Maximize your Time
by Jennifer Slattery
Today I’d like to share a few ways to avoid time-sapping pitfalls while maximizing every moment for optimum productivity. In A Woman After God’s Heart by Elizabeth George, she talks about foregoing the good to find the better and foregoing the better to find the best. In writing, this means evaluating each moment in order to determine the best use of your time.
Organize your day around your creativity. For example, I need silence when I write. It took me a while to realize this, and initially, I went through my day following my to-do list without really evaluating each moment. As a result, I’d start with household chores and sometimes leave writing until the evening when my husband and daughter were home. Now I do the majority of my writing during the school day and do edits and critiques (which require less focus) in the evening. I do my blog posts in the morning while my daughter gets ready for school (largely while she takes her half-hour long shower–ugh! If you’ve got teens, you understand).
Stay focused! This is a biggie and takes a bit of self-control. Especially if you have an Iphone that beeps every time you get a message or text. In fact, you might need to shut off your phone and disconnect your internet until your creative writing time is done. Here’s why…to write effectively, you need to immerse yourself in your work. Every time you pop out of story or book world to check an email, send a text, or pop in on Facebook, you’re breaking the flow. This is especially true in fiction. Great stories are written by authors who become their characters and temporarily leave reality to slip into story world. If you’re teetering between reality and story, you’re largely remaining on the surface of your creativity.
Watch out for the email monster. Between Gmail, Yahoo, and Facebook messaging, I get about 100 emails a day. A while back, after two days of spending a great chunk of my day dealing with emails, I realized what a time sapper this was. Now, I deal with emails at one set time. (I will periodically check my Iphone for important messages.) This is especially helpful when dealing with all those annoying “reply all” emails. By waiting until the conversation is done, I can get the jist of it by scanning one email–the last one -and can quickly delete the rest. This has been much more time-effective than popping in and out.
Utilize every moment. I don’t watch television or movies because they don’t stir my creativity. (You may not be able to say the same.) Novels and books, however, show me strong writing and awaken my muse. Because of this, I read to relax. This means even when I’m relaxing, I’m learning. I also have projects and tasks that I can pick up whenever a spare minute arises. Let’s say I have five minutes between dinner and church each Wednesday. I can either spend those five minutes watching television or reading, or I can work on an edit. Five minutes a week over the course of a month equals just over a half hour. Most often, though, I’ll have three or four “five minutes” sprinkled throughout a day, resulting in maybe an hour by the end of the week and four hours by the end of the month. That’s a lot of time.
Find ways to multi-task (when possible). For example, I clean the kitchen at 3, when my daughter gets home for school. This allows me to connect with her while she eats her after-school snack, and while we chat, I putter. (This has also helped our relationship as she’s less inclined to talk if she thinks I’m trying to initiate a conversation. But if I’m “just hanging around” so to speak, she relaxes and starts to jabber.)
Most days, my daughter catches the bus to school, but on Wednesdays, she has late start so I drive her. Not wanting to waste time, I do my errands on Wednesday morning since I’m out and about anyway. And I lump my errand-type tasks together. This saves a great deal of time. Instead of driving to the library and home again on Monday, the grocery store and home again on Tuesday, and the post office and home again on Wednesday, I hit everything in one go. Which means, if it’s Monday and we’re out of certain things, we survive. And no, my family hasn’t starved and the house hasn’t collapsed.
This also requires a bit of pre-planning. Gone are the days of waiting until three oclock to plan dinner. Instead, I plan a week’s worth of meals, make a list, and get everything I need in one shopping trip. I do the same with housework. I operate on a schedule, cycling through our house by cleaning one area or item per day. And yep, while cleaning, I make the most of my time, either by spending a moment with my Savior or by brainstorming. And if I mop the floors on Tuesday and they look a bit dirty on Monday, I don’t sweat it. They’ll get done in due time.
I refuse to give in to writer’s block. When I hit a wall, I hit my knees. I believe God has called me to write and has a purpose in everything I write, therefore, I trust Him to give me the ability to follow through. (You can read more of my thoughts about this here in a post entitled, How Big is Your God.) And He’s been faithful. Every time. In fact, I start each day with prayer, laying out my responsibilities and asking God to help me fulfill them. If I hit a major block, I assume He’s asking me to spend more time with Him, so I do. The result has always been exponential.
*As a side note: One thing I refuse to cut from my week, however, is time spent communing with or serving my local body. As writers, it’s easy to justify not serving. After all, when I write for Christ to the World, I’m reaching countless radio listeners in 23 countries. Surely my time is better spent doing that than teaching a small Sunday school class. Except God placed us in a local body for a reason, and we are a vital part of our church’s health. Besides, I’ve found when I put God first and do things His way, He takes care of everything else. Every time.
What about you? Any time-saving tips to share?
She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, The ACFW Journal, The Christian Pulse, Internet Cafe Devotions, and Jewels of Encouragement. Working under Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, Jennifer enjoys helping other writers strengthen their manuscripts through critiques and beta-reads. She also co-hosts Living by Grace, a modern-day “meet at the well” Facebook community. Visit her online at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.