As you may be aware, I am currently going through my MSc in Applied Linguistics. That means I am working on my dissertation as well as going to class, preparing papers for said class(es), and doing all of my normal writing activities. You know, blogging, novelling, weekly serialised murder mystery updates. The usual. Basically, I have a lot of writing work to be getting on with and a very short amount of time.
Yet, I manage to get everything done.
The trick to that, as with many other things in life, is to keep to a schedule and do what needs doing, even if I find it boring. (Like washing dishes. Really dull. Necessary if I want to eat, though.) Being a (mostly) dedicated pantser, scheduling is sometimes hard.
I don’t like to plan out every minute of every day. No, I don’t have writing hour from ten to eleven in the morning. I have more generalised routines that I stick to. Get up, eat breakfast, get ready for the day, check various social media platforms, do some writing/reading/most important activity that is on the docket. Things go on like this every day.
This semi-structured routine gives me a bit of wiggle room in case life gets in the way. Say I have the sudden urge to do Pilates, I can. If I need to go find a watch repair shop, then I can. My day is structured so that I have enough “spare time” as it were to get those minor activities done.
This could, potentially, open up my days to a whole lot of procrastination and doing nothing. And, yes, it has happened. But I have enough discipline to know that there are some things that take precedence. At the moment, my dissertation is one of them. So when things get tough and my brain actively protests against doing the formulaic academic writing, then I sit down and tell myself I’m not allowed to read or have lunch or whatever activity I had planned until I’m done with that day’s work.
This method of browbeating myself into getting the important work done is not for everyone. I’ve been doing this my entire life. When I was a wee child, I would come home and — barring a snack — refuse to do anything until I had gotten my homework done. Then, I was free as a bird to do whatever I wanted. (Whatever I wanted usually had words and pages.)
Do what is necessary before what is desirable and everything will get sorted.
It’s a hard thing. Because sometimes, what is necessary takes a long time. It can cut into the time for desirable activities. But once it’s done, it no longer hangs over your head like the Sword of Damocles, ready to fall as soon as it’s too late in the evening for true productivity.
Some people write out their schedule for every activity. I don’t. But I write to a schedule all the same. Now, my schedule is telling me it’s time to work on my dissertation.