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Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Time Management for Writers

Time Management for Writers

by Kelly L. Stone

One of the primary questions I am asked by aspiring authors is “where do you find time to write?” Most people already know that the answer is you don’t have time, you make time. But making time to write in what feels like an already crammed schedule isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Unless you try counting.

Let me explain.

It is a scientific fact that whenever you start counting the number of times you do a certain behavior, that behavior will either increase or decrease in frequency depending on what you want it to do. So one way to track how often you are doing a behavior is to count it.

Let’s say you have a suspicion that time spent on social networking sites is eating into time that you could be writing instead. How can you tell for sure? Get out a pen and paper and start counting how many hours you spend each day on social sites. One person in my writing classes did this and discovered she was spending 3 hours a day on social networking sites, and this was after working a day job! And she wondered why she never had time to write!

This can be done for anything activity that you want to eliminate, compress, or delegate in order to make time to write: tv watching, checking your email, internet surfing (under the guise of *research*), talking on the phone, going shopping, checking for loose change beneath the sofa cushions, and so forth.

An easy way to find out where you can shoehorn writing into any schedule, no matter how busy, is to use what I call the 24-Hour Time Budget™. It’s simple. Simply track every minute of your day for a few days; I suggest a typical weekday and weekend day for starters. This exercise is similar to writing down every penny you spend in order to get a handle on where your money is going; the goal is for you to see where you are “spending” your time in order to wedge in some writing. After a few days, you’ll have an overview of where the bulk of your time is going. Then you can scrutinize the budget to see where you can eliminate, compress, rearrange, or delegate some activities and fit in writing time, instead.

Don’t be surprised if you find, like my former student, that you spend a lot more time in non-essential activities than you thought you did. (The average person watches more than 4 hours of television a night.) Just lop off some hours on the social networking sites and focus on your WIP instead.

Leave a comment letting me know where you discovered you’re spending all your time, and be entered into a drawing to win a TIME TO WRITE or THINKING WRITE lecture packet. Two winners will be selected from a random drawing.


Kelly L. Stone’s ( novel, GRAVE SECRET (Mundania Press, September 2007) was called “powerful” and “well written” by RT Book Reviews. She is the author TIME TO WRITE, THINKING WRITE, and her latest book for writers is LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life (Adams Media, September 2010).

Kelly is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Her interactive workshop EMPOWER YOUR MUSE, EMPOWER YOUR WRITING SELF starts Monday, August 8th. Click here for more information and to sign up!

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Anonymous Gen X Mom said...

I clearly spend my time at work - and unfortunately it is not my writing work. I do whatever I can to fit writing into every nook and crannie of the day between work, kids, and house. Unfortunately I can't find many nooks and crannies these days.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Kelly L Stone said...

Hi Gen X Mom!

Thanks for your comment. I understand your dilemma. Many of the authors I interviewed for Time to Write started out with jobs and kids. Sometimes the spouse would keep the kiddos for a few hours on weekends so they could squeeze in some writing time. :)

Thanks for chiming in,

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Krissy Brady, Writer said...

Great post! About a month ago, I took an entire week and logged exactly how I spend my time. I highly recommend this for those who look at their day and wonder where their time goes. I went through a phase where feeling a sense of accomplishment with my writing was becoming rare, and found that actually having my days written out really helped me to become more productive. You'd be surprised at how much "fat" you can cut out of your day and put towards your writing goals.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Kelly L Stone said...

Thanks for your comment Krissy! Writing down how you spend your time is a great way to find time to write! Thanks for sharing.


4:50 PM  
Anonymous Linda Cacaci said...

If writing is your passion, it should be your priority. Push things out of the way, if you need to! Just write!
Linda Cacaci

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Kelly L Stone said...

You are so right, Linda! Thanks for dropping by.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Miss Good on Paper said...

Yes, writing has to be a priority and you have to carve out time in your life for it. Sometimes that means making sacrifices. I also recently blogged about this very idea in terms of finding a writing routine.

Thanks for this! -Miss GOP

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Hi! Since we had so few comments, I will give everyone who left a post your choice of a TIME TO WRITE or THINKING WRITE lecture packet! Email me at


3:46 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I'm afraid to log my time - I know I waste a lot of it. Great reminder to stay focused on what is important - writing.

1:22 AM  
Blogger ColorFilled said...

Melissa Foster has a full life as mother, women's advocate, artist and author. My admiration for her is tremendous because she handles all roles with grace.

6:54 AM  
Anonymous Dee said...

Since I don't have a day job right now, I have plenty of time to write, but what I sometimes lack is motivation. So I waste time on Facebook or playing games on the iPad instead. I have to remind myself that the book I'm working on isn't going to write itself. ... Or maybe it will. Here's where it's being put together:

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Bloggette said...

I love this post because the advice is so simple - yet so powerful! Thanks for sharing :)

5:25 PM  
Blogger elisa rathje said...

oh, it is amazing where you can find a moment. sometimes for me it is just that i let housework build up and then i have to catch up - better routines give me more time. often it is the fear of starting which leads me to waffle away bits of time, usually on reading reading reading online. i usually am just looking for connection. if i actually just phone someone, i can get right to work (on things i avoid like cleaning) while talking to them, and then i'm energised to face my real work!

5:58 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Watching too much TV...and too much FB. :( Trying to work on accountability with a friend.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Jill Shepherd said...

With 4 young kids in tow, a home remodel going on, teaching classes and trying to make it to the gym I'm constantly starving for writing time. I just love this idea. Its really no different than tracking what I ate when I was trying to lose weight.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous indigowitch said...

I am a single parent, self employed and my youngest is 2 and a half I am going to do your exercise and see where I can write more
Thank you

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

This is an excellent article - it should be of great help to me - I've been putting off starting my blog, because I wonder where I will find the time to write, but find that my thoughts on events in my life are around how I would write about them. I simply have to begin - your exercise will be of enormous help. Thank you!

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Moms with small kids: if you can afford it, hire child care 1x, 2x, 3x per week (even just for an hour); if you can't afford it, barter time with another mom or two.

Moms with older kids: get your kids to do some of the house work to free up your time; it may take some time at first for them to get into the routine of it and to do the job correctly, but it will be worth your effort and it will make them more self sufficient.

Love the suggestion of keeping a time log!

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Kelly L Stone said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. There are a lot of great suggestions here-- one reason for the time log is to see where you can eliminate, delegate, or compress something you are already doing-- so some things can go, others can be shortened and others given away (to older kids and spouses for instance). Also, get an egg timer, set it for 15 minutes, and then write for that 15 minutes. It really adds up.


2:20 PM  

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