2. Be Realistic
I used to have an IT manager that was terrified of letting people down on project deadlines.
He insisted that we base our project plans (the Microsoft Project kind of plan that I would not recommend for writers) on a 32 hour work week even though we all worked well more than 40 hours a week.
His logic was that people aren't at their desks with their heads down pounding out software every minute they're clocked in. Meetings (lots of meetings), coffee breaks, chit-chat, and long lunches (I miss the long lunches) cut into those 40 hours.
We also got an incredible four weeks of vacation plus one week of sick pay and even more if we got really sick. (As I write this, I'm starting to doubt my choice to resign.) My manager required us to figure out the weekly average days off and subtract that number from the 32 hours to get a realistic number of hours a resource (warm body in a chair) would be available weekly.
As a writer, I need to figure out how long I can sit in my chair and pound out stories without interruption. I'm going to plan on normal uninterrupted hours and be flexible when my hours get interrupted - like I may need to double my time on a particular day if I can only write when my kids are home.
If I'm planning for the year, I should factor in how many weeks I think I'm going to take off from writing. I will probably take six weeks off from writing this year - one for Spring Break, two in early summer, the week before school starts for my kids, and two weeks for Christmas.
When I factor in vacation plus a week of sick time, I know my plan for this year should include 45 weeks, not 52. For a normal job, that would seem kind of pathetic, only six hours a week with seven weeks off, but the words add up if I keep going at that small pace over a whole year. Committing to writing six hours a week gives me 270 hours I can plan on and about 270,000 new words.
If I'm not able to write daily without interruption, that drops down to 135,000 words unless I can carve out an additional six hours a week, which I can't.
If I don't write six hours a week, the plan is out the door too. For me, knowing the weekly goal and a ballpark of how many hours I need to invest helps me maintain self-discipline. I'm not sure this is true for everyone.
A warning that I should have mentioned in the intro: The manager referenced in this piece quit before he got fired by a new regime that didn't believe in coffee breaks and chit-chat in the workplace. This series isn't intended to help anyone increase their productivity as a writer. I'm only talking about setting realistic expectations based on current work habits, something I struggle with constantly.
More next week....