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How to find your optimum writing time

Time management isn’t so much about managing time as it is about managing our own behavior—how we spend time. A financial planner I know notes that people hate the word “budget” because it sounds like a restriction. So instead she advises her clients to develop a “spending plan.” You know you’re going to spend your money, so plan on it. We can do the same thing with time.

But how do you figure out what a time budget should look like?

Ramit Sethi, who writes the I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog, uses a goal-setting system called Think, Want, Do:

Think: Compare where you think your time is going now, and where it’s really going.
Want: Establish what you want to do. Set goals.
Do: Figure out when you could do it. Plan and schedule.

To do your comparison, I recommend a time and motion study. You don’t have to be as anal about this as some employers, noting exactly what you do every minute. Just do a self-check once an hour, to look back and see what you accomplished. Do that for at least a week. A month is better. You’ll see where your time is really going.

Include interruptions and breaks. Highlight anything unplanned that came up. Note what went particularly well or poorly. Note when you’re most in the zone, when your brain is too fuzzy to work, and when your kids are most likely to interrupt.

The best time for writing will be when your mind is sharp, your energy is good, and you’re least likely to be interrupted.

This could be first thing in the morning, or lunchtime, or evenings. Everyone has different rhythms, not only internally but in terms of family life. The key is to work with those rhythms instead of fighting them.

Your goal can be time-based: “I will spend an hour writing every day.” Or it could be productivity based: “I will write 3,000 words per week.” Include not only your writing goals, but personal goals like how much time you’ll spend with your spouse or on your church work.

To implement your goals, block off time on your calendar. For example, I write after dinner. I plan my Sunday school lessons on Saturday afternoon. Too often when we have families and day jobs, we try to cram writing into our “spare time.” The problem is that spare time, like spare change, doesn’t buy much. Spare change will get you a candy bar once in a while, but it’s no way to pay for your kid’s college education.

Establishing a college fund, like writing a novel, requires diligently setting aside a specific amount each week. Plan on it.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

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