Frankly, it would be laughable for me to make an attempt to advise anyone else about time management. I've got hours of actual work to do still, and as I write this it's 12 am on a Monday night. I have to get up at 10 am by the latest to start a new day. I don't even have time for this blog post, but the post I was going to write was all about sticking with your commitments. It was so preachy, I decided to save it and edit it down for another day (I've got to remove all none-too-subtle judgments). Honestly, if I knew a thing about time management I would get more than 5 hours of sleep a night. But here's what I can do: I can tell you how not to end up like me.
Time Can't Be Managed
First things first: admit defeat. Wave the white flag, and give in. You can stress about time, you can plan, you can make lists, you can set alarms and you can create all the rules you want, but time is still going to win. It marches on. Time can't really be managed, but you can learn how to live with it peacefully -- declare a truce, if you will. It's the best you can hope for when you're a writer, because no matter what you do (or how independently wealthy you become) there's never going to be enough time for all the stories that deserve to be written.
So now that you know you're waging a losing battle, you're in the appropriate mindset. The only way to win, or at least to escape with your dignity, is to make the most out of your time.
- Get your priorities in order, or at least figure out what they are.
I'd rather be working on my newest book right now. I haven't touched it since Saturday and won't get 'round to it again for many days to come, I'm sure, but I'm doing this instead. I don't get much time, but I make a list of things I'm definitely going to do for the author aspect of my life. Writing blog posts is one of them, so here we are. What are your priorities and your must-dos?
Once you know what you have to do, you'll know what's acceptable to skip. First thing off my list when I'm in a time crunch? Going through forums, naturally. This can be put off for another day, or three.
- Say no, sometimes.
You know what takes up a lot of time? Favors and extra commitments. You don't have to beta-read, post reviews, write guest posts or even participate -- unless you said you would. Once you say yes, you're locked in (and a serious time crunch may not be far behind).
So learn how to say no. This is where I fail, because I pretty much never turn anything down. You don't want to end up exhausted like me, so just get used to saying no. Do it politely and prettily and wrap it up in great words all you want, but say it: no!
- Recognize distractions for what they are.
There are a lot of demands on your time when you're an author, and work full-time and have a life to juggle on top of all of that. When Twitter is going off and your email inbox is screaming at you and you're getting comments on your blog, it all feels very important. But is it, really? Stop taking time out of your workday to answer emails, respond to tweets, poke around on Facebook and reply to all those blog comments. All that stuff can wait, even if it feels urgent.
They're just distractions, cleverly disguised as important stuff. There's always time to catch up on your social media and to respond to the fans; they know that you've got lots of things putting demands on your time. Getting sidetracked is a great way to waste your valuable time.
- Keep everything organized sensibly, from dresser to desktop.
Make it easier on yourself by getting organized -- everywhere. Clean up your workspace, your dresser drawers, your desktop and even your inbox, if it's a mess. The more time you spend looking for that document or trying to find that favorite T-shirt, the less time you're spending on getting stuff done. This is one thing I excel at, and I'm still a total mess when it comes to time management.
Keep a set of review copies in a single folder in your computer, along with all your profile pictures, author biographies, book blurbs and other promotional items. This way, you can access your stuff to respond to emails quickly. Organize your drawers in the order that you get dressed: underwear, T-shirts, socks, accessories. Arrange stuff on your desk according to how often you use it, and keep important items handy. Find other ways to get organized, and clean up your life to squeeze more valuable time out of every day.
Good time management will keep you from falling behind, becoming overwhelmed with work and ending up exhausted...like me.