Saturday, June 4, 2011

Time Management for Writers by Guest Blogger Kelly L. Stone

One of the primary questions I am asked by aspiring authors is “where do you find time to write?” Most people already know that the answer is you don’t have time, you make time. But making time to write in what feels like an already crammed schedule isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Unless you try counting.

Let me explain.

It is a scientific fact that whenever you start counting the number of times you do a certain behavior, that behavior will either increase or decrease in frequency depending on what you want it to do. So one way to track how often you are doing a behavior is to count it.

Let’s say you have a suspicion that time spent on social networking sites is eating into time that you could be writing instead. How can you tell for sure? Get out a pen and paper and start counting how many hours you spend each day on social sites. One person in my writing classes did this and discovered she was spending 3 hours a day on social networking sites, and this was after working a day job! And she wondered why she never had time to write!

This can be done for anything activity that you want to eliminate, compress, or delegate in order to make time to write: tv watching, checking your email, internet surfing (under the guise of *research*), talking on the phone, going shopping, checking for loose change beneath the sofa cushions, and so forth.

An easy way to find out where you can shoehorn writing into any schedule, no matter how busy, is to use what I call the 24-Hour Time Budget™. It’s simple. Simply track every minute of your day for a few days; I suggest a typical weekday and weekend day for starters. This exercise is similar to writing down every penny you spend in order to get a handle on where your money is going; the goal is for you to see where you are “spending” your time in order to wedge in some writing. After a few days, you’ll have an overview of where the bulk of your time is going. Then you can scrutinize the budget to see where you can eliminate, compress, rearrange, or delegate some activities and fit in writing time, instead.

Don’t be surprised if you find, like my former student, that you spend a lot more time in non-essential activities than you thought you did. (The average person watches more than 4 hours of television a night.) Just lop off some hours on the social networking sites and focus on your WIP instead.

Leave a comment letting me know where you discovered you’re spending all your time, and be entered into a drawing to win a Time to Write or Thinking Write lecture packet. Two winners will be selected from a random drawing.

Additionally, Seekerville is throwing in another copy of the AMAZING, Time to Write book.

Three winners will be announced in the Weekend Edition!

BIO: Kelly L. Stone’s novel, Grave Secret (Mundania Press, September 2007) was called “powerful” and “well written” by RT Book Reviews. She is the author Time to Write, Thinking Write, and her latest book for writers is Living Write: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life (Adams Media, September 2010). You can reach Kelly through her website


Walt Mussell said...

I find that I have pockets of time to write during lunch (and I usually take my computer with me to one of my favorite coffee shops so that I can write as well as get away from the office).

For me to do my best writing, I literaly have to get away from where I'm supposed to be.

I have both A Time to Write and Thinking Write. I highly recommend them.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Kelly!!! Welcome to Seekerville.

I have to tell everyone that I about fell over when Kelly said she'd chat with us in Seekerville.

A Time to Write totally revolutionized my approach to writing time!!!

What's the story behind the books, Kelly?

KC Frantzen said...

Hey Kelly,

Great to have you here! Thanks.

I'm NOT giving up my Seekerville time, that's for sure! But the multi, MULTI comment days do make for extra time here. Ha!

Probably research. Guilty. May at maythek9spy dot com.

Walt, that's super. I might join you! Wonder if some writers could do that, eh? Have a lunch writing appointment?

Waving Tina! May sends greetings!

Assorted teas and fruit available until later. Enjoy the day!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Gosh and I forgot to mention that the weekend first five pages critique is still on here in Seekerville.

Bri Clark said...

Well that does it. I spend way too much time sleeping. LOL

In reality I need to cut out the tv and cut down the social media. However it is a part of my job. But really there is nothing without writing. Thanks

I hope to win the books.

Katherine Hyde said...

I know I've been spending more time on the internet lately--but it's because I've recently signed with an agent who encouraged me to get on Twitter, do guest blogs, bone up on ways to promote myself, etc. So my quandary is, how do I keep promotion time from eating up all my writing time?!

Camy Tang said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kelly! This was a GREAT post. I had been keeping track of my hours on a spreadsheet but lately I had stopped because I was too lazy. Your post made me realize I need to get back into that so that I have some sort of accountability for my hours.

Ruth and Lacey said...

Accountability. LOVE IT!

Kelly, I think that's what makes or breaks most writers. Thanks for a concise (this word is NOT in my dictionary, much to everyone's chagrin) and understandable blog. The simple thought of counting: Perfect.

So you write fiction and non-fiction? Which do you prefer or no real preference?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ooops, kennel account on that last one.

Oh my stars, I need to drink my coffee before I pop into Seekerville!

Bagel shop breakfast. And stuffed croissants. Some with fruit filling, some chocolate, some with egg/cheese/ham.

A croissant for every palate!

Shakespeare said...

My biggest waste is housecleaning. Oh, if only I could write with a pit for a house, I would get so much more writing done.

That's it. I need to hire a maid.

I'm with Bri Clark, too. I need to just cut out the sleeping.

Seriously, though, I need to make writing more of a priority, so that maybe the dishes aren't done so perfectly, but I have time every day to write.

KC Frantzen said...

May, the K9 Spy - mascot of Seekerville here...

Good morning, everyone. Mom said I must account for my time with my FURiends here too. Piffle. Okayyyy. Here's what my days are usually like.

Play, snooze, play, play, play, snooze, eat, play, play, help Mom tell my story, play, eat, snooze.

Repeat. :)

Ruth and Lacey, maybe you have some recruits available? That would be PAWSOME!

Patsy said...

Since I keep my grandson baby he's the main thing I spend my time on. However, I know I do spend time on things that really aren't that important to life. Things like, well, like I'm doing now - on the computer! I do watch some TV - go HGTV! I guess another main thing I spend my time on is Worry! I worry about things that I really know the Lord will take care of.

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kelly! I discovered your "time" book late last year--some great ideas.I was never a 4-hour-a-day TV watcher, but can count on two hands the times I've watched TV in the 12 months. And none of those handful of programs was over 30 minutes each. STILL don't have enough time to get all the stuff done I need to get done! :)

Any tips for the folks among us who have more-than-full-time day jobs? Or small ones at home?

Thanks for joining us today!

Debra E. Marvin said...

Well if Tina says so, I believe it Kelly!

okay, I'd love to stay and chat but I have to get off the internet.

Margay said...

I spend a lot of time in email and Google reader.

Joanne Sher said...

Oh - want ANY of these. What a FABULOUS idea. Need to do this budget.

And if I haven't already, enter me for the five-page critique.

joanne (at) joannesher(dot) com

Julie Lessman said...

WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, KELLY, and WHOA, what a great (and guilty) post today!!!

I have to admit that e-mail and Internet are my downfall, along with an anal personality that makes me proof everything I write -- even this comment -- three times!! I watch almost NO TV except for NCIS DVD at bedtime (yeah, I know, not exactly lullaby material, but tell that to my hubby!!).

I will DEFINITELY try the log idea, but I already know where all the time goes, just not sure how to get myself to limit it ...


Kelly L Stone said...

Good morning everyone! You folks are on the ball! :) Sorry to be getting on the post "late" here-- it's Saturday and 7:30 a.m. for me (which constitutes officially sleeping in). Thanks for jumping in and posting so early.

Walt, so great to see you here. Lunch is a great time to get in some work and get away from the office for a few minutes. Will you be at GRW on the 18th?

Hi Tina, thanks for having me on Seekerville. I'm glad to hear that TIME TO WRITE helped you. The story behind the book is that after I started getting published (a novel, articles, short stories, etc) everyone started asking me where I found time to write since I also worked full time. That's how the book came about.

Hi KC, thanks for stopping by. "Research" can definitely suck up a lot of time. One suggestion is to get an egg timer, set it, and then stop your research when the bell rings.

Hi Bri, TV and social media also suck up a lot of time. Will they ever stop inventing distractions for writers?? :)

Katharine, congrats on getting an agent! She's right that you need to be out there, promoting your name, but that too eats into your writing time. It's the bane of all published authors. Put a time limit on your PR activities just like you do other activities.

Camy, thanks for stopping by! I occasionally get out the 24 Hour Time Budget when I need to get my time back under control.

Hi Ruth & Lacey, thanks for the comment. Accountability is very important! I have no preference on fiction or nonfiction, I just write whatever topic seizes me at the time. Currently I'm working on an PNR while a topic for another nonfiction book rattles around the back of my mind.

Hi Ruth LOgan, you're making me hungry. :)

Hi Shakespeare, I can't say housecleaning has ever been a distraction for me. :)

Hey K9, I've got a couple of 4 leggers here that are totally with you....

Hi Patsy, thanks for stopping by. There seems to be a lot of things to worry about these days. :) Like your attitude.

Hi Glynna, thanks for reading TIME TO WRITE. For those who work full time and also have kids at home it is harder (or elderly parents). My personal experience is that early in the morning is a good time to write, before everyone else is up. That's why I started, years ago, getting up at 3:30 a.m. and writing before going to my day job. I got 4 books written that way. And then it's done for the day and you don't have to worry about it.

Hi Debra, thanks for stopping by!

Margay, email is my Achilles heel, too.

Hi Joanne, thanks for the comment. Hope the time budget helps you.

Thanks everyone! I'll be checking back in periodically throughout the day.


Kelly L Stone said...

Hi Julie,

Thanks for the comment. When you know where you're wasting your time, you can reward yourself for some writing time by using one of your time wasters as the reward. So if you write for 30 minutes you get to sleep or check email or house clean or make coffee or whatever it is you want. Make sense?

Whitney said...

JULIE, I’m a proofreader, too. I read back through e-mails, blog posts, school work, and WIP’s before submitting, moving forward, etc. It’s not anal; it’s a good thing. Really! :p
Most of my time to write is on my days off. My schedule at work varies weekly between days and hours, so it’s pretty much impossible to make any plans, and when I get off work, my evening time is spent mostly on school work (Five classes left!), so if my brains gets any down time on the average day, very little time is spent on writing. But I manage to peck out some words. :p My days off are my real writing days, because when I can eliminate either work or schoolwork, I have more time to write. We haven’t had cable for 6 years, and in fact, don’t even have network channels. We watch movies or TV series we’ve bought or checked-out from the library in the evenings. Cooking takes up a lot of time for me. We eat healthy, so it takes a while to prepare things from scratch. We make some things ahead of time and freeze them for quick meals, but guess when I have time to do that—on my days off. Vicious cycle.
The best advice for writing is the Nike slogan, I guess: “Just do it.”

Kelly L Stone said...

Whitney, you're right, cooking does take up a lot of time as well as the shopping and cleaning.

Tina Radcliffe said...

It's true we've learned how to go without sleep so we can chat in Seekerville. But write? What a concept.

I too can honestly say housework has never stood between myself and writing.

Cheryel Hutton said...

Kelly, I met you at M&M last year, and your workshop was one of the highlights of the weekend. What I learned about myself and my writing while doing your meditation thing changed the way I look at my writing time.

Recently, I installed some software that tells me what I'm doing while on the computer. Since it was installed, I've spent 9 hours writing and 33 online (most of that Facebook games). And here I thought I was doing really well for cutting down my TV time. I hope to shift that ratio 180 degrees.

Thanks for all you do to help your fellow writers!


Kelly L Stone said...

Hi Cheryel! Thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad my workshop helped you!

What's the software? I may want to invest in that myself! :)

Will you be at M&M again this year? I will be doing a workshop on Saturday I think.

Whalehugger said...

I know I could find a lot more time to write if I didn't watch so much TV or surfing on the internet. By the time I get home from work, I'm pretty much beat and haven't got energy for much more than sitting down in front of the tube and vegging out with a cat or two for company. It sure isn't getting the writing done, that's for certain.

Thanks for dropping by Kelly - great article!

Walt Mussell said...

Kelly, I have a previous commitment on the 18th and won't be at GRW. Sorry to miss you then.

Christine Long said...

I've been working on trying to budget my time. It's going to become even more interesting since I just accepted a supervisory position at school. More time slipping away. So I would love to read either on of these books. Looking for help!

teaching by writing at yahoo dot com

Tina Radcliffe said...

Cheryel, we all want to know what that software is!!!!

Kelly L Stone said...

Hi Whalehugger and Christine, thanks for stopping by. There are 7 professional writing schedules presented in TIME TO WRITE-- you might want to check them out and pick one that works for you. :)

Suzie Johnson said...

This is great, Kelly. My biggest time waster is computer games. I know once I start, I'm lost for the night. I have to figure out a way to stop the madness! Counting my minutes just might be the thing to shame me out of it.

Virginia said...

hahaha! I don't know if I really want to SEE how many hours I spend doing certain activities! With six kids (two in diapers) the stats just might kill me.

But this was a great post. :) I have a friend who has her daughter set a timer when she gets on facebook so it doesn't swallow an hour.

Kelly L Stone said...

While I'm thinking about it want to let everyone know about a 4 week online class I've got coming up in August: Empower Your Muse, Empower Your Writing Self.

More info at

CatMom said...

Welcome Kelly! Thanks for this great post today. ~ Hmmm...if I could just teach all my kitties to clean their litterboxes, it would really give me a LOT more time in my day, LOL. But, that doesn't look like it's going to happen, but that's okay. ~ A while back I was the winner of your fabulous book,TIME TO WRITE, and LOVE it!! Very helpful! Thanks for sharing today. Blessings from *VERY WARM* Georgia, Patti Jo :)

Kelly L Stone said...

Hi Suzie and Virgina,

Computer *stuff*, whether it's FB or email or games, is addicting. Definitely have to exercise self-discipline to control how much time is spent there.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kelly L Stone said...

Hi Patti JO, thanks for stopping by! Right back at ya from excruciatingly hot Florida! (100 degree heat index at 9:30 a.m.)

Litter box cleaning is on my agenda today, too. :) Oh well, what can you do?

Sherri Shackelford said...

I have to be so careful of 'surfing under the guise of research' thanks for reminding me to watch the time spent!

Pam Hillman said...

I'm so detail oriented that every task takes a LONG time to complete.

Remember those timed performance tests in high school, where you find the C's imbedded in a page of O's?

Well, my cousin always finished much faster, whether she got them all right or not. I, on the other hand, would have every page correct, but might not finish in time.

She ended up being a manager in a deli in a grocery store. I became a bookkeeper/purchasing manager/treasurer/writer.

About the only things I don't spend hours on are cooking and housekeeping!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Thanks Kelly, I'll put that link to your online class in the Weekend Edition which posts tomorrow in Seekerville.

Vince said...

Isn’t it About Time?

It’s not about time.
Time is but a scorecard.

It’s not about action.
Action is but polite noise.

There’s something more.

Lead a horse to water.
You can’t make him drink.
Bring the water to the horse.
He still won’t drink.
But make the horse thirsty
and he’ll find his own water.

It’s simple:
You gotta wanna.


Hi Kelly:

I believe that time is a measure of our values. Fuzzy values lead to waste. While it is good to identify waste, it is better to channel the power of purposeful values.

However, as I am not writing my WIP now, I still have a way to go. Thanks and please enter me for a chance to win one of your books.


vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

Sherrinda said...

Oh goodness. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. You are stepping on my toes. This was a post I definitely needed and I am going to do a spreadsheet to see how my hours fly by.

And I love what Vince said..."I believe that time is a measure of our values. Fuzzy values lead to waste. While it is good to identify waste, it is better to channel the power of purposeful values." AWESOME words!


Janet Kerr said...

Well I spend far too much time watching TV.
And too much research has also slowed me down.

Thank you for your wonderful post Kelly.


Dianna Shuford said...

Hi, Kelly, thanks for the great advice. I have learned about myself that I'm definitely a procrastinator and that procrastination worsens when I hit a roadblock in my WIP. There are so many other things that can take up my time, and I do have to be careful about where I use that time, especially if I'm going to write.

This is also a reason I've never started my own blog. If I blog, I lose that time to write on my WIP. I know blogging and other forms of media help with the networking, but a question I had to ask myself was as what point does networking eliminate your need to network? In other words, if I'm not writing, then I don't need to network. Sounds like the "which comes first" questions, doesn't it?

I have learned that I tend to limit my time on FB and Twitter when I only allow myself to check it with my iPod touch. So, I've actually reduced the amount of time I'm on FB by only accessing it that way. Sounds weird, I know, but it works for me.

I already have your Time to Write book, but I'd love to be considered for the lecture packet.

Lorna Faith said...

Kelly thanks for your time budget idea:) I was thinking about just my last week and estimated that around 2-3 hours/day are wasted just social networking, reading or watching TV:( Thanks for blogging here today...made me take a good look at what's happening to my writing time!
I really have loved your book "Time to Write"'s been a big help! Would love to be entered for a chance to win your "Thinking Write" lecture packet.

thanks, Lorna

lornafaith at gmail dot com

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Kelly,

Thanks for sharing your great ideas with us!

During my 13 years of homeschooling I've learned a lot about time management, mostly dealing with prioritizing my time. I'm trying to transfer those lessons to writing now that my children are older, but I can use all the help I can get...

Please put me in for the drawing!


Kelly L Stone said...

Thanks everyone for your fantastic comments! Great point, Vince, about values. You have to VALUE your writing time just like you value all your other duties. This is a problem for many writers, especially ones not yet published. But it's important to regard your writing as important as anything else in your life.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Kelly! Welcome to Seekerville! Great ideas for managing time. This is certainly an area I need to improve upon. I'm afraid I'm sometimes a time waster.

Pam Hillman said...

There's a group of Golden Heart finalists that have been going (virtually) to something called Chatzy.

From what I gather, someone is the hostess and calls time. They write for so many minutes, and then they have a few minutes (5, 10) to chat and loosen up, then they stop chatting on the DOT, and go back to writing.

Another cool thing is when someone issues a writing challenge on fb. I've been in one or two of those. Really fun, and everybody posts at the top of the hour how many words they've done in the hour, then they go back at it again.

Even if everyone's not on a mega deadline, it's an energy booster for the ones who are.

Pam Hillman said...

It's a dog's life for May, for sure!

I'm SO jealuos!

Missy Tippens said...

Kelly, thanks for being with us! A fantastic post.

Kelly L Stone said...

Hi Pam, I did a 90 Day Daily Writing Challenge on Facebook in Jan-March of this year. Everyone had to write every day, but they got to choose the word count. Most people said they had written more in those 90 days, even if it was just a sentence or two, than they had in years. It was fun.

Thanks everyone for your comments and thanks so much for having me on today. I look forward to seeing who wins the books and lecture packet.

Missy Tippens said...

By the way, I have your first two books. I can't wait to get the third!!

Christy LaShea said...

I'm with Bri - I'm going to have to give up sleeping!!!

Great post, Kelly and I'm sorry to say I'll be working at my "day job" on the 18th and will miss GRW too :(
Major bummer! But I will definitely pick up your books. I need all the motivation I can get. I'm a social media hog and I need to turn it off and turn the writing on!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Sleeping is overrated.

If Richard Gere can get by with no sleep in Pretty Woman, we can do it too.


Oh, okay, he's FICTIONAL... So we get a nap now and again.

Perfect!!! ;) This is Ruthy YAWNING (and it's not a bit pretty).

Rose said...

I tend to spend most of my free time reading Christian novels.

Becca Dowling said...

Kelly, I loved your time-logging idea! I use a timer now not only for FB & web surfing but also chores. It's amazing what you can do in 10 minutes around the house! Still have room to improve. Love to win your book.

becca dot dowling at yahoo dot com

Becca Dowling said...

Kelly, I loved your time-logging idea! I use a timer now not only for FB & web surfing but also chores. It's amazing what you can do in 10 minutes around the house! Still have room to improve. Love to win your book.

becca dot dowling at yahoo dot com

Tami Brothers said...

Great, great post, Kelly! I really need to get a handle on this myself. If it is not one thing (reading blogs), it's another (doing laundry...grin...). I tend to let anything and everything eat up my precious writing time. I think I'll be making my time management goals a priority.



lostie815 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna said...

I saw someone mention HGTV. Those tricky little 30 min. shows sure do add up! But I can promise you home improvements isn't cutting into my writing time just watching other people fixing theirs up does.
Please eneter me in the Time to Write contest.

Marcova said...

thanks for sharing this important post,i love it.
Time Management

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