Thursday, September 23, 2010
Time management, creative productivity and multitasking
For the focus of this post, however, I'm going to talk about time management outside of any parenting and family issues. Right now, I have about six book projects on the go, in various stages. One has a contract, two are being looked at by publishers (I'm in discussions with one publisher), one is with my agent and about to be sent out to a publisher, one is a graphic novel collab with Beckett Gladney, and one is an illustrated middle grade novel that I'm working on now.
Plus I have various blog projects and social networking that I try to do on a daily basis. How do I find time for all this? I don't believe that my time management tips will help everyone since each person's situation is different, but here are some of the things I do and don't do:
- We don't have cable tv. As in ZERO channels available on our television set. When my husband and I want to watch something, we buy (on iTunes) or borrow. This helps avoid the "let's channel-surf to see if there's anything on" time vampire situation, or having the television be distracting audio background wallpaper. Yes, I know I end up missing some good tv but for me, the sacrifice is worth it.
- I get up at around 6:30 a.m. every morning. I've always been a morning person, and I very rarely set my alarm -- I just get up at 6:30 a.m. (often earlier) because that's my natural wake-up time. I'd love to say that I write all morning without checking my e-mail or browsing the Web, but I'd be lying. I did try that for a while, but fell off the wagon after only a few days. Part of this is because I write a daily publishing industry news column for Writersmarket.com, so like to browse publishing industry news sites first thing in the morning so I get the most relevant news before writing my column. I usually work until around 4 or 5 pm each day, with several breaks throughout the day.
- I go for a walk every day. I used to run, but knee problems forced me to go for brisk walks instead. Not only is this a way for me to get some exercise, but I find that getting outside is a great way to clear my head. Of course, my brain often isn't able to block out work-related stuff...but that's okay. I find that I come up with my best writing ideas while on these walks (I use the Voice Record on my iPhone). This is also the time when knotty writing problems work themselves out. I am positive that this daily walk saves me many hours of wasted time sitting in front of my computer, frustrated and being unproductive. Sometimes being -away- being computer can make you a better writer.
- Get an accountability partner. I met Rilla Jaggia at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2009, while we were both waiting in line to get our books autographed by an author. I don't remember which author, but I DO remember that conversation. We talked about our projects and motivation, and agreed to check in with each other once a month by e-mail to share our goals for the upcoming month as well as an honest update about whether we met the previous month's goals.
- Find a support network of writers. It's important, I think, that this group be small enough that you're able to keep up-to-date with what the others are doing and feel like the others CARE about your progress. It's one thing to be part of a group but another to feel like an important member. I feel very lucky to be part of the MiG Writers: not only do the six of us critique each other's work, but we also encourage each other on a regular basis. I meet once a month in person with the Toronto Middle Grade and YA Author Group. And I've just recently become involved with the SCBWI Illustrator Mentees Group, where we share info about our illustration projects.
- Get inspired. I know this sounds all touchy-feely but I've found this is such an important factor in my productivity level. The more inspired I am about my work, the more productive I am. Deadlines are a source of inspiration, of course, but I'm talking about sources of inspiration for projects which don't yet have deadlines. Where I find inspiration, in addition to the sources mentioned above: reading books by authors I admire, writers' conferences like ones hosted by the SCBWI, reading inspirational posts about the craft of writing, reading about how hard other writers are working.
In the end, I believe that it's not so much about how much time you have, but how you use that time. I know some parents (my sister is one of them) who have become experts at taking a smaller amount of time than many full-time writers/illustrators and managing to squeeze SOOOOO much more out of that time. They don't have the luxury of being able to ease slowly into productive mode, or needing to have the ideal conditions or inspiration to work. In terms of time management tips, I consider myself an amateur in comparison to these super-productive creative parents who manage to be productive AND still make quality time with their spouses and children.
What about the rest of you? Any time management tips to share?
-- Debbie Ridpath Ohi