How to find writing time on the days when everyone takes a bigger bite of your time than expected

I think we all experience days when everything seems to take more time than it needs to. I’ve had one of those weeks, and it occurred to me today that I needed to write. The days have gone by quickly and suddenly it’s almost the weekend and the pile of to-dos is not getting smaller.

cartoon of a man choking an alarm clock

How do we get ourselves into this?

For me it’s not always me getting into it, sometimes the universe seems determined to challenge me. This week it was half and half. Are you the kind of person who likes to see the day filled up on your calendar? That’s me. So when I do get myself into the situation, it’s because I am optimistic in my time estimates. I forget that it takes time to travel between appointments. And I sometimes forget that I can’t keep going from dawn to,  well sometimes dawn, without a break.

I also like to be able to finish something, so if I have a small amount of time to devote to a task, I tend to look for the fastest to complete ones – not always the most useful ones.

And when I get in the weeds, I tend to start making lists. That sounds really useful, right? Not when you spend your time making lists and not doing things. It’s a symptom of the bright shiny syndrome.

Tip one:

If you are like me, the easiest tip is to be reasonable with your time allocation. I said it was an easy tip, not easy to implement. When I’m conscious of time management, I actually leave more time for travel than needed. After all, you can always read a bit if you get somewhere early. That’s one of the benefits of e-reading, if you have your smartphone, you have a book.

Tip two:

If you like to finish things, break the tasks down into finishable pieces. I am working on 4 manuscripts right now and the only way I can stay sane and feel like I’m making progress is to do bits of each at a time. I am outlining book 3 of the Quinn Larson Quests, so I tell myself I have to outline 5 scenes. Or in polishing the second book of the Charity Deacon Investigations, I must polish one scene before I do something else.  I get the satisfaction of actually completing something every time I start it.

Tip three:

When the lists look too long, break them up. I am not sure I can stop being a list maker because 80% of the time it works. I can break lists into things I must do, and things I want to do, and even things I can finish  in five or ten minutes. Then I get a reward. For every thing I complete from the must do list, I get to do one thing from the want to do list. And if I really need to complete something to make me feel like I’m making progress, I can do something on the do it fast list.

Bonus tip

Don’t be afraid to take things off the list permanently. I sometimes keep moving low priority things from one day to the next in my to-do. I’ve learned to ask myself if it isn’t important enough to get to it in two or three days, is it important enough to do?

In my case, finding time to write, or read, or knit, or cross-country ski, is not about finding blocks of time (okay, maybe to cross-country ski), it’s a matter of finding the few minutes here and there.