During the month of September, I often feel a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm for my writing. Maybe it’s the cooling temperatures, the kids heading back to school, or the return of pumpkin spice lattes. Whatever the case, I’m ready to dive in and get things done.
Because September is my most productive month, I set my goals for the year now rather than in January. For me the new year offers a time for reflection and evaluating my intentions, which is different than setting actual goals. Your rhythm may be different, but if you want writing to remain a priority, it’s important to take charge of your time. And, an important aspect of taking charge of your time is goal setting.
Why is it so important to set goals? I like to think of goals as a list of priorities. In order to achieve my goals, I have to keep them at the top of my to-do list and purposefully schedule time to work toward them. For example, finishing the draft of my latest novel by December in order to be ready for publication by May is one of my goals. This requires scheduling a significant amount of writing time every day during the fall. When deadlines loom, I have to switch from a leisurely writing schedule to hitting an aggressive daily word count. If you’ve set goals, you can arrange your work life to achieve them.
In order to accomplish what I need to every day, I have to organize my time. I am an obsessive planner. I use an online calendar and an intricate system of notebooks and to-do lists to stay organized. To friends and family, my habits may seem a bit obsessive, but maintaining control over my time is the single most important factor impacting my productivity. When something unexpected happens – I’m sick, my kids are sick, my computer dies – I do what I have to do to get through, and as soon as possible, I sit down to reorganize. If I’m proactive as opposed to reactive with regard to managing my time, I feel less stressed and I’m definitely more productive.
A few quick tips on staying organized:
- Note major project deadlines and regularly occurring posts, articles, or interviews on your calendar.
- Block off travel dates.
- Create a weekly work schedule.
- Create a daily to-do list with time allotments blocked off for each project you’re working on.
Know When to Say No:
Once you’ve established your goals for the near future, and organized your time to best accomplish those goals, it’s inevitable that something new and interesting will cross your path. I never say yes to something new without sleeping on it. If a new project excites me enough to add it to my already busy schedule, or to cause me to reprioritize my goals, that enthusiasm will still be there after I’ve had time to truly consider the project. Some things are time sensitive, sure, but I believe it is always acceptable to say, “This sounds really interesting! Let me get back to you by…”
Most writers work their writing time around other life priorities – another job, family obligations, school, etc. By taking charge of our time, we can find a way to maintain balance in our lives and accomplish our creative goals.