Time Poor No More
No. 154 | By Christine Carron
Have you ever felt time poor when it comes to your writing? If you have, then I'm guessing you also know how much of a distraction it can be. Instead of focusing on the work at hand, you get fixated on the time you don't have but believe you should. That drags on your productivity and can also tank your mindset, which then creates an even bigger drag on your productivity.
That said, it's perfectly normal (and human) to occasionally feel time poor. We are all busy folk with big ol' piles of dreams, desires, and goals. The good news is that when time poverty is an occasional sensation, it only causes a minor productivity dip. A dip that we can pull out of fairly easily.
For many writers, however, feeling time poor is more of a lived experience than an occasional, passing sensation. Their forward momentum is hounded by an incessant drumbeat of time skimpiness dread. That is when time poverty becomes highly problematic and almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Because so much mental and emotional energy is spent trying to solve the perceived time poverty problem. Mental and emotional energy that could be spent so much more usefully elsewhere: figuring out a plot twist, cultivating the courage to send out query letters, taking a class on how to revise, connecting with a writing friend, decluttering your writerly work space, etc.
If you've ever felt time poor, and especially if you currently feel trapped in time poverty, read on. I've got three timely tips to help you shift out of feeling time poor and into writing time power.
TIP #1 | Align with Your Time
You have the time you have for your writing. If you want to increase your writing time, you will have to make changes in your life that may or may not be feasible in the short term from a relational, financial, health, emotional, etc. perspective. Even if the changes are feasible, shifting your life around to make more time actually . . . takes time.
So, for the moment, I recommend first you simply align with the time you have. Stop focusing on the time you don’t.
We are writers. We know that words matter. If we keep telling our brains, “I don’t have enough time,” or “I need more time for my writing,” or some other variation of time poor language, that is going to amp up our stress response and degrade our ability to make the most effective use of the writing time we actually have.
I will also add that I work with writers who made the shift to open more time in the schedule for writing. And guess what? They still struggled with time woes.
More time is not a magic bean of productivity. You still have to know how to make use of the time you have, which leads us right into . . .
TIP #2 | Get Clear on Your Priorities
Not having clear priorities is a big cause of time poverty, as writers often feel time poor not only in context of the actual time they have for their writing, but also in how effectively (or not) they are utilizing the time the have.
Many writers will say that writing (i.e., getting more words on the page) is always their number one priority.
That sounds logical. It is actually highly problematic from a productivity perspective.
Writing productivity requires more than just increasing word count. Sometimes we have to prioritize work that supports our writing. That could be anything from participating in a critique group, to applying for a stipend, to learning how to use a new technical tool like Scrivener. The full scope of writerly work is broad and deep, and when we don't account for that reality, our ability to use our time wisely and productively suffers.
For example, it’s a fairly common occurrence that when writers start working with me, they suddenly “have time” to get their workspaces and computers organized. When they only prioritized the actual writing, they could never get to the organizing. Or felt guilty when they did. Yet, until they got themselves organized, they kept wasting time trying to find things and being frustrated about that. Basically, a no-joy scenario no matter what they did.
As a writer, writing is absolutely a top priority, but in the day-to-day flow of your writerly work, it won’t always be THE top priority. Slowing down to prioritize your work—and honoring the priorities you set—will save you time in the long run.
Without clear priorities, it is very possible you will end up being busy but not feel like you're being productive. That's because activity is not a guarantee of productivity. When you take charge of your time by setting clear priorities, you calibrate your activity toward meaningful productivity. That's when you really start feeling the positive impact of time power.
TIP #3 | Set and Maintain Boundaries
Once you are clear on your priorities, you are better equipped to set and maintain boundaries that support your priorities and your growing time power.
Yet for many of us, knowing how to set and maintain healthy boundaries is a work in progress. And it’s not just boundaries with others. We also have to figure out how to set boundaries with ourselves. Not checking email or social media during our writing time, gently holding firm with our priorities, and showing up for our writing when we say we will are common examples of where writers have inner boundary refinement work to do.
Learning how to set and maintain boundaries, like getting clear on your priorities, is part of your writerly work. Good, healthy, and important work. Boundaries are an acknowledgement that YOU matter in the equation of your writing life, and in the equation of your life in general. Embodying that truth, especially if that has not been how you've operated in the past, is a move of both courage and grace.
When you are able to kindly set and hold boundaries with yourself and others, stress, anxiety, and time poverty fall away. In the spaciousness that opens, productivity flows with greater confidence and ease.
Revel in the Wonderful Weird
I build time power into every productivity tool I create for writers. Just a few weeks into the Jam Straight, one of the newest Goodjelly writers shared that there is “some smooth sailing going on" with her writing work, adding, "It’s what I hoped for but is so freaking weird to actually experience.”
Time power will help you, too, achieve smooth, consistent writerly work flow. No more dancing on the edge of striving and despair required. You are able to cultivate a powerful, inner knowing that, “oh my goodness, I’ve got this!”
Yes, at first, that grounded confidence will feel freaking weird, but it's a freaking wonderful weird. And all you have to do is align with your time, weave in a little priority panache, add a dash of boundary bodaciousness and then, BOOM! Time power is yours.
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