A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more. "Every hour is saved from that eternal silence, something more, a bringer of new things." – Tennyson

Short Time Blocks, More Writing!

5For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting more writing done than ever before, thanks to a new method I discovered for managing my time and productivity: I give myself short time blocks to work in. It’s amazing how much faster my brain works when I have only a half hour to work on something instead of a whole day or just a vague, indefinite amount of time.

Before I go into more detail, I need to explain a couple of things.

First, I like to have several writing projects going at once (just as I like to read several books at once), to keep all my fires stoked so they don’t burn me up, to let my subconscious work on one project while my conscious brain works on another, and to make connections between different genres and projects.

And second, I will finally confess: I write while I’m at work. At the insurance agency I work for, some days are busy and some are slow, and my boss doesn’t mind that I write when I don’t have anything else to do. (I do get my daily work tasks done faster when I’m motivated to hurry up so I’ll have more time to write!) It’s a pretty good deal, though it’s not ideal—a customer can call or come in at any second, and I have to drop what I’m writing to deal with him/her; and on really busy days I don’t get to write at all. But, it’s what I’ve got. On a related note, I find it helpful to follow the principle of “work when I’m at work, and be home when I’m at home.” Without that kind of compartmentalization, this rigid writing structure wouldn’t work for me; I’d fall apart.

So, that explained, here’s what I’m doing.

Each morning, I get my work tasks done as fast as I can (which is super fast on some days, and on other days takes all morning or even all day, to my disappointment), between helping customers who call or come in.

Then, I take my list of current writing projects and number them by priority. The priority order is slightly different each day, usually depending on what I did and didn’t get to work on the day before.

Then I make a schedule, assigning each task to a half-hour* time block, in order of priority, starting with the half-hour I’m currently in or coming up on.

*Half-hour time blocks work better for me than hour-long blocks: with an hour to work on something, my brain feels freer to procrastinate, and I get less done. Or, on slow work days, sometimes the opposite happens: I work on the project with intense focus for a whole hour, and then suddenly wake up, as it were, to find my body stiff, my brain numb, and my metabolism sluggish. Half-hour blocks, therefore, are ideal to keep me moving and focused.

So, my schedule might look like this, for example (these are all current projects I’m working on):

12:30-1:00: memoir
1:00-1:30: blog posts
1:30-2:00: freelance project
2:00-2:30: children’s fantasy novel
2:30-3:00: children’s picture book
3:00-3:30: novel
3:30-4:00: essay
4:00-4:30: writing ideas lists
4:30-5:00: journal/freewrite

However, my schedule seldom works out as I originally plan it. Customers come in and interrupt me, or my boss comes in with something he needs me to do, and I reluctantly set aside my writing. When I can come back to it, I just bump back the schdule to match the clock. That way the lesser-priority tasks fall off the end, but they might become higher-priority tasks tomorrow.

I know that some people would go crazy with a rigid plan like this. It’s not for everyone. But it is really, really working for me, and I’m so excited about all the writing I’m getting to do!


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