Time Management (Or Not)

Lately I’ve thinking a lot about 2006. It was a weird year. I was living in Tennessee about two-thousand miles from my family and lifelong friends,my husband was deployed, and I was childless. Since I’d had a roommate or lived in a sorority house all through college and my husband and I got married two weeks after graduation, 2006 was my first experience with living completely alone. It was cool. I could eat whatever I wanted, watch whatever I wanted on TV, sleep whenever I wanted, go wherever I wanted. Granted, I was teaching full-time, but from about 4pm to 11pm, I could do as I pleased.

Now, whenever I think about 2006, I ponder with equal parts bewilderment and annoyance the following questions: WHY THE HELL DID I WASTE ALL THAT FREE TIME?! WHY DON’T I HAVE ANYTHING TO SHOW FOR IT?! WHY WASN’T I WRITING SERIOUSLY BACK THEN?!

Lately, there just does not seem to be enough time in the day. Thanks to yet another deployment (the fourth of my eight year marriage, in case you’re curious), I am essentially a single parent. Luckily, I have a sweet, well-behaved, awesome-to-hang-out-with child, but holy cow does she keep me busy! I feel like I’m running her all over Western Washington (ballet and swimming and play dates and Spanish) all day everyday, and when we aren’t rushing to one of her activities, there’s grocery shopping and lawn mowing and house cleaning and bill paying and dog walking… plus, I’ve recently decided to run an organized 5K, so there’s exercise to fit in to the day as well.

Did you notice that I didn’t list writing on my above list of activities? That’s because by the time my kiddo goes to bed, I’m too exhausted to sit up straight, let alone add to my WIP word count. Still, I’m trying hard to fit it in. I’ve got three different projects in varying stages of crazy completion. Where Poppies Bloom is close to being “done” and hopefully on submission, Cross My Heart is being replotted and rewritten (I’m REALLY excited about where it’s going!), and Bus WIP is… well, very much still a WIP.

I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to have to do some serious prioritizing to ensure that I’m getting everything I need to get done DONE, and that includes writing. But for me, there are a few things that will always come before I sit down at my computer to work:

~Family. My daughter (and my husband, when he’s home) come first.
~My health, including exercise and nutrition (I will never be one of those people who’s working so hard that oops, I forget to eat).
~The cleanliness of my house. I simply can’t clear my head enough to write when I’m surrounded by clutter.
~Reading. I consider it professional development, plus, I really enjoy it.

And there are some things I’m more than happy to let go of in order to get the words down on paper:

~TV, Movies, Magazines. Thank goodness for DVR and Netflix. 🙂
~Hobbies. Once upon a time, I fancied myself a quilter (no, I am not eighty), but that little pastime has kind of gone by the wayside over the last few years.
~My Social Life. If you don’t have a four-year-old who my daughter likes to play with, I’m probably not spending a lot of time with you. Sad but true.
~Sleep. Overrated.
~Social Media. This is a hard one because often it goes hand-in-hand with a successful writing career. BUT, there’s no writing career if there are no complete manuscripts.

So, I’m curious… how do you prioritize your time? What are you willing to sacrifice for writing? What comes first for you?


18 thoughts on “Time Management (Or Not)

  1. Alison Miller says:

    Haha – once again, you have described my life. I don’t really have a plan – and I need one. I have an agenda filled with oodles of things I hope to get accomplished. Some days are better than others. But I like your priority list, except cleaning definitely gets sacrificed to writing ( my house should seriously be condemned).
    Seriously though, when my husband is home (soccer seasons are somewhat like deployments), I’ve been better about setting certain nights for him, and certain nights for writing – you know – when I’m not so exhausted I’m falling asleep on my netbook. 🙂 Good luck with the time management – sounds like you have a plan in action!

  2. Rebecca B says:

    This is making me realize that I need to work on nutrition, which is something I can’t sacrifice for writing time. Or sacrifice any longer–I eat pizza or takeout nachos for about 50% of my meals lately–which, yeah, has given me more time to write (no prep or clean-up, and it’s comfort food). But it’s not sustainable.
    Your priorities and plan seem perfect!

  3. Jus Accardo says:

    I suck at time management. Like huge, mega, uber amounts of suckage. Family will always come first, no matter what, but I go through spurts of time management disasters. When I get really wrapped up in a project, everything else seems to fade away. Dishes tend to pile up, dust bunnies mate with dog hair clumps to create fluff monsters so hideous, it would make you scream.

    I totally envy your priorities! When I’ve been sucked in to a project, I’m one of those people who look up, see it’s midnight and have a nagging feeling something important has slipped past me. Then, when my stomach growls loud enough to wake the dead, I realize I’m one of those people that DO forget to eat, LOL.

    • katyupperman says:

      I never forget to eat, usually because I’m snacking nonstop WHILE I write!

      I’m like you when I’m drafting–my everyday stuff does get pushed to the side, but when there’s editing and revising to be done (things that don’t require me to be so deep in the story) it’s easier to let writing fall to the bottom of the list.

  4. Jessica Love says:

    This is really my biggest struggle. I don’t even have a kid, but I somehow find all of my time used up by the end of the day…and none of it on writing sometimes. I hate it.

    I think I need to make my list of priorities like you did. That might help me.

    • katyupperman says:

      Yeah, you don’t have a kid, but you DO have TWO jobs, right?! It’s no wonder all your time gets used up by the end of the day!

      I think we need a writers’ retreat where we can spend a weekend (or a week!) just writing… 🙂

  5. Tracey Neithercott says:

    I’m like you. I can’t work through hunger. I need at least three meals a day not to turn into a monster. I’m kind of a health food nut, so I’ll usually make some stuff ahead so eating individual meals is quicker but I don’t have to eat takeout or something fast but not so healthy. So if I’m making a salad I’ll make a giant one that will last for three or so days in the fridge, then pull from that for a meal. Of course, I don’t have a child, which I know makes things WAY more complicated. Obviously,not having kids gives me more free time.

    That said, I do find that social media’s a huge time suck. Some days I’ll get sucked in, tweeting nonstop. Others I have to shut the application in order to get work done. I’m always torn. Social media sites are important for writers and I genuinely enjoy them, but if I devoted as much time to them as I want to, I’m not sure I’d ever finish my current WIP. So if you find out how to balance all of that, let me know. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      So glad I’m not the only one who gets sucked into social media… it’s so hard NOT to, especially when you’re trying to become a part of the writing community, maintain a blog, and connect with people on Twitter.

      I love your idea of making meals ahead. SO smart!

  6. Alicia Gregoire says:

    Good luck with all that. My goal this summer is to work more on time management since exercise has fallen off the map entirely. Erinn had told me lists are the best thing ever and I think I’m agreeing with her.

    • katyupperman says:

      Yes to lists! I used to keep To-Do lists religiously when I was teaching, but I’ve gotten out of the habit… Time to start using them again, I think!

  7. Caroline Tung Richmond says:

    Aside from the house cleaning, we sound incredibly similar! (Haha, I have a blind spot when it comes to clutter. I can’t stand dishes in the sink but I don’t mind random books or socks littering the floor. Weird.)

    But yeah, I totally hear you. It can be really hard to squeeze in time for writing! This summer, I’m trying to cut back on my TV consumption because that’s kind of a time sink for me.

    Good luck!!!

    • katyupperman says:

      I know you like your reality TV as much as I do, Caroline! I really have had to cut back, especially when I’m drafting. When my daughter’s in bed, I can either zone out in front of the TV or write, and I know what the most productive use of time is!

  8. Erin Bowman says:

    I am amazed, every day, by people that have children and still find the time to write. I have a hard time right now, and all I have to worry about is myself and the Engineer. Kudos to you for making it work.

    I cut TV out completely; we don’t even pay for cable. On the rare case I make time for a movie or TV show, we Netflix it. I exercise almost daily (I have to or I go insane), but at least once a week I do a “light” workout, and read while on the bike. Multi-tasking is key! But my social life? That is what suffers the most. When I need to get a lot of writing done, I pretty much become a hermit.

    Good luck wrapping up all those stories! 🙂

  9. katyupperman says:

    Erin, I am amazed every day by people who hold full-time jobs AND still find time to write! My brain would be way too tired by the end of the day to get any words down. I like the idea of exercising and reading at the same time… perhaps I should download some audio books and plug in my iPod while I’m running. Cheers to multi-tasking!

  10. katharine owens says:

    I hear you Katy- I think about different times in my life, and kind of kick myself that I wasn’t writing then. I also sit down about twice a year and think, ‘now what did I do before I had kids?’ I can’t even answer the question. it’s a blank.

    I have prioritized health more this summer, going to about 4 1/2 hours of intense yoga a week. I think it (and nutrition) help with writing– making me a more clear-headed person.

    I wish I had the answer to how to prioritize and balance. Just keep keepin’ on, really.

    • katyupperman says:

      What did I do before I had a child… sleep, watch TV, eat out way too much. Nothing productive, that’s for sure! Sometimes I wish I could get that time back so I could take advantage of it!

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