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7 Techniques to Maximize your Writing Minutes
by Kelly James-Enger
At any given point, Im working on a half-dozen
article assignments, at least one nonfiction book, and often a novel as well.
How do I juggle it all? Ive become a master of time management when it comes to
my writing. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, full- or part-time, here
are seven simple techniques can help you do the same:
Know Your Limits
If your writing time is limited, planning how
youll spend it is crucial. Writing part-time doesnt have to impact your
productivity, however. When I started freelancing, I was still working
fulltime as a lawyer, and I had to squeeze as much work as I could into my
writing time. Guess what? Those were some of my most prolific months. Most
days, I only had an hour or two to write, and I knew how Id spend that time
before I even sat down. Now that I write fulltime, Ive lost some of that
sense of urgency.
Organize your Day
Freelancer Leah Ingram writes books, articles,
and does spokesperson work in addition to juggling parenting and homemaking
responsibilities. It just takes disciplineand organization, she says. "I put
my children on the bus at 8:15. Between then and 3:45 is my time to work. If I
dont use my time wisely, Im screwed," says Ingram, who lives in New Hope,
Pennsylvania. Ingram makes lists for the tasks she must complete to help her
maximize her time. She also breaks her workday into 30-minute sections, and
makes sure that she keeps on track as shes working.
The less time you spend on mundane tasks like
research, the more you have for actual writing. I have a standard template I
use for invoices, for example, and I follow the same four-paragraph structure
whenever I write a query. I also have a set list of questions I ask at the
outset of every interview; then I proceed with my substantive questions. Look
for ways to cut time from other tasks you do more than once.
Invest your Time
Some chores take time now but will pay off in
the long runlike inputting data into a contact database. Investing a few
minutes here and there may be worthwhile. Id rather spend a minute noting
expenses as I incur them than planning to do it later and then forgetting to
or losing a receipt in the process. If Im on hold on the phone, Ill use the
time to do some background research for a story, or send follow-up emails to
Yes, its important to use your writing time
to writenot organize your office or decide nows the time to finally clean
out your closet. But you need to take breaks for maximum productivity.
Research shows that the average person can only listen for forty-five to fifty
minutes before his attention begins to flag. Ive found this is true for
writing as well. Take frequent breaks throughout your work day, and youll get
You already know a computer makes for faster
writing than a typewriter. You may want to consider using other electronic
time-boosters like Outlook, which lets you set alarms and reminders to keep
you from wasting time or blowing a deadline. Freelancer Sam Greengard uses
Infoselect to help manage his assignments. "I keep detailed notes about who
Ive contacted, the date and time I left a message or sent an email, and
general notes about the project, including sources, Web links, et cetera,"
says Greengard, whos based in Burbank, California. "I keep a separate
document for each assignment. I organize them by client, and its easy to
check the status of each project at any given moment."
Stock your Office
Youve got a package ready to send out to an
editor. Problem is, youre out of big envelopesor your last printer cartridge
just ran out of ink. Stock up on basic office supplies, and have the tools you
need mosta good dictionary, thesaurus, the phone number for your ISPhandy in
your office. Ive found that even a minor purchase like a postage scale can
save tons of timeI weigh envelopes and then check out http://www.usps.gov/ for the appropriate postage amount.
While there are loads of tools out there to help
you manage your time, the most important aspect is your mindset. Make it your
goal to be focused and accomplish more during your writing time. When you do so,
youll make the most of your minutesand your hours as well.
© Copyright 2004, Kelly James-Enger
Kelly James-Enger has authored more than a dozen books, including Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success (Writers Digest, 2012) and Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks: The Writers Guide to Making Money Ghostwriting and Coauthoring Books (CreateSpace, 2010). Check out her blog, Dollars and Deadlines, for practical advice about how you can make more money in less time as a nonfiction freelance writer.
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