“I’ve been so busy the last couple of weeks I just didn’t have time to write anything, but I promise I’ll have something next time.” I’ve attended hundreds of writing group sessions, and I almost always hear some version of this explanation. In fact, I admit that rather than writing something new, I’ve recycled old stories more than a couple of times myself.
Who doesn’t find it a challenge to carve out writing time, at least now and then?
If this is a chronic problem for you, here’s a time tested idea: keep a time log for a week. I know. How can you find more time by spending precious minutes a day doing an OCD thing like that? Here’s the deal. You can’t control an unknown quantity and this is a specialized instance of the concept that writing makes thinking visible. If you know how you typically spend your time, you can find ways to carve out an extra hour or two. If you really want to.
The chart below is a relic I recently found while sorting through files from my previous life in corporate training. I used it in time management modules. It may not bear much resemblance to your life, but you’ll see how this works.
In this example, work takes 50 hours out of the person’s 168 hour week. Perhaps this includes commuting time, maybe not. It may include answering emails at home in the evening, or lunch hour with friends. 50 hours is 50 hours, leaving 118 hours for other activities.
That 56 hours for sleep allows for 8 hours a night. A healthy choice. Maintenance stuff may be cooking and cleaning, paying bills, sorting laundry … whatever. Work and sleep together consume all but 62 hours.
TV/Internet time may be low. Maybe it includes email and Facebook. The Internet addition is new right now. I did not refer to that 25 years ago. Few people had access to the Internet at that point, and we watched a lot more TV. The old version had no mention of writing either.
You may notice no time is allotted for recreation, childcare, or anything fun. Who would want to live this person’s life?
A list like the one above may help you may find a way to carve a couple of hours a week out of work time by eating lunch at your desk while you write for half an hour a day or asking family members for more help with chores.
Chances are good that you find that while you’re at your computer intending to write, you drift off following whimsical links. If this is the case, help is at hand. Allow yourself one more web search for “apps to disable the internet on a computer.” You’ll find all sorts of apps, from Plain Old Writing apps that fill your screen and block distractions to tips on configuring your firewall to block Facebook, Twitter, or whatever for several hours a day.
Or, you may confirm a hunch that the distractions are avoidance behavior. That’s another kettle of fish for another post.
Bottom line, you’ll never know where your time goes if you don’t keep track. You’ll have only yourself to thank. Celebrate your success when you complete the week.
Something to try: find a small notebook you can keep in your pocket. Keep track of your time for a single day. Keep trying until you master this challenge. Then go for a week. Sort out your results in a table similar to what you see, and make decisions about possible changes. Have fun and write about your experience later.