time to plan note and alarm clock

How Do I Manage My Time?

Hi, and welcome to the Smarter Artist. Today’s question is one that a lot of authors ask, and that’s How do I manage my time?

(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the Smarter Artist Podcast)

Now, I’ve been managing time for myself and others for a lot of years. And I can tell you this is not an easy topic. It can be simple, but it’s not easy.

One of my favorite quotes about this is from motivational speaker Jim Rohn, and it’s something to do with the choice between the pain of discipline now and the pain of regret later.

And that’s something that’s really true. Either you can make the hard choice now, or you can make the easy choice now and feel the pain later.

Here’s the thing. We all have the same amount of time. So you’ve got to ask, how are some people so uber productive, and I finish out a day feeling like I got nothing done.

The trick to that is understanding reality.

child dressed for business writing in office settingI did consulting for a lot of years and in that time I discovered that when you ask people what they think is happening, and then when you look at what’s really happening, those two things don’t align very well.

Knowing and understanding what’s really happening in your time is something that’s really important to do. And that is not hard to do. It takes some time, but the simple answer is do a time study.

You follow yourself for usually a week. I like doing a week. You just jot down little notes about what you’re doing and how long it takes, all day long.

It takes some discipline, sure.

But if you follow and jot down everything that you do, and it’s only for your own eyes, you’ll get a good sense of what’s really, really happening with your time. Where your time is going, how long things really take, and then you can start planning around that. You can start making decisions around that.

So the next step is to take that information and start making a written, realistic plan for your day and for your week.

You can take a look at what all you’ve been doing, and then put it through a filter of what really matters to you.

It comes back to that Smarter Artist “Know your why” thing.

Understand why you’re doing things, and looking at what matters and what doesn’t.

Make a plan around that.

Start bundling things up, but also cut out the things that don’t matter. Cut the things that are wasting time, that aren’t contributing to your Why.

Then also build in time for surprises.

Build in time for problems.

Because you know this isn’t a perfect world. You know that not everything is going to go really smoothly and perfectly, and the way you expect it to.

If it always takes you 10 minutes to get home from work, you know that one of these days you’re going to run into traffic or there’s going to be a fender-bender that’s going to back things up. So allow for extra time around things where there could be surprises or where problems could occur.

And then also plan some down-time.

4 children with fishing poles heading into the woodsDon’t always constantly be hustling. Nobody can sustain that kind of pace.

So make sure you plan down-time. Plan time with your family, plan time with your friends. Plan time to just take a bath.

It’s okay to do that, and you need to take care of yourself along with that, too.

But if you make plans for that time, you won’t necessarily hit the wall and have to let go of things that are important just because you can’t move forward.

Make that written plan. Make it realistic, based on reality and then stick to it.

That’s where you’ve gotta make the discipline to stick to that plan, and make the time for surprises, again, and if something really, really crazy happens that you have to accommodate for, sure, do that. But if it’s just a “Oh yeah, my friends are calling and want to go out for drinks,” but you’ve planned something that’s really important that contributes to your Why, you’ve gotta have the discipline to stick to that.

And then from there you’ve got to enlist the support of the people who are closest to you.

Bring your family and friends on board.

Help them understand your Why.

Let them know why you’re doing this and why this is important, and that you’re making the plans to spend time with them at a specific time.

Then they’ll really support you with it.

Make sure they understand how excited you are about your writing.

How excited you are about all of the things you’re working on and why you’re doing them, and they’ll support you.

alarm clock surrounded by crumpled papersAlso make sure that you have accountability from someone you respect enough not to let down.

It’s great to have accountability with your family, with your friends.

For me, my spouse is a great accountability partner but he’s also the easiest one to let down. I know that doesn’t seem really fair. It’s absolutely not fair to him. But I know if I’ve committed something to him, if I say “Oh, honey, I didn’t get that done,” he will forgive me.

Sometimes that’s not okay.

Sometimes that’s not good.

So find accountability from someone that you respect enough to not let down.

So those are my three tips: Know your reality. Make a written, realistic plan and stick to it. Then enlist support from the people closest to you, and accountability from someone you won’t let down.

I have some worksheets that can help you with some of this. There’s a time study worksheet, and an I Did This list that helps you figure out what matters and what you can kill. You can find those at sterlingandstone.net/timetowrite.

I hope those can help you, and good luck!