The marX Files: Episode 3 – Whatever Happened to Time Management?

Lets talk about time management for writers and everyone else too!
The marX Files 3

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler

Act I – Where Did The Time Go?

Time for another installment of The marX Files!

If you are new here, the “previously on” is as follows: I am a filmmaker and a writer who has begun the duel journeys of writing my first fiction novel and attending grad school for a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA).

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As I prepare for NaNoWrimo as part of Preptober, I realized just how important time management is for a writer and really for anyone. I know, I know, not a sexy topic. But let’s try and make it sexy-ish… or at least mildly interesting.

First, why is this such a priority to me right now? I got some news back from my doctor. I’m dying… plot twist… just kidding I’m actually pregnant… another plot twist… nah I kid, but now that would be an epic plot twist.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop messing with ya. After some standard check-up bloodwork testing she found that I’m showing signs of long-term sleep deprivation. As soon as I heard that I was like, “That actually explains a lot.” More days than not I’ve had muddled thinking, forgotten little things, and had more trouble doing things than usual. I’ve been juggling my full-time job, grad school, podcasting, writing, film projects, going to the gym, and the normal friends & family stuff. Whew, I’m tired just typing that sentence. It is a lot to juggle and I can’t even imagine topping it off with a non-furry baby (also known in some circles as a human child). Speaking of fur babies, we sadly lost one in our family after an extended illness.

To quote a quote in the book The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn & Dr. Euan Lawson:

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.” – Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep

I’ve got to get a grip on how I manage my time both to accomplish my goals and to make sure my health doesn’t suffer. So, my mini-quest for time management begins!

Act II – Time Traveler Tips

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of time, so let’s get to these tips. These are geared towards writing, but most can be used for all sorts of things in your life. I also threw in a bonus sleep tip. This is just brushing the surface, so I’ll include some suggested books for more information.

Metrics Are Your Friend

How many words can you write on average per hour? How many words do you need to write for you story? You should guesstimate these things.

What I’ve started doing is keeping an excel sheet. Each time I write, I keep track of how long I wrote, how many words I wrote, where I wrote them, and any other factors (was I listening to music, did I get distracted by something, did things flow really well, etc.) This helps me figure out if certain times or places effect my writing productivity. It also helps me figure out an average word count.

Schedule Your Writing

If you want to be a writer, you have to take it seriously. Pull up your Google Calendar or an old fashioned calendar made from trees and scribble down some times for writing. Block that time out and stick to it. If you did your metric tracking work in the above tip, then you can set goals for word counts each day and hopefully schedule it out for a goal date for completing your first draft of your novel, script, or whatever.

Schedule Your Fun

As your calendar gets full with writing, it can be tempting to write seven days a week. You might feel like you have to pass up family events or not go out with friends. But for a writer to write characters and worlds with depth, they have to always be experiencing things from which to draw inspiration. So, unless you write stories about lonely hermits who never leave their house, you’d better make sure you keep getting those experiences. Plus, your friends and family want to see you sometimes and you just might have some fun. And I can tell you as someone with a psychology degree, it will help you to not morph into your own version of the Mad Hatter.

Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method uses timed sessions to focus your writing. These time sessions can last 25 minutes with 5 minute breaks, but really you can set whatever timing that works for your schedule. Monica Leonelle even recommends as little as 8-minute timed sessions. So, you have no excuses, folks, for not trying this method. I’ve found huge benefits from doing timed writing sprints. And you can use this method for other things beyond writing.

Go Mobile

Michael La Ronn and many others are big supporters of this. Sometimes, writers feel like they need the perfect writing environment to do their magic. But tying yourself to only writing at your desk or your favorite recliner can hurt you in the long run. You can use programs like Evernote or Simplenote to write down ideas, chapters, word building notes, etc. Or you can go old school and take a journal with you and pull it out anytime you feel the creative need. If you use Scrivener (which is awesome, by the way), there is an IOS app now and you can sync it with your PC or Mac version. So, take that writing masterpiece on the road.

Talk It Out

Leonelle and many other writers love dictation software. Dragon Speech is probably the #1 suggested software I’ve heard. It isn’t perfect, but if you are someone who likes to talk out your story (try it) or you like to take long walks, you can multi-task by writing and walking. Just don’t try this with the above tip. I don’t suggest typing on your smartphone and walking, that is how you get into a silly accident that gets caught on camera and put on YouTube to become a viral sensation. Don’t be that person.

Saying No Is Okay

If you know me, then you know I sometimes juggle a gazillion things at once. But the more I accomplish, the more I get asked by others to help them with their creative projects, either to team-up or run a project. I’ve had to say no more and more. Ultimately, every creative person needs to figure out their short-term goals and long-term goals, then plan accordingly. Right now, I’m writing a novel and trying to get an author career started. This means some of my filmmaking stuff will need to be less of a priority or I have to pass on certain opportunities. It hurts to say no, but sometimes the time just isn’t right to take on a certain project.

Develop a “pre-flight” routine for sleep:

Get into a routine of things you do to prepare for sleep. Having a regular bedtime and waking time is pretty powerful. Also, stop using devices with screens at least an hour before bedtime. Avoid caffeine and other stimulants in the hours leading up to sleep. And try to save your bed for just sleep (and other more R-rated activities which, if done right, can lead to great sleep).

Act III – Coming Up And Resources For More

Okay, I hope some of these tips helped or got you thinking about things you can do to help yourself with time management. Do you have any tips to share?

Below are some books that will help with time management for writing. I also threw in a book on overall health tips for writers.  I’ve read all of them and they all have great tips.

Last week I lost my little fur-baby boy, Scout. He fought to the very end and was a great companion for over 12 years.

Fade To Black…

Marx’s Work In Progress urban fantasy novel (that may or may not have a cat named Scout): 22,790 words

Until next time… marX out.

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Marx is the author of the non-fiction book Television on the Wild Wild Web, co-host of the podcast GenreTainment, co-host of DC Action Hour on YouTube, and creator of web series/films. He has been a panelist at various conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con, Boston Comic Con, Gen Con, and Dragon Con. As a professor, he teaches script analysis & film production. Click to join his email list or click over to MarxPyle.com to learn more about him.

Marx is the author of the non-fiction book Television on the Wild Wild Web, co-host of the podcast GenreTainment, co-host of DC Action Hour on YouTube, and creator of web series/films. He has been a panelist at various conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con, Boston Comic Con, Gen Con, and Dragon Con. As a professor, he teaches script analysis & film production. Click over to MarxPyle.com to learn more about him.
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