Losing Tasks: One Way to Gain Time

When I meet new people and they find out I’m a writer, often times I hear them say, “I would write a book, too, if only I had the time.”

Have you ever heard this?  Or said it to a writer?

Is this true?  Does this mean that writers actually have more time than non-writers?  Maybe that’s how writers get those books written, year after year.

Not.  Writers also have family and pets and friendships that need nurturing, hobbies and interests and day jobs and countless obligations.  How do writers find time to write?

Finding time means losing something else.

I like to prioritize my tasks and assign them to 3 main categories:

1.  Got-to-do:  

  • Eat, sleep, nurture the family (i.e., physical, biological and emotional needs that do not include housework)
  • Write
  • Read (even if it’s only to the children)

2.  Ought-to-do:  

  • Tell kids to clean mold from refrigerator
  • Send hubby to grocery with list
  • Pay bills on time

3.  Want-to-do:  

  • Volunteer in my child’s classroom
  • Shop for new shoes
  • Happy hour with BFF
  • Take quizzes on FB
  • Build debt at the movies
  • Join a dinner club
  • Sign up for a ballet class

Certain points in list #3 might qualify as an emotional need in list #1.  Everyone arranges their lists differently, what goes into them and when and how often they are done.  But for a writer, here are some main take-away points:

  1. Writing always goes in the got-to-do list.
  2. Books are written one page at a time.
  3. Prioritizing tasks keeps the want-to-do list in line.
  4. Delegate as many tasks as possible.

As long as writing is a priority, then writers will likely lose some of those items from their want-to-do list.  Who needs an extra pair of shoes, anyway?


12 thoughts on “Losing Tasks: One Way to Gain Time”

  1. Sue, your “ought to do” list cracks me up. But you are right – writing needs to stay on the “got to do” list and sometimes that means giving up the lunch out or a trip to the mall. Small sacrifices = more time, which means more books, right?


  2. This is so funny. But true. I always tell my writing students that if they ever find themselves cleaning behind the refrigerator, they’re procrastinating. Is a writer’s house ever really clean?


  3. Baby needs a new pair of shoes! Okay, had to say it.

    Before I read this post, I wrote out my “To Do Before Bouchercon” list. (I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed with various projects). I’m at 25 things and still going. And these are all writing related! And Theresa, yes, once you get behind the refrigerator, you’re solidly in procrastination mode.


  4. Trips to the mall happen once per year, at gift-giving time. I only clean behind the refrigerator when it’s time to replace it. If baby’s not walking yet, baby doesn’t really need new shoes, right?


  5. That ripping sound you heard was me taking a page from your book! So true about the fridge – you mean those things move? So that’s where the cat toys are – gotta go check – I was thinking the dryer monster got them when it ran out of socks 🙂


  6. Fantastic post! I struggle mightily to give myself “permission” to write, to prioritize this thing I want to do and be, over some of the non-essential things. Its a daily battle. I love Kait’s comment about ripping the page from your book! Yes, yes, yes.


  7. Your post is right on the nail! I enjoyed reading it and agree 100% but it’s taken me a while to get to this stage. Have you seen the article by David Mitchell, ‘How to write: neglect everything else’? I’ve just posted on the same topic. Please visit if you have time 🙂


  8. Thanks, All! It’s great to strike a chord. I have not seen the Mitchell article, but I shall look. I enjoyed your post, too, Safia. Thanks for visiting us!


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