Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Will Sprinting--And A New Laptop--Get Me Through The Holidays?

Last year on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I asked the question Will The Unit System Get Me Through The Holidays? The answer, at least for Thanksgiving, was, "No." Four days later, all the only work-related activity I'd done was an e-mail. The next day I was still writing about oozing back into a writing practice.

Things went a lot better this past Thanksgiving weekend. This year I used a smaller unit of time to keep me at work--a twenty minute sprint. With that I was able to squeeze in a little writing every day except Thanksgiving, itself.

Why Was I Able To Work More On Thanksgiving Weekend This Year?

I think sprinting worked for a number of reasons:

  • Yes, twenty minutes is less time than the forty-five minute blocks I usually work in, so it's easier to find that short a chunk of time and stick with it.
  • I'd been sprinting once a day on workdays for a month or two in addition to my other work, so I had some practice with it.
  • I'd been trying to sprint on weekends for a month or two, so I had some practice with it.
  • I use a laptop now, which means I'm not tied to one spot in the house for work. My laptop is often wandering around the house with me, so grabbing it for a twenty-minute sprint on the couch or at the dining room table or even the kitchen counter is incredibly easy. There is no thinking about when I can force myself to the office.

What A Twenty-Minute Sprint Does For An Organic Writer

I am not wracking up a big word count with sprints, especially since I'm revising right now. But what sprinting during periods when you wouldn't normally work at all does is keep writers in their projects. For organic writers, that's a huge benefit. We can't plan out an entire book or even portions of it. Instead, writing generates more writing for us. Working on an idea generates the next idea. We depend on continuing to "work" with break-out experiences when we're not actually hammering out words to a greater extent than plotting writers probably do. Working for twenty minutes early Friday evening could mean that an hour or so later some ideas will suddenly spring into mind, ideas that will become part of our writing at some point, if not the very next day.

But without working on an idea, we're unlikely to generate the next one. The longer we go without working on the work in progress, the less likely it is new material will just break out of our minds relating to it. The longer we go without working on a project, the more difficult it is to get started on working again when we finally can.

Yesterday was the Monday after a holiday weekend. Getting back into work was incredibly easy. I suspect I can thank the sprinting I did on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for that.


Sarah Stevenson said...

I discovered during past NaNoWriMos (haven't done it for a few years, though) that the sprint mentality can really work well for me. My problem with something short like a 20-minute chunk is more of a mental one, though. In the back of my head, I have this assumption that I should be working on The Most Important Thing during that sprint, but the problem with that is, I have to work up to the Important Thing and that can take me anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. What I know I *should* do for the short sprint is anything else, like freewriting. As you said, then ideas will be generated for later use.

That has worked for me before, too. I just have trouble giving myself permission to not work on the primary project during those sprint times...

Gail Gauthier said...

I've been using the sprints the past couple of weeks to keep up on a project that was in the early stages that I don't want to lose my energy with while I'm revising a more complete manuscript. That's working for me. I don't know how things would go if I had to keep making decisions about what to work on.