Working that new project into your schedule

So we’re all excited about our new projects for the coming year. From earlier comments, it looks like you’re going to be busy writing a second book … redesigning your website … writing your first novel … and following other challenges and dreams.

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And I’m going to be extra busy … in addition to building this blog, I’ll be revising the Encyclopedia of Obesity and Eating Disorders  – once again for a 4th edition.

Now the real challenge for us all will be working these new projects into our already busy – possibly even overloaded – days.

Have you figured out when you’re going to actually write that new book or revise that website or build that blog?

Let me share a strategy that I’ve found to work well over the years.

The 90-minute Solution

Early on I found that 90 minutes is an ideal time-frame for serious project-type work. From my experience, 60 minutes isn’t long enough to make real progress. It always seemed as if, just as I was getting “into it,” the timer would go off and it was time to move on to the next to-do item. Yet, fitting two hours (or more) into an already full schedule with any kind of regularity is nearly impossible.

But 90 minutes seems to work – it’s long enough to move forward, with a sense of accomplishment. Yet it can usually be worked into one’s current schedule – if not every day; at least a couple times a week – or ideally, 3 to 5 times a week.

Also, if you already have scheduled certain tasks for mornings, afternoons, or evenings, you may be able to slip a 90-minute project segment into one or more of those days, while still leaving some time for your usual tasks. So by not totally disrupting your routine, you’ll have less excuse for not tackling the project.

Interestingly, over the years, in FWR, we’ve quoted several book authors who utilize the 90-minute solution. A couple of them:

  • Best-selling author Larry McMurtry “pecks away for 90 minutes on a manual Hermes 3000 typewriter. His steady pace: 10 pages a day for a first draft; 20 for a revision.”
  • Johnny B. Truant, who juggles fiction writing, motivational blogging, entrepreneurship, and business consulting, says, “After 90 minutes, the quality of my writing begins to decline and my typos increase.”

Keeping track

Whatever time-frame you settle on, you will need some way to keep track. It’s likely that you already have some sort of timer on your computer or smart phone or tablet. Or, you may prefer a physical timer sitting on your desk.

If you are not already set up with a timer, and use a Windows OS, you might look at 1Time – a simple timer that offers a stopwatch, countdown timer, and alarm. Although freeware can be chancy, I’ve used this for many years and on at least four computers with no problem. I like it because it’s easy to pause and restart when interruptions occur – thus making sure the full time scheduled gets used – or, if not, the actual time spent on a project can be tracked.

1Time

Certainly, other project tracking software is available – but I’ve found most of it to be more sophisticated than necessary for simple tracking of time put into a project.

The important bottom line is to schedule some time-frame on one or more days each week. Then track precisely the actual number of minutes time invested in your project. Why? Because you can set aside an hour or two to work on your book – and actually start on time. But then family and business interruptions creep in. If you aren’t tracking it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t get more done during that 90 minutes. You’ll swear you put in at least 80 or 85 minutes of the scheduled 90.

But time it. To the minute.

Unless you live alone, ignore the phone calls, and shut down all email and IM alerts, you’ll likely be surprised at how many minutes you’re losing to interruptions.

Another tactic – Work in chunks

In addition to scheduling specific time segments for your project, another way to work those long-term projects – such as books, which can take a year or longer to research and write – especially if you’re fitting a project into small bite-sized segments – is to break the project down into more comfortable chunks.

For example, you may be comfortable planning three months in advance instead of a full year. Three months is the length of an academic quarter in school and a financial quarter in business, so it’s familiar planning territory for most of us. Figure out what you need to accomplish in the next three months, and map out steps for doing so. At the end of the quarter, review your accomplishments and map out the next quarter.

Now it’s your turn –

How are you going to fit your new project into your busy life? Do you have any strategies or scheduling tips or tools you can share?

 

About Dana K Cassell

Hi, and welcome to our Network. I'm Dana Cassell and am the one writing most of the posts on this blog. I've been in this writing/editing business for way longer than I care to admit. My goal here is to provide you with useful insights from our professional members and from my own experience - to help you achieve your own success, grow your editorial business, and publish successful and worthy books,

Comments

  1. This is great advice, Dana, and pretty much how I tackle projects with only a slight difference. Kathleen Basi wrote a great article for us called Getting It Done When There’s No Time To Do It, and it changed the way I look at projects. The main idea is that any project can be broken down into smaller tasks. So the key is to identify the tasks that can be done in short bursts of time–like when you’re in line at the grocery store or while waiting to pick up the kids from school. She also suggests identifying these pockets of time throughout your day and giving them each a name. She uses the “Golden Hour” as the time of day she can get the most writing done. I find this method of dissecting a project and allotting a time to it–whether it’s 5 minutes or 90–a fantastic way to get more done with a busy schedule.

    Oh, and I also use Google Calendars that sync with my smartphone. I don’t know where I’d be without that!

    • Thanks for the suggestions and the article link, Angela. I’m thinking that it might be useful to have a “Moving Forward” list – either on paper or our computer/device – where we can list each step we take to move the project forward. Then, even when we can squeeze in only a few minutes, we can “see” that we’re still making progress on the big project.

  2. Time management has been the biggest vice in my life lately. It seems like I have so much to do and so little time to do it in! I do use on online digital timer, of sorts, only I have to keep checking it. I need something I can see or that will notify me when my time is up without numerous interruptions, breaking my concentration and flow, as I check how much time I have left! Thanks for this article, I’ll try the 90 minute deal and check out the timer you suggest. Thanks for the info, I appreciate it and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

    • So pleased you found the tips useful, Rouillie! Once you schedule in your 90-minute (or however long) segment, try to keep it going for at least 21 days. Studies have shown that habits form in 21 days, and I’ve found that if I do something for at least 21 days, it DOES become a habit, and I don’t feel right unless I do that task or exercise or whatever. Do keep us posted on your progress, as it will give the rest of us encouragement and motivation.

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