Happy New Year to all writers and readers everywhere – it’s time for you to reach your goals. And to help you do so, here is the last guide to time management and organization you will ever need.
There is always something magical about the start of a fresh year. We are always filled with determination to turn things around and achieving more in the forthcoming months. So, this year, Writer to Writers will dedicate all its powers to helping you find the best way to reach what you are aiming for.
In today’s article we will discuss techniques, tricks and hacks which you can use to improve your time management. You will get some ideas on how to stay determined and learn new methods to help you organize.
Here is what we’ll talk about:
- How to Set Your Goals
- Keep Track of Time
- Reach Your Goals
How to Set Your Goals
This is the first segment of what appears to be a long article. Here you will read about some of the ways you can decide on what to aim for. As most people get a block in front of an empty board, you will now have a clear vision of where you are going.
It’s easy to find inspiration. Stare at green, meditate or read a book and it’ll come. But, keeping that drive is not as easy. So, we have some ideas for you.
You must have heard before about the jar of rocks. Simply put, consider this year a jar that needs to be filled with big rocks, small rocks and sand. The way you decide to fill the jar will determine what and how much you will achieve.
So, staying true to the metaphor, we define big rocks as your major goals in this year. Pick three big rocks of the greatest importance (finishing that draft, starting a new series, publishing your first novel, etc.) Now, it’s time to put in the small rocks which represent all the things you have to do (edit that story, go to that birthday party, go to the regular check-up at your doctor’s, etc.) And lastly, pour in the sand which are all the little things you always have to do (checking e-mail, tweeting, driving kids to school, etc.)
Seems silly sometimes but this is a technique for prioritizing your tasks. So, take a notebook (personally, I recommend Moleskine because of their tradition with writers) and on the very first page write down your 2018 Goals. Write them from the most important one (publish a new novel, for example) to less important ones to finally the least important but common tasks (for example, reply to e-mails every evening, post to your blog twice a week).
This is simply an extension of the previous one. But, there is a twist. This part only refers to your writing. Only you know how many ideas for novels, stories, novellas and co-writing opportunities you can juggle about. Well, sometimes we can get entangled in our own visions and ambitions. Numerous times writers find themselves writing multiple drafts or writing one book while plotting the other.
Unless you are one of those people who can pull it off, and most people rarely can, you will need to prioritize. But, what if on the day you are about to prioritize you get a brilliant idea that suits your current mood? Most probably you will give it the highest mark that day, but after a while when your mood changes it is very possible you will temporarily lose interest in that story.
So, be critical.
Consider more factors when prioritizing your projects. This is what you should do: open a new Excel table and write in one column titles and working titles of all the projects you want done at some point. Sort them nicely so that if you want to write a trilogy the three books are one after another. Don’t worry if you don’t have titles or anything – it’s important that you know what you are referring to, no one else.
Now, next to it write some sort of note, whether the genre or some keyword or a color or a short description. Next to it write down your goal in the number of words, so you can plan your writing pace as well. And finally, give it a grade from A to F, where A is the highest mark and F is the lowest.
But, before you give it a grade, consider more aspects. What do you want from it? Do you want to earn money? Consider the profitability of that genre and the idea in general. Do you want to do it out of passion? Focus on how passionate you are about the idea. Do you want to do it for awards and appreciation? Consider how strong it is against your other ideas and your competition.
Finding out what drives your passion about an idea will ultimately help you decide on its priority.
Keep Track of Time
Here is something we all talk about and know the theory of but not everyone manages to go through with it. Keeping track of your time, hitting deadlines, reaching small goals, accounting for unexpected, controlling your productivity and your mood – all of that needs energy and determination. It can be overwhelming at times.
Agendas: Daily, Weekly and Monthly
We wrote down our goals for 2018 by now. So, let’s split that. Now that you know what the first and most important thing to you is, we can decide on time.
First, how many words do you write on an average day? Also, do you write every day? Crunch the numbers now and see how much time you need to write that 70,000 words long fantasy you’ve always wanted to write. Calculate now, I can wait.
Good. Now, set your January goal. Make writing your first goal and simply list out other things you have to do in January. Website needs maintenance? Someone commissioned an article? Have a short story to write? Put them all below.
Do this every month. Do it at the beginning of the month. Or, even better at the very end of a month. You can, possibly, do the same thing every Sunday for the next week.
And finally, every evening, when all is done and you are proud, sit down and write the agenda for the next day. Write three big things you want to do the next day. I’m serious, commit to planning three big things every day. It’s not that big when it’s on the scale of one day. You’ll never plan writing the whole act of a book in a day (unless you know you can do it). On this scale, writing a chapter, learning about ads and bullet-proofing your plot are the big three things, for example.
Aim higher than you can reach. We all sometimes fall short. So, make your goals just a little out of reach and do your best to achieve your daily agenda. If you don’t reach your goals for the day you’ll have done exactly as you do on an average day. But, if you hit all three you’ll burst with pride. And rightfully so.
This way you will push your boundaries but all within your comfort zone.
Set Up Those Deadlines
Whether you like them or hate them or are indifferent to them, deadlines are your friends. Of course, if you only write for the love of language and have no intention of publishing for an impatient audience, skip this part.
The best way to set up deadlines is to be realistic about the amount you can produce. Having a ticking clock with too little time creates unnecessary pressure. Give yourself some breathing space. Unexpected things, whether good or bad, can happen at any time. Best have your schedule ready for winning that week-long vacation in Prague.
So, this is what you’ll do. Crunch those numbers again and see how long it will take you to write the first draft. Give yourself a week more to cover the days you get distracted and the days you really don’t feel up to it.
Having that monthly agenda and writing your daily agenda will help immensely with this method.
Inspect Your Time
How much time would you say you spend on social media? And what do you do while sipping the evening tea? I’ll tell you one thing I know – I could do hell of a lot more during my tea time. I usually spend that time reading about the topics I know little about. Often I get so immersed in the subject I abandon everything else for the sake of it.
Now, that’s not good. But here is the hook. If you spend a week, or even a couple of days, inspecting your time, you’ll hit a gold mine. We spend so much time on little things we don’t care about or that aren’t important. Take a notebook and keep it with you for a few days. Write down all your activities and the amount of time spent on them.
If you are someone who enjoys writing sprints you’ll find a lot more time to do them On the other hand, if you prefer spending more time pondering over your thoughts, as I do for the most of my writing time, you’ll have some interesting stats. I mean, you will find out how much time you waste or spend not so efficiently, and you will be able to change that.
You will then create a little schedule which will contain the categories of the things you usually do. Tiny chords like washing the dishes or picking the leaves will end up in one category for which you will dedicate an hour or two of your day. Work, if you are employed besides writing, will take up a great deal of your time. TV and entertainment could be scheduled nicely and in most cases sized down a little. And there, you end up with a great big piece of time you never knew you had.
Guess what? I am writing this while commuting. Every single day I have a total of two hours of commute. On a weekly basis it almost amounts to one whole day (not counting the sleeping time). If I can write a thousand words per hour that means I can pull off almost a full chapter a day only during the most boring time of my life. Wouldn’t you agree?
If you too have a long commute, and we can consider everything over 15 minutes a commute long enough to use it well, there’s your time. If you hang around KBoards and similar forums you’ll have met a lot of writers who write while commuting. It’s a valuable time that you would otherwise waste.
Reach Your Goals
And here we are at last. You will now be fully equipped time-wise to sit down and write. After you write it, you’ll edit, send it for review, edit again, publish and market. All of that awaits you this year. Be sure to prepare yourself well. The preparation part will keep you going day after day. It will keep you determined because you know you weighed all your options and decided for the optimal one.
Never forget to reward yourself. It’s paramount your brain gets its dopamine hit every now and then when it proves productive. It’s important that you feel good when you reach your daily goals – it’ll keep you going the next day.
Also, never forget to stay hydrated. It’s would seem obvious but it’s so common for people to simply forget it. That is when our brains slow down a little. Have a cup of tea while writing – it’s useful as much as it’s romantically inspirational.
And finally, be proud of yourself. You are writing whenever you can and you are doing it on a fixed schedule. You are a writer, a creative. That is more than enough to make you smile.
Writer to Writers wishes you a very happy, productive and ambitious 2018!
As always, keep writing.
Author: Mladen Reljanović
Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.