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.
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.”
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.
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?