When I give book talks, people who know I have a full-time, demanding job as a professor—along with an active family life—often ask me when and how I find time to write.
I find that a question funny because we all have the same amount of hours in a day. Some people just use those hours more advantageously than others. I have to laugh because it’s not exactly as if I’m in a jungle in my safari hat fighting through the plants in search of time. If I were, I’d want more of it. We all would.
Hence, this statement: I don’t FIND time to write; I MAKE time to write. And, like most people in life who want to accomplish things, whether it’s schoolwork, activities, professional or personal development, volunteering, or being creative, sometimes our daily responsibilities get in the way of us finding time for the things we feel passionate about ourselves.
It’s true. I am busy, and I do get a lot done in one week. So, what are my suggestions for being more productive? I’ve put my thoughts on paper, and this is what I’ve come up with…
- Put away the social media. Honestly, it’s the biggest time suck. Since I’ve put myself on a NEW, SELF-IMPOSED PLAN for social media use, I’m hitting my stride. I just finished reading my 7th book so far in 2018 and am already pages into a new novel. I’ve also been writing a little more during the semesters (I typically have to wait until summer to do the majority of my writing, but I seem to be finding much more time for it now). Create your own plan for how much time you’ll allow yourself to spend on social media a day, and then, let it go and stick to it. It’s amazing how those minutes and hours begin to come back to you. You’ll feel like you found time in that jungle, I promise you. Also, admittedly, I’m a little happier for it. I’m still on social media, but just at a more regulated pace.
- Block out time for yourself to work on your projects. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given is to block out time that is yours—yours alone for your projects. During this block of time, don’t answer emails, do busy work, or do anything related to being reactive; instead, set this time for yourself to be proactive. In other words, these block of time are for you to do the things you need to do for your job, your passions, or for self-improvement. It can be a challenge, but sometimes routine can help you stay in this mode.
- Don’t allow the word “procrastination” to cross your lips. Honestly, as a professor, I see what procrastination can do to college students and their work. It’s not good. I have to laugh when students say to me that they wrote the paper the night before and that the assignment was easy. (Seriously–do they not understand that I can tell it was written the night before?) What I say in response to that claim is this: “Think how much better your paper might have been had you allowed more time for it.” Rarely is anything we produce at the last minute exemplary work. If I wrote a novel quickly, believe me, you would be able to tell (and I would want to hide my head in the sand). Projects need time. Give them the time they need.
- Keep a list of things to accomplish—check it off each day. I remember when I worked at the Baltimore Orioles, one of the things I would do each night before I left work was to make a “to do” list for myself and set it next to my phone for when I came into the office the next morning. There was such a sense of accomplishment when I was able to check those things off that list. Now, as I write my novels on the side and have a full time job as a professor, I have to keep similar “things to accomplish” lists. It may be as simple as “grade papers,” “write the next chapter,” or “edit pages 1-15.” I won’t say I’m always successful at these lists, but they set the stage for a plan, and I sure do my best to follow them to keep me on track.
- Strive to set and meet your deadlines. As an indie author who tries to publish a book every other year, I have to impose my own deadlines. As well, you may have to set your own goals or end times for your projects. Beginning something can be daunting and the process can be ongoing, yet we all need to know when time’s up. If you don’t set a goal for yourself, you could end up in perpetuity trying to finish the project—or you may give up or realize it’s going nowhere and that you wasted your time.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you chart your new course to being more productive. It’s one thing to read this list; however, it’s another thing to begin implementing the list. Give it a try, and let me know how you do.
Stephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.