Time Management Strategies: Take Time to Feed the Creative Tapeworm

No. But sometimes it feels that way.
A constant hurdle in life is finding time to do, see, and accomplish all that you aspire to. There are always friends to see, emails to respond to, doctors appointments to make. When it comes to writing, I am often torn between spending nights with friends and family or tucking in early so that I’m well-rested for my morning session with my laptop.

Time management is an essential skill for ADHD’rs and artists to hone. In my post Surviving Middle School (and Life) with ADHD, skill #3 encourages, “Make a routine & keep to it: I'm a morning lark, but you might be a night owl. Figure out when your mind’s most alert and commit that time to projects that require sustained focus.” A writing routine offers me something to look forward to. Over the years, I’ve made a habit of utilizing my creative mind in the pre-dawn hours and thus, find myself unconsciously anticipating these periods of deep practice. The night before, ideas emerge about the chapter I'll edit in the A.M. or I’ll dream a resolution to the passage I’m stuck on.

Other than utilizing the time of day when your mind’s most alert, make sure to limit distractions and multitasking during these allotted periods. After all, you’ve carved out this time to be productive.

I thrive on being a morning lark because few others awake before the sun. I write, assured that I’m not missing out on anything (see photo above). The only thing left to distract me is the odd jackhammering of the construction site across the street. (I’ll be thankful when the 7 line finally extends to the Javits Center, but right now, the explosions are pretty disruptive).

Some tips on limiting distractions during these periods of focus?
1. Turn off your phone.
2. Disconnect from the internet...or at least resist the urge to check (& recheck) whatever social networking sites you subscribe to.
3. Throw on headphones, especially if you're in a noisy setting. I'm currently looking into noise-cancelling headphones. Any suggestions, tech savvy readers? Send them along via email or the comment box below!
4. Organize your work space. If my desk is cluttered with papers, books, or old takeout cartons, my monkey mind has a difficult time focusing on the project at hand. Shove them off your work surface (I’ve always wanted to do that) or more practically, put them away.
To master time management, you also have to recognize when its time to take a break or shift to another project. You may have exhausted one part of your brain, but another part maybe ready to go (think of linear vs. creative). I always sit at my writer's desk for longer than I’ll be productive. Mostly because I hope my Monkey Mind will quit swinging around and allow me to reengage with my current project. No, it doesn't always work, but when it does, productivity soars and I can step back hours later with a feeling of heightened fulfillment. (Afterward, remember to wave your hands in the air and shout, "I overcame Monkey Mind!")

A hat sent by someone special, "to keep your Monkey Mind warm."
Finally, when it comes an hyperactive Monkey Mind, you will always feel like there's something more pressing than sitting down at your desk. What about friends? What about family? What about the people that mean the most to you? Don't they deserve your undivided attention? Well, yes, they absolutely do. But if you sit down for a minute, and give yourself fully to this project, right now, I promise you'll reemerge in higher spirits than if you put it off. After all, the creative tape worm* doesn’t unlatch its teeth when you neglect it. It gnaws until it feeds.

 What helps you manage your time & focus?

*An accurate description of what I believe to be the literary vocation…the utter interdependence of the writer and his work and the way the latter feeds on the former, on all he is and does or does not do.
-Mario Varga Llosa Letters to a Young Novelist (pg. 14).