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How To Prioritize Your Writing – WN 055

How To Prioritize Your Writing - Title Card

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a life filled with tasks, obligations, and priorities of varying urgency and importance. Sometimes there are so many assignments on my plate that even writing everything down in a list doesn’t alleviate the overwhelming stress of it all. This may be one of the rare times in life where “looking at the big picture” does more harm than good.

Or maybe the handful of tasks you flutter between in any given day just aren’t getting done. You begin to realize that focusing on all the things really translates to focusing on none of the things. Picking and nibbling away at your to-do list only seems to give it chances to regenerate new tasks for you to complete. You work hard but are never able to enjoy the feeling of completing anything.

On today’s Write Now podcast episode, we lay down in plain terms exactly what it takes to tackle your list. You may not like it (you may even hate it), but if you want to actually finish that list and start making time for your writing, we’re going to have to talk about something that absolutely nobody wants to talk about…

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Time Management!

Yes, I know. You’re a free spirit and can’t chain yourself to a schedule! (At least, I am.) But stay with me here. Managing your priorities and dedicating time to actually finishing them will free up more time to write and enjoy life than you may think. That’s why I’ve come up with seven steps to manage your time for people who hate time management.

  1. Make a list. Write down all of your priorities. Full-time work, part-time work, family, writing, reading, etc. Group together small tasks into larger categories to make things more manageable. You may already be familiar with this step. But instead of leaving it here, let’s actually make this list work for us.
  2. Reflect on your list. Think about what’s really important to you (not someone else!). Rank your list of priorities based on how meaningful they are to you. Just don’t mistake “meaningful” for “fun”. The top of my list is always going to be my full-time job, not because it’s what I want to do the most but because it enables me to do everything else on my list. It may sound weird, but it’s okay if spending time with your family or your writing takes a back seat to your job in your calendar. You need to complete one before you can enjoy another!
  3. Be real about time. Start thinking realistically about time spans and how much each of your ranked priorities take up. Your full-time job isn’t just eight hours a day. You still need time in the morning to get ready, commute, break for lunch, and come home. Time is a real and limiting factor here. You have just as many hours in your day as everyone else. But remember you don’t have to do everything now. Focus on the top-ranked priorities in your life before devoting time to others.
  4. Block off the big stuff. It is impossible for human beings to multitask very well. You’ll be working twice as hard for a fraction of the productivity. And the things will never get done! Use a tool like a day planner or Google Calendar to schedule when and where you’ll be focusing on your top priorities. Start by blocking off number one in your calendar and work your way down. Remember: you don’t have to do it all now! If you’re honest with yourself about how much time you have and put first things first, you won’t have to resort to multitasking.
  5. Block off your free time. This is probably the toughest part for me. If I don’t plan what I’ll be doing in the precious little free time I have, I do nothing. Committing to a schedule is especially important for writers. Minimize the amount of marketing and platform building through social media with tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, or paid services like Meet Edgar. Set aside specific times for education and research, around 1-3 hours at a time. Opportunities for education are literally infinite and you can spend way too much time caught up in “learning to do it right”. When that time is up, commit to putting an end to learning and actually start doing it. Schedule the time you need to write every day and then write, darn it!
  6. Hold yourself accountable. Stick to your schedule and consciously focus on that one thing while you’re doing it. No multitasking, no distractions. Not everything on your list can be your number one priority. But at the same time, not all top priorities stay at the top. There will come a time when you can say yes to socializing and “me time”. This list is not set in stone for the rest of your life. Maybe this list is just for one year, one season, or one week. But for now, hold yourself to what is most important to you (not someone else!) and stick to actually doing it.
  7. Cut yourself some slack. Life changes and priorities change – sometimes very quickly. When you’re thrown a curve ball or manage to drop the ball completely (both inevitable, by the way), be patient with yourself. Nobody is perfect, which means no schedule is perfect. Hold yourself accountable, yes. But stay flexible. Give yourself a little grace now and then. Just get back on the horse and focus on one thing at a time!

Comparing Notes

More than anything, I want the Write Now podcast to encourage you to write. Sometimes that means dedicating time to obligations that act as obstacles to our writing. Time is real so we need to be real with ourselves about it. Here are some tools I mentioned in today’s episode that may help you to manage your time:

Also, here’s an image of my own calendar. I don’t share it with many people, but I’m happy to share it with you:

Image of Sarah's calendar.

Finally! Here’s the interview I did with Spreaker, as well as my episode of the Spreaker Live Show with Rob Greenlee (my segment starts at about 40 minutes in).

Was this episode useful to you?

My method of time management isn’t the only right way. How do you make time to write? What works best for you? I’d love to hear your story!

Tell me all about it on my contact page. You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂

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5 thoughts on “How To Prioritize Your Writing – WN 055

  1. I really enjoyed this Podcast episode. I had that same question that your listener had. How do I do everything? You gave great advice. Also thank you for sharing your calendar. Greatly appreciated.

  2. Neal says:

    Excellent. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to schedule my writing time the same way my work day and other appointments are scheduled. I just did this with my calendar. I may or may not have obsessed about the color coding a bit. Shh.

  3. Pingback: The Write Now Podcast Presents: "How To Prioritize Your Writing"

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