If you do creative work, you might consider how to get more done in less time. In the world of multitasking, creatives can become lost because they scatter their thoughts and feelings among too many things to do. I’ve read advice for creatives about making chores into activities. Run all your errands in one afternoon. Cook and freeze enough meals all day to feed everyone for a week or more. Answer routine emails once a week until your inbox is empty.
Of course, I’m going to talk specifically about writers here. You probably know that I’ve done a lot of research on time management and personal organization. And I’ve come up with a set of guidelines from all the research to use myself.
Over the last two or three years, though, I’ve become frustrated with my schedule, which in theory should work so well. I kept wondering why it didn’t. I’m going to show you what I used to do, and what I’m doing now. And why I think what I’m doing now is better.
My days had a set schedule/routine, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I take Thursday and Sunday off—Thursday to shop instead of the weekend, and to do other errands, perhaps see a doctor, whatever comes up. Sunday is my unplug day—I check email morning and night, but the rest of the day I [try to] stay away from the computer.
This is what my schedule looks like:
- Get up, get dressed, get coffee and orange juice, turn on computer, make bed while computer warms up.
- Drink coffee and juice, read and respond to emails.
- Write 1,000 words on work in progress—fiction
- Eat lunch while reading newspaper (resting eyes from computer glare)
- Housework, more email, odd jobs—not my best time of day to do creative work. I have one chore planned for each day—bathroom and kitchen day, dust and dry mop day, vacuum day, and so on—more about this later.
- Four o’clock, put computer aside, no more housework, relax for an hour, reading a book.
- Five o’clock, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up kitchen, read or do email until seven.
- Seven o’clock, work for one hour on a writing project or marketing.
- Eight o’clock, downtime or more email, Facebook.
- Nine o’clock, more writing projects
- Ten—finish up on computer, shut it down. Read until bedtime.
Okay, I left out personal grooming, talking to my husband, goofing off.
You’ll notice I don’t watch TV. Well, rarely, I watch football games once a week during the season, and the occasional show my husband is recommending, or a movie he’s watching. Not really my thing, though.
Looks really good on paper, doesn’t it? Not that many hours of work.
The trouble is that the marketing also gets interspersed in there—Twitter, Facebook, blog articles, a newsletter every so often, and lots of other stuff I can’t even remember now. If I don’t schedule those times to relax, I don’t relax.
And usually, by 7 o’clock, I don’t want to do anything more. There’s simply too much stuff! Scattered stuff.
So, I have a new plan using the project idea.
- Mornings stay the same except the writing new stuff switches to marketing when I’ve finished a project until I can’t think of another way to promote that project, then I go back to new writing.
- Afternoons stay the same except I do projects instead of small bits of housework—my plan is:
- Monday, major project, will differ each week.
- Tuesday groceries, some cooking in advance.
- Wednesday, catch up on email/home office work.
- Friday/clean house.
- Saturday laundry..
But evenings become either more writing/editing or marketing—in other words, not doing both every night, again, until it’s done for the latest project.
I’m not saying this is going to help, but it might. I’m a bit excited about this experiment. But would it be better to continue in the afternoon working on writing and marketing, and doing the other chores after dinner? Like with a regular job? Or reverse it and do the housework/chores first thing, get them out of the way, then spend the rest of the day writing? I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.
So, I’ll report back in a month or so. Stay tuned!