When I first left academia and started writing full-time (before I then returned to teaching on a part-time basis a few years later, I remember thinking that I would have so much time. I think I even thought that I would just need to work two days a week and that I could volunteer two days a week and neatly do all of the house chores and other errands one day a week. Cute, right?
As you might imagine, I quickly realized that writing full-time was actually going to require more than full-time hours and there would be no weekly “do chores and run errands” day during the week if I was going to write as much as I wanted/needed to write (well, the writing itself wasn’t the time suck but it was the research, the interviews, the pitching stories, the following up on payment, etc). When I got my first book contract, that became even more true. And I had to become incredibly aware of how I worked: how did meetings impact my work (short story: they change my energy. I, ideally, need a meeting-less day a week so I can just be in creative flow), when did I need to start my day, how much time can I work without a break, what time of day is best for me to do what type of work, etc. I really figured out the best way to use time as my ally.
A common exercise that I have women with whom I work complete is a time map. For three days (usually two week days and one weekend), they keep track of what they do in every hour because capturing how we use our time can lead to incredible revelations. If we pay attention, we can see at what time of day our energy best serves our creative pursuits, what time of day we might benefit from a quick sit outside or a brisk walk around the block. We figure out how much time we squirrel away on different distractors- whether that is television that doesn’t really inspire or entertain you or the bright shiny object of social media or something else. And when we have discovered all this, we can adjust our schedule and make it work even more for us.
This week, I want you to use this very basic time map to record how you use your time for three days (ideally two week days and one weekend day). Then study your days and make observations about how time can be a more powerful ally in your process.
What do you know about how you use time? What do you most need in your usage of time? What do you know needs tweaking?