Time doesn’t seem to be on my side, but I keep trying to wrestle it over here as if it’s a new puppy and I can make it behave. Last month, I started working for myself as a writer, something I’ve planned and saved for since I was (much) younger than I am now. I imagined all the time in the world opening up to me if I didn’t have a day job, and all the progress I’d make on my writing projects.
But decades of working day jobs created a habit of writing at odd hours: early mornings, nights, and weekends. Breaking from that pattern has not been easy, even though I expected to have nights and weekends free now that I’m only working one job. Alas, I’ve felt like a failure already — working at odd hours still, and not making enough headway.
Like many people, I squander time on social media, mindless eating, and passive entertainment. When I’ve squandered enough, I get resentful when those I love interrupt my thoughts. As if those people (and dogs) are the cause of my fribbling. Harrumphing at my beloved partner and our pets is no solution. If I keep blaming my darlings, I’ll end up an isolated old lady who still hasn’t learned to manage her time.
So I turned to Auntie Google for info on time management strategies. The strategy I settled on for this month — a time tracker — brought me back to my days as a lawyer keeping track of billable hours. I’m not billing anyone; I’m trying to learn where my time is going. Here’s a screen shot of my time tracker for the week:
Lots of white space, huh? But it adds up to 38 hours of “work” as I’m currently defining it.
And I’m not even trying to track my thinking time, much of which occurs on long, solitary walks in the woods with my dogs.
If that looks like introversion, that’s because it is. I was afraid that working for myself as a writer might make it too easy to isolate myself from my community and even from other writers. So, my 2018 goals included time for community action, taking classes, and networking. I thought these would be the hardest goals for me to hit. Boy was I wrong, at least for last week. Those big gray blocks, 12 hours in all, are the time I spent away from my desk, networking with others.
Knowledge is power, of course, and I’m hoping that after a few weeks I can analyze the data in my spreadsheets to help me understand how and when I work, and whether I need to make any changes.
What’s your favorite time management technique? Inquiring minds want to know.
Interested in seeing how the time tracker is working out? Meet me over at Wrestling with Time, Part 2. And if you’d like your own time tracker template, DM me on Twitter.