Decide How Much Time to Allocate for Writing

Francesco Cirillo, inventor of the Pomodoro technique, says break tasks into 25-minute increments.

Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, says you need a 90-minute working session to do great work on a high-intensity task.

So which is it? How much time do you really need?

It depends on the task, and it depends on you. Continue reading

What Flow Is and How to Find It

Flow is the state where you are so totally immersed in and concentrated on your work that you don’t notice the passage of time. You’re aware of what you’re doing, but less aware of your surroundings and even your body, which is why although flow can be good for your creativity, it can be bad for your back. This state is described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi* in his book Flow. Other terms for it are being on a roll or in the zone.

Flow Creativity Time

Photo © Valua Vitaly • Fotolia

I know last time I said write in the gaps. This isn’t either/or. Do both. Continue reading

Write into the gaps

One important obstacle many of us face is the feeling that we can only do creative work in big blocks. We think “oh, I can’t do anything now, I only have twenty minutes.”

For a long time, I let this belief hamper my productivity.

The objection is that in small chunks you can’t get into the zone. You don’t achieve Flow. That’s true, but we can’t let the unavailability of a big block of time prevent us from making incremental progress. For example, you don’t need flow to proofread. Continue reading

Set Realistic Writing Goals

An important step in organizing your time is to set goals. Your goal could be time-based, e.g., spend an hour writing every day. Or it could be productivity based, e.g., edit 250 pages per week.

Set goals not only for your writing, but for other aspects of life also, like how much time to spend with your kids, on volunteer work, or on home improvement projects.

You’ve probably heard this before, but goals need to be SMART:

setting smart goals

“I want to write a novel” is not specific enough, and it’s only measurable in that you can tell when it’s done. It’s not time-sensitive because you haven’t given a deadline. Continue reading

Focus Your To-Dos by Tracking Your Time

When you’re faced with a long to-do list, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Narrow down your list by understanding that there are four choices for any task: do it now, delay it, delegate it, or drop it. If it will take less than a couple of minutes, like answering a simple question by e-mail, do it now. If it will take more time, like writing a proposal, you can delay it, but schedule time to do it so it will still get done.

Photo illustration © zenaidan • Fotolia

Photo illustration © zenaidan • Fotolia

Few of us have employees to delegate to, but you can still outsource some things. For example, I do most of my own bookkeeping but hire an accountant to do my taxes. If it’s not something that must be done by you, let someone else do it. Anyone can do the laundry. Only you can do your creative work. Creative work by its very nature cannot be delegated.

Don’t tell James Patterson I said that. Continue reading

Organization: Focus on Focus

I’m taking a break from my Time Management series because Randy Ingermanson just released this great article on the topic, and it meshes perfectly with what I said the other day about grouping like tasks together and scheduling them into your ideal day or week. If you’re writing fiction and don’t already subscribe to Randy’s Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, follow the link at the bottom of the post and sign up. It is fantastic.

Guest Blogger: Randy Ingermanson

Focus is good. This month I decided to try something new to improve my focus.

The plan was simple. Every day of the week, I work on only one thing. A little context here might be helpful:

My life is pretty scattered. I work half time as Director of Software Engineering at a biotech company in San Diego. I also have my website at and another small business with my writing buddy John Olson. And I write fiction. Continue reading

How a hard out improves productivity

A time management coach gave a seminar. As a visual aid, he put a giant jar on the table. Then he filled it with rocks. Big rocks. As big as your fist. He stacked them in there until they reached the rim. “Is the jar full?”

“Yes,” someone said, “you couldn’t fit any more in there.”

He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped the gravel into the jar, and the pebbles rolled down, falling between the rocks and filling the gaps between them. “Now is it full?” Continue reading

Why time management is so hard for creative people

Everyone in every field complains about not having enough time, even though we all have the same amount. But creative types often struggle with time management more than others. That’s mainly because organizational systems are designed by analytical types. The J’s, if you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

These are the folks who excel at scheduling, sorting, and list-making. Myers and Briggs call them “Judging,” but I prefer the term “Judicious.”

People who are what Myers & Briggs call Perceptive—creative, spontaneous, and imaginative—tend to resist scheduling, sorting, and list-making, all of which are critical to these systems. Perceivers like to have lots of options, and often see lists and schedules as eliminating options. Continue reading

Time management for creative professionals

I just returned from the PENCON Christian Editors conference in Austin, where I taught time management. I want to share with you a little of what I talked about, because time management is as important to writers as to editors, if not more so. For most PENCON attendees, editing is our day job. But most writers have some other day job, and writing has to be squeezed into “spare time.” Continue reading

Set New Goals for 2015

If you haven’t already, this is a great time to set some goals. Not resolutions. We all know how those end up. I’m talking about real, attainable goals for your writing career.

Your goal could be time-based, for example, to spend an hour writing every day. Or it could be productivity based, such as writing 5,000 words per week.

new year 2015 goals

Illustration by Stuart Miles •

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but ideally your goals will be SMART: Continue reading