Paula Landry shares tips on finding time to write without overwhelming your life.
Paula Landry, MBA, is a writer/producer and consultant helping writers create strategies to excel. Landry teaches film business classes at NYU, SVA, Wagner College and MCNY. She’s co-authored This Business of FILM; and Sell Your Screenplay; and is the author of Scheduling and Budgeting Your Film. Twitter: @paulalandry. Read full bio.
Learn to manage your time & energy for best writing results!
There’s never enough time, it seems to do everything, partly because most of us are trying to do everything. Looking at everything you want to accomplish at one time is an easy way to get overwhelmed.
Most of us can use a helping hand to arranging and streamlining our schedules. We can do this with a strategy that works best for when we work best, and committing ot it by putting it on our calendar or day planner.
Our best bet is to focus on something specific – and allocate our time for that. Managing time is one of those things we can always get better (similar to writing).
Here are a few time hacks – before you tackle your writing today, do at least 60 seconds of morning pages, where you just scribble down what’s in your head so you can clean it out. It’s like pre-frontal cortex house cleaning. Call it journaling, stream of consciousness writing, whatever. Just sweep your brain’s front steps.
Ok, good. NOW you’re ready to begin screenwriting! No. You’re not. You are ready to tackle your writing schedule for the day. Set a timer for 3 minutes, and schedule your day. Bear in mind:
- What’s the goal
- When and what you’re going to write
- 20-25 minute increments with breaks
This structure will help you to:
- Better manage your goals
- Marry your goals to the time you have available
- Optimize when you do your best work
- Set up and maintain a system for time management
Excellence takes time and practice, so if you can become more efficient, you’ll keep track of your efforts, define your progress which also helps to stay inspired and find the goals that motivate you.
First: set your goals:
Time Management Tools:
- Calendars, phone reminders – Set & Keep!
- Make appointments with yourself and keep them
- Accountability partners
Define and Protect Your Writing Time
Make a weekly schedule by crossing out when you cannot or will not or do not write. No judgement, just cross it off.Everything you have left is for writing – yay! Now
Whatever is left is for writing time. But we’re not robots…
…so you cannot write at full speed and brain power for all of that available time. You need to plan your time wisely.
When does your Brain work best?
One way we can do plan our time is to figure out when our brains work best. You probably have some sense of this based on how much coffee you need, and when you sleep best. Are you a morning or evening person?
- Do you leap out of bed?
- Or are you a night-owl?
- Somewhere in between?
Take an online test if you don’t know, because our brains have cycles of productivity based on circadian rhythms. Once you know this, you can adjust your schedule so you’re doing hard things when your brain is sharpest.
Once you know when your brain works best, schedule tricky things during your ALPHA time – when you are the sharpest, then schedule the other work during your beta time, when your brain is at 1/2-3/4 speed.
Alpha activities might include: writing, ideation, outlining, strategizing, structure.
While beta activities could include: editing, refining, research, proof reading, reading and studying scripts and all of the Writing-supporting work: marketing, researching managers, filmmakers, agents and producers, prospecting for opportunities, administrative work, goal setting, scheduling, Budgeting, marketing, learning, networking, group activities, apply for grants.
Here’s some final food for thought:
If it’s not in your schedule, it doesn’t exist. So let your calendar be your guide and whatever your goals are, do justice to them by putting them in your day planner.
Many times writers feel like they just can’t do everything, but you CAN do anything – once it’s on your calendar. So for instance if you are studying something, put it on your schedule, and all the related tasks that go with it:
- Taking a screenwriting class
- Time to practice the lessons
- Read your notes
- Reinforce your learning by proofreading what you did
- Get feedback on your learning – by sharing your homework with a trusted colleague or fellow screenwriter
The idea is that if you’re reading a book to improve a facet of your screenwriting, schedule that in as well. It sounds simple but scheduling in all of these activities will help you get your ducks in a row, concentrate on your writing and relax and enjoy it more.
In conclusion, your well-thought out schedule is your best bet for managing your precious screenwriting time. Plan your day, plan your week, and you’re planning your screenwriting career for success!
Rock your writing!!
All Photos Ryan Mcguire CC0