Finding Time For NaNoWriMo: Painless Time Management

IMG_7640So you want to do NaNoWriMo, but you’re afraid of the time commitment. Your days seem full, and even though you think you could probably squeeze in a few hours writing here and there, you’re pretty sure your willpower tricks will work, but you still have a sneaking suspicion you’re doomed to fail.

It’s time to look at time and making more of it available.

Time is like money. When we’re looking at saving up for something or spending money on something we want, the first thing we need to do is examine where the money goes and what cut backs can be made to preserve resources.

Every midnight, we are given 24 dollars (hours), and by the next midnight that 24 dollars will be gone no matter what we do with them – no piggy banks, no take backs, no 401ks. The only way to keep the potential of these hours is to invest them in things that will pay off in the future.

With every hour that passes, we are creating vast stores of experience with each activity we invest our time in. Every hour we invest in an activity, we are one hour closer to the mastery of that activity (yes, even Candy Crush).

This, by the way, is one of the best reasons to do NaNoWriMo. If you want to be a writer, or improve your writing, think of all the hours you’ll stack up in the pursuit of the proverbial 10,000.

If we already have full schedules, we need to be able to reinvest those busy hours – shave expenses, if you will – and come up with the difference as painlessly as possible. All we need to do is cut back on where we don’t want to or don’t have to investing our time.

Creating a painless time budget:

  • Take a minute (don’t think too hard) and jot down the top eight to twelve activities done on most days, then assign them each with how much time each takes – and be realistic, you aren’t trying to impress anyone. Add another 5 minutes per item just to be sure.
  • Add a few more things to the list, like criticizing yourself in the mirror, patiently ignoring the neighbor as they complain about whatever it is they complain about, and other bric-a-brack. We’re not necessarily trying to add up to a full 24 hours, just get a general idea of what takes how much time.
  • Now take an honest look at where time is invested, and rank the activities from essential down to optional – keep in mind that genuine enjoyment counts as much as essential as does obligations and making money.
  • Next – observe what is left. What on the list can be delegated for just a month?
  • What can you sacrifice all together for a month for the sake of writing your novel?
  • What do you really hate to do? Who can you bribe into doing it for you?
  • What activities can be combined – laundry while watching TV, cooking and email?
  • Where can a few minutes be cut here and there – try wearing less makeup, embrace bedhead, try growing a beard?
  • And finally, compare the burden of these things with the excitement of writing a novel for a month. Feel the difference in life – that beautiful, chaotic, wild difference between the rest of the year and November, when you can push other things aside and write like the wind god of typos?
  • Now, budget in writing. Just for this month, fit it into that list of things with it’s own time allotment. This will go wherever works for you – I recommend a good chunk of time sometime between when caffeine takes hold in the morning and before you are incoherent at the end of the day.
  • Bonus: If you waste time at work sneaking games or hychondriac google frenzies – write then. Just 300 words in the day amounts to big savings later. I promise I won’t tell on you.
  • Now, with the time left we have before NaNoWriMo, get started shaving off time, cutting out unnecessary, unwanted, or unenjoyable activities.
  • After November starts, just keep at it, and keep writing as a priority investment of time.

This exercise can be powerful – it can shake up the way you see everything. But before you let it send you into an existential crisis – take a breath and remember that all we’re trying to do right now is find you an extra hour or two a day, and maybe a good chunk of time on the weekends, to allow you the creative freedom of writing a novel in a month.

But it’s also how I realized I was ready to quit my job and become a full-time writer. (which is going better than I could ever have hoped for). For now, though, just get through November. We have the rest of the year to go chasing new dreams.

*If you want to show you appreciation for my work here and elsewhere, please consider donating a small token to the Office of Letters and Light under my fundraising page to help me get into The Night of Writing Dangerously. When you donate any amount – even just $1.00, I will send you a password for my Sponsor Content page for the year – get exclusives to excerpts from my novel, secret writing stashes, and other goodies. Keep writing! -Michelle

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