So, writing and busy schedules. Two things that seem to not go together. Well, I must say they can work together in beautiful harmony. Maybe a harmony that isn’t beautiful but that doesn’t sound too terrible. So how does this work? Time management skills!
Those who know me know that I have a habit of planning a lot. If I don’t plan out my week I struggle to figure out what to do and to get anything done. College has taught me this.
Thus, last semester I went to one of my professors, Dr. McKnight. Along with him, I went to College Info Geek to hopefully find some help. Links to both of these can be found below.
There are three major skills that they taught me, and can help you with time management and find more time to write:
1) Backwards Planning
2) Time Blocking
3) The Urgent/Importance Grid
Backwards Planning is exactly what it sounds like. You take your task’s overall due date and put it on a calendar and work backwards in small chunks. An example would be with a short story:
Step 1: Break it up: break your project in the number of necessary drafts and prep time for notes and characters.
Step 2: Give yourself due dates: make a schedule of when each task needs to be done starting from the final due date of the project. This will give you a time line, but be sure to consider possible setbacks by making the task due dates achievable.
Step 3: Keep to your due dates: be sure to do a little work each day to get each task completed by the specified time.
If you have trouble working on a task little by little make yourself a time block schedule. This is a simple way to make sure you use your time wisely and get things done. During that blocked out time that is the only task you work on, unless you finish it early then you take a break or work on something else. What I use is Google Calendar (but Excel or a piece of paper work just as well), which allows me to go in and set specific times for me to work on tasks.
For example: This summer I’ve blocked out about an hour and a half each morning to work on my fantasy novel. During that time, that is the only thing I work on, whether that consisted of making notes and outlining, to writing and editing.
Similarly, I make a block of time for lunch and just chilling.
It must be noted that your schedules will NOT be perfect. If something comes up, go in and adjust your schedule to accommodate for the new situation. These time blocks resemble the pirate’s code from Pirates of the Caribbean.
***IMPORTANT*** Please be sure to block out time for you to enjoy life or else you will burn out and hate writing and working, not to mention the strains on your relationships overworking can cause.
If you want to know more about Time Blocking go to the College Info Geek YouTube Channel or blog, because they have some awesome stuff on this topic, and where I got a lot of the information on this technique.
The Urgent/Important Square
The final technique is what I call the Urgent/Important Square. If you’ve taken a basic biology class you know about punnett squares. The concept is the same, except less complex than genetics, because those are insane.
Here is an example I found from https://torolink.csudh.edu/:
Each square represents a level of priority.
1) Urgent and Important: these are things that need to be done now or else the world will end.
2) Important but Not Urgent: these tasks are things that need to get done, but you have more time between now and the due date.
3) The Urgent but Not Important: Here you’ll find things that need to get done, but they’re not the most important tasks and therefore are less important to take care of during a work day. Example: laundry
4) Not Important and Not Urgent: These tasks can wait in most all circumstances.
“The place you want to live in,” to quote Dr. McKnight, “is the Important but Not Urgent square.” Being here means your task list might be long, but you’re getting things done slowly but steadily. Nothing here is urgent, just keep pushing. Kind of like when you have a huge paper due at the end of the semester and you work on it throughout the term instead of the night before. The paper is not urgent until the last week or two before it is due, but it is always important.
Something that can help you with this strategy is a rotating task list, which means you move tasks up and down based off of which square they fall into.
Overall, these strategies work. Know that they can be modified if they don’t fit your life exactly. Pick and choose the parts here that work for you and experiment with different strategies.
Question for the comments: What are some time management skills and strategies that have worked for you, and have you had to modify any of the strategies discussed here?
Keep writing warriors!
A special thanks to all my Patrons and Pixabey.com for providing the cover image.
College Info Geek: https://collegeinfogeek.com/
Twitter and Instagram: @drtimmcknight
Urgent/Important Square Source: https://torolink.csudh.edu/news/107754