Friday, August 21, 2015

Go With the Flow

Now that you hopefully are on your way to a better organized work space, you need to take a moment to analyze how you spend your time in your writing space—and better yet how writing fits into your daily routine.

Whether you're driving your car to go pick up the kids from school or shooting a few hoops on an afternoon break, churning out an article or researching a book, the ability to get in the groove so that you're working with time instead of against it is the key to increasing your productivity. Psychologists call this transcendent marriage between time and the mind flow, and when you get flow. you're good to go.

But first you have to find your flow taking control of your time and eliminating the interruptions and time wasters that waste so much of it during your day. Be prepared for good news and bad. The bad news is that unless you're practicing good time management or are a very organized person—most people aren’t—you probably waste a lot of time. The good news is that once you find that time, you can reclaim it. The extra minutes and hours are a gift, something you shouldn’t squander.

Keep track of everything you do in an average work day. Jot down each activity. Then take a red pen and circle anything that was, in light of your values and goals. a waste of time, even a phone call to a friend. How can you get these time wasters out of your day? Or at least take better control of them. For instance, you could talk to your friend after dinner.

Most people spend their time on things according to their priorities. How about you? Does anything stand out? Too much time texting on your smartphone? Too little time for yourself or with your family or friends or on your current writing project?

And don’t forget procrastination (We’ll take a look at that next week.) How much time did you spend procrastinating? How many interruptions did you have? What kind? Who were they with? Are there things you shouldn't have been doing because the activities could have been delegated or you simply should have simply said, "No"?

If you spend much of your time complaining about not having enough time to get things done, then perhaps you’re not doing those last two things—delegating and just saying no. By the way, that phrase just doesn’t have to do with drugs.

Look to see if you can bundle certain activities together? With the high price of gas, many people are grouping their errands by location so as not to be running all over the place. Try consolidating some tasks. Is it possible to get all your paperwork out of the way at once? Can you set aside a morning to take care of marketing calls and Emails?

And speaking of Email, how many times a day do you check it? For the average person, looking over and replying to their mail can take up to an hour each time. If you check your mail four times a day, that’s four hours you’re spending reading and corresponding. And if you’re constantly checking messages on your smartphone, who knows how much time you spend on your mail.

To find out how you actually spend your time, you’ll need to keep a Time Log—a record of all the time you spend on every little thing, from the moment you rise in the morning until you put your head down on the pillow at night. A Time Log is a powerful tool for discovering how you allocate the minutes and hours of your life. Sounds tedious, but once you do it, you’ll be able to take better control of your time.

To start your Time Log, take a sheet of ruled paper. In the left-hand margin, note the time you change activities, and on the line to the right list exactly what you're doing: getting ready for work or bed, projects or paperwork, making calls, talking to visitors, attending meetings, reading mail, making or eating meals, walking the dog, watching TV, and so on. Also note who else may have been involved so you can later determine how relevant each activity was to your goals and who tends to take up your time the most.

If your more computer savvy, you can create a spreadsheet, making each row on the sheet represent a 15-minute time block. Many people find this easier because the blocks remind them to log what they were doing. Accounting for time accurately on the computer spreadsheet can be harder, however, because not all activities neatly fall into 15-minute blocks. Whether you log an entire week including a weekend is up to you.

And, yes, keeping a Time Log, even for a couple weeks is a hassle, but it’s a hassle worth considering.

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