Time management audit

Martina Tyrrell
May 22, 2024

Make space in your life for creative writing with a time management audit.

You have a great idea that you want to commit to paper. Or your half-written novel is languishing on your computer. The problem isn’t lack of commitment. It’s not really even procrastination. It’s simply that, by the time you get through all the other things you have to do in your daily life, you lack the time, motivation and energy for creative writing.

Believe me, I know. I’m a solo mum with my own business and a mortgage to pay. I have a lot on my plate. My work day is interspersed with cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and the endless tasks that take up so much head space – scheduling a service for the car, making an online payment for a school trip, making an appointment for a childhood inoculation, ordering a replacement or a part for some broken item (latest problem: the fridge), doing my taxes. That ongoing grind can sometimes leave me feeling drained and with little time for writing and the other things that matter to me in life.

Some months ago, during a vacation, when I had the head space, I did a deep dive reflection on my daily life and realised three things about myself:

  1. I work most efficiently early in the morning.
  2. The more the day wears on, the more ways I find to procrastinate.
  3. If I let my work drag on through the day, I lose the momentum for creative writing.

Let me dig a little more deeply into each of those.

Early morning efficiency: I love my bed. It is a struggle to drag myself out of it in the morning. But, occasionally, for one reason or another, I have to get up and start work at 5am to meet a pressing deadline. Those super early hours are the most productive of my entire day. Once I realised this, I decided to experiment to see if I could start work at 5am on a regular basis. Turns out that I can. I now get up at 5am about three mornings in the week and am at my desk by 5:15. I still don’t like getting up that early, but it has revolutionized the way I work and the amount of time I spend doing my work each day, and my body clock is adapting to it.

Procrastination: Early in the morning, I don’t procrastinate. I simply sit at my computer and work. And I work solidly for an hour or two after my daughters have gone to school too. But after that, things start to take a different turn. Mmmm…let me check the news; oh, I must see the trailer for that new [insert name of any actor] movie; I wonder what Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue was like last night; let’s see who was on Graham Norton’s couch at the weekend (as you can guess, YouTube is my procrastination drug of choice). Then an hour has passed and I’m sitting at my computer, with a stiff neck and no closer to getting my work done for the day. It makes no difference if I start work at 5am or 10am – the procrastination always kicks in around 11:30 and carries on for the rest of the day.

Losing momentum: That inefficient way of working means that for every hour sitting in front of my computer, I might only do 20 to 40 minutes of work. The rest of the time is wasted. And then, tired eyes, sore neck and shoulders, achy back, I have lost the will to do my own creative writing, feel guilty about it and start to question why I even bother writing in the first place.

But that’s just me. I work from home. I can play around with my working hours as I please. And, I actually prefer doing my creative writing later in the day. Your situation will be unique to you. But no matter what your circumstances, you can always find ways to manage your time more effectively to make space for your creative writing by doing a time management audit:

  1. Make the time to really reflect on your day. How is your day shaped around your work and home commitments and around your leisure/exercise time? Write it all down. Really take the time to do this. It might take a week of returning to it, tweaking and retweaking, as you become aware of all the things – large and small – that take up your time.
  2. Consider your writing practice. When do you most like to write? Where do you most like to write? What time restraints prevent you from writing? Are those ‘real’ restraints or are you procrastinating?
  3. Now, return to that list of things you do every day. How might you manage some of those activities more effectively and efficiently to optimize the time you have to write? Don’t beat yourself up if you can only find 30 minutes in your day to write. That may be 30 minutes more than you’re currently doing!
  4. Put your plan into action, tweaking it as necessary. And don’t be hard on yourself if your plan doesn’t always work. Simply accept that it’s not happening today, and get back to it tomorrow.

These days, I get up at 5am about three times a week and 6am the other two. I work without distraction until it’s time for my daughters to get up for school at 6:50. At 8:30, I’m back at my desk and most days I’m finished my paid work by noon. This has been a revelation to me. The eight to ten hours a day I used to spend ‘working’ I now do in about five hours because I’ve mostly eliminated the procrastination. Now I have the rest of the day for me. Often, I do housework for an hour, or go to the shop, to shake myself out of work writing/editing mode and then I practice creative writing between 1pm and 3pm, or later on, around 6pm. I take a siesta in the afternoon to make up for my early morning start (I live in southern Spain, where a siesta is both culturally acceptable and, due to the heat, necessary for six months of the year) and I’m in bed most nights by 10:30.

Some days it simply doesn’t work. I’ve been late to bed the night before or I didn’t sleep well. I simply accept it and am kind to myself about it. I get up when my body has had more rest and set my alarm for 5am the next morning.

So, what are you waiting for? Why not start your time management audit today? If you’re struggling to do it on your own, I can help you with your time audit. Your creative writing practice will thank you.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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