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••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - Lifestyles

Time Management Skills for Writers
• Indiana Lee
Writing consists of many things. It’s a way to record personal thoughts, communicate with the world, make a living, voice opinions, report facts — but above all, writing is a lifestyle. No one “writes for a living.” They’re a writer. It’s an identity, a way of life.

Time Management

However, strongly identifying with something like writing can be a bit of a two-edged sword. Like most art, writing doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Nor does it occur instantaneously. Often it requires hours, days, weeks, months, and years of a person’s time. If this happens without proper time management, it can lead to exhaustion, unhappiness, and burnout.

Tips for Time Management as a Writer

If you’re a writer that struggles to find a balance between being a stellar wordsmith and simultaneously maintaining a healthy work-life balance, take heart! You’re not alone. Here are some time-management tips and skills to help you better understand both how you write and what steps you can take to improve your productivity and efficiency in order to better manage your time.

Organize and Streamline

If you find yourself short on time each day, one of the first steps you can take to free up your schedule is to streamline small, repetitive activities. Look for things that you have to do but which don’t require creativity or intensive editing.

For instance, you can create templates that make applications and cover letters quick to pull together. If you’re a freelancer, you can also look for a good invoicing template that makes the notoriously burdensome payment process relatively quick and easy.

In addition, take the time to organize and optimize your workspace. Keep your clients’ documents in separate work folders on your computer, maintain spreadsheets to track payments, and generally, ensure that your physical writing space is clean and tidy. By optimizing your workspace, streamlining minor activities, and generally getting organized, you can slowly free up larger pockets of time that can significantly reduce the stress of each day.

Train Yourself to Write on Command

It may insult your sense of artistry, but most writers can write on command if they push themselves. Sure, it won’t be your greatest composition of all time, but forcing yourself to produce copy is an excellent way to push through writers block and meet deadlines on time. You can try this by:

  1. Making a productivity plan — a key activity for most productive endeavors — for each day and then committing to sticking to it.
  2. Removing all distractions so that you can focus on writing.
  3. Trying productivity methods, like the Pomodoro Technique, to provide gentle pressure and keep you focused.

If you can train your mind to write on command, it can overcome writer’s block and keep you producing even when you feel sluggish. While you may have to rewrite a draft written “on command,” the simple act of keeping those fingers typing can enable you to avoid getting into a rut. This translates into less time wasted sitting, staring at a blank page for hours on end.

Discover Your Best Time to Write

Ernest Hemingway was famous for writing “every morning as soon after first light as possible.” The author felt his head was clear and he was able to compose undisturbed. This serves as an excellent example, not that writers should always write first thing in the morning, but rather that they should look for the time of day when writing is the easiest for them.

Take the time to consider what time of day you write best. Then strive to adjust your schedule so that you can compose during those hours as much as possible. This can do wonders in increasing your creative productivity which, in turn, enables you to write faster, enjoy yourself, feel less burned out, and ultimately have more time for other things.

Study Your Productivity

Along with studying when you’re the most productive, analyze how productive you are in the first place. Are you a turtle or hare when you write? Do the words fly out and then suddenly stop or do you need to plod along slow and steady?

How quickly do you complete something that you’ve started? Isaac Asimov wrote over 500 books in his lifetime, while J.R.R. Tolkien took nearly two decades to write The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Regardless of your specific rate of composition, knowing how quickly you write allows you to set  proper expectations on a daily basis. This helps you avoid taking on too much work or overcrowding your schedule.

Take Time for Self Care

The condition of your body and mind can significantly affect your ability to write. With that said, self-care is essential to maintaining both the quality and quantity of your writing over time.

On the one hand, if you are hungry, you may be tempted to grab some convenient fast food so that you can get back to work quickly. However, leaning on fast food to answer those hunger pangs can lead to headaches, shortness of breath, a blood sugar spike, and even depression. Instead, look for a lighter, healthier food option, such as a salad, some grilled chicken, or a bowl of granola to keep you awake and your mind sharp.

On the other hand, take the time to preserve your mind as well. Writing is mentally exhausting, and you want to take steps to avoid overtaxing your brain. If you don’t do so, you can end up wasting time spinning your wheels, metaphorically speaking. This is especially true if you suffer from a mental illness, such as anxiety or depression. If that’s the case, consider taking breaks from writing to get more exercise to help you focus.

In addition, look for solutions offered by your healthcare provider. Treatment for mental illness is increasingly covered to various degrees by different health plans, and you may be able to receive help without an exorbitant price tag attached.

Managing Time as a Writer

There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” time management solution for a writer. The very inconsistency and creativity of writing make it nearly impossible to be formulaic about the matter.

However, if you take the time to get organized, reduce menial tasks, study how you write, and care for your body and mind, it can help you gain a better grasp of both your productivity and efficiency. Once you’ve done that, you can create a schedule that is tailored to your unique preferences, ensuring that you have time for both work and leisure on a regular basis.

© Indiana Lee August 5th 2020

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