Why It’s OK to Say “I Just Don’t Have Time Right Now”

Is it wrong, every now and then, to be honest, and real, and say “I really can’t do this now?”

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I’ve written a lot here about time management – sort of. My belief is that we always have more time than we think we do, and that not writing because we “do not have time” is an unacceptable excuse. But is it wrong, every now and then, to be honest, and real, and say “I really can’t do this now?”

That depends.

It depends on your reasoning. I’ve had a few rough anniversaries in the past few months, and sometimes when you need to take care of yourself emotionally, taking a day off from writing is not an excuse so much as a necessity. However, those are things we can plan for. I can look at my calendar and expect that I’m going to have a really rough few days on this day and that one, so I’ll do a little more writing ahead of time to make up for it. You can’t always plan ahead. Things come up. Life takes weird turns. Sometimes you just have to move writing to a lower position on your long list of priorities.

It depends on how often you say it. Once a month? Twice a week? If you are consistently using lack of time as an excuse, there could be a lot of underlying issues. You either aren’t invested enough in your current writing project to make the time for it (which does happen) or your life is quite literally a mess right now and you’re going to have to put writing off to the side for now. That doesn’t mean you’ll never go back to it. In fact, in putting it away for the time being, you should also plan when you’re going to pull it back out.

It depends on whether or not you intend to return to writing. If you close your notebook and tell yourself you’ll get back to it “later” because you don’t have time today, that’s a little dangerous. Deep down, you probably really do want to. But if you don’t give yourself an exact day and/or time when you are going to sit down and get some writing done, you’re just going to keep putting it off. That is when “I don’t have enough time” becomes the kind of excuse that holds you back.

You’re never not allowed to take time off of writing, whether it’s because you have to take care of personal issues or because you’re trying to focus on something that, at the moment, takes priority over your writing projects. It’s when we continuously use time as an excuse that it becomes a problem. I’ve been making very slow progress on my novel for months now – not because I don’t want to work on it, but because I literally have not had time. But will I get back into it in larger doses? Of course. That’s the difference. I haven’t abandoned it. I know that after next week, I have about a month to crank out the last 20,000 words, and I plan on doing that. Just not right now. Not yet.

When was the last time you said “not right now” because of time? Were you able to get back into it? Did you feel guilty about not writing? How did you handle it?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of pixabay.com.

How to Organize Your Writing Time for Optimal Productivity

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It’s easy to wake up first thing in the morning and say, “I’m going to work on my book today.” Next thing you know, though, today is pretty much over and you haven’t even thought about sitting down to work on it. And when you do, you spend twenty minutes scrolling through to find where you last stopped, or you start rereading random sections with no intent of actually working on them.

When time to write comes around, it’s best to use it wisely, especially when time is limited and you’re still learning how to fit writing time into your schedule. Here are some tips to make the most of the writing time you do have today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Decide the time of day you’re going to do your best work

Every writer handles this differently. Some would rather wake up early and get their writing/editing done first thing in the morning before moving on to other tasks. Some need to have everything else out of the way before they can focus on writing. It really depends on when you feel you’ll be able to do your best work.

Feel free to experiment. Try writing first thing a few days, then try doing everything else first, putting your writing time at the end of your day. Maybe lunchtime is your optimal productivity time slot. There is no right or wrong time: you have to do what’s going to work best for you.

Plan the minimal amount of work for your allotted time

Sometimes you’ll find yourself really wanting to get work done, but that awful “it’s too much to handle” feeling stops you before you can even get started. The best way to combat this is to “assign” less work for yourself than you know you could accomplish in the time you schedule out for yourself. It’s not lazy: it’s healthy, actually, in this case.

Let’s say you plan on spending one hour tonight with your book. Reading, writing, tweaking—while it’s easy to get lost in the vortex, figuring out what you want to spend your time on can delay your productivity. Tell yourself you’re just going to work with five pages, even though that’s not a lot. Spend as much time on those five pages as you want.

If the hour’s up and you feel satisfied, great—you’ve accomplished something today! If you’re still working on those pages when the hour comes to a close, also great—you have something to look forward to working on tomorrow. 

Spend the last five minutes planning what you’ll do tomorrow

Often we’re afraid to get too engrossed in our work because, once we get too deep into our story, it’s hard to pull ourselves out. When you have a thousand other things to do, and can’t afford to spend more than an hour on your book, it’s tempting to skip writing time altogether to avoid getting too caught up. There’s a simple way to get into the habit of pulling yourself out of the vortex before it’s time to put things on hold.

If setting a timer is your go-to way of keeping track of time while you write, set it to go off five minutes before you want to stop writing, reading, editing, whatever it is you’re doing that day. Spend those next five minutes thinking about where you want to take your story next—but don’t work on it. Jot down ideas really quick, then back away. Close everything out before it’s too late.

Knowing what tomorrow brings can actually motivate you to focus on your other commitments until it’s time to write again, and the more you have to look forward to next time, the less it feels like work. Bonus pro! 

One of many keys to successful writing is working on your latest project even when you don’t have time for it. Plan out your time, and make the most of it. Never forget: it’s all going to be worth it someday. Keep writing!

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.