To say goodbye before the summer I bring you an article by Ana González Duque. It is not necessary to introduce her to her, you already know that she is a youth fantasy writer and also an expert in digital marketing. From MOLPE y el Fogón, Ana helps other writers launch their careers and become what she has dubbed Enterprising Writers. If you are one of the few who still do not know her, take a look at her articles and enjoy them. I say goodbye to all of you until September with this article by Ana on how to organize your time to be a professional writer.
How to organize your time to be a professional writer
“Every time I get on Twitter it’s like a black hole sucks me in and it takes a minimum of 20 minutes before I get back to what I have to do. When I finish the day, I realize that I have not done anything that I wanted to do and I wonder where I have wasted the hours. I never have time for anything. Dear procrastinator who wants to be a professional writer, if you feel recognized in the previous sentence, don’t worry. I was also within that group and managed to organize my time and disengage from procrastination, the most powerful drug in the world.
All writers face this addiction on a daily basis. Others are so extremely busy that they never have time to finish that novel they have started for years. Charles Buxton used to say that “you will never have time for anything, you must reserve the time” , but of course, he did not have Twitter.
Productivity and concentration are like going to the gym. They need will and habit to get integrated into your life. They are muscles that, based on training, get stronger. But if you skip the gym every week, you will never lose your gut with things to do. A whopping 4 years ago, with a very demanding nutritional job and two young children, I decided that I wanted to be a professional writer and that I needed to make a living from what I wrote, but for that I had to organize my time. Then I came across David Allen’s book ” Get Organized Effectively, ” advocating the list system, which he calls Getting Things Done (GTD).
Sit back and empty your head of “I have to”
My organizational system started out having many things in common with the GTD. I sat down one weekend and made lists of the things I wanted to achieve with my blog, with my books, etc ; lists of things that I had to do at home and in my nutritional work and lists of things that I would like to do or study, but that I never had time to do. And I ordered them in order of urgency. I put out a calendar for the whole year in front of me and started assigning due dates to each item, always being pessimistic about the time it would take me to finish them. And let’s be honest, I dismissed many of them as impossible or for later years.
Deadlines are essential
When you have a deadline to deliver something, you look for time from under the rocks. So, if you assign a deadline to when you have to finish the draft of your novel because you have agreed with zero readers a specific date, it is easier for you to finish it. The deadline focuses the mind. I always use them for all my projects because if not, they remain undone in the eternal bag of “for when I have time.” Be disciplined with yourself. You are your own boss, don’t make the boss fire you for not doing your job. Writing is a job, yours.
Organize the work of your blog and your networks by objectives
When you have distributed your projects throughout the year, you know, for example, that in May you want to release a novel. The logical thing is that, months before, the content of your blog is oriented on the same theme as your novel, to attract as many readers as possible interested in it. And that, both in networks, as in the blog, as in your newsletter, you start to talk a little about it. Creating expectation. Therefore, the ideal is to organize the editorial work of your blog in advance .
The 30th of each month is the day I reserve to schedule the following month . That day I do not write anything, nor do I work on anything else: I do the billing for the month, I review the analytics and I sit down to program the content of my websites according to what I want to get that month or achieve that month. The objectives are fundamental. If you don’t have monthly goals geared towards an end goal (in my case being a professional writer), you’ll go like a headless chicken through life. Another thing about making your editorial calendar by objectives is that you can create synergies within your own work.
For example, I am documenting myself for my novel by reading X books that may help me to make a post for the blog, to post curious data about my topic on networks and to interview someone related to solve my doubts focusing everything on my topic.
Keep in store for the lean times
But there are times when you can’t think of what to talk about. Or what to write (I need a story for such an anthology! I want to submit a story to such a contest!). Save for lean cows. There are several tools that will help you save your time and organize it. But Pocket and Evernote allow you to save and classify by tags all those ideas that may serve you in the future. If you have the applications on your mobile, you can save them wherever you are.
Don’t waste the downtime
Don’t have time to run the networks and at the same time write a novel? You will see how I buy you time: there is no moment in your day to day when you have to wait? Let me explain: a doctor’s consultation, the queue at the town hall, waiting for the children to leave a certain activity … Those moments are golden for programming social networks. Install the Buffer or Hootsuite applications on your phone and take advantage of those downtime to leave social networks nickel-plated.
If you have to take a plane or train trip, take the most boring job of the week with you on the trip. Or directly your novel, put on some headphones to isolate yourself from the noise and write throughout the trip.
If you spend an hour a day in the car, take advantage of that hour to listen to podcasts that help you progress or audiobooks.
Do multiple projects at the same time
One way to practice procrastination, but at the same time be productive, is to write multiple things at once. In my case, I always have two novels running at the same time, because one serves as a break from the other and, in that way, I avoid blocking.
Make blocks of time ( time blocking )
If you only have one hour to write a day, may that hour be sacred. Let no one interrupt you. Turn off the phone, the mobile notifications, close the door and put a sign outside like me that says «Mother writing. Be careful: it bites. Make blocks of time in which you are fully focused on the task you are doing. And then rest 10 minutes between blocks . I usually do blocks of an hour and a half (instead of the 20-minute Pomodoro) because, in my case, that is the time when I am most productive, but you see that little by little.
Concentrate and group tasks so that, by doing them in one go, you don’t waste as much time. For example, leave all the emails you have to reply to by a certain time. Organize your Gmail in folders and put the emails that take you more than one answer of yes or no in a folder “Pending to answer” and, late in the afternoon, when you are tired to be creative, dedicate yourself to answering them .
If you only have one hour to write, on Monday and Tuesday reserve that time to progress in your novel, on Wednesday dedicate it to the blog, Thursday to the networks, and Friday again to the novel. This way you will have time for everything and you will progress in everything.
If you have errands to run, concentrate all your errands on the same day. When you assign time to a certain task, you realize that it takes up all that time, whatever it is, so try to keep it as little as possible.
Doing many things at the same time prevents you from being 100% focused on what you are doing, it does not guarantee you will be more productive , but it certainly exhausts you more and generates much more tension and much more stress. Only 2% of the human population is productive this way, so try to do one thing after the other.
Planning is essential in everything
Planning is the rope that guides you through the desert of procrastination. If you do not know at least the steps of your structure, it is much more frequent that you block yourself writing and that the novel is not finished. In the same way, if you plan your week, even if you have to adjust things for unforeseen events later, you will do much more than if you do not plan it. At my work table I have three schedules on two corks in front of me: the monthly, the weekly and the novels I am writing. On my agenda is the daily and the annual.
On Friday afternoon I sit down to do the planning for the following week. I do it on Friday because the weekend is already starting and it is a way to free my mind from “I have to …”. Once it is planned, I forget about it and can disconnect, read and enjoy my family.
Systematizing all your tasks prevents you from forgetting things and helps you save time.
Writing is your job
Take it seriously. When I made the decision to want to live on what I wrote, I had only an hour or two a day to be able to dedicate to writing, blogging, networking … Sometimes, at that time, I was so tired that what I wanted was to quit for later. Bad thing: your “me for now” is going to want the same thing as your “me for now” to do it and things pile up without finishing .
If you give the same importance of a job, not that of a hobby, you will be more aware to make sacrifices. At that time, what I did was get up before the children woke up and write for an hour. And at night, when they went to bed, I dedicated myself to blogging and networking. On weekends when he was not on duty he charged batteries. And so, for two years. Being clear that you have a goal to achieve will help you. You have to be ready for the muses. Sitting at your desk day after day, with an iron routine, because if you are not working when inspiration visits you, you will not get it.
Learn to say no
Many times they offer us things that we do not feel like. Even things that we feel like but that we honestly know are not going to help us achieve our goals. Always value what takes up your time and learn to say no. Your energy as a superhero is already limited with everything you have to do.
Don’t be naive, becoming a professional ghost writer is not a matter of one day. It involves effort, perseverance and discipline. It implies having to manage schedules well and sacrifice some things (I haven’t watched TV for centuries) for lack of time. And, above all, it requires having your head furnished, being very clear about what you want and going for it, but also having the necessary strength to continue in the gap in the weak moments (that will be).
It is also important to set aside time for yourself. In your daily planning, include sports and rest. Do not spend your life working because that will not only damage your private life (family, friends, partner) but also your creativity and your work as a writer. Set a schedule to turn everything off. At seven thirty in the afternoon I turn off the computer. Usually nothing is as urgent as you think and the vast majority of things can wait.