Take Back Your Time

We all have time. Every week contains 168 hours, and they are yours to spend as you chose. The choices you make determine what you accomplish.

time management

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Your schedule is packed. The question is, with what? Your calendar will reveal what your real priorities are. Making room on your calendar for writing—or anything else—means eliminating something that’s already there. Of the things you are currently spending time on, what are you willing to stop doing so you can spend that time writing instead?

“The calendar never lies. You can claim something is your priority, but if your calendar doesn’t reflect it, you’re lying to yourself.” — Tom Peters

Sometimes the things that keep us from writing are obligations that rightly deserve a higher priority. Family. Day job. But other times, the obligations that keep us from writing fill our calendars only because we are reluctant to let someone down.

You have to decide whom you are willing to disappoint.

If you’re spending a lot of time watching TV, then yay—you can carve out plenty of time to write by giving up TV. That was easy.

If not, someone is getting your time now. You have to be willing to take it back, and have that hard conversation. Maybe it’s the leader of a church committee, or one of the other soccer moms, or a nonprofit board you sit on. For me, it was my neighbors. We used to have dinner every Friday night. We’d go over to their house about six o’clock and not come home until ten o’clock or eleven. Every Friday night. Years on end. When I did the math and realized how much writing I could have done in all those hours, I got a little resentful.

Then I decided to take my time back.

They were offended. My husband was disappointed. I felt guilty. But I finished my first book and have since finished two more. Just by taking back my Friday nights. And ticking off my neighbors.

Understand, I didn’t cut them off completely. We still socialize on occasion. Just not every week.

“You cannot soar with the eagles if you’re wasting your precious time gaggling with the geese.” — James N. Frey, How to Write a Damn Good Novel II

Your spouse and kids and parents and church family have a valid claim on a portion of your time. But only your maker has a claim on ALL of your time, and if you were made to be a writer, you dishonor your creator by not investing time doing the thing you were made to do.

A Menu, Not a Rulebook

When we started, I noted that all these systems and methods I have laid out to not constitute a rulebook. This series of articles is a menu from which you can pick and choose.

Whatever methods you use to manage your time, remember to be flexible. As Michael Hyatt put it, “The calendar was made for man, not man for the calendar.”

Be willing to fail and try again with something else. Tailor these systems to you. That means trying on, adjusting the fit, and discarding what’s not your style.

As you learn more about what works for you, you’ll find freedom within your organizational systems.

A final warning: Don’t try to implement a bunch of these changes at once. Pick one. Try it for thirty days. If it doesn’t work, try something else. If it does work, maintain the habit and add another.

Organizing systems, to-do lists and schedules are not meant to bind you. They are meant to free you to accomplish your best creative work.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

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