- Do a little less of everything. There are only 168 hours in the week. If I add in a full day of hanging out with my godchildren, I need to figure out what I'm going to do less of. If I decide to make several kinds of Christmas cookies, where am I going to find the time? The answer that works best for me is to do less of everything else - writing, watching TV, reading, etc. - in order to have some time to add in these other seasonal favorites. If, in January, you schedule less writing time for the following December, it won't be time "lost" but planned for.
- Multi-task. During the rest of the year, when I put brownies in the oven, I will probably fiddle around the kitchen, or check email and read Facebook. But since I'm going to do a little less of everything in order to have a bit more time, I plan to use chunks of time better than I usually do. Every batch of brownies takes 25 minutes to bake - the perfect amount of time for me to get a solid chunk of writing done. The ten minutes cookies take in the oven is a good time to brainstorm, or write in snatches, thinking about what I'm going to write again in a few minutes when I get the next batch in.
- Say No. Sadly, I can't do everything I'd like to do, especially at the holidays. What is most important to me? What won't happen again for a year (or more depending on how often you get to go away or have company in for the holidays)? What can wait for next month? Some of my writing deadlines are time sensitive for now. Some can wait a few weeks. I need to plan my month so that what needs to get done in my work, does. And what I want to do with friends and family, I have time to enjoy.
- Take a time out. I've found that time outs are not only great for toddlers, they're great for writers. Depending on how stressed I'm beginning to feel, I'll take 30 seconds to do some deep breathing, forcing my shoulders back down from around my ears, or I'll take an hour out of my "important work" to watch TV with my husband. The people closest to me run the risk of getting the least of my time and attention during the holidays because "I know they'll understand" if I hide in a corner with my laptop, working. What are they doing that they enjoy and that they'd most enjoy my company? What do they want to do that they won't mind if I'm not there? (No one ever seems to mind when I grab an hour to work while they watch a football game.)
- Consider opportunity cost. When you think of all the things you could do with X amount of time or Y amount of dollars, and then you choose ONE thing, the rest is opportunity cost. The cost of me hiding away from the family for an hour while people are sitting around talking is high - this is when we connect and feel close. It's lower when I work while they watch football. The cost of missing the Christmas pageant is higher because it only happens once a year, while missing the showing of "Charlie Brown's Christmas" is lower because I have it on DVD. The cost of missing Christmas sales from your book is higher, but is it as high as missing out on roughhousing with your nieces and nephews who may otherwise remember you as too busy to play with them?
I hope you and I both manage our time this holiday season in such a way that we feel good about our writing work, and are filled with joy and peace and laughter in our personal life. Merry Christmas!
Note: For more time management and project management tips for writers, enroll in my online class, Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer. It's only $30 for four weeks, January 13 - February 8, 2014, twelve lectures that come straight to your email Inbox. If you're an OCC member, you get it all for $25. Sign up today!
If you live in Southern California, attend my live workshop in Carlsbad on Saturday, January 25 - Write Your Book in 2014! In one day, we'll break your book into pieces and plot it out on your calendar, so that you have a completed book ready by your deadline. The 8-hour workshop is only $49, but is limited to 15 people, so sign up soon! Email me at Kitty AT KittyBucholtz DOT com for questions and more information on either of these classes.
Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her first novel, Little Miss Lovesick, came out in 2011. Her new novel, Unexpected Superhero, book one in The Adventures of Lewis & Clarke humorous urban fantasy series, is now available in print and ebook format. Love at the Fluff and Fold, book one in The Strays of Loon Lake romantic comedy series, will be released soon. Her short stories can be found in the anthologies Romancing the Pages and Moonlit Encounters, available in both print and ebook formats. "Superhero in Disguise" is a free short story at Amazon, iTunes, Smashwords, and other retail sites.