On Wasting Time

An ironic truth: I used to waste a lot of time berating myself for...wasting time. 

As someone who has been self-employed for almost the entirety of my professional life, the time I designate to working is, quite literally, money. Organising my time effectively is almost as important as the quality of the work I fill it with. And I am the only one who decides where, when, and for how long I work on any given day.  

To some people this sounds like heaven; to others, an existential crisis-inducing hell. I can confirm that it is both. I must also confess that, almost ten years after I entered the working world (and having spent a considerable chunk of that time devising all sorts of time management concepts and worksheets) I no longer have my own rigid system in place.

Make no mistake: I still make lists! I still answer my emails! I still get up at roughly the same time every day, and follow the same simple routine I've had for years. I still try, wherever possible, to schedule meetings for the late afternoon (the morning's creative juice is just too precious to waste) and I still use a quarterly planning system to break down my bigger annual goals. But on a day-to-day basis, it's all a lot more fluid. I might spend one hour on my laptop, or ten. For someone who used to try to plan my weeks down to the hour, this is a big shift.

Here’s another ironic truth: I waste a lot less time now that I’m not stressing about how not to. 

Partly, that’s because I feel more confident in my abilities to actually do my work. I used to build huge buffers of time into my schedule because I felt like I needed them. I was scared that if I didn’t block out an entire week to write a story, I’d never get it done. That belief was probably justified. I hadn't put as many hours in back then. As I (re)learnt recently, creative work is much easier with consistent practice. 

Partly it’s because I’ve developed a greater understanding about the nature of writing. I used to feel that my inability to sit down at my laptop and bang out perfectly-formed sentences on cue was a reflection of my ineptitude. Now I’ve realised that thinking is 90% of the job, and that kind of work doesn’t tend to take place at my desk. Working without a mental warm-up (whatever that looks like for you) is for manual labourers and machines. Last time I checked, I’m neither. 

But partly - mostly - it’s because I’ve begun to free myself from the idea that I should be working all the time. More on that soon.

Wishing you a week well-spent, however you choose to spend it.


Procrastination > precrastination.

Life is Long If You Know How To Use It.

Hearst's Chief Content Officer doesn't believe in to-do lists.