[process|personal] How do I spend my time?

Recent posts have prompted various discussions of time management, personal commitment, energy levels and whatnot. I jokingly said to that I should post about how I spend my time, both in a macro sense and on a daily basis. She thought that was a great idea. (And see her latest post on the topic here, as well as ‘s post here.) So, if you’ve ever really wanted to know how a pro writer spends his time…

Start with a macro scale overview.

I am away from home 75 to 100 nights per year. 50 to 60 of those nights are for the Day Jobbe, the rest are for conventions, workshops or personal trips. For the sake of discussion, we’ll assume nights at ‘s place are home, though the Witchnest is 600 miles away from Nuevo Rancho Lake. I make about 18 to 24 roundtrip flights per year, again, not counting trips to San Francisco. I make about 6 to 10 road trips per year, mostly to Seattle or other driveaway convention sites such as RadCon in the Tri-cities area of eastern Washington State.

That’s a lot of travel.

I work about three weeks a month at home, for the Day Jobbe, which is portable enough that I can also work from the Witchnest at need. I work one week a month from the Day Jobbe office in Omaha, Nebraska, along with various and sundry trips about the United States for sales calls, conferences and trade shows. Because I work at home, I don’t commute. (This becomes relevant in the daily time discussion.)

Also on daily basis I make at least two blog posts, and try to spend time on writing or writing related program activities, along with parenting , the usual chores of daily life, eating, sleeping and exercising.

In 2008, I wrote 612,700 words of first draft fiction (17 short stories and two novels), revising most of that. I also blogged about 260,000 words across perhaps 1,000 blog entries. At least 20,000 emails sent and received, various articles and columns and introductions to books written, interviews responded to, etc. Plus battling cancer, enduring and recovering from major abdominal surgery, and the nigh endless medical followups and psychotherapy sessions ever since.

I get a lot done, and I’m a very busy boy.

On a daily basis, my typical workday schedule when I’m at home looks like this:

4:00 am to 4:45 am — Wake up and exercise
4:45 am to 5:15 am — Shower and breakfast
5:15 am to 6:00 am — Blog and write email
6:00 am to 3:00 pm — Day jobbery (with lunch break, and often a post office run)
3:00 pm to 6:00 pm — Open time, usually with , sometimes writing or blogging, also laundry and chores
6:00 pm to 6:30 pm — Dinner
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm — Writing or WRPA
9:00 pm to 9:30 pm — Nightly call with
9:30 pm to 10:00 pm — Reading
10:00 pm to 4:00 am — Sleep

Note several things here. I sleep six hours a night. When I’m rested and healthy, and not travel-stressed, that runs like clockwork, I don’t even need the alarm to wake up. Also, I multitask like crazy, so I’m likely to be in email, chat and Twitter at almost any time. My weekend schedule allows additional flexibility for social matters and whatnot, and when I travel things are more fluid, but that’s pretty much the gist of it.

How do I manage my time, in an efficiency sense? In several ways. One, I am very much a creature of habit. I’m not obsessed with it, but I find it very useful to have solid routines. I don’t get very far off-schedule if I know what I’m doing. Even my grocery list is almost always the same.

Two, because I do multitask well, I can overlap a lot of things. So, for example, email weaves in around other parts of the day and evening. I can be thinking about a story in progress while I do the laundry. That sort of thing.

Three, I take very little down time during the day. If I need to, I nap. But napping is either of the 90-second variety or the 6-minute variety. Much longer and I go into REM sleep, which is a very bad idea during nominally waking hours.

Four, I’ve cut out so many things normal people do with their time. The house gets cleaned once a month, if it’s lucky. Or if is coming. I don’t have commuting drive time. There’s no tv time, no gaming time, no going-out socially time. I don’t drink (much) or smoke, so I’m never spending time on the social rituals of those activities. Really, I’m very boring on a day-to-day basis.

What I do manage to fit in is lots of communication, lots of connectedness. I’m frequently on the phone. I talk to a lot. I have lunch with almost every week I’m town, likewise and . I blog, I twitter, I chat, I email. I’m very social, but most of it is either inside my multitasking, or in a dedicated environment where I can present my undivided attention.

On the road? Different story. I have a set of Omaha habits, which are somewhat similar to my Portland habits. and I are still working out our routines. But even so, I find time to write. A lot of it. Because the writing comes first, trumped only by core responsibilities, basic survival tasks and parenting. And a hell of a lot of dedication to task…

4 thoughts on “[process|personal] How do I spend my time?

  1. Cora says:

    Travel seriously cuts down my productivity. I can still make my minimum goal, 100 words of new fiction per day, while traveling, but I still write significantly less than I would at home and academic writing (which counts towards my daily wordcount as well, otherwise the PhD would never get done) is near impossible to do on the road. So I’m mightily impressed that you can maintain your enormous productivity in spite of so much travel time.

    Regarding schedules, I’m a naturally nocturnal person (I sometimes suspect I’m a vampire) and your sleeping time is actually my best writing time, unless I have to get up in the morning. Luckily I’m self-employed and can at least partly set my own schedule.

    What helps me getting writing done is that I take a notebook everywhere and have trained myself to use “dead times”, i.e. waiting for a bus/tram to arrive, sitting in the bus/tram, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, sitting in a restaurant waiting for my food to arrive, waiting for a friend/family member to finish an interminable shopping session, etc…, for writing. Of course, I still have to type it up later, but it give me a good headstart.

    1. Jay says:

      The notebook thing drives me crazy. I’ve tried. I have incredibly lousy handwriting, and even when I *can* read it later, I find transcribing to be offensively boring. (Same reason I gave up dictating ideas…) But I’m very glad that works well for you.

      1. Cora says:

        The notebook is a compromise, because I can’t take the laptop everywhere. It’s too unwieldy for some situations and using a laptop on public transportation is asking for trouble. I also wouldn’t use it in places like a doctor’s waiting room.

        Smartphones and organizers are small and light, but not very useful for writing, because the endless number pressing and stylus poking is very counterintuitive for me. Besides, such devices are not really designed for writing more than the odd email or text message.

        I’ve been considering getting a netbook in addition to the laptop, but I’m not willing to make the investment at the moment. And while a netbook is smaller and lighter than a laptop, it don’t really fit into a handbag either.

        However, a good old-fashioned Moleskine notebook is portable, can function independently of available power sockets, it fits into a handbag or coat pocket and it is unobtrusive if you want to sneak in a short bit of writing during a boring party.

        Though I agree that transcribing what you’ve written can be a pain in the arse. Though on the upside, it can also function as a first editing pass.

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