Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Put in the Big Rocks First: Time Management for Writers

The story is told of a business consultant giving a lecture about time management. He set a large glass bowl on the table and put in a bunch of fairly large rocks. He turned to his audience and said, "Is this bowl filled?"

Everyone agreed it was. Then he took out a bag of small pebbles and poured them in around the rocks. Again he asked: "Is this bowl filled?" Again the audience agreed. He then took out a bag of sand and poured it in filling the spaces around the rocks.

Then he said, "What does this tell us about time management?"

An eager young junior executive shouted out, "No matter how busy you are, there is always room for more work?"

"That is NOT the lesson!" the consultant said. "The lesson is that you will never get the big rocks in unless you put them in first."

Whenever I offer a lesson on time management, people think I'm going to show them some magic trick to find large blocks of unused time in their day or maybe bend the laws of physics to get an extra couple of hours added to the clock. That is not going to happen. If you want time to write (or do anything else for that matter) you have to make time for it. That will probably mean dumping something else. Right now, there is a TV show on I'd like to be watching, but I'm writing this lesson instead. I made a choice. I decided that this is more important than watching a rerun of a show which will likely be run again later. I made this a priority.

What are your priorities? We are often pushed around not by important tasks, but urgent ones. I can hear you saying, aren't those the same? No, they are not. Urgent means it needs to be done quickly or it won't be done. That doesn't mean it is actually important. Some things don't matter if they are not done.

We often let low priority items push out the high priority ones. Look at your calendar for today. Mark each item on it with 1-3. One being the highest priority and three being the lowest. What low priority items can you eliminate to make time for your writing? If you mark everything as a high priority, take another look. Odds are, not everything you do today is essential to one of the priorities for your life.

If you want to write, you have to make it a priority. Ask yourself as you look over your schedule today, "Compared with writing my novel, studying my craft, editing my articles, research my book how important is this event. Is it more important? If not, then why should I be doing it instead of writing?"

What things can you eliminate from your schedule or at least cut down in terms of time to get more time for writing? Post a few ideas here.

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