As a freelance writer, one of the issues I have to deal with is deadlines. I’ve written a bit earlier in the blog about time management and dealing with deadlines, but what I don’t think I’ve touched on is crunch time. The problem of catching up on an assignment when the clock is ticking and you don’t have enough time left.
I have very little free time right now. To give you an idea of how little, here’s an example of what I’ve done this week (from last Friday to today). Assuming I sleep eight hours a night, I get 112 hours of active time in a week. Here’s a breakdown of how I spend those hours:
-14 hours of time (about an hour each morning and another at night) spent getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and getting ready for work/school each day, driving there, then driving home, and taking care of mundane things when I get home like checking the mail, changing out of work clothes, paying bills, etc.
= 98 hours left
-33 hours a week at my day job delivering pizzas (a job which I now consider to be supplementing my writing job, even though it is still technically my primary source of income).
= 65 hours left
-15 hours a week working for my Graduate Assistantship job and my blog writing job at Rowan University.
= 50 hours left
-10 hours a week in classes at Rowan (four nights a week) and another -10 hours or so doing homework for those classes.
= 30 hours left
-15 hours a week doing work for my self-publishing career, such as working on advertisements for “Radiance,” working on writing or revisions for anything I’m working on in the “Arcana Revived” series.
= 15 hours left
-3 hours a week writing blog posts on here.
= 12 hours left.
That leaves me about an hour and forty-five minutes left each day to eat, shower, run errands, and do anything else around the house, or (God forbid) do something fun. Sometimes I manage to squeeze out a bit more time (such as by eating while I write), and maybe get an hour or something to play a video game. For the most part, however, I have no time.
I’m sure that a lot of you have similarly packed schedules (likely replacing time spent on school and homework with time spent taking care of your kids, etc) and know what it’s like to have no free time. So what do you do when you get down to crunch time?
I have a freelancing project due tomorrow. It’s 15,000 words, and I had written about 5000 of it over the past two weekends (I cheat by squeezing in time to write at work, writing on my smartphone in between pizza deliveries). I tried to find time throughout the week to continue working on it, but things kept getting in the way. Fatigue made it hard to make progress on some nights, and some times a homework assignment that should have only taken me an hour took me two hours because I was too tired to focus.
As a result, I woke up this morning with 10,000 words left to write, and one day to do it. So I started writing with a #10k1day goal in mind (those of you who follow me on Twitter @cantrelljason saw this, and cheered me on, for which I was grateful).
Writing 10k in 1 day is hard. It takes focus. I do some of it by doing #wordsprints, and I average about 800 words in a 30 minute sprint. I keep the TV off, I only pop on Twitter every half hour for some encouragement, then get back to the task.
A common question I get when doing #10k1day is “How do you do it?” 10,000 words seems like a lot, and people find it intimidating. But really, it’s easy if you focus on the small steps. Most people I see posting word counts on sprints can easily do 600-700 words in a 30 minute sprint. By that count, 10,000 words takes about eight hours. It’s like clocking in for a full day of work at an office job. Is that a lot of writing? Hell yes. But it’s doable, if you stay at it.
I find 30 minute word sprints is the best way to handle it. Write for awhile, then take a short break. Get a drink, go to the bathroom, have a snack. Then come back and stick with it.
But the biggest tool that I find helps me out is posting my wordcount goals on Twitter and getting support from others. When I’m at 1200/10000 I feel like there’s a long way to go. But when I hit 6400/10000, everyone starts shouting “YOU CAN DO IT!” By then, I’m in the home stretch, and realizing that I can do it if I just stick with it. And if I tried to give up, I’d have a hundred people screaming at me that I’m not allowed to give up.
I don’t recommend doing a #10k1day often. I reserve it for when I have deadlines. Days I don’t have deadlines, I think 2000-5000 words tops is plenty. Otherwise you end up brain-fried and wanting nothing more than a nap. But if you’re up against the wall and HAVE to get it done, you can do it. Just get a squad of Twitter cheerleaders and post your progress every 30 minutes. Make it a challenge. I always make myself succeed at challenges because I’m a stubborn mofo. So if I tell myself I’m going to do it, I do it.