Let’s talk about time. Specifically the management of it when it comes to writing. As the far too high number of blog entries that I’ve published on the wrong side of midnight in this “Countdown to NaNoWriMo” series attests, (they’re the ones with “(ish)” in the title and the “belated posts” tags), time management is not one of my strengths.
And the sad thing is, I really don’t have much of an excuse. I’m not working, so I don’t have job duties during the day to dissuade me from getting a jump on things. I do have job seeking duties, such as dropping off applications, checking career sites, adjusting my résumé and cover letters and all that fun stuff, though that doesn’t occupy as much time as an actual job would. I do have family commitments also, notably the school run. But none of that’s the reason for my poor writing time management, merely excuses.
The reason is that, when it comes to writing, I’m an inveterate procrastinator. Sure, I should be writing that blog post now, but there’s already 10 new replies on the FLOTSAM game thread on nanowrimo.org, or perhaps I’ll read just one more chapter of the book I’m reading (Currently it’s Nocturne by Nick Kyme) or there’s a new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on abc.com.
Those things are all very pleasant distractions but they are all also not writing. And when NaNo starts, free time spent not writing is mugging you of word count and keeping the goal ever so slightly further ahead.
So what to do to avoid the dreaded curse of procrastination and not writing? I wish I had a solid answer to that, but it’s different for everybody. My solution is to set aside a block of time every day for writing. I’m something of a night owl, so I tend to be most productive if I set my block fairly late in the day. To that end, 10:00PM to midnight is my “writing time.” (If you look at the times these blog entries go live on the East Coast, you’ll see it’s usually slap bang in the middle of that block…) Not everybody necessarily has that sort of time or the ability to write for two solid hours, so schedule what works for you. You may be one of these mysterious, possibly fictional people known as a “morning person,” or find that you write best in half hour chunks, so schedule your blocks accordingly.
Another common strategy to encourage time spent sitting and writing is the reward method, which uses positive reinforcement. For example, I have a caffeine addiction. Perhaps during NaNo, I won’t allow myself a cup of coffee until I’ve gotten at least 30 straight minutes of non-distracted work done during a writing session. (This would likely leave me a withered, lifeless husk, so is probably not recommended. It’s not pretty when things get between me and caffeinated beverages.
The other big way for me to reduce procrastination is to disconnect from the internet for a while. While it’s a wonderful networking tool and super handy for quick research, the internet might also be the finest time waster the world’s ever known. If I really need to get some writing done, I’ll disconnect (including my smartphone) for a bit (I can seldom go more than fifteen minutes), after all, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress and Instagram can all survive without my obsessively checking them.
What do you do to give yourself writing time, and when are you the most productive?