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Time On Your Side: 9 Ways to take control of the clock
by Carolyn Campbell
What is your most valuable resource to build
your writing career? While talent and skills are vital, many authors and
journalists agree that time is your most precious commodity. In writing, minutes
carry multiple demands; you can easily think of twenty tasks to fill each hour.
Because time is a limited resource, it requires astute delegation. Managing your
writing day is equally as crucial as budgeting your money. If you use your time
successfully, you'll be able to oversee your everyday tasks and eventually
expand your writing career to reach the level of success of which youve always
The following suggestions will help you take
command of your most important investment--the time you spend today:
* Organize your workspace to streamline your
Since 1981, Bob Frare has managed his sales
training company, Partner Selling Group, from a 10-by-10-foot office in his
Albany, New York, home. "My office is the smallest, most highly organized space
possible," Frare says. "I believe strongly in touching papers only once and
keeping a specific place for them. I focus on one paper on my desk at a time.
And when I'm finished, it goes in my file or in a large wastebasket beside me."
Frare's favorite organizational tool is a cubbyhole system with separate slots
for stationery, envelopes, client letters, invoices and receipts. "I used to
spin around to look for my stationery and jump up three times for the envelope
and stamps when I wrote a letter," Frare says. "Now everything is right in front
of me, and I know when to order more supplies. When bills come in, I don't mess
with them individually. They go in the slot for bills until my part-time
bookkeeper comes in." Frare finds that keeping his office clutter-flee saves him
time on each transaction, and customers frequently compliment him on his
* Create a list to keep track of
A time-management expert and author of seven
time- and business-management books, Jeffrey J. Mayer is also a consultant and
speaker in Chicago. "As a reminder of tasks to complete, most people leave
papers and Post-its on their desks," says Mayer. "Instead of piles of papers,
create a list of priorities. You can keep adding new items to the list and, when
you finish something, scratch it off. Ask yourself, 'Which is the most important
thing to do?' After you decide which task to pursue, instead of thinking about
it, just do it."
* Assign vital tasks to the "prime time" of your
In his book, Time Management For
Dummies (I.G. Books Worldwide, $17, 800-434-3422), Mayer says that each
person has peak times during the day when his or her energy and concentration
are high. "During this time, it's possible for you to get twice as much done in
half the time with half the effort," Mayer says. "During your prime time, give
yourself two uninterrupted hours daily. Leave your answering machine on, turn
off your beeper and don't read your e-mail. Do something important that will
make you the most money."
If you have a project that requires an hour to
complete, make an appointment with yourself during your prime time and block
that time out on your calendar.
* Maximize your accomplishments by
Azriela Jaffe, author of Honey, I Want to
Start My Own Business: A Planning Guide for Couples (Harper Business,
$13,800-236-7323), has been called "the queen of multitasking." She's an expert
at making every minute count. A business coach and speaker in Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, Jaffe believes that a cordless phone is a must for home based
business owners who want to make the most of their time. "The best part of
working at home is that tasks can be done in short spurts," Jaffe says.
"Whenever I'm doing something that doesn't require my total attention, I find
something to do alongside it. I'm always on my portable phone."
Jaffe begins by planning her day early each
morning. She determines which tasks she hopes to accomplish by the end of the
day and decides which ones she can combine. "I segment my day at the
beginning--which may mean I prepare dinner at 10 a.m., if chopping vegetables
would work with a phone call to a colleague," Jaffe explains. "If two of my
tasks are talking with a colleague and printing documents or reading mail and
downloading an e-mail message, I do those during the same half hour rather than
spending half an hour on each."
* Set aside blocks of time for e-mail and phone
Telephone calls and e-mail messages can actually
eat away your prime business time if you allow them to repeatedly interrupt your
work. "Set aside one or two times a day to answer and return phone calls. You
have greater success in reaching people right before lunch and at the end of the
day," explains Karen L. Snyder, owner of The Project Pleasers, a home based
marketing and public relations consultancy in Pipersville,
Snyder also recommends setting one time
daily--or every other day--to monitor e-mail. "Keeping up with e-mail can drive
you crazy. Schedule a set time of day to check it," she advises. "Otherwise, you
waste time signing on and off your computer during peak work hours--hours you
could dedicate to getting your 'real' work done." She checks her e-mail every
other evening, after her children are in bed.
* Outsource to make time for your most important
"Writers often want to complete all the tasks
themselves and wear all the hats. Remember: You can't do everything, and not
every task requires your particular talents," says Janet Zaretsky, owner of JRAM
Consulting, a home-based business coaching firm in Austin, Texas. To make the
best of outsourcing, Zaretsky advises writers to take a notebook along with them
for a week. "Any time you find yourself doing something that someone else could
do, jot it down," she says. "At the end of the week, review the tasks that you
list repeatedly and consider them for possible outsourcing. If you can, cut one
or more tasks out of your schedule by assigning them to someone else. You'll
find that the tasks you're letting go of are those you merely tolerate. They
don't have to be completed by you."
Zaretsky hired a CPA to do her accounting and
uses broadcast e-mail rather than bulk mail. "I knew I couldn't outsource my
actual coaching calls, but I found other tasks I could assign to someone else,"
she says. "If you can cut a task out, do it."
* Use time-saving equipment.
"If you're starting a business, plan to purchase
equipment that will save you time, reduce telephone tag and allow you to
multitask," says Randy Spotswood, owner of Stage Four Productions, a Web-site
design company in Columbia, Missouri. "Mandatory equipment for a start-up office
includes an answering machine, a cellular phone, a fax machine and a computer
with Internet capabilities. All these items allow you to either make contacts
and transactions faster or to continue to receive customer calls and contacts
when you're away from the office."
* Hold office hours sacred.
Spotswood says the greatest temptation of owning
a business is allowing yourself to be distracted by non-business tasks. "Don't
let your boundaries blur so that work time is invaded by household
responsibilities,' he says. "Before I consider any kind of appointment not
related to work, I try to schedule it for evenings."
* Budget time for breaks.
"Taking a regular break relieves you of the
monotony of sitting at a computer for several hours," Spotswood says. "Resist
the temptation to work constantly, and remember that your rest is important,
too. Taking a break lets you see your work with fresh eyes and helps you
recharge your mental batteries so you are once again up to the task
© Copyright 2001, Carolyn Campbell
Carolyn Campbell is the author of the books, Reunited: True Stories Of Long Lost Siblings Who Find Each Other Again
and Love Lost and Found: True Stories Of Long Lost Loves Reunited at Last (Penguin-Putnam)
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