Time Management: Calendaring for the Busy Writer

When I was eleven years old my brother gave me my first calendar in the form of a Franklin Covey planner. At the time I thought it was the oddest gift to give to an eleven year old, especially to me—since I didn’t deem myself a very organized person. But I decided that since I had it, I would use it. 

That planner has proven to be the most impactful gift I have ever been given. It became such a tool to me that I soon began referring to it as my “life.”

Has anyone seen my life? Person holding magnifying glass.
As much as I loved it, I’d lose it frequently.

I organized everything from homework to activities. It taught me to use a calendar, which to this day seems to be the most effective way for me to manage my time. I have moved from paper to digital and I love it! Since it’s right on my phone, it makes taking it with me a lot easier. Also, entering recurring tasks and events is a dream comparatively. 

There are so many options for calendaring, from analogue day planners to online apps. They can all have great features to plan out all of the things you need, but really, it doesn’t matter what you use. 

Though scraps of paper throughout the house may not be the best plan.

The most important part is that you write things down

“The faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory.”

Chinese proverb

Using a calendar effectively 

Getting your work stuff done and having time with family and friends can be tricky. 

Even harder: balancing writing with everything else in between.

Here’s a basic breakdown of how I do it. Depending on what you’re using your calendar for, there are other ways to make calendaring a beneficial experience, but this is a good starting place.

Review your calendar

Calendar with "review and plan week" as a task on Sunday.
If an appointment to schedule appointments is what you need, write it in!
  • On a specific evening, typically at the beginning of the week) go through emails and fill in events, deadlines, and other appointments. Focus on the entire week at once. 
  • Throughout the week add appointments immediately after you set them–otherwise, if you’re anything like me, you may forget. 
  • Each night review your schedule for the next day. It will help you go to sleep with less information filling your brain. Then when the morning comes, you’re ready to hit the ground like Usain Bolt.
Runner prepping to begin race.

Schedule in all of the “must do’s”

  • Start with work, school, meetings, and appointments. Take into account travel and prep time.
  • Add in exercise, meals, and important chores.
  • Using the gaps, fill in your writing time (but don’t get crazy, leave spots open, we’re not done yet).

Schedule in the “want to’s”

  • Plan time for the people you care about.

I’m constantly diving into one project or another and my husband loves nothing more than sitting down, watching TV with a big bowl of popcorn, and just enjoying time with me.

 We made a deal that I would watch TV with him, no distractions, if we danced to a song after every show we watch (since we met Swing dancing and I never want that to stop.). So every Monday night we have: 

"Do Nothing Night." Television, Swing dancers, and a bowl of popcorn.
where we do just that.

This combined with Date Night once a week guarantees quality time with my most important relationship.

It may not be spontaneous, but it happens every week because we have the time allotted—and that is what’s most important. If you’re finding it difficult to spend with the people you care about, make time for them. Carve out specific days and times to be with them. You’ll be surprised by how special it makes them feel.

Happy man
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
  • If you have other hobbies that you want to explore, schedule time for those.
  • Leave blank spots. Open spaces in your schedule allow for free time, flexibility, and emergencies. Also you’re less likely to experience burnout. It’s good for your brain to see and experience down time.

The biggest benefit of calendaring is the ability to see, at a glance, how busy you are and where you have writing time. 

Most of the time we feel significantly more busy than we are, but typically it’s all up in our heads. We think about writing, we plan on writing sometime, we want to write, but some days feel like we’re driving an out of control bus. 

Maybe a bomb is attached, maybe not. Depends on the day.

Planning ahead means your mind will be in the right place at the right time and you will actually feel less busy and in control.

Even if you only have a fifteen minute time slot (typically me), you can spend it well if you’re not stressed over when you’ll walk the dog or get to the grocery story. A calendar can help you make and keep your appointments, especially the writing appointments you make with yourself. 

Refer back to your calendar often

As you go throughout the day, things come up. Bestie will call and ask to go to lunch or that new episode of Daughter of Smoke and Bone just came out and it feels like Christmas morning is just around the corner. 

Before you say yes to either one, check that calendar and make sure you’ve got time for it. Sometimes you’ll see that you do, but if you have an appointment to get to, schedule this new appointment for another time so you have something to look forward to. It’s okay and important to set boundaries with yourself and others.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Try it out! Who knows, it could be the most important skill you’ll ever acquire. You’ve got this! 

If you’re having a hard time knowing what to write when your writing time begins, schedule some time for learning (this way you don’t get sucked into a rabbit hole)! You could even set a daily schedule to read an eight minute blog article or a chapter in a book on writing. Check out our articles on writers block, story structure, along with our free interactive plot graph and calculator. For more on time management and access to a free interactive planner, check out this link.

What type of calendar do you use to manage your time? Do you have any tips on calendaring that I didn’t cover? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment.

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