Time Management

A few weeks ago I started a PhD program. I’ve heard all the horror stories about what a time suck grad school is. To be honest, I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t have time to write. I was able to be really productive over summer, and I was worried I’d have to put everything on hold until next summer. To my surprise, though, I’ve actually been able to keep writing.

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Everyone is busy. For me it’s school. For you it may be your family or your day job or any number of other important and worthwhile things that take up our time.

Today I want to talk about finding, or rather making, time to write despite the busyness. Here are a few things that I’ve found have worked for me.

  • Prioritize your day and prioritize your writing. I’m a big to-do list person (and a fan of the Todoist app). I start every morning by going over what needs to be done. I decide what things are most important, and I make sure to do those things first. I make sure that writing is on the list. I usually put it somewhere between the assignment that is due tomorrow and the laundry (which should probably be done today but can be put off one more day). I usually surprise myself with how much I can actually get done in a day when I organize my tasks like this.
  • Make small goals. I’ve realized that I’m not very good at long term goals. But I can crush short-term goals. Right now I’m only working with weekly goals and I don’t have a particular date I want to have my draft finished by. I’ve started posting my weekly goals on Twitter every Monday. It helps keep me on track.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. This is true about everything in publishing, but particularly useful to remember here. I have friends who are a lot more prolific than I am. I get jealous sometimes when I see their output. Don’t do this. Remember that while publication is an important goal, it is not the only goal in your life. Your family or day job or school or whatever is valid and important too. Don’t feel bad about how you have to divide your time. Just keep writing, even if it is slowly.
  • Make writing a joy. Writing is hard. But hopefully you enjoy doing it even when it is hard. I became a much more productive writer when I stopped thinking of it as work and started actually enjoying it.
  • Understand that somedays you might not be able to write. I recently finished Beth Revis’s writing book Paper Hearts. In the book she talks about how one of the worst pieces of writing advice she ever received was to write everyday. Some people may be able to write everyday. Beth can’t, though, and neither can I. That’s okay. Writing, like any job, needs days off. I’m not saying you should be one of those writers who only writes when inspiration strikes. I do think you should write regularly. But when you need a day off, take it.
  • Think about writing, even when you can’t write. Another tidbit from Beth’s book. She said that even on days she couldn’t write, she still thought about her books. I do this too. When I’m sitting at a red light or waiting for a class to start, I let my mind work through plot problems. Or I flesh out my characters’ personalities. For me this is part of the writing process. You can be working on your book even when you aren’t at your computer.

In short, it’s important to have a life. Most of the time your writing can coexist with whatever else you have going on in your life.

So take a deep breath, buckle up, and get to work.

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