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A Useful Tool For Managing Your Writing Time

by Jennifer on May 5, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

In any given week, you have 168 hours of time in which to do everything you need to do—from sleep to exercise to work to take care of the kids to meet with your writer’s group to search for freelance opportunities to cook dinner to commute to go to the movies with your significant other, etc.

The problem with having what seems like so much time, is your schedule tends to fill up quickly. Then before you know it, you have two hours left until the new week starts and you still haven’t gotten much (or any) writing done.

Time management is often one of the biggest challenges writers face.

With so much going on in your life, it can feel overwhelming trying to squeeze it all in. And most days you probably still end up wishing there were a few more hours left in the day.

The good news is, with a simple adjustment in your mindset—and an effective scheduling tool—you can easily overcome the barrier that keeps you from managing your time effectively.

The Un-Schedule
The un-schedule was created by psychologist, Neil Fiore, Ph.D. This is one of many tools in his arsenal for overcoming procrastination.

In order to know how much time you have in your week for writing, you need to know what you’re already doing each week. This is where an un-schedule can be a huge help.

Once you know everything (or pretty much everything) you have to do each week, you will then be able to determine the maximum amount of hours you have each week to spend writing.

Here’s how an un-schedule works:

  • Using the un-schedule worksheet  (Note: there’s a link to download this free worksheet at the end of this post), fill in everything you already know you’re doing this week. Be sure to include things like sleep, eating and commuting time. These are all activities that take up many of the 168 hours you have available each week. Remember to only include the activities you know you’ll be doing for sure.For example, if you plan on exercising for sure at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, write it on your un-schedule. If, however, you don’t know for sure when you’ll be exercising this week, leave exercising off the un-schedule (there will be time to add it during a later step).
  • Once your un-schedule is completely filled out, take inventory of how many hours (or blanks) are remaining. This is the maximum amount of free hours you have available for writing.
  • Now make a list of all the things that aren’t on your un-schedule, but that you know you’ll be doing at some point this week (things like exercising, calling your mom and writing).
  • Figure out when your best available hours will be for writing, and set your writing schedule for the week. You may not make every session, but putting it down on paper (or in your smart phone) will help you keep it at the front of your mind as you go through you week.
  • Repeat this process again next week. And the week after. And the week after…

Have you ever created an un-schedule before? What was your experience like? What did you discover from filling one out?

FREE DOWNLOAD: the un-schedule worksheet (blank).

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elizabeth S. May 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm

I’ve done this for years, ever since I read Julie Morgenstern’s book on time management. Her time maps are similar to an unschedule. At the time, my work schedule changed every week, and making an unschedule/time map not only let me make sure that writing got done, but also that laundry and grocery shopping got done.

I still use a time map – when I fill in work, writing, exercise, and chores and see how little blank space is left, I feel better about all the other things I’m neglecting. 🙂

2 jblan May 11, 2010 at 10:35 pm

@Elizabeth S. Sounds like an un-schedule/time map has been a very effective tool for you. I need to fill one out for myself every week too–you’ve inspired me.

3 chinasa July 17, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I’m not accustomed to writing comments but your recommended un-schedule
is the biggest joke I have every seen to humanity. Yes we need help scheduling and staying on task with our writing but to refer your readers to that joke of a form is an insult to their integrity, especially after they put in their email addresses. Please do not be deceived, you can do better than that with a simple Microsoft word calender or an Excel sheet. They are simply collecting peoples email addresses for their junk mails. Sorry…

4 jblan July 17, 2010 at 8:08 pm

@chinasa Thanks for sharing your opinion. I’m sorry to hear that my unschedule form wasn’t useful for you. The point of the unschedule is for you to figure out how many available hours you have in your week to write. It’s not meant to be fancy or complicated, just a simple form. While the download program I use does ask for your email address, that is simply how the program works. I am not collecting emails or sending out any junk mail. And anyone else who has downloaded this form will tell you they have never received a piece of spam or junk mail from me ever. The only way you would get emails from me is if you opt into my newsletter, which requires you to sign up via the form on the blog’s sidebar, and confirm via your email before you receive anything.

Also, while this form wasn’t helpful to you, it has been very helpful for many other people. I have received many comments via Twitter and email from people who loved this form.

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