ALLi's Publications Manager and Blog Editor Debbie Young considers the pros and cons of time management for indie writers juggling the many tasks required to be a self-publishing authorpreneur.
In back-to-school mode last week (I have a school-age daughter), I decided that this term, I would try to become more productive and efficient by managing my time better. After all, I consider myself an authorpreneur – and surely there was never a successful CEO who didn't consider the most effective use of employees' time?
The Businesslike Approach to Time Management
Before I became an indie author, I spent a large part of my working life doing consultancy work that obliged me to keep stringent timesheets, broken down into ten-minute chunks. I confess that when I first went freelance, I relished the freedom, swearing I'd never write a timesheet again – just as when I passed my driving test, I said I'd never sit another exam. (And I haven't.)
But, after a restful summer holiday, finding myself once more burning the midnight oil to accomplish all I wanted to do in a day, I realised that the person who has most to lose by not keeping better track of my working time is me.
Rationally, I knew that conscious time management techniques might bring many benefits, allowing me to:
- use my time more effectively
- cast off the feeling that I'm forever running to stand still
- be more realistic about what I charge freelance clients for my work
- take more downtime in which to recharge my creative batteries
- stop essential household chores being squeezed out or carried forward into the next day
- provide an objective assessment of how I'm actually spending my time
(a tiresome five-minute chore can seem to last longer than an hour's enjoyable writing time)
Maybe it was time to get back on the time-management wagon.
But Which Wagon?
When I quit my last consultancy day job, our timesheets were paper-based. Apps for smartphones had not been invented. So I asked the ALLi hive to recommend their favourite time management apps, expecting a long list of recommendations from our global membership to appear in our closed Facebook forum, one of the many benefits of being a paid member of ALLi.
Sure enough, a few recommendations were quickly forthcoming:
- Mary Crawford suggested www.pacemaker.press
- Claire Boston likes www.RescueTime.com (both encouraging names!)
- I knew that ALLi's efficient and productive Content Manager Jay Artale swears by www.toggl.com, which has the advantage of an appealingly familiar dashboard for anyone used to working with WordPress
However, other authors guarded against such a businesslike approach:
- “My main prompt is a sign on my wall. “Have you made art today?” If not, then I'm not doing my job properly. I tried doing time management apps but it felt too much like my old day job.” – Joanna Penn
- “I just work at whatever task I'm working at until my brain refuses to continue, then I let rest before taking on the next one.” – Alex McGilvery
- “I have a wife. She tells me whether I have any jobs to do round the house, then says, “What are you doing today?” This forces me to come up with a sensible plan, and throughout the day she will ask crucial questions such as, “You're not playing Civilization IV again, are you?” All writers should get one. They're very useful.” – Mark Hayden
- “I don't keep track. I'm a disorganized, un-businesslike artist-type writer taking care of my three-year-old granddaughter five or so days a week. I just fit in what I can when I can and try to spend more time writing than marketing.” – L K Hunsaker
- “As a pen and pencil person, I hated all of the electronic to do lists and trackers. Stumbled across the Bullet Journal and have adapted that concept…. I don't track time so much as track whether I have done key tasks. Just checking things off each day makes me focus and get it done. And it is painful to put that x down when I fail. Underneath the checkboxes, I keep a simple to do list. A quick glance and I can see whether the week was successful or not. – D Kirk Wall
- I am trying to develop a routine – currently it is an hour web work before breakfast, writing until lunchtime and (tv show) Bargain Hunt! An hour on the children's book after lunch, marketing and anything else until 4pm, then stop. Tea with friends, after they finish their ‘proper' jobs!” – Dawn Brookes
- “I find one of the things I've had to learn as a disabled writer with bipolar is that I have to make myself not get hung up on time management with my books because that can make you seriously ill.” – Dan Holloway
- “I write/edit in the morning when my brain works better. Then I tackle business tasks in the afternoon. I don't time manage. I make a weekly list of things I need to do (using a monthly/yearly operational plan as a guide) and just use that list as my push to complete everything.” – Eliza Green
Time Management versus Time Creation
When Orna Ross, ALLi Director and creativist, chimed in with an entirely different take. “I think more in terms of time creation than time management”, I was ready to throw my watch out of the window. We'll be bringing you Orna's time creation philosophy in a post here very soon.
In the meantime, I'm tentatively testing the toggl app and having fun with it – especially when I forget I've set its timer and go to lunch, or worse still, to bed, leaving it running, only to return to my computer later only to find I've logged an hour for a five-minute task, or apparently spent all night working on my WIP.
Perhaps I need to set aside more time to consider my options…
OVER TO YOU Time management – friend or enemy to the creative writer? Source of productivity or sapper of strength? What techniques work best for you? And which have you abandoned in disgust? We'd love to hear about them!#authors - does #timemanagement boost productivity or sap your strength? @DebbieYoungBN debates Click To Tweet
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