Focusing on Writing: Cutting out time wasting activities

Surprised woman in front of clock uid 1271830I will be the first to admit it – I am not always the best at managing my time. I too easily get sucked into time wasters. You know what I am talking about – those tasks such as checking email and Facebook or surfing the web take up more time that you realize. Unfortunately, those time wasters are stealing my writing time.

Here are some tips to help avoid those time wasters.

1.) Set limits on time suckers

Facebook, Twitter, email and the Internet easily can take up a lot of your time. Now I am not saying you should not work on building relationships with other writers or fans, or you shouldn’t market your other books but you need to set aside a certain time to do it – preferably after you have met your writing goal for the day.

It may help not unplug your network connection if you can’t resist the temptation to surf the web. And while you are at it, turn off your phone.

2.) Write when others aren’t around

The best time to write is when you are alone. It may be during lunch at your empty office or early in the morning before everyone gets up. But people – especially children – can be a great distraction. If you can’t write when no one is around, work on finding a time to write where you can hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. If your children are old enough, they can be taught to give you some alone time to write.

3.) Focus on your goal

Know what you want to accomplish when you sit down to write. It could be writing a set number of pages or words, editing a chapter or two or developing a character. Refuse to become involved in anything that doesn’t move you closer to accomplishing your goal. If it helps, let others who will hold you accountable know of your goal. (Next week I will cover how to set realistic writing goals.)

4.) Be Prepared to Write

Authors often talk about finding time to write, but really it isn’t about finding time as much is it about making time to write. Finding time means you are squeezing writing between other activities. The problem with this is that depending on how busy your schedule is you may or may not actually get any writing done.  I am so guilty of this.

Making time to write is proactive. It means you build your schedule around your writing. Knowing that you are going to sit down and write needs to be a conscious choice. Knowing that you are putting writing first makes it easier to ignore things that pop up to interrupt your writing time.

Remember that your writing time should be just for that – writing. You only have a limited amount of time for writing so get to it!

Dividing the holiday time between our respective families

It is that time of year again…time to celebrate the holidays. And as with many families, we are looking at how to divide the holidays between my husband’s parents and mine.

Growing up, my family celebrated as a small unit – just the four of us. There were no massive get together with aunt, uncles, cousins or grandparents. This was true for my husband’s family as well. When my husband and I were first married we divided our time between the two families – one got us for Thanksgiving and the other Christmas.

Then we moved farther away, and it was just the two of us celebrating. Soon after we moved to San Antonio, my parents moved to a neighboring town, and we began celebrating all the holidays with them.

(I will say that I did offer to go visit my in-laws during several Thanksgivings but my husband always said no. In fact, during the fourteen years we lived far away from them, we only visited them two times – and both were non-holiday related.)

So for the past nine years (and for the whole time we have been parents), we have spent Thanksgiving at my parents’ house and Christmas at ours. My husband and I declared right after our son was born that we would be spending Christmases at our house. We couldn’t imagine having to lug all the presents to someone else’s house and then back home. If you want to celebrate with us, we told our family, you are always welcome to come to our house. And my parents have always done that.

Things were rolling along fine with this set up until last year when my in-laws bought a house about 30 minutes away from us.  Now we need to incorporate them into our celebrations.

The thing is his parents have pretty much given up celebrating some of the holidays. They no longer cook a turkey on Thanksgiving.  And because his parents don’t want to socialize with my parents (for reasons I guess I will never understand), they won’t accept an invitation to eat at my parents’ house. (Their official excuse is they can’t leave their 35-year-old son at home alone on the holiday. Of course, he is invited too but is anti-social so you know that isn’t going to happen.)

Again, this year my parents invited his and again they declined. My husband suggested we host Thanksgiving but since I already cook a big meal on Christmas, I wasn’t thrilled with adding another big meal to my list of duties. Plus, I think his parents still would have declined – after all the other grandparents would be there and would be commanding some of the grandkids’ attention. And heaven forbid they have to make small talk with my parents.

But that leaves us with Christmas, and I think we have found the solution. My husband’s family always did most of their celebrating on Christmas Eve. (I still think it is odd to open all your presents on Christmas Eve, though they did have Santa’s gifts on Christmas morning.)

So right now, we are planning on having his family over Christmas Eve, and the grandparents can watch the kids open a few presents. Then my parents will be over Christmas morning to see the kids tear into the rest of their gifts and enjoy Christmas dinner. I think it will work out well for everyone.