Before I use this time to expound on the tiny piece of paper from my cookie, I need to set something straight.
*DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is based on personal opinion and experience and that it should not be considered professional tax or financial investment advice. The ideas and strategies laid forth should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation, or without consulting a financial or tax professional.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let me continue.
I had a conversation about my work with a friend the other day. They asked me how I can write a post every week when I am busy editing two novels, creating illustrations, running a business, and volunteering in my community. To be honest, the volunteering has slowed down since it’s winter, and I’m recovering from my skiing accident. The rest of my duties must go on, with the addition of filing taxes. Anyway, I told them that I make a little time for each thing I need to do. I have a schedule that I try to follow. As long as I stick to it, I can get a lot accomplished.
When I read today’s fortune, I found it a little ironic, and I giggled. I have seen Annie Dillard’s quote in regards to writing before. Here it is in entirety:
It is easy to squander time, especially if we don’t keep track of it. Many of us wriggle down the rabbit holes of social media or internet research, only to find that we nibbled up hours of our day. We feel like we are productive except that we have nothing to show for it. That waste is the reason why we need a schedule, especially if we are writers.
It’s not rare for writers to struggle with finding time to write. Many don’t make their living off their written words but have another occupation that fills their waking hours. When they do finally punch out, they still have to deal with traffic, buying groceries, making dinner, and exercising—it’s important to keep fit, especially if they are going to sit on their butts for any length of time to churn out that next fabulous scene for their book.
Lay It All Out
We don’t all have the same duties to perform each day, but writers—actually everyone—should try to schedule the majority of their day to get everything done. I say, “majority” because we should all have a little time that isn’t booked in case we can’t get something done in the time we originally allotted. It is surprising how many people don’t include buffer times in between appointments for travel, bathroom breaks, etc. It also gives us a moment to take a breath. Don’t forget to breathe.
Fit In Some Flextime
Not every schedule needs to be rigid down to the last seconds for each job. We can be flexible with our time, as well. I have certain days of the week that I perform particular tasks. For example, I get a bulk of my writing done on Wednesdays, and I do my finances on Fridays. I schedule illustrating on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that includes everything from creating for a client or product to honing my craft. I could be sketching on paper, designing on my computer, or practicing with watercolor—I’m still trying to get the knack of that last one.
Getting to Work
As you can see, my work days have an area of focus, but I keep them fluid. This format helps on days when writer’s block hits. Not everyone can take off running right out of the gate. You can’t force creativity, but you can nudge it.
When I don’t know what to write or draw, I look for a prompt. The subject might not have anything to do with I need to be working on, but it greases the wheels and gets me into the flow of working. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking a word from the dictionary and using it in a sentence or grabbing an image from Pinterest and breaking it down into its basic shapes. Once I get going, I transition over to my actual workload.
The Power of Production
If things are going well, I can get into a positive work-flow—I’m in the zone. There are days that I become so engrossed in my tasks that I lose track of time. I sometimes find myself looking up at the clock and realized I missed lunch and it is now going on dinner time. I don’t beat myself up over it because I still get a lot accomplished, and I enjoy my work. I can always shift things around to finish any last minute tasks.
Overtime To Break-time
I do occasionally take some time in the evening to finish up some projects if need be, but I try to make those tasks ones that I can do while I am sitting with my hubby and watching television. There is a bit of balance required in keeping a schedule, and we should plan our downtime as well. We don’t need to micromanage every minute, but at least plan an activity that releases stress and fulfills us emotionally.
A Little Moonlighting
I consider myself lucky that some of the tasks that I need to perform for work are also considered recreation. Reading and photography have dual roles in my day. I can comfortably relax with a good book and stay up to date with new works in my genre of writing. As for schlepping with my camera, I haven’t found a more entertaining way to obtain reference pictures than hiking through the woods or cruising around town.
If you have a hobby that can help out at work, consider scheduling a little extra time for it. Depending on what the activity is, you can claim the time, travel, and expenses as a tax deduction.* Even if you can’t, you will improve your knowledge of the subject. And knowledge is a powerful thing.
We all live different lives, and the schedule I use may not work for you. In fact, it only works for me at this time in my career. I may be in a new position next week or next year, but I keep to the schedule as best I can.
Time is fleeting, and once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Scheduling won’t give us more time in our lives, but it will help us make the most of the time we have.