OK, before we get started, go back in time to a couple weeks ago and read part one of this time management series. Make sure you make your list of the things that matter most to you, the things that are worth your time to accomplish. Got it?
Good. You'll need your list for this week.
So now you gave some serious thought to the things that are the most important to you, the things that make you feel alive, that make life worth living. How do you fit all this stuff in? I mean, we aren't all time lords.
Well, first thing is to look at your list. Remember how you were specific with your list, but then you could group some things together? I like to group my cooking dinner into family time, for example, because it's like my daily gift to my family, and everyone helps contribute. I grouped my hobbies together, the things I don't get paid for or don't want to be in my professional description. I group movies under family because we watch them together. Blogging, however, I separated from writing because I find they are different in my mind. Other people might not agree, so they might group them together. There is no wrong way to do this--only YOUR way. No one else has to see your work. Not even your significant other (and well get into how to fit other people's plans into your schedule in a later installment).
The next thing to do is to take your specific list and write another list that is simpler, with just the basic categories. You can see the comparison between my lists below:
Not bad, right? Simple. And yes, you should add sleep at the bottom of the list, because you are an organic human being that needs rest. Unless you aren't...in which case we need to have another conversation. The items on this list should be the things you spend time on EVERY WEEK DAY. If there are things you work on every other day, combine it with something else. That's why we got simple. I don't work on my art every day, I don't practice my bass every day. All those are under "hobbies." I do, however, want to write a blog article every day, even though right now I don't have time. I love blogging and want to do it more. So, list of stuff you need to do every day.
Along the same lines as adding sleep, because it's something we have to do, you'll want to add the other things you do every day even though you don't really want to, even though they might not make your life fulfilling. Commuting, for example. Showering I put under self care.
Now it's time to do the fun part. And when I say fun, I mean the part where you stress out and want to go into denial about how little time you really have for yourself, and end up throwing the list away and curling up into the fetal position. It's time to take your list, and in pencil, start filling in how much time it takes you to do the necessary things, and how much time you WANT to spend doing the things you find fulfilling. This will take some soul searching. And be honest with yourself. Like I said, no one has to see this except for you. You'll see how little time you have to spend with your family. You know what? That's OK. It's eye-opening, but OK. By making yourself this list, you are seeing reality, and this will allow you to make the most of the time you do have. It's going to be OK. Also, don't feel guilty about giving yourself time to do the things you want. When you do the things that fulfill you, you become a happier person. And when you are happy, people will enjoy being around you. If you take two hours of your day to draw, and that is something that is really important to you, then the others in your life will see a change in you. When you are happy, you will treat everyone around you better. Everyone else will be happier, too. And if they aren't, if they are jealous of your time or they are resentful of the time you spend on you, well, that's another conversation as well (and perhaps a future blog post).
This step could take a while. Easiest way to approach it is to enter the times of things you have to do. Day job. Commuting. Sleeping. These are inflexible things (though I did skim an hour from my sleep). BUT, if you take a bus to work, you can do something else in that time. Reading, writing. Napping. Hey, I won't judge. So if you take the bus, you can write "reading" next to commuting as a way to combine things in time chunks. Then, after you are done with your have-tos, figure out lengths of time for your want-tos. Shuffle things around if you need to. Weep as necessary. But make sure you have time for the things that matter. For hobbies, I have an hour a day on my list. I can use this hour however I choose, on music, art, playing video games, or any combination. If I wanted to make sure I definitely had time to do all these things every week, I could divide the week up and do music on Monday, art on Tuesday, etc. Or do a half hour of music every day and then the other half hour could be something else. But that doesn't have to go on this list unless you really want it to. After some soul searching and gnashing of teeth, this is what I came up with for mine:
I put "supervised" next to homeschooling because my son doesn't need as much attention nowadays, he can do more independent work. So I'll be able to do some odds and ends while he is working on math or reading his history. Family time is four hours, and that includes dinner time, as well as time for a game and to read a story before bed (yes we still do that even though my son's 13). Publicity, which is my day job, was the hardest to time out. Because I wanted to make writing a larger priority, I wanted to cut back on my publicity hours a little to do that, yet still have enough time to do my job effectively. I also cut an hour of sleep to allow for writing time. Sacrifices must be made. I'll make less money with publicity, not being able to take as many freelance clients, but I'll gain time for writing and hopefully sell more fiction that way. Hopefully it will more than even out.
You'll notice the section below the list for Weekends. I'm not going to structure my weekends so much, so all I did was list the priorities next to the days. I'm not going to have set times for those--yet. I will see how things go. Maybe I'll need set times to make sure that everything important gets done (especially chores...you'll note I have no time slot during the week for chores? I'll tidy as I go, but you know what? I'm not using up my valuable writing time to wash underwear. Nope. I'll do that stuff on the weekend).
OK, so now I have time for everything. 24 hours of time. In part 3 of this series, I will talk about blocking out the day and deciding what should go where...er, when.
And do go over to the podcast and listen to some of our episodes. Time management comes up in several of them (Robert J. Sawyer and Erin Evans are two that come to mind offhand), because I don't know of a single writer who really feels like there is enough time to do everything.
About Melanie R. Meadors:
A writer of speculative fiction and lover of geeky things, Melanie R. Meadors lives in a one hundred-year-old house in central Massachusetts full of quirks and surprises. She's been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion.
Melanie studied Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University, and uses her education to a surprising degree in her writing. Her short fiction has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. She is a freelance publicist, publicity coordinator for Ragnarok Publications, and the Marketing and Publicity Specialist at Mechanical Muse. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.