Lessons from Writing: Tracking Your Minutes

Keep track of the time you spend working. Seriously, track every minute. I feel like logging your minutes is like weighing yourself every day and keeping track of your pounds. It holds you accountable. If you slip up? Fix it the next day. Analyze your trends. Is there a day of the week you seem to be more productive? Certain time of day? Make these assessments with cold, hard facts.

This is what I do:

writing log

Pictured: my monthly log of minutes spent writng.

I have a journal that I lug around solely for the purpose of tracking writing progress and analyzing writing-relating business.

I also keep a daily log (not pictured). My goal is to write 10 hours/week. I generally hit pretty close to that on a weekly basis or go slightly over. This month I did 9.92 hours/week. Close…but I know I can do better. I’m not happy with those numbers. I want to shoot for closer to 15/week soon.

After you get in the habit of logging the minutes you spend writing, the next step is to analyze your data. To go back to my weighing yourself analogy, if you step on the scale and find yourself a few pounds heavier, usually you assess what your eating habits and exercise habits were and make adjustments accordingly (that is, if you want the results). In writing, you need to figure out how you can be even more efficient with your time. Generally I look at ways to increase my probability of successfully writing.

I have two small children, a full-time job, and I sit on a number of committees. I’m a busy person. BUT! That doesn’t mean you can’t carve out time for your passion, and my passion is writing. What generally works for me is to go to Starbucks at least twice a week (two hours each session), in addition to writing 1-2 hours/day at home. You’d be surprised what stealing ten minutes here and there will do when you log it and add it up at the end of a day. In an ideal world I’d sit down every day, mid-morning, and write for four hours straight. But this isn’t an ideal world, so you make do with what you have. Try taking a few minutes here and there.

I’ve also found that I need to address the problem of me being too damn tired in the evening to write. I get the kids to sleep and I’m always full of hope that I’ll be able to write, and then I just crash from exhaustion. I work better in the mornings, but I struggle to wake up even earlier than the 5AM that I already do to get ready for work. It’s a work in progress.

Also, I find that psychologically if I have a “good” Monday (translation: writing at least two solid hours), it sets the tone of my week. You have to figure out what works for you.

The point is that everyone needs to assess their schedules and figure out how to make writing a priority. That is, if writing is a priority to you. You also need to have on paper what you’ve been doing to work toward successfully writing.

I’m certainly not perfect and I do not have all of the answers. But you start with one foot in front of the other and you move forward…no matter what. I have friends who say they want to be writers but they don’t write. Write. If you never stop trying, you never fail. There are no magic bullets, no easy techniques to mastering anything. You just do it. You revise. You try harder. You get creative with your solutions to obstacles and keep moving.

I’ll keep you updated with how I personally continue to evolve at doing all of this.

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