Maybe the Most Important Part of Time Management

There’s a lot of material on time management to take in and you’ll find that styles and philosophies change every so many years. It leaves us all trying to find our individual time management styles among the landfill of techniques. I don’t wish to disparage individualism, or to even diminish the ideal of “You do you,” but if we’re looking for solutions outside of ourselves then what we’re doing isn’t working the way we want. Also, if you’re literally looking in a landfill, I need a copy of the ET Atari game. Thanks.

I lied. I have a copy of the ET Atari game. I’m going to approach time management through the lens of writing advice. It’s what led me to this thought. I see people on YouTube giving writing advice and they will often say something like, “If this doesn’t work for you then find what works for you.” I’m not immune from saying things like that either. Remember the first paragraph of this blog post? No, not the throwaway Atari joke. I meant the disclaimer about individualism.

“SAE Students: Computer Games History 1960s and 1970s” by playability_de is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A rare look at my actual To Do List… I just can’t stop lying, can I?

It’s interesting that people will seek out advice and then argue with the advice causing these preemptive disclaimers. This may be an indication of how the advice seekers perceive the advice givers, but why? I think people may be spending more time learning than implementing what they learn. Am I getting sidetracked? Nah. Stick with me and I’ll get to my point.

I sometimes break rules when I write if I believe it leads to interesting stories. Among the arguments, I’ve seen people who believe they should break fundamental rules of writing just because they don’t like them. It’s that individualism again. I believe you have to learn the rules first to know when to break them. Ask your YouTuber if writing advice is right for you. Side effects may include shut the… I’ll be nice.

I think it’s overwhelm. When people start writing they want to learn everything so they never write a bad story, and to that end they never practice the things they are learning. Imagine trying to be a pool player who can bend physics before learning how to hold the stick. You have to start with the basics.

What then is the most basic point of time management? Well, it’s having time to do things, right? You feel you lack time, so you want some magic advice to help you complete things. I did it. I learned everything I could about time management and only implemented what I thought would work for me. I was trying to curve around the 8-ball before I could even sink an easy shot… metaphorically, referring to time management, not actual pool. I’m going to ignore good writing advice and not kill that darling.

Someone asked Neil Gaiman what the best advice for new writers was and his response was, “Finish things.” I knew this, but nonetheless I was on my knees saying, “Preach it, Brother Neil.” Actually, I was driving, but you knew that. I’m always driving. I’m not driving while writing this, but since I sometimes use a dictation app you couldn’t be too sure of that either.

This got me to thinking about time management. You can’t do everything on your To Do List. There will always be too much. You can still form a habit of completing things. What Brother Neil was essentially saying to new writers is that most likely your early stories won’t be your best stories, but getting in the habit of completing each story will allow you to follow through and complete your first great story. Maybe a few years into your writing habit you can start to discern what stories can be abandoned in favor of a better story.

With time management, maybe you start with the most basic of concepts which is just to finish projects and activities. Yes, you still prioritize getting an oil change over finishing the most recent season of NetFlixPaloosa, but go ahead and finish some unimportant things as well to form the habit of planning a project and completing it. You might not find the best projects to begin with, but you’ll be ready to follow through when your first great project comes along. Then you can start to discern what can be abandoned in favor of a better project.

Chris McGinty is a blogger who just finished this blog post. He realizes now that he should have left it incomplete and then ranted about how he gets to break fundamental writing rules, like completing things, because he doesn’t like them. Actually, I’m thinking that Chris McGinty is sounding like a douche and should probably shut the… I’ll be nice.

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