Last week, Randy Ingermanson told us all about the need for white space in the writer’s life. I hope you enjoyed that article.
You may have been left wondering how you should incorporate a little bit of that white space and still be sure to get to the important things each day? What’s the best way to organize use of time.
Believe or not, a spreadsheet may be the single most effective weapon at your disposal.
I can hear the groans already! “A spread sheet? How lame is that?”
Let me show you how I used a spreadsheet to order my days. Then, if you don’t like it, you’re welcome to complain all you like!
What I Did
There are a certain number of activities I have to do every day. There is another set of activities that need to be done each week. I plugged them all into a simple spread sheet.
Because I can’t ignore the personal and household things, I divided my activities into business-related activities and personal activities. I included everything I’d like to do each day on both lists.
Here’s the list.
The column on the left is a brief description of each activity. The column on the right is the number of minutes I want to give to each activity.
Because I’m a big believer in the 15-minute method of organizing my time, most of the activities are allotted fifteen minutes.
The overall list gives me the total amount of time spent during the day on business activities and personal activities. Keep in mind that this is the ideal. The ideal rarely ever happen, so this list is more of a road map than a list of Must Do items.
Some business activities are daily and some are monthly. To keep activities organized, I categorized them.
For example, I do a weekly post on three blogs, so each of those blogs are listed under Daily Activities and allotted 15 minutes per day. Two other blogs are published once a month. They are still allotted 15 minutes per day, but I know it’s not likely they’ll require 15 minutes every day. If I get the portrait blog post by the first week of the month, that activity is no longer necessary for the rest of the month.
Some activities need to be included in the schedule, but aren’t daily activities. For the most part, they can’t even be scheduled. I can’t, for example, know in advance when a portrait client is going to have questions that require a lengthy telephone call. Students also work at their own pace, not according to my schedule. So I’ve combined those two activities and allotted them an hour a day.
Special Projects is another “occasional” activity. There won’t always be a special project to work on, but having that half hour built into the schedule as a huge benefit for those times when there is a special project in the works.
I did the same thing for personal and household activities. The few things that do require a set amount of time each day are listed separately. “Household” covers everything else. I may not be able to handle every extra household activity in 30 minutes each day, but some things don’t have to be done every day. The total for the week is 2-1/2 hours and I can get pretty much everything done in that amount of time each week.
And The Worksheet Says…
I have 270 minutes (4.5 hours) of business time and 180 minutes (3 hours) of personal and household time budgeted each day. In other words, if I work this list, I can expect to have seven-and-a-half hours of the day accounted for.
That’s a reasonable expectation, especially given that a large portion of the business time is set aside for activities that will not happen on a daily basis (special projects, students, clients, and miscellaneous). In fact, without those three things, this worksheet requires very little time spent on business activities.
However, I know from experience that if I don’t make some allowance for the unexpected, my daily activities will be totally upended when it happens. It’s better for me to give it a place on the list. You may not need to.
Also, there’s plenty of room to add fiction writing and portrait painting when the time comes.
A spreadsheet is just one way to organize your time and efforts. The method I’ve described here is just one way to use a spreadsheet. There are as many methods as there are writers, so experiment. Find what works for you.
The secret isn’t that you find the Magic Bullet; the secret is that you use whatever method works best for you.