Friday, November 11, 2011

Taking Back My Day: An Update

A few weeks ago I posted about my disappearing day. I've been trying different techniques to accomplish more in less time. While I haven't yet found my best division of time, I am happy with the progress I've made so far.


1. I moved back into my office.

Since we don't allow our dog upstairs--and she is 100% a lapdog--I was working in our living room. No more. Each morning I close the doors to the bedrooms and set aside the baby gate so Sophie can hang out with me in my office. Maybe it's a mental thing, but I feel more professional working in a dedicated space.

2. Each Monday I take fifteen minutes to map out my writing week.

My calendar shows any outside obligations, like appointments, volunteer commitments, or hiccups in the school schedule. After reviewing my calendar, I set writing goals and remind myself of upcoming tasks such as setting aside time for a critique and writing blog posts. Setting weekly goals keeps me realistic on what I can accomplish.

3. Making progress on my current WIP is always my top priority, so I rescheduled my mornings to start with a "win." 

I used to have no trouble starting my day by checking e-mails, my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and my writing loops, but my platform has grown, and with that, the amount of sites I check. I can lose two hours just checking in! That doesn't include reading blogs! I still like to check e-mails and my blog first thing, so I set my limit to ONE hour. Then, I immediately devote my next hour to my WIP. Knowing I've made legitimate progress on my book before lunch makes me a happy camper.

4. I've chopped my day into segments.

Instead of one marathon multi-hour writing or revising session, I've broken my day into hour segments. I still spend the same amount of time on my work in progress, but I'm less drained and it's less daunting. As mentioned earlier, I start with a one hour AM social media session. Then I move on to my book. I take 5-10 minute breaks between sessions to stretch my legs, take the dog out, and grab a cup of hot tea or a snack. Physically and mentally, it's a better fit for me.

Not Successes:

1. I would like to have 30 minutes of free time by myself each afternoon.

To meet the goals I've set, I simply do not have that 30 minutes. I would either have to lower my goals or devote even less time to social media. I'll be brainstorming this dilemma in the upcoming weeks.

2. I still lose a lot of time to slow computers. 

My laptop and our PC are old, slow, and lock up frequently. We plan on replacing my laptop next year, but in the meantime, I'm trying a duel computer gig where I sign on to one site with my laptop and, while it's loading, I check e-mails and what-not with the PC. So far this method has saved me at least 20 minutes per session, but the problem persists.

3. I want one free day (a weekday) per month to fill my creative well.

Again, see number one on Not Successes. I really struggle to allow myself time for me. I know I'm a nicer person and more creative when I watch old DVD's, read a novel in one sitting, or tour a museum. Yet, I haven't planned a free day in over a year. Ouch.

If you've been struggling with time management, how are you combating it? Any secrets you'd like to share?

Have a terrific weekend!


  1. I think it helps that my computer was new last year. SEriously, that cut my social media time in half! you'll see a big difference next year. And I set the limit and follow it.

    I agree with social media but I also don't go fanatic about it. As I'm sure you do too, I still think the book counts for about 90 percent of word of mouth.

  2. Jill, these are excellent steps!

    The best two weapons I've found for retrieving time are my phone (where I'm currently commenting from) and my Alphasmart, which let's me regain lost time while my family and I are driving from here to there.

    I get about 12 extra writing pages a week when I'm religious about taking my Alphasmart wherever I go. Plus, when I use it at writing seminars, it helps my blogging go faster. I upload all that to Word and copy snippets from my notes or the talks I've heard. (There's no internet or speed glitches on the AS Neo either! :-) )

    I don't know if this would help you but it saves me each week.

  3. I hear you on the slow computer front! And free time. Ah, just the sound of it. Just the sound of it!

    I've been caring for sick kids all week (and a sick husband and you know how that goes).

    Ah, free time. Ah.
    ~ Wendy

  4. You have NO idea how much I needed to read this today, Jill. Absolutely brilliant.

    I've been struggling so much with time management. What with my website coming out, and copyedits for my debut and trying to keep up with social media and make progress on my WIP. It's not easy! Some days I have no idea at all where the day went.

    So....deep breath. I needed this post. It was brilliant. I'm bookmarking. Thanks, girl!

  5. Good morning!

    Laura: I know!! I started timing when my computer froze, locked up or took extreme times to load--I was dumbfounded how much time is lost EVERY time I'm online. And yeah, being online is a big part of my day--I'm not a fanatic, but I get the realities of today's publishing! Thanks for solidifying my thoughts about slow computers. :)

    Jenny: I've heard soooo many great things about Alphasmarts--and it's great to know the Alpha-neo streamlines everything. With two kids in every sport imaginable, I would be wise to invest in one. Hey, I could probably find one on eBay! Thanks!!

    Wendy: Oh my goodness--the sound of free time!!! I'm panting for it! AAAHHH!!! Sorry about your sick family. It's been terrible here for illness, so I hope everyone gets well soon. :)

    Katie: I feel like I'm always struggling with time management anymore. I sit down to write and when I look up it's time to pick the kids up. I log onto e-mails and it's lunchtime. I'm trying to be very conscious and deliberate with my time, and guess what? My goals this month have shrunk. Just keeping my goals doable has been a huge mood-booster for me. E-mail me if you want to chat more about this!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. These are great goals with real solutions.

    I've tried to slim down my blogging time also. It seems to help my writing and editing.

    It's that personal time I struggle with also. Though I save the weekends for family and rarely get online, which helps a great deal.

  7. Great ideas! I've been working on coming up with a way to visit blogs and not rack up hours. You can spend a whole day reading them, and I love to but I need to figure out a better way to do it. Marji Lane had a neat idea and made a blog folder. How she did it? IDK...I'm not techy, but it looked good.

  8. Yes, I'm struggling with time management! With a baby who isn't taking well to a schedule, as babies tend to do :), it's hard to accomplish what I feel like I need to each day. Some days I do, and some days I don't. I LOVE schedules and routines, so this is hard for me, but every couple of weeks it gets just a tad easier and I'm trying to ease into a schedule I think that will fit long term so by the time I can finally get there, I'll jump right in and be able to accomplish a lot. Man, I am terrible with run-on sentences today. Sorry!

  9. Jill, I think it's great that you're making a conscious effort to take control of your days. I applaud you.

    You've offered some great tips. I really like the one about breaking your day into segments. I'm going to try that one myself.

  10. Jill, I've had to stop setting writing goals for myself other than the amount of time I will put into it each day. I was getting too depressed when I tried for page counts or word goals.

    I wish you luck in finding that down time--it's so important!

  11. Your PC is most likely clogged with temporary files. You can download a free utility CCleaner which will get rid of useless files. Not only does it clear stuff from IE, but any other browser you use. I just make sure I uncheck cookies so I don't have to log into sites over and over. I run the utility once a week.

  12. Sounds like you have a working plan, Jill. I had the same problem with slow computers. My new laptop is fast, but I still have to print off things on the old one. Talk about sloooow, lol. It takes an hour and a half, at least, before everything's done.

    These days, I make myself sit down and write. I'm prone to distractions. It's helpful for me to give myself an hour, write as much as possible without stopping, take a break, and then come back.

  13. I'm not doing so well either. I can spend several hours figuring out finances that should be simple, or trying to figure out some glitch on my post, Facebook, or computer. Just when I think I have several hours free, I get a time snagger.

    You are making progress. Yeah. I think you do need that creative day. Hope you get it.

  14. Through a lot of prayer and persistence (on God's part), I've realized I really CAN'T do it ALL, all the time. And what's more, if I'm not making time for God and time for myself, I'm actually less productive.

    Lately, I've been more positive about my schedule as God is showing me where my priorities should be.

    I still have moments of "trying to do it all", but they're fewer, and I don't stress about it as much if I only get 1 hr of social media time or if the dishes aren't done before I go to bed.

  15. I just had this funny conversation with my husband, about my inability to read a blog article in which someone has highlighted and numbered their main points. I only read the headlines because it circumvents my brain's natural process to pick out pertinent information. But then I forced myself to read your article, anyway, just to prove I could do it. So hurray for the successes, especially since they lead the article. Moms always struggle with having time to themselves. I hope you find a way to make it work. Since I home-school during the days, I try to slip out on afternoons when my kids don't have outside events. I also limit their activities.

  16. Kathi: I'm offline most of every weekend also. Family time is very important to me!

    Jessica P: I have several folders in Google Reader--but honestly, I subscribe to over 450 blogs, and I like to read 150 of them regularly! Yeah, I counted! Unfortunately, it's been over a year since I've been able to keep up with blogs. I'm hit or miss.

    Cindy: Neither of my kids took to schedules. They both were reliable at night--sleeping all the way through, but daytime? Forget it. They're both still high energy!

    Keli: I'm trying! Some days are better than others. :)

    Eileen: Good point. I try not to get too obsessed with numbers either. Progress is progress!

    CJ: I have run disc clean (thanks for the tip!) several times on both computers, but it made no noticeable difference. I also delete my history often. Both are running on XP. The PC is 7 years old; my laptop is almost 6. I think they make these things to be obsolete in 2 years!

    Brandi: Good for you! Sounds like you have a great writing plan!

    Nancy: I have the same problem. It's amazing how long it can take to balance the checkbook and pay bills. Uggh!!

    Ralene: I'm trying to be kinder to myself too. It's not easy!

    Jill: Ha! Thank you for slogging through the post--I appreciate it!! And congrats on home-schooling. Our kids are in a lot of activities through school, and I'm okay with that. They go to a small school where if they weren't on the teams, the teams wouldn't exist. :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  17. Yay for successes! I love that you've set tangible goals and you're following through. There are so many things that we COULD be doing, it's great that you're mapping out what you SHOULD be doing to meet your goals. :)

  18. Jill:
    Congratulations on your progress.
    I also use an Alpha Smart/NEO. It was a help when my computer shared space in our son's bedroom.
    I have found that I need to write before I go to email or the Internet.
    I try to use Sunday as a non-cyber day, a Sabbath.
    I do need to better organize my work. I realized last night I have about five weeks to get some research done.
    I also need to do some better organizing of my stuff and my space.

  19. Good luck with your new plan, Jill. I've been overwhelmed with activities for much too long. Now that my memoir is finished I am striving to find more balance.

  20. Hi Jill, I think just being aware of the stuff you are speaking about is a lot of the battle of making conscious choices about how we spend our time. My days are pretty crunched between teaching, taking a class, the rest of life, and fitting in some writing time, but I'm having fun. :-)

  21. Erica: So true! It feels good to be taking steps to improve my workday. Yay!

    QuietSpirit: I've got a bid on one on Ebay as we speak! Owners of AlphaSmarts rave about them, and with the amount of activities my kids are in, I could see where one would come in handy for me!

    Linda: Congrats on finishing your memoir--woo-hoo!! I would love to find more balance. :)

    Paul: You're right. Being aware makes a huge difference in how we spend our time. Thanks for reminding me! And I'm glad you're enjoying your new job!!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  22. Wonderful plan, Jill! I need to do number 2. I think it will help me be more productive.


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