Time Management for Writing

A goal without a plan is just a wish. – Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry

After completing the draft of Book 2 within the intensive span of 19 days, I found myself incredibly exhausted over the next two weeks. I was so tired that I thought this old bird was pregnant. I wasn’t, I was just late, bloated, and ridiculously sleepy. I realized that the rate at which I was writing might have been too much for a newbie writer/two-finger typist. But whatever, I had set out to write a draft in NaNoWriMo, and I did it. I’d do it again and likely with the same type of schedule, though with a much earlier bedtime.

Catching up on rest also meant losing momentum. I’ve since been working on my revision sporadically and without gusto, only when the mood hit. I’d set up a weekly schedule, only to ignore it as soon as Monday arrived. Writing less has forced me to play catch-up on the things on my to-do list. Confronting these items, which are all finance and goal-related, has forced me to re-examine my life and the overall direction I’m heading.

I’ve known for a long time where I want to be in the future, specifically in the next five years, and what I do in the interim will determine whether or not I get there. I’m clear on what I want to accomplish in 2022. It’s ambitious, but doable. (Somehow, I think all this fatigue is forcing me to rest up before I become busy and productive again.) As I was trying to organize my tasks surrounding these goals, I got a newsletter from Sarra Cannon, the indie writer guru I follow, telling me it was the final day to enroll in her planning program called the HB90 Bootcamp.

I had heard from other writers great things about this week-long program, which gives you lifetime access to the course materials, even if they’ve been updated. I’m in need of some kind of effective goal management structure to optimize my time, so I signed up.

Sarra’s been a best-selling indie author for over a decade, and she’s very much in touch with the writer’s mindset. Writing, a difficult though enjoyable endeavor, involves a shit-ton of self-discipline. Writing books that sell and the hustle to market and sell your books require a lot of self-motivation, especially in the beginning, when you’re not making money yet. She’s aware of the emotional pitfalls that will challenge you in your pursuit to succeed: self-doubt, burnout, shiny-new-object syndrome, lack of sales, anxiety, over-extending yourself, and just feeling overwhelmed. Her time management techniques go beyond organizing your day/week/month/year. Her method forces you to dig deep to truly discover your ideal vision of your future, and then to prioritize your life and time around the goals to get there, all while fulfilling your obligations and responsibilities.

The Course

Sarra provides students with a fetching printable planner template that is also a workbook. Each day of the course is a new set of instructional videos and we do get “homework.” Her method involves a lot of self-exploration, and it’s been a cathartic experience for many—for some to the point of tears. That feeling of being overwhelmed, and then to find hope in the chaos that you could follow through with your goals, one task at a time, via her unique organizational method is what most of us have been desperately seeking to do, though without really knowing where to start. Until now.

My Minimalist Method

Unlike many of the students who signed up, I didn’t do a printout of the planner. I’ve been doing all of the bootcamp work on my laptop, using Google Docs to do all the assignments and Notion to do all the organizing. This way, I can format and organize the information in a way that I can access and edit easily.

I run on a very minimalist operation, and seeing too many notebooks, file folders, and binders makes me feel suffocated. I actually enjoy looking at other people’s pretty collections of notebooks, stickers, and washi tape, especially Sarra Cannon’s in all of her videos, but it would feel like pure chaos if that were in my own physical space (I think I was a monk in a past life). Most of the bootcamp students printed out the planner template and either had it professionally bound or they used planner binders. I felt left out seeing them post their pretty planners in our FB group, but I know that if I did the same, I’d end up not using the entire planner and putting it all online anyway.

An aside: If you can believe it, I’ve written everything so far—from the 2nd edition of my finance book, my novella, Book 1 of my series, and the draft of Book 2—without a printer. I once had three printers in my possession, and now, none. I’ll get a printer one day, when I feel the need for it. I had bought so many printers in my past, and I’m kinda done contributing to the inkjet racket. Also, I’m a minimalist. I’ve been living as one over the last 3+ years, and I’m happier for it. All the books I read are on my reading apps. My writing tools consist of my laptop, cell phone, a notebook, and a handful of pens of different colors. And in case you’re curious, I can fit all of my clothes and personal belongings into three suitcases. With less, I’m lighter, less burdened by “stuff,” and more productive. Being a minimalist has allowed me to be the eccentric free spirit I was always meant to be.

Back to planner bootcamp and all the wonderful things I got out of it. A common mistake we make when setting goals is to have a lot of them. So after lots of whittling down, I was able to be clear on the top three goals I want to accomplish in the next quarter. Then I identified all the projects required to accomplish each goal, then I further broke down each project into smaller tasks. Sarra’s method forces you to take a realistic look at your schedule, future obligations, appointments, and any health issues that tend to come up, and then overestimate how long each project and task will take. You will inevitably have to toss out (or do in a later quarter) a project or two in order to accomplish your goals in Q1. Ultimately, the idea is to do this type of goal planning every quarter.

If this sounds easy enough to do on your own, don’t. I’ve watched a bunch of Sarra’s videos on organizing on YouTube and thought I was kicking ass after having a productive year of following her advice. But knowing that I wanted to take my productivity to another level, I decided to pay up and take this course. It was worth the money. She takes you deep into the matrix of time management and will show you things you can’t just pick up on your own without losing precious time.

One thing that Sarra emphasizes is this: you won’t get it ALL done. She’s admitted to moving or extending goals from one quarter to the next. Often the unexpected happens, events that will derail your life, and you’ll have to put your plans on hold or do some rearranging. But identifying the goals that line up with the future vision of your dream life is half the battle. The other half is to plan it out and organize your time to execute it.

If you’re interested in signing up for the next bootcamp, it’s offered four times a year, every March, June, September, and December—two weeks before the start of each quarter. Go to Sarra’s site for more information on the course. She also offers an intensive course on self-publishing called Publish and Thrive, which I cannot recommend enough. Full disclosure: I’m not being paid in any way to promote Sarra’s courses. I’m writing this as a fan girl and a satisfied student of Sarra’s.

Here’s to a productive 2022!

Author: Donna Fernandez

Author of women's fiction.