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The Myth of Time Management

If you want to write 50,000 words in the month of November, that means you will need to churn out 1,667 words a day. I don’t know about you, but it takes me about two hours to two and a half hours to do that.

Sounds daunting, right?

It is, but that’s also the cool part about NaNoWriMo: the sweet taste of victory you will have when you’ve got your manuscript in hand come December 1st. Not only will you have completed something important, but you will have proven to yourself the power of your commitment and discipline. This skill is immediately transferrable to other areas of your life.

Now, carving out two hours a day may sound like a time management problem, but I’m going to argue that it’s not. First of all, I think it’s kind of a myth that we can manage time. It is, after all, an unstoppable force of nature that just marches on. What we can control are our priorities and our decisions.

Finding the time is really about managing your priorities. By definition, on any given day you always accomplish your highest priorities. But the problem is that a lot of people are not conscious about settings those priorities. Many people are dictated by their calendar and by other peoples’ needs. Let’s break that down.

It is not bad to follow a calendar, but when it becomes an unconscious, default practice it can lead you astray. To combat this, engage in conscious decision-making when it comes to scheduling out your calendar. Each day, carefully consider what has been scheduled and make clear choices about whether that is the best use of your time. I’m not saying that you should break commitments that you’ve made with other people, but I am challenging you to engage in greater reflection before committing in the first place.

Other peoples’ needs… this is perhaps the arch-nemesis of Nano. It can be very tempting to be in a state of constant accommodation to the whims of others. There can even be a certain satisfaction that comes from this for someone who defines herself by her care taking. But if you think about it, the quality of care taking will be higher if the caretaker first attends to herself. You can’t give on an empty tank. If you have decided that Nano is what fills your tank you have to jealously guard the time it takes to write. Be selfish in order to give yourself the energy to be responsive to others. Establish boundaries around that responsiveness: do it on your schedule and based on your priorities.

Time management is a self-worth issue according to Fabienne Frederickson. “It’s about looking at how you let other people’s urgencies [control you], other people’s priorities, commitments that you’ve made because somebody asked you but you don’t really want to do it… It’s all that stuff that eats up all of that precious time.” It is an act of self-love to set and hold priorities around your writing. Nano inherently asks the question of how you will prioritize your self-worth.

How are you going to answer that question?

Visit the Countdown to Nano Program Site for a listing of all the articles in the series.

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