Where does the time go?

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo and I'm sure many of you are asking yourself "where did the month go?". I swear Halloween was just last week.

With so many obligations that fill our days it's easy to lose track of time and realize we aren't as far along with projects as we'd like to be. Between work, school, families, household chores, community obligations, church, and heaven forbid any other hobbies, writing can sometimes become the task that gets pushed to the side or saved for another day.

Back in my days of working the corporate 9-5 (ha!) I took a time management class that was actually really helpful to me. One of the things we were challenged to do as homework was a time chart. Basically, we wrote down every activity we did on a given day along with the start and end time.

For example, the start of your day might look like this:

6:00-6:30 Get ready for work
6:30-6:45 Breakfast
6:45-7:15 Drive to work
7:15-8:00 Check and respond to email
8:00 - 8:05 Get more coffee
and so on...

The idea was to help us realize exactly where the hours went every day. It was eye opening. When I did this for work, I realized I was spending a lot of time during the day on little tasks that I should have asked our admin assistant to do. In my mind, they were no big deal and not worth bothering her with. However, on paper I realized I was spending around an hour every day scheduling meetings or shipping packages, none of which had anything to do with the marketing plans I was supposed to be working on.

Another aspect of the chart was to make a check mark next to the item every time we were interrupted during the task. Another big eye opening here. Interruptions, even small questions I could answer without thinking, adding lots of time to whatever I was working on. On average, every interruption cost an additional 5 minutes to get back into whatever task I had been working on. Five minutes might not sound like a lot until you think about the number of times every day someone interrupts you.

So how does this apply to writing? I don't know about you, but I'd love to find more time in my day for writing. I would suggest everyone complete a time chart like this. Charting a week would be best, but even a single day should show you ways that you could improve your productivity.

I would also suggest setting aside designated writing time that is interruption free. I know first hand that this can be difficult, especially with little ones. But you'll be surprised how much more you can get done in 30 minutes of dedicated writing time than in 2 hours of time that is shared with answering the phone, switching the laundry, changing a diaper or any of the other "quick tasks" we try to get done with writing.

In the end, we all want to be more productive. Until we each have a personal Tardis, we're stuck with 24 hours a day. Knowing how each of those hours is spent is only going to help you in getting the most out of them.

If you do a time chart, I'd love to hear about it. Share what you learned in the comments below.