As the year end approaches, the conversation inevitably turns to what we have accomplished in 2013 and our plans and resolutions for 2014. Very few of us have the luxury of spending as much time as we would like focused on our writing, and most of us are greedy for any time management tips and tricks that will help us get more out of our hard-won writing time and reach our goals faster.
I will read any time management book I can get my hands on, but after a while, all that reading becomes counter-productive, stealing time from the very pastimes the books are intended to promote. I have narrowed my focus and distilled my extensive collection down to three books I would hate to be without.
David Allen’s is the ultimate system for managing time in every area of life, and therein lies both its success and its downfall. Implementing his system fully is a huge undertaking and I have to admit that I have never fully succeeded. Nevertheless, each stage of the system incorporates a wealth of usable advice, and this book is worth having just for its section on creating a quick but complete project plan.
If I could only keep one book on time management, this would be it. Compared to David Allen’s supremely logical system, I find Mark Forster’s quirky tricks better suited to a creative (OK, make that disorganized) mind like mine. Everyone knows that breaking a huge task into chunks makes it easier to digest, but Mark Forster goes further and shows how to intersperse a number of tasks to avoid boredom, without losing focus. The fables which illustrate his principles are telling, too.
The remit of this book is somewhat broader than the other two and arguably the topic is more life management than time management. However, this does not detract from the seven habits’ relevance to writers and the way we choose to use our time. Knowing your goals and how your writing fits with your values equate to Covey’s principles of pro-activity and personal management. Remembering what you are trying to achieve — “beginning with the end in mind” — is also vital.
Finally, so is remembering to take time to care for your tools (both physical and mental) as well as your end product – what Covey calls “sharpening the saw”. This last point may well appear on my resolution list!