There is a productivity method called time blocking, where instead of creating infinite to-do lists you assign specific tasks to manageable time slots. Basically, you sit down and decide that from 8:00 to 9:00 you’re going to work on this, and from 9:00 to 9:30 you’re going to work on that, and so on. I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work well for me. I need structure, but for various health reasons I also need flexibility. Out-of-the-box time blocking is too rigid. I feel that if I need to do something off-book to manage my health, I’ve thrown the whole day out of whack. This 7 Day Setting Design Challenge has given me a sort of compromise that I can work with, and I think it’s going to work out very well.
Say, for example, that I use the time blocking method and declare that I’m going to edit some pages from 9am to 930. Instead I have to get up and walk around, address my health, or just deal with something that comes up. Realistically, intellectually, I can pick up the next block at 930 and keep doing all of the other tasks during the day. The editing time that I missed can be rescheduled. Logistically, it’s simple. Emotionally, it’s going to hang over my head all day that I didn’t get that editing done. That’s just how my mind works. The scheduled-and-abandoned task festers and grows into a distraction that will impact the rest of my day.
The Day 2 Breakdown
My compromise is to hybridize the to-do list with the time blocks. Today, for example, I needed to have 4 one-hour blocks dedicated to writing. That’s already a shift for me, away from thinking I need to write 4,000 words over the course of the day. I have four blocks that I have to accommodate. There are other blocks of time assigned to other things, like writing things in this journal. If I wake up in the morning, sit down at my desk at my usual time, and just don’t feel clear-headed enough to write, I don’t have to. I’m not beholden to write from 8 to 9. I can start at 815 and write to 915, and then write more, or do something else, or take a break. As long as it all gets done, I’m okay. It will sound strange to some folks, but to me it’s a lot less pressure.
In fact, I did get a late start today because I wasn’t feeling well. I think doing other tasks and waiting until I cleared my head a bit paid off. I still felt that I was being productive, because I focused on things that I could manage in my groggy state. Later. during my first hour-long word sprint, I wrote 1,608 words. In the second hour I hit 1,392 — exactly 3,000 words after only two hours! Hour three gave me 1384, which put me over goal, which was good because in hour four I wasn’t feeling well and only reached 910 words.
The Day 2 Results
With 5,214 words written today, I’m ahead of goal and things are going well so far. Onward to Day 3!
Day 1 total: 3,519 words against a goal of 3,000
Day 2 total: 5,214 words against a goal of 4,000
Week to Date total: 8,733 words against a goal of 7,000
That’s 1,733 words in the bank, almost 2 hours ahead of schedule.
Hours spent writing today: 4
Hours spent writing week to date: 7
You can read the rest of the entries in this series at this link.
Dean Wesley Smith’s book Writing a Novel in Seven Days: A Hands-On Example is available from Amazon in Kindle format and paperback editions. My book Setting Design for Writers and Roleplayers is available from DriveThruRPG in PDF, ebook, and Kindle formats.