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We all want to manage our time wisely, and I don’t know a single writer who thinks they’ve nailed time management. It’s hard when everywhere we look we’re bombarded with other people’s success. From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter and beyond, we’re tricked into thinking everyone has their life together…except us.
Let’s look at the psychology of time management–what specifically hinders us or helps us?
The 3 Ps of Time Management
Priorities are the drivers of time management.
Are you familiar with the concept of urgent vs. important?
What is meant by urgent? Things that demand our attention. They need to be done now, or there will be immediate consequences.
What is meant by important? Things that lead us to meet our goals. If they aren’t done, we will not be successful.
On any given day, we’re faced with urgent tasks. We’re also faced with important tasks. And then we have tasks that are neither urgent nor important, but they still have value.
How do we set our priorities?
Writing is ALWAYS the top priority. Why? It’s IMPORTANT. When I say writing, I mean plotting, writing, revising—anything that contributes to a finished book. The book is the product. Without it, none of the other tasks matter.
As for those other tasks?
The business side of writing—the emails to agents and editors, the income/expense reports, marketing our books—all of it, too, needs to get done. But it’s up to you how to prioritize them.
Which brings us to the next P. Procrastination.
Procrastination is the killer of time management.
To put if bluntly, procrastination is putting off what needs to be done.
I think of procrastination in two ways—one is when there’s something we don’t want to do, so we put it off. And the other is when there’s something we do want to do, but we get overwhelmed and we put it off.
Setting aside an hour to write does you no good if you can’t get yourself to do it. All the time management in the world can’t force you to get the task done. That’s why we need work-arounds for procrastination.
If you’re procrastinating something you don’t want to do—say making graphics for your upcoming release or writing your newsletter—is there any way you can you outsource it? Hire a virtual assistant. Barter with someone. If you absolutely HAVE to do it yourself, then reward yourself once it’s done. Flowers, chocolates, a new purse, the BIG coffee—whatever it takes! Find a way to make progress on it.
But on the other hand, if you’re procrastinating something you want to do, it’s usually because you don’t know exactly what step you need to take next. You might see the big picture, and it’s too big. It makes you want to curl up in the fetal position.
Whatever you’re procrastinating, I recommend taking the mini-steps approach.
Look at your goal. Then write down the steps you need to get there. Then break them down into mini-steps. Make the steps so easy and small they’re laughable. If you need to revise five pages, list each page, then break down page one into paragraphs. You can revise one paragraph, right? Anyone can! You will no longer feel overwhelmed. You’ll actually do those teeny-tiny tasks, and you’ll start getting momentum.
Remember, procrastinating is putting it off. When you’re acting, you’re not delaying.
The final P is Planning.
Planning is the essence of time management.
Did you wince? I know that’s an ugly P word for many people. It’s okay. Here are two things I’ve found to be true:
- We tend to underestimate how long it takes to finish a project.
- We tend to overestimate how much time we have left to finish a project.
This means we think we have more time than we actually do, and we get panicky as the deadline nears. We put all our focus on getting the important work done, but we’re also forced to deal with the urgent tasks, at the same time. It makes us tired. And all the other things we want to accomplish are left undone.
By being purposeful with our time—by planning when we’ll do things—we’re better able to balance the important with the urgent, and still get the unimportant and non-urgent things done. Yes, this means adding specific tasks to our schedule and being firm about the time and date we will work on them.
What are your secrets to time management? Any areas you need to work on?
THANK YOU for making my new release, DEPENDING ON THE COWBOY, #22 on Publishers Weekly Bestseller List (mass market) last week! What an honor!! If you haven’t gotten your copy, it’s in stores now!