Time Management Tip: Make a big task fit your life, rather than the other way around

NaNoWriMo Winner 2009We’re over halfway through this year’s NaNoWriMo, so if you’re hoping to pound out a 50,000-word novel this month, you should have over 25,000 words written. I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, because I’m knee-deep in revisions for my upcoming time travel romance, Time’s Fugitive, which is due for release in late December. NaNo is for writing new pages, and requires a new project, and only once have I been at the right stage in my writing to attempt it. That was in 2009, and I won!

I have a couple of tips that greatly helped me to win NaNo in 2009. I even finished a day early! And this isn’t just for writers participating in the craziness that is writing an entire, 50,000-word novel in a month; this can apply to any big task that could take a month or more, like decluttering a room.

The thing to remember is that you should plan your NaNo writing time to fit into the rest of your life, if at all possible, rather than trying to make the rest of your life fit NaNoWriMo. This is even more important if you have a full time job and a family who is unwilling to be pushed aside for a month while you write. But with these two simple tricks, you won’t need to do that, and your family hopefully won’t grow to resent your writing by November 30. Here they are:

  1. Whoever left these probably got caught in the rain!

    Divide up the task by the time you have to accomplish it. For NaNoWriMo, dividing 50,000 words into thirty days means write 1,667 words a day. But wait! Do you really have the same amount of time to devote to writing every day of the week? I think most of us have certain commitments – kids’ sporting events, household chores, social obligations – that greatly reduce, or even eliminate, time to write at least one evening a week. On the other hand, you probably have other days where you have more time. For many of us, that’s the weekend. So set daily goals in accordance with those other obligations – a higher word count on the days where there’s more time to write, and a lower word count on the days we know will be full.

  2. I alluded to the other tip in my Not Enough Time post: Give yourself one day off per week. Even if you don’t have any days you think are crammed full, this allows for the unexpected. Our best-laid plans often fall by the wayside thanks to the Unexpectedness Monster – surprise visitors one evening, the kitchen sink develops a leak the next, the project you thought would be easy takes ten times as much time as you estimated. So reduce your stress and plan for the unexpected! If you’re lucky, this will work like taking an umbrella somewhere: if you take it, it doesn’t rain; forget the umbrella, and get caught in a downpour.

So with the above in mind, re-divvy up your daily and weekly goals. I wrote 12,000 words/week for NaNoWriMo 2009: 1,500 words a day, four days a week, and 3,000 words each on Saturday and Sunday. My day off was usually Monday, an evening I typically have a lot of household chores. Sometimes I managed to fit 500 words or so in on Monday, which made it a little easier if I had another busy day later that week. November 29th was a Sunday that year, so I wrote my last 2,000 words and put myself down for a Win a day early!

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? If so, how are you coming along? Either way, got any tips to get this big task – or any other – done and still be sane at the end of the month?

Umbrella photo via Wikipedia, public domain