Thursday, May 16, 2013

Time Management: NESCBWI Conference 2013

One of the best surprises of the NESCBWI Conference was author Gail Gauthier's talk on time management. See, I don't consider myself someone with time management issues. I'm generally hard working, I've got too much of a guilt complex to do much procrastinating, and I don't even hang out on Twitter when I should be writing. Between you and me, I only signed up for Gail's session because I couldn't find anything more relevant in that time slot. And I figured a little time management help couldn't hurt.
Not only was Gail a riot (surely her session was the only one that involved a drinking game?), she was organized, thorough, and very convincing. By the end, I was totally reformed, and have actually spent the past week and a half attempting to put her time management suggestions into practice.  How practical is that?

The main thrust of Gail's presentation was to suggest working for 45 minutes, and then breaking for 15. Apparently human productivity lasts, on average, 45 minutes before it starts going downhill. Maybe I'm above average, or used to writing for long stretches, because as I've been setting my timer this past week, 45 minutes feels quite short to me. But it's been a great motivation to regularly stand up and stretch. Plus because I know I'm only working for 45 minutes at a time, and then get 15 minutes free time, I'm much better able to resist the constant urge to check my email (or Tom & Lorenzo, my absolute favorite distraction). So I've probably been accomplishing a lot more in those 45 minute stretches than I used to.

Another benefit to working in these 45 minute chunks is that I can squeeze 45 minutes into almost any day, no matter how crazy. Sometimes my schedule gets all turned around, when I have to go to the doctor, or drive my husband to the airport, or the two thousand other things that get in the way of my writing time. Before I might have thought, "Right, there's the whole morning gone, guess I'm not getting any writing done today" (or, as Gail called it, the What the Hell Effect). Now I can still plan, in advance, to get in at least one 45 minute chunk even on bad days.

But beyond challenging me with a totally new way of working, Gail also offered one of my favorite take-home messages of the whole conference: there's nothing to be ashamed of in using a crutch.

Lately I've been trying to get back into the habit of starting my work in the morning before checking my email. I kept getting frustrated with myself for not having enough will power to make it through a whole hour. But why should I rely on will power alone? Why not just unplug the wireless router?

See? Simple stuff, but crazy useful! I'm glossing over a lot of details, so if you're interested, please do check Gail Gauthier out. She blogs regularly at Original Content, and provides time management tips every Tuesday.

I'm going to keep playing with these 45 minute stretches of writing, and see how it works out for me. I'll let you know.

How do you make the time to get writing done? Anyone else struggling? Trying something new? Have any of you experimented with this 45 minute chunk routine?

For the next week or two on the blog, I'll be recapping some of my favorite events at the recent NESCBWI Conference. Tuesday I posted about Kate Messner's session on mystery workshop, and making time for research

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for the pointer to Gail Gauthier's blog. My "chunks" are two-hour long, but the same principle. Everyone of us need to find how best we work.

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    1. Exactly this, I think it's so important to not just do what others do, but to be willing to try lots of different methods to see what works best for us.

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  2. Way cool to read this. That's my biggest lament in writing, not feeling like I have enough time, what w/the kidlet, and the job, and the house... I usually manage 45 mins before I hit the sack, sometimes longer if the kidlet stays asleep!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Leandra, and glad I could make you feel better about your 45 minute chunks! It's awfully hard with so much going on!

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  3. Sounds like a great workshop. Breaks are important - got to breathe deeply and stretch the kinks out. I long for a more structured routine but until my life accommodates that, I'll keep snatching opportunities as they present themselves.

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    1. Yes, it's so healthy to take breaks, even if I have to force myself to do so. And I did really love how Gail's chunks allow a person to work so flexibly.

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  4. I finally did a recap of the conference today! I love the 45 minutes idea. I'm sure it's good for your brain as well as your posture. :-) Will have to try it out.

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    1. Ohhh, off to check out your recap! And yeah, the 45 minutes on, 15 off, is apparently also really conducive to break-throughs, which I can certainly see.

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