IWSG: Time Management

6:00 AM Elizabeth Seckman 56 Comments


Sometimes bouts of crippling insecurity are nothing more than overwhelmed-human melt downs. 

Writing has a lot of different parts- writing, editing, marketing, etc.

The brain, in an effort to prevent explosion, must sometimes shut down.

Some call this writer's block.

I call it not knowing where the hell to start.

Some blame the AWOL muse.

I blame the absurd notion that any writer's job will ever be done.

A writer can work twelve hours a day, seven days a week and never be done

There is always something that we could be working on. 

Exhausting. Frustrating. Insecurity creating.

So, I've adopted a newer, better approach.

I am chunking my time. I am setting up a schedule for emails, marketing (including social media), blog, and writing. I do what I can in that time chunk and then move on to the next job.

I've found this helps a lot. I was wasting a lot of time switching between tasks. I'd be in the middle of writing a scene, and I'd stop to send an email. Not smart.

To keep me straight, I keep a notebook beside me and when I think of something I need to do, outside of the task I'm doing at that moment, I write it down. No more stopping and starting.

Jot it on the to-do list and keep going. 

Oh, and when people in my life (because they all know I have no "job"), call for interruptions, I don't answer- unless it's my kids- until the end of my work day or during a break.

Writing, it's not just an obsession anymore. 

When do you know your story is ready?

When the timer dings, it's done. Oh wait, that's how to know when a cake is done baking! Knowing when a book is done is far more subjective. If you under cook it, it'll be gooey and gross. Over cook it and it could be a dried-out choke hazard.  I suggest you stick a fork in it. If the story tines come out clean, it's probably ALMOST ready. Next allow to cool, frost, then serve.


See? Perfectly simple. 



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56 comments:

  1. That's right - stick a fork in it!
    I imagine people do bug you, knowing you're not working a nine to five job. Smart to just ignore the call.

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    1. It nearly kill me. I am leaving my phone in the kitchen and I set my kids to a different ring tone. If I stopped working with an employer, the way I do now- I'd be fired on day one.

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  2. You're so funny! "When the timer dings, it's done. Oh wait, that's how to know when a cake is done baking!" I think your time management plan will work. It's SO tough to set boundaries when it comes to our writing (and many other things). Women are conditioned to believe we have to be there for everyone--kids, parents, friends, relatives... We have to learn to say, "I'm writing from 3pm-5pm every day" (or whatever) and not negotiate on that.

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    1. And we have a lot of flexibility to our schedule, so it's so easy to say yes until you have no free time left.

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  3. Great example Elizabeth, A wonderful post to read and digest.
    Yvonne.

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  4. LOL! Completely simple.

    Hey, it sounds like you've adopted the same system I have! Granted, my writing time is interrupted by kids asking school questions, but I've actually heard it's the switching your brain between tasks that slows productivity. That's why Wednesday is my blogging day. Tuesday is my Tweeting day. Facebook gets an hour each night. Email has time at the beginning of the day. Writing... Well, we do our best, eh?

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    1. We all have the same number of hours in a day, yet people like you use them more efficiently. And it took some hard reality for me to accept that I don't multi-task well. The more I try to do at once, the bigger the chaos in my life.

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  5. Your new system sounds great! I'm glad to hear it's working for you. Keep at it, keep going! :)

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  6. That is the way to be. I write and don't stop until I need a break and then I'll answer email or what have you.

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    1. I write last. If I start off writing, I'd never even want to stop to brush my teeth.

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  7. I never looked at it as sometimes the brain HAS to shut down, so maybe writer's block isn't so bad after all. It's saving our brains! lol

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    1. I suppose we're like computers...too much too soon and it freezes.

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  8. OH! OH! OH! You just summed up my current status perfectly, Elizabeth: an overwhelmed-human melt down! Any medication for that? LOL! Great post and I love your system. Thank you for sharing. Have a great week.

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    1. I've tried to find a medication, but nothing so far. I suggest wine and air. Sip, breathe...repeat until calm.

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  9. I love the idea of setting up a schedule. I'm going to need to do it anyway, once I retire in three years. I just have so little time anyway. And I have to discipline myself to follow it.

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    1. I suppose it just takes some getting used to being your own boss and keeping yourself on task. I mean, when you're your own boss, it's really easy to talk her into playing hooky day after day.

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  10. Yeah those people who think writer's have no job can be annoying. Guess I get money from that sugar daddy that has a fetish for seeing me type. *Eye roll*
    Anyway that baking analogy was awesome and I think Kermit needs a smaller cupcake.

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    1. Best comment ever. I am so laughing!!

      Exactly where do I find that sort of sugar daddy?

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  11. Yes, yes, yes! I'm going to start one of those notebooks. Thank you for the great idea, Elizabeth!
    And, I agree. Let's stick a fork in it. :)

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    1. I do love my notebook. You can even use it for grocery lists.

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  12. I really like your idea of 'chunking time'. I have a severe case of that 'Oh, look a chicken' disease and have days when I feel I get nothing done.

    As far as that 'cake analogy' well first of all it made me want cake, then I LOLed, but in the end there is some good insight there. Now, where's my fork.

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    1. Being naturally undisciplined, I had to figure out a way to make myself stick to some sort of schedule. Without it, I bounced between things so often the only thing I was accomplishing was frustration.

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  13. The biggest questions for writers: Where do I start and where do I end? The middle just has to keep from being saggy. Isn't it all fun, though?

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    1. That darned middle. Always causing trouble!!

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  14. I think you're so smart to set up a schedule like this! Megan Miranda once told me that she treats her writing time like a job. She doesn't answer phone calls or emails while her kids are at school—that is her writing time. I've tried to adopt that habit, but I'm still finding it hard not to stop what I'm doing and answer an email or check out social media. I may have to adopt your schedule! :)

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    1. First of all, you have to shut off the ping notifications. I can NOT ignore a ping. And it's all about the writing, right? If we're not accomplishing that- what are we doing?

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  15. After some of my commenters mentioned that my post was the second one they'd read with the baking analogy, I just had to come over after one of them identified you as the culprit. You and I must have tapped into the same wavelength when writing our posts. And I thought I was being absurdly original. Actually I was striving to be absurd with my post.

    I agree with your point about "writer's block". I don't use that term myself. Your "not knowing where to start" is far more accurate than any kind of mental block. In my case I think of it as just being lazy and not really wanting to write.

    I should follow your example and actually stick to the schedule I plan for myself. Instead I can always find a distraction--like baking cookies.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I feel so smart!! If great minds think alike, well, I am in good company.

      I think I was also channeling a bit of the absurd...done? As a writer, I don't know that I have a clue what that is. I mean, I wish it was as easy as baking a cake. Box says 40 minutes...set a timer, boom you're done.

      I don't know about the laziness. You're the last person I'd ever guess as lazy. I think it really is just not knowing what we should be doing at that moment. Maybe we should roll dice and pick a job and get to it.

      (And my family always supports my decision to bake cookies over working.)

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  16. That's a good plan. That's how I clean house too, as I used to just flit from room to room, and take forever. Now I tackle one room and stick to it, ignoring the others until I'm ready to move on to them. And Kermit either looks thrilled to have such a giant cupcake, or terrified someone is getting ready to take it, lol!

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    1. I am so bad about staying on task, I have started cleaning rooms from the left of the door, around the wall, and then the center. I started it when my kids were little and rooms would always be filled with odd items from around the house. As I moved through the room, I'd toss things into stacks in the middle...dirty clothes, toys, dishes...all in their own piles and then haul them off in larger clumps. (As I type that, I realize, we really know how to dirty a room!! But in my defense...at one time, I had four kids under the age of 6.)

      I'm going with terrified. Poor old Kermit just doesn't know how to deal with a monster cupcake.

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  17. Overwhelmed-human melt downs. Been there, done that. Your new system sounds great. I've tried setting up plans like that but haven't been able to make them work yet, which means I just need to keep tweaking them until they do work. Love the Kermit photo!

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    1. It works about half. I'm still me...so far today I've been distracted by Hurricane Michael updates and a cinnamon crumb cake. We'll just have to stick with it!

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  18. Wait a minute. That timer thing is a good idea. There must be some way someone can invent a device that tells us when our story is ready. I don't want the responsibility to be on my shoulders. Man, this writing stuff is hard.

    Most of my distractions are self-inflicted. Have to learn to not worry about other things when I'm trying to write.

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    1. There is NaNoWriMo...if you dare call something done on a timer.

      I have a mix of self-inflicted and life-inflicted distractions.

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  19. Okay, I'm waiting. So where's my darned cake???

    Fun post. The whole analogy with the timer and sticking a fork in it worked well. It sounds like your time management plan is working well, too. Keep it up! Since I've set aside early mornings to write, I've gotten so much more done. At that time of day, the only distractions are our cats, and well, they're gonna be crawling all over me, no matter what time of day I sit down.

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    1. I thought for sure I mailed that cake...hmm.

      I'm so glad to hear you're finding writing time! I'm so ready to read more of your good stuff!

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  20. I love your way: stick a fork in it. So simple. LOL
    And I absolutely agree with this statement of yours: "There is always something that we could be working on." Yes! Definitely. Because if there isn't, we're dead. That's the beauty of being a writer.

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    1. We do have the privilege of never being bored, that's for sure!

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  21. Frost and serve! Love that.

    Now that I'm working again, I find it more essential to create 'time blocks'. You'll find it very useful.

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    1. Stupid bills. Why do we have to pay for things? You have an attention span that I would love to have- I know you'll find the balance.

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  22. Haha! I love the cake analogy, it says it all. And I'm like you. I've learned to separate out the social media/marketing time-suck from writing, only answer calls from the daughter or hubs, and write notes as I think of them instead rushing to the internet to research. I use placeholders in my writing if I need to, i.e. when I don't know what to call a certain kind of weapon or gun, etc. The hubs is amazingly lackadaisical when I question him about weapons. Some men might be nervous. LOL.

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    1. That's an excellent idea. I can lose a lot of writing time researching something. I suffer from this sickness where I can't just read the info on one page, I have to visit at least ten.

      I think my husband enjoys being part of the process. He is always game for weird questions.

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  23. Love your chunking time idea. It's so easy to get distracted by all the things that aren't done and never get around to writing.

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    1. Exactly. Even jut trying to keep a blog up could take hours and hours a day. There has to be limits.

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  24. I'm going to take a piece of your writing advice. I get so distracted. Constantly and never get the writing done my way. As to timers, I love the idea of it working like a cake. Especially when the frosting is super sweet!

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    1. Do the frosting just right, you can even use it to fill in holes and cracks. LOL.

      You have a whole farm full of distractions! You will definitely need to make a plan.

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  25. LOL; when the timer dings! What a novel idea. Yeah, we can edit/revise/crit a story into death and disinterest.

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    1. I'm guilty of that! Just ask my mother...she busts me all the time, says it makes my writing sound snotty and stiff.

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  26. Great post! "Stick a fork in it." LOL Yep, that works.

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  27. I love your test for doneness. :D

    Since I'm usually writing on my lunch, I can't help some interruptions from people who walk into the room or call me. It's like, I'm at lunch people! Leave me alone! Oh well.

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  28. As writers, I think we always want to keep writing and tweaking a story, but as readers we tend to feel when something's complete. My two cents:)

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  29. It's the same attitude I've taken, all things need some attention, but not all my attention all the time. Love that! It's the only way to get things done!

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  30. I love your time management methodology. You are so right in regards to writing. There really isn't a point when you're done.

    As for the story, CPs can be helpful. I liked what one author shared, that when they are down to nitpicking a word here or a word there, it's definitely time to hit send.

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