Monday, January 11, 2016

Peak Productivity

By: J.T. Evans

Editor's Note: For the next four Mondays, Writing from the Peak will host a four-part series on time management. The blogs will include tips and actual events that may help you make the most of yours. 

If you've been keeping up with Writing from the Peak you know that we ended 2015 discussing stress, ways to increase our writing time, and advance our careers. Ideally, now that we've turned the calendar to 2016, you're ready to set goals. A big part of achieving those goals is through time management. Today I begin a four-part series on the subject. Some of you might recognize this as material that Author Cindi Madsen and I presented at the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Fortunately, unlike our computers, the thread of time management never requires new software updates. To be successful, writing or not, people need to engage in effective time management.

The series will cover the following topics:

·       Make Time
·       Flashback to 2010
·       Stolen Moments
·       Schedule Time
·       Reduce External Interruptions
·       Reduce Internal Interruptions
·       Idle Your Engine
·       Increase Your Productivity
·       External Motivations
·       Internal Motivations
·       Magic Spreadsheet
·       Conclusion

Make Time

You cannot find time.

It’s not a quarter on the ground waiting to be picked up. You are allotted the same 168 hours in a week that everyone else gets. There’s no way to get extra (except for maybe that pesky hour shift during daylight saving, but an extra hour a year won’t make a difference to anyone.) You have the same time as everyone else. What you make time to do is what matters. Every time I hear someone say, “I’d love to write, but I can’t find the time,” I grind my teeth.

If someone is truly passionate about an effort (writing, working, family, hobbies, or whatever), then they will make the time for it. The advice I'm giving is for those people with passion to write, but can’t seem to make the time in their lives.
The excuse of not having time falls in the same bucket as not being able to “find” time to do something. I just don’t buy it.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I had the will, and I found the way. Let me show you something that's rather shocking:

Flashback to 2010

Hours per Week
Full-time graduate student
Full-time+, lead software engineer
President of a writing group
Webmaster of a writing group
Commute to/from work
Sleep (~6 hours per night)
Family (Wife + 2 year old son)

I’m not posting this chart to brag. I’m showing you this to illuminate how busy Real Life can be. I was left with a mere 15 hours each week to work on my writing. During this year, I started (and finished) a novel, and roughly a dozen short stories. This is not including the endless pages of critiques I did this year and the countless papers I had to write for my graduate degree.

Because of my busy life during 2010, when someone claims they can’t find the time to write, I call them out. Everyone can make the time to write if they are passionate enough about it.

Now to the meat of things. How do you go about making time to write?

Stolen Moments

You don’t have to block out hours on end for writing. You can steal moments from your life with which to write. This means being prepared to write at any location and at any time. Make sure you always have a writing device and some paper with you.

If you can, drag your typical writing implements with you everywhere. This can be your laptop if that’s your preferred writing method. At a minimum invest in a pen that is comfortable for your hand and a few Moleskin (or similar) notebooks. Keep one in your car. Keep another in your purse (for the ladies). Keep another in your office desk. Keep another in your back pocket if you can. Scatter them around your life. You never know when you’ll have a moment or five to write.

One winter, I hit a pretty hefty patch of ice and found myself up against a fence in a bar ditch. I couldn’t get out of my car, but I was unharmed. After calling my wife to let her know what happened, I called for a tow truck. They told me it would take about an hour for them to arrive. I pulled out my notebook and outlined five short story ideas. I didn’t get to write any of them at that moment as I was in “idea mode,” but it was still forward progress on my writing. This was a stolen moment for me.

Here are some places/times in which you can steal moments. These are all things where waiting and doing nothing is common.

·       Emergency Room
·       DMV
·       Lunch Break
·       Driving (voice only or percolate on your story)
·       Public Transportation
·       Oil Changes
·       Waiting on others
·       Auto repairs
·       Napping Baby
·       Child goes to bed early

Make sure to keep your laptop battery charged at all times. You never know when a moment will strike to write! Tune in Monday, January 18 for Part two.

About the Author:  J.T. Evans writes fantasy novels. He also dabbles with science fiction and horror short stories. He is the president of Pikes Peak Writers. When not writing, he keeps computers secure at the Day Job, homebrews great beers, spends time with his family, and plays way too many card/board/role-playing games.


  1. J.T. Stolen moments really spoke to me. As writers we have a ton of stolen moments. I'm really excited to read all these valuable tips.

  2. J.T., I remember that workshop you did with Cindi. One of the best I ever attended!


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