Time Management Reboot

One of the things I’ve come to realize as I close in on the end of year two of working as a full-time author (it’s hard for me to believe that it’s been that long!) is that my time management has really suffered, and it’s now my goal to get back in control of my schedule and, by extension, my productivity.

Sure, the last couple years have been fraught with schedule-rippers, most of which have been in the last year since we moved from Maryland to Florida, and most recently our six week summer RV trip, during which I’m writing this.

On reflection, my typical day at home in Sarasota involved a heck of a lot of unaccounted hours when I should have been working but wasn’t. Okay, I don’t want to work like a dog like I was the last few years of my government career, when I was working a full time job for the Fed during the day and writing a couple-few hours every night and all day during the weekends. You’d think that I’d be writing a lot more now that I’m doing it full-time, but I’m not. I’m writing some more, but not nearly as much as I should be based on the additional time I now have to write.

Why? Because I’ve been slacking off, plain and simple. This is one of the biggest problems with being self-employed and working at home. You have to hold yourself accountable, because it’s very easy to let things slide out of control until you’ve become a productivity slug, and that’s what’s happened to me. And when I say I should be putting out more, it’s not a case of rushing things or cutting corners to get books out faster. It’s a matter of using the available time during the day (or night) to the best advantage business-wise, with the core of it focused on – gasp! – writing new material. And in this business it’s important to get new books out because today’s bestseller’s are tomorrow’s backlist titles. Being an author is quite literally a publish or (financially) perish endeavor.

So, once we get home from this RV junket, I’m going to start working on a schedule, getting up at 6 AM and finishing business for the day between 4 and 5 PM. General tasks will be prioritized, with writing being loaded into the morning part of the schedule before lunch. That way, if I do need to cut out somewhere before my full work day is done, the most critical bit of business will have been accomplished. My business won’t fall apart if I don’t get the afternoon stuff done every single day, but I’ve got to put in a good four hours of writing every work day (and four hours is about all I can handle before my wrists get fatigued). And if things get too distracting, I’m going to pick my butt up and go to the mall or somewhere else where I can focus while I’m writing.

Believe it or not, time management is for everyone, and it’s a learned skill (I was doing really well at it while I was still working my day job!). If there are things you’d like to get done but you “just don’t have the time,” think again. Maybe you can’t get it done as fast as you want because you can’t devote as much time to it as you’d like, but you can accomplish a great deal if you just cut out some of the time you’re actually wasting, or prioritize things differently. Align your time and your goals, and you’ll be surprised what you can do. That’s what helped me get to where I am now, and I think I’m ready to get my butt in gear again and take it to the next level. How about you??

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12 thoughts on “Time Management Reboot

  • AJ Powers

    Isn’t that the truth, my friend? I struggle a lot with that right now, though I am employed full time. My problem is that every day my job demands creativity out of me. It doesn’t matter if I like what I am working on, or if I am even feeling creative, I have to somehow find out how to be creative on demand which is a very draining, and nearly impossible to do (certainly impossible to do ALL the time). So when I get home from work each night, after spending time with the family and winding down I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to write, or do anything creative in the evenings. It’s much easier to watch TV or read a book than to start figuring out plot twists, character development, and sentence structures. I’ve been making myself do it, though. It’s not yielded my finest writing, but I’m slowly gaining momentum and hope that the excitement and passion for writing will overcome the exhausted creativity by the evening.

    Good for you, though, for taking charge on that. I can imagine how easy it would be to fall into a rut by being self employed with no outside deadlines forcing you to accomplish tasks. Best of luck with your new schedule. Looking forward to what you write next.

  • Ryan Schneider

    This is a great post, Mike. Something for all of us to revisit.

    I’ve been in the same boat you’re in; not enough productivity given the amount of time I have. I’m blessed to be able to write full time. I naturally feel I should be producing more work. Finishing my last novel and publishing it and marketing it took a great deal of energy. I have two other books nearing publication but truth be told they should’ve been published by now. I find my energy rolls like ocean waves, with peaks and troughs. Presently I’m in a bit of a trough. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my fitness, which takes time. But it’s also great for meditation, which helps in writing. Einstein said any subject can be mastered by spending one hour per day on it.

  • Theresa Snyder

    This is a helpful post even to those of us who are still working full-time and trying to juggle the writing thing every other waking hour. I used to be marketing coordinator for a large corporation and sat in on many a time management course. It is difficult when you do not set deadlines for yourself. So, I know you are on the right track here. I trust you will establish a firm schedule. You have to – we need more of your exciting novels to read in ‘our’ spare time. (And we don’t want to see you back in your government job 🙂

  • Guy LeNoir

    Hi Mick

    Yes sometimes it is just getting your lifestyle balanced. As you know creativity is not always a flow but a burst or wave. Being productive (not what we define as working) takes many forms. Whether that is tending to a veg garden, growing heritage foods (http://diggers.com.au/), or enjoying your brides company, or contributing to society through civil volunteer work. Don’t measure yourself by 9-5. Measure yourself through your contribution

    By the way you are still procrastinating 🙂


  • Scott B

    How about putting up a Progress Meter on your site so us readers can get on your case when you’re taking too long to put out the next book for us to read!

  • Jenifer Q. Waller

    Second, you must read, and read a lot. Did I say A LOT? I read over a hundred books a year and have done so since I was fifteen years old, and every book I’ve read has taught me something. I’ve learned that some authors are incredible at building suspense (see The Firm by John Grisham), I’ve read others that scare the jeepers out of me (see The Shining by Stephen King). Some authors can weave an incredible number of story lines into a single, coherent novel, with all parts coming together at the end that makes it impossible to stop turning the pages (see The Sum of all Fears by Tom Clancy), while other authors make me laugh out loud (seeBloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore). I’ve also learned that many, many authors fail when attempting to do these things. By reading a lot of novels in a variety of genres, and asking questions, it’s possible to learn how things are done—the mechanics of writing, so to speak—and which genres and authors excel in various areas.

  • Mike McHugh

    Ran into the same exact issue after semi-retiring from my full-time job. Thought I’d have much more time for writing, but it seems when time is not as limited as it once was, frankly, I seem not to be placing as much value on it. Wrote a humorous article about this for my newspaper column: http://thedangyankee.com/2013/07/12/a-day-in-the-after-life/ So I too have resolved to put it in higher gear, use my time management app like I used to when working, etc. Good to hear I’m not the only one who is dealing with this.

  • Kevin AG Webster

    I couldn’t agree with you more, since going self employed other things do tend to get more priority than getting on with writing especially now we have glorious sunny weather in the UK. When I was in employment and working from home I tended to get a lot more work done than I do now.

    I do like Scott B’s idea of a progress meter and having others being able to view it to give gentle (or sometimes maybe no so gentle) reminders.

  • Risto

    I was just reading the memoirs of one of my all time favorite authors, Douglas Adams, who had tremendous problems with actually getting the writing done. On one occasion the publisher had him transferred to a hotel and put under surveillance to make sure that he was actually working on the book. Maybe this in not in your preferred future:)