Thursday, January 20, 2011

Scheduling time to write

Because I teach oral communications at St. Louis and St. Charles Community Colleges, my husband sent me a link to TED Talks, sponsored by a nonprofit organization that brings together ideas from technology, entertainment and design. Speakers from diverse backgrounds present their innovative ideas during short speeches available for viewing online. (Google “Ted Talks.”)

Earlier today I watched software entrepreneur Jason Fried present a talk on why work doesn’t get done at work. Besides being an effective speaker and presenting his ideas clearly and with passion, his topic was applicable to writers. One of his basic ideas, and I’m paraphrasing here, is that there are so many interruptions at work that by the end of the day, most people don’t do the work they had intended to do. I am living proof of that theory.

When I was managing editor of the Journal of the American Optometric Association, I had so many other issues/meetings/phone calls thrown my way during the course of a day that I often found myself beginning “my real work” late in the afternoon. The hours between 4 and 6 p.m. were my most productive, when other people were winding down/leaving for the day. Some of my colleagues found the early morning hours most productive for the same reason – few interruptions.

Fried suggested that everyone set aside a few hours each week for uninterrupted work. During this time, writers would be able to concentrate, which allows for deep thinking and problem-solving. I’m not saying it’s easy for any of us to set aside long stretches of time in our busy lives, but even an uninterrupted hour can help.

For example, because my kids are outside playing in the snow right now, I was able to write this blog post. I had been working on it off and on while they were here, but between making sandwiches, finding gloves and zipping up snowsuits, boots, jackets and anything else that needed to be zipped, I just couldn’t gather my thoughts clearly.

Once they left, I was able to develop and write this essay in short order. I just needed a little peace and quiet to finish the job. Thanks for reminding me, Mr. Fried, of the fact that work (and writing) doesn’t just happen. We need to devote time to accomplish our goals. Scheduling time to write is the only way many of us can carve it into our busy lives.

Talk to you soon,


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