My friend Steven Savage is the most ruthlessly efficient person I've ever met. This is no denigration; I wish more people had his kind of man-month-isms. He is experimenting with how to apply Agile methods to his own life, a way to figure out what kinds of tasks can be accomplished efficiently in a given timeframe. For those of you who don't follow the latest and greatest in time-management trends, there's a lot more to it, but that's the basics.
One thing Steven blogged about recently was what time frame is suited to chopping up one's life. His base timeframe for things is monthly, because a lot of things in his life tend to recur with that period — professional meetups, for instance — which he can subdivide a little further into two-week blocks. That got me thinking about the timeframes for most of what I do, and how to slice them up.
With Ganriki, where I blog about anime and "visual Japanese culture" generally, the timeframe for most given projects is about a week. That is, I have to bring something out on a weekly basis, so using a week as a starting timeframe for such things seems reasonable. But that whole week isn't devoted to working on such things. It's that within the course of a given week, I carve out the time — an hour here, an hour there — to completing the project. Some projects take longer than a week and so I work on them intermittently in the background, but there's the constant sense that I should deliver at least one item a week.
With my writing (that's why you're here, right?), time gets more elastic, as Steve himself mentioned. A big part of that is because there's so many different scopes at work:
In other words, a lot of the kind of work I could do on a given book isn't bounded up neatly by time. Except in one specific sense — that I set aside about an hour or so a day to do nothing but write and do work on whatever specific phase of a project is at hand. If it's that I'm on draft X, then I just use that time to produce as much as I can to go into the draft. If I'm not working on a given draft, then I try assembling research material or musing over future project possibilities. But there's at least an hour, sometimes two, in a given day devoted to nothing but this.
I guess the main thing is to carve out consistent blocks of time, and to apply them to whatever thing needs the focus just then. If you have an hour, and you know you have to work on a given story but you don't really want to, you can switch to blogging about something — although I find that if I just open the story document and get to work on it anyway, and ignore the little internal narrative that I've developed around my resistance (often for no particular good reason), I get something done, and sometimes end up meeting my goal anyway.
The word I keep coming back to in all contexts is consistent. Regular, repeatable effort of some kind — even if it isn't the exact same kind of effort — will pay off. Like the free-writing exercises advertised by Peter Elbow, the consistency and the repetition help dissolve resistance to doing the work; you think less in terms of why you ought to be doing something at a given moment (e.g., looking for motivation) and more about the actual doing of the thing itself.
People do not like to think of creative work as work, and I ascribe that mainly to a culture of romanticism about creativity that persists despite many valiant efforts to knock it down. They think that if you apply the culture of work to something that should be about inspiration and flights of imagination, that it will kill the fun. Maybe they are right; I know that one of the best ways to making something not-fun is to make it into a chore. But that doesn't mean you can't look at it as a duty, a personal mission, and then just find the most fleet-footed way to make that happen.
Want to see what kind of creative work I produce when I manage my time properly? Check out my (new!) novel Welcome To The Fold, and showing your support for it by registering at Inkshares and adding the book to your "Follow" list! Failing that, you can always buy one of my existing books, available on Amazon Kindle and in dead-tree format.