to get out. Five years later, that wish has been granted for all but one. What happens when they all get together again changes five lives.
When James Sullivan visits his hometown’s rodeo weekend and learns that his high school sweetheart had his child - six years ago – Lizzie Hudson’s world is thrown into turmoil. In THE BULL RIDER'S BROTHER, James struggles with family and Lizzie questions the risk of love.
Available at Amazon( http://www.amazon.com/The-Bull-Rider.../dp/B008195C2I ), Nook, Google, and iTunes.