There are tasks we all complete each day or each week that, while important, are not really material to getting more words on the page. Most of these duties don’t take a lot of time on a per-unit basis, either, but they can be disruptive to your creative workflow. Among the tasks that fit into this category, depending on your situation, are:
- Checking, answering, and sending email
- Interacting on social media channels
- Updating your blog or website
- Cover creation
- Writing blurbs
- Editing your work
- Planning your work
- Actually publishing your books
These are just the tasks that are, or at least may be, directly related to your writing career, and there are probably dozens more you could add.
Tedium Is Everywhere
To this list you can add the repetitive tasks you do outside of your writing life but which cost you time, energy, and mental attention:
- Buying groceries
- Cleaning the house
- Mowing the lawn
- Paying bills
- Watching TV
- Doing laundry
You get the point.
We do all do a lot of “stuff,” and we’re constantly switching from one small task to the next.
Necessary To-Do or Convenient Distraction?
It’s bad enough that we have to do all these things (maybe — see the Stop Doing chapter), but what’s worse is that they disrupt our writing productivity when we don’t have a plan for getting them done as economically as possible. Worst of all is that many of us use these activities as a crutch for avoiding butt-in-chair writing time.
How many times have you been stuck for a word or thought while writing and decided to pop over to your email for “just a minute,” only to get sidetracked on some net surfing adventure?
“Way too many” is my guess.
So what’s the answer?
Batching to the Rescue
Well, your first option should be to kill off any and every extraneous activity that you can, then delegate as many others as possible. For those that are left, batching can help ease the burden they impose on your writing schedule.
Email provides a good example.
Instead of leaving your email application open all the time, designate a couple times per day for working on email, and schedule 10 minutes or so at each session. Then, when that time rolls around, open up your email, do what you need to do, and close it down again. If you take this approach you might be able to reduce a major time sink from, say, two hours a day to just 20 minutes.
Shopping for groceries is a great example of a non-writing, non-promotional activity that also can benefit from batching. Since we’re all pretty mobile these days, it’s easy to just pick up what we need at the store, when we need it.
Sounds convenient, but there is a hefty overhead for each trip to the market. Parking, getting a cart, cherry-picking your way through the store, and checking out several times a week can add up to significant lost time over the course of a month or two. Aim for one shopping trip every week or two, and stock up on what you need.
The bottom line is that you need to treat your writing time as a precious commodity and not waste it on any more menial tasks than are absolutely necessary. Batching won’t get you out of washing your clothes, but it will help you reclaim much of your intellectual bandwidth.