What’s a time uniform?
Do you want to get published this year? Finish writing your collection? Get an agent?
You can anchor your beautiful goal and make it happen effortlessly by creating boundaries around your writing time.
Once you set those boundaries, it’s like you have a time uniform. You don’t have to decide what to wear; you just put it on and get to work without thinking about it.
I like to refresh and renew my focus and commitments 3-4 times a year, because my time uniform tends to shift with the seasons (just like clothing uniforms!)
Here’s how to make your time uniform:
Start by taking about 30 minutes to do an inventory on your current commitments. Jot all of it down – health, family responsibilities, social engagements, work projects, life admin, creative plans.
Then, divide those commitments into three lists: what is necessary, what is most important to you, and what is negotiable?
At this point, you may find yourself feeling the impossibility of linear time. There’s so much you have to do, so much fun you want to have, and so many things you want to create! I know!
Take a brain break, and go for a walk. You may find it helpful to quote vintage Danielle Laporte: You get to do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.
Taking a break will help you find the clarity you need to get right with your agreements and make some choices. To make time for your beautiful writing goal, you may choose to press pause on one or two of your negotiable commitments, just from now until the next season.
Once you’re clear on what you have to do and what’s most important to you, and you’ve made note of what you can pause for now, you’ve chosen your uniform for the season! Congratulations! That was the hardest part.
I highly recommend making a model calendar to protect your time uniform from getting wrinkly… or lost.
You can build your model calendar right into your online calendar, if you use one. It can block off hours of the day for certain kinds of activities. This holds your boundaries for you, so you don’t have to decide when you’re writing every week.
How it works: you prioritize your “big rocks” (for me, this is family + friends, health, and writing) so everything else (email, office hours, grocery shopping, car maintenance) fits in between the really important stuff. You pick themes for your days; this helps you batch out different kinds of tasks for different days of the week, so everything gets done without you having to waste time deciding what to do when.
For instance, Mondays and Fridays are deep focus days, inward-facing, and usually don’t require me to be on Zoom. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are outward-facing: teaching, attending classes, and errands. Saturdays are “Sarah-days” – I like to leave these unscheduled if possible.
For a step-by-step tutorial on how you can do this, see Rachael Cook's article on how to make a model calendar.
Ta-dah! Now that you’ve made yourself a time uniform, it will be easier to show up for your writing project with ease, because you know you have time for it. As your life evolves and your goals change, you can tweak the calendar to fit your new reality.
If you don’t use an online calendar, or if this process is just too granular for your lifestyle, you can also make a simple weekly calendar and keep it on your desk to remind you of your theme days instead. Canva has cute free templates here.
Once you’ve set your time uniform, make clear arrangements with your friends and family. Be honest with them, so they can understand and support you. If you pause some of your social commitments, let your peers know how long you’ll be away. Remember, you don’t have to quit these engagements – it’s okay for a writer to take a sabbatical from society sometimes!
If you try it out, please let me know how it goes! I love geeking out on time management so much. Please share your findings in the comments.
Photo credit (top): Alyssa Strohman on Unsplash.