Many writers have day jobs – or night jobs, or both. We have spouses and children, we have in-laws. We have community or faith obligations. We volunteer. We have little “spare” time.
Most of us would say writing is a priority. Yet finding the time to treat it like that can be more than challenging.
Years ago someone told me about a sorting process that helps me keep my priorities straight and devote the time to the goals I say are most important to me. This system works with any situation where you have to prioritize: your email inbox, your clothes closet, your calendar, your life goals.
So, here goes. You have four piles, boxes, inboxes, categories, etc. Label them: “urgent & important,” “urgent & not important,” “not urgent & important,” and “not urgent & not important.”
Now sort your daily tasks, e-mails, goals, etc., into each category.
Obviously, anything you would put into the “not urgent & not important” category could easily go into the trash.
If it’s “urgent & important,” it should go into the category that will get your immediate attention. This could be picking up the dry cleaning for a party this evening, making a bank deposit, or finishing a report that’s due to your boss tomorrow.
If it’s “urgent & not important” – like responding to a colleague’s Girl Scout cookie solicitation – you can probably safely ignore it, as well.
The fourth category – “not urgent & important” – is for those goals you say are top priorities but which, because they aren’t urgent, often get pushed to the bottom of the pile. In my experience, writing falls into this category for a lot of folks. We say it is something we are driven to do, but because we are bombarded with urgent (whether important or not important) items all day long, we never get to the one thing we say is most important to us.
The key, then, is to set aside one or two hours every day to work on these non-urgent but important items. The most successful business people in the world do this. They spend time every day working on long-term goals – which matter most to the ongoing success of a company.
Devote time every (work)day to your writing, even if it’s only 30 minutes. You’ll be treating your writing like the priority you tell yourself it is. The bonus is you’ll finish that short story, poetry chapbook, or novel you’ve been toiling over. And you'll feel good.