How You Can Manage Your Time

If you want to lose weight, you keep a food diary. If you want to get out of debt, you record your spending. Likewise, if you want to use your time better, you should keep a track your time.

But how do you do that?

That’s a question I am frequently asked. Here is the best way to get started: Print up your own 168 Hours Time Management Spreadsheet. Start whenever you want; it doesn’t have to be Monday morning. Now is a good time.

Write down what you are doing, in as much detail as you want. “Work” and “wrote up op-ed pitch for USA Today” are both fine, but one gives you more info to work with later.

Think of yourself as an attorney billing your time to different projects. Keep the spreadsheet with you. If you forget to record what you’re doing for a while, just approximate the time later.

Keep going for 168 hours. You might want to try a second week too, as recording your time is a habit, and building habits takes time.

After you’ve recorded 168 hours, break your activities down into categories. How much time did you spend working? Commuting? Interacting with your family? Sleeping? Exercising? Doing personal care (like showering or doing your hair)? Doing housework or household administration? Watching television? Reading?

Do these numbers reflect the number of hours you’d like to “bill” to these projects? What do you think would be ideal?

Can you change your schedule to get closer to that ideal?

Irene S. Roth

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Vanderkam’s book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast is an absolutely gem of wisdom. It is a must-read for all writers in that it will show them how to track their time so that they are successful in their writing careers, at work, and at home.

It can be so hard to balance our time effectively. We all have the same 168 hours a week to do as we want and need. But there are so many distractions and noise that we never seem to have enough time to do the things that we really want to do and enjoy. Time tends to evaporate away.

One reason for this may be because we are wasting a lot of precious time doing things that will not make us feel more fulfilled, inspired, or successful. We just seem to do anything and everything, and before we know it the whole week is gone and we have nothing to show for it.

This is why Vanderkam’s book is so important–it will show the reader how to plan her time carefully so that they are not always skimping for time and not getting to what is most important in our lives. To be most successful and to live the best life we are capable of, we must be able to manage our time wisely.

I am a planner by nature. So, the planning aspects of the book were not new to me. However, what I found especially helpful and interesting about Vanderkam’s book is that she suggests that we plan our weekends too! Now that is a unique idea. How many of us would actually think of planning our weekend? I know I didn’t! I thought that planning my week was all that I needed to do. But when I reflected on her brilliant idea of planning weekends, I discovered that it was an absolute gem of wisdom—one that would transform anyone’s life if only they tried it.

I find that weekends are a time when I waste the most time. And weekends fly by so fast that somehow from Friday at 5 pm and Sunday at midnight just evaporates. Many times, I am not even feeling rested or refreshed either. Sometimes, I am even more stressed out than before the weekend started. Vanderkam shows readers how to plan weekends so that they are the most refreshing and restful.

Further, Vanderkam believes that to be most successful, we should develop six disciplines. We should mind our hours, plan, make success possible, know what is work (and what isn’t), practice, pay in, and pursue pleasure. By developing these disciplines, we will be much happier, fulfilled, and successful!

Lastly, Vanderkam has a very helpful Appendix about how to do our own time makeover and 50 time management tips. The book is a gem of wisdom that will inspire all of us to write more and to be more productive in our lives.

Irene S. Roth

The 7 Habits of Highly Prolific Writers

Prolific writers don’t spend all day writing. Yet, they get a lot of writing done. How do they do it?

If this logic follows, you don’t have to be a “full-time writer” to be a prolific writer. Today, I will show you why.

I think this is inspiring for all of us—especially those writers who cannot devote a lot of time to writing every day/week.

It comes down to being efficient.

Knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

I’ll share some habits that I have discovered work over the years, and the habits of other prolific writers I know.

Okay, so, let’s begin….

Here are the 7 habits of highly efficient writers

1. Routine

Write daily.

Write as often as you can. Any spare time can be used writing and planning. Just think like a writer at all times.

Even if you work full-time, you can make time for your writing.

When I taught fulltime, I wrote in the mornings. That was my creative time. Now I spend a lot of the morning then the afternoon writing. What’s yours?

2. Outline

When you write, start with an outline.

Map out what you’re going to write and what themes you want to convey.

This is much more the case for non-fiction writers than fiction writers. However, a similar logic can be the case for fiction writers too. I always outline all aspects of my novel before I start writing. It makes my life much easier.

And it allows me to write the first draft much more quickly—regardless of whether I am writing a nonfiction book, fiction book or an article.

3. Write your First Draft

Once your outline is in place, it’s time to write a first draft.

Some writers make the mistake of trying to edit while they write. It doesn’t work, so don’t try. Writers can’t multi-task.

When you write your first draft, it should be at lightning speed. You should get everything out of your head and onto paper. Let it flow uncensored.

Don’t worry about editing or rewriting. That comes later.

4. Rewrite

After I’ve written my first draft, I rewrite.

But I don’t rewrite right away. I let my books rest for a week or two first.

And with each 24 hour cycle, the material in my book becomes easier to revise. I come back to it several times with a pair of fresh eyes.

Sometimes I’ll rewrite a book three times or more, and each time it improves.

5. Leave your negative self-critics outside of your office

This is a biggie.

When you write, you will run into your inner demons.

You’ll run into that negative voice. It’ll tell you how:

• You’re not good enough
• You have nothing to say
• You might as well give up

Whenever it pops up, say hi and keep writing. Writing isn’t effortless for most writers. But they keep going anyway.

They sit down and write. Even if nothing comes out, they get things done, because they have a structure in place.

6. Confidence

When most writers start out, they won’t be very confident when they write.
And that’s fine. It is as it should be.

When you write a lot, you get better, and you gain confidence. In fact, the more you write, the better you will write.

I’ve written many words and hundreds of articles. I started out slow, but I’m becoming a stronger writer every day.

There is no quick fix to finding your writing voice, or eliminating fear. It all comes down to sitting down and writing for a long time.

7. Read

Prolific writers read – a lot.

They gather inspiration from books. They observe the structure other writers use, and they steal what resonates with them.

For example, I help change makers build a thriving online business, so when I’m reading sales copy and it moves me to buy, I backtrack.

I go inside and look at what it was that moved me. Then I think about how I can use that in my writing and business.


If there’s one thing I want you to take away from our chat, it’s this: sit down and write as often as you can.

Being a prolific writer is all about refusing to listen to your own excuses. It’s about eliminating any obstacles that prevent you from writing.

Writing never seems to be easy.

There’s always some way you could procrastinate, but if you want to get your message out there, you have to just sit down and write.

The world needs what you have to share.

So just write.

Until next time….

Irene S. Roth

Treating Your Writing as a Part of Your Identity

According to Deb Caletti, writing is not just a job it is who we are. It is our identity…..

I truly believe this. However, I believe that writers have to treat their writing very seriously first and consider it as a job in order for it to become a part of their identity.

Here are a few things that Deb’s statement means to me….

• That writing is something that defines us;
• That writing is an activity that brings us joy;
• That writing is an activity that we cannot live without;
• That writing fulfills us;
• That writing inspires us;
• That writing helps us to grow and become more who we are;
• That writing is one of the most wonderful things that you can do;
• That writing is part of the fabric of our being;
• That writing is what and who we are…it is something that we cannot do without…and it is very similar to the high that we get when we run or jog.

What does Deb’s statement mean to you….

Irene S. Roth

A Writer’s Identity

     Many writers write as a hobby.  They may be working full-time or full-time mothers or fathers having a hard time writing more than a couple of hours a week. And for many writers, time is really at a premium. They can’t afford to write more than a few hours a week because of all of their other commitments.


If you are one of these writers, take note. First of all, I feel for you. For many years, I had a full-time job and tried to get some writing done in between times. I always DID do my writing, despite the fact that I taught 3 to 4 university courses per semester with sometimes upwards of 500 students all together and had to take workshops and courses as I was trying to complete my post-graduate degrees in Philosophy and Psychology.


But here is the kicker:  I NEVER treated my writing as a hobby, even when I couldn’t devote 20 hours a week to my writing. I just always worked writing into my schedule, regardless of how packed it was. This requires a shift in attitude from passive, uncommitted to active and serious.


What I am trying to get at is that when you treat your writing as a hobby, you are setting yourself up for a lack of productivity. Also, you won’t be taking your writing seriously either. But if you treat it as a part-time job, for instance, you’ll be much more equipped to actually get to your desk and do some writing, even if it is only an hour or so a few times a week. The difference is in how seriously you take your writing. The bottom line is that if you treat your writing like a hobby, you don’t think that your writing is a serious venture in your life. However, if you treat your writing as a job, just like any job and important commitment that you have, you will take it VERY seriously.


So, the choice is yours.


Here are a few ways to determine if you are treating your writing as a hobby:


  • You don’t reinforce your writing time with your family by scheduling it and then showing up to write. Instead, you write in a very unpredictable manner. Sometimes you follow your schedule, but most times you don’t.



  • You feel torn between your writing and your duties to others. If something more important comes up, your writing is gone out the window. Then you feel guilty about it.


  • You don’t take your writing very seriously. You don’t wholeheartedly commit to your writing projects and complete them.


If you can relate to any of these points, you probably consider yourself to be a hobby writer. If you do, take heart. Try and decide if you want to take your writing to the next level. If you do, you must commit to your writing. Only you can do this, and when you do, your family will know that you are serious.


Probably not, and if you did, you would get fired. So, take your writing seriously.


  1. Do your allotted amount of writing scheduled. So, if you sit down to write and you plan to write a half a chapter, make sure you complete it. This will give you the confidence that you need to be successful, and you will start trusting yourself more when you sit down to write.
  2. Have your short-term and long-term goals very clearly displaced as you write so that you know how you are doing on each of them before and after each session. Take stock often, and make sure that you are progressing at the pace you planned initially.
  3. Take stock often and re-evaluate your progress. If you are not completing your short-term or long-term writing goals as planned, perhaps you planned to do too little or far too much. See where the problems are and recreate your writing goals. This will help you to be successful in the present and future.


By taking these steps, you will be ensuring that you treat your writing as a job.  Writers who treat their writing like a hobby don’t do much and don’t make the kinds of commitments that they need in order to be successful in their careers. So, make the commitment to your writing projects, and show up to write, and you will be surprised by how much you get done.


~ Irene S. Roth

Discipline Begets Discipline


disciplineThe word discipline has many negative connotations not only for writers but for everyone. It seems that we don’t want to be disciplined. It connotes ideas of being narrow-minded and stubborn in pursuing and fulfilling our goals. It can also connote a stagnant mind-set for some. But is this really true?

Discipline need not have these negative connotations. This is because without discipline, writers will not be successful. But discipline comes in many different forms, some of which are very positive indeed. When writers are asked about the positive dimensions of discipline, here are a few things that they commonly mention:

• It helps me stick to my writing goals;
• It helps me be aware of my writing goals;
• It helps me be a successful writer;
• It helps me gain balance with my other goals by setting time lines to complete projects;
• It helps me gain self-confidence;
• It helps me accomplish so much more;
• It helps me be in control of my writing career;
• It helps me see where I need to focus my energies and where I can let go a bit;
• It helps me make a commitment to my writing;
• It helps me carve out time to write and ascertain a particular time to write;
• It helps me develop my craft so that I can become the best writer that I am capable of;
• It helps me be a professional writer.

Given all of these benefits, it is no wonder that discipline and becoming a disciplined writer has become a buzz word among writers. There is a big difference between a writer who has discipline and one who doesn’t. One can almost see it in how they regard their work projects and how important it is for them to complete them on time and with a high degree of quality.

The most successful writers are extremely disciplined. They know where they are at the present time, and where they want to be 1, 2, 3, and 5 years from now in terms of their writing projects and what they want to accomplish. They know what kinds of writing to pursue for personal fulfillment and they take the time to carve up some time for themselves.

Sprints are one way of developing discipline. When you decide to sprint, you will be making time to write on a consistent basis. And if you can do one sprint, you may even be able to do two or more sprints in a day. This can amount to a lot of writing and you will feel much more confident of your abilities as a writer.

Personal example of being disciplined in one area of your life and how that can translate into being disciplined in your writing career….

As you know, I took up a health challenge at the beginning of the year. It took me a while in December of last year to really decide on the changes that I had to make in order to become healthier and more active. I had to make certain sacrifices such as making the time to get out exercise, change my mindset about food, replace glutted-filled bread with gluten-free (there was a real taste difference at first…the consistency of gluten-free bread was very different at first), cutting portions, and eating more veggies and fruit, cutting out starches such as potatoes and pasta. But once I put all of these habits into place over the past 4 weeks, I feel so much better and I have a lot less arthritis pain in my joints.

But there were even more benefits to my new health challenge: I actually found that becoming disciplined about my health actually helped me to develop even more discipline with my writing. I found that I didn’t have all day to work on a writing project. So, I had to become much more efficient and stop wasting time. I had to make sure that I had a real point by point plan in place to make sure that I got all of my writing done. And looking back on the last month, I had completed more writing every day and I have completed projects quicker.

After reflecting why this might be the case, I saw some real close parallels between the discipline I had to develop for my health challenge and for my writing challenges. Here are some parallels that I noticed over time:

• I had to organize the different facets of my life as I organize my writing projects to be most successful;

• I had to take the time to plan my meals and activities for the week, much like I plan my writing projects and what I will accomplish each week;

• I needed to stick to my plan—regardless if I saw immediate results–both in writing and with my health challenge, it takes a long time to see improvements;

• I had to learn how to stick to the challenge as I do to my writing projects until they are complete;

• I had to decide how to do what I planned to do both with my eating/activity plan and my writing plan—even if I didn’t feel like it;

• I had to make a firm decision to make my goals work—both my health goals and my writing goals;

• I had to have firm resolve to achieve my health and writing goals.

So, as you can see clearly, discipline really does beget discipline. If you are disciplined in one part of your life, you will probably be disciplined in another part of your life that you believe is important. And you will only be successful if you can overcome small, daily obstacles to fulfill your overall goals.

To your good health and to your success as a writer!

~ Irene Roth


Writing in an Optimal Zone

Are you a scattered writer? Are you disorganized when you get to your desk to get some writing done? Is your mind disorganized and fragmented when you write? Do your thoughts urge you to do anything but focus on what you are working on?

If you answered any of these questions in the affirmative, you probably don’t write in an optimal zone. When you write in an optimal zone all your attention is focused on the task in front of you, but not things that you have done before or things that you have to do later after your writing session. The outside world fades away, so to speak. Its noises and distractions subside, and you can simply focus on what you are doing at this very moment. Even your everyday worries dissipate and you transcend your fears. What utter bliss! During this time, you are in your optimal zone.

Focusing on what you are working on is not only the key to success but also it is the key to creating the kind of peace and contentment that you need and deserve in order to do your best writing during your allotted time.

The environment conducive to optimal flow should:

• Provide a high intensity of interaction and feedback

Many times writers just simply come to their writing time wanting to get some writing done. They don’t really care about the quality of their overall work on a particular project or how they are doing. But it is just as important to assess how you are doing as it is to get the writing done because that is the only way to really determine how you are progressing. Working in an optimal zone when you write will give you that kind of feedback.

• Have specific goals and established procedures

When you are focused, you keep what you are working on right in the forefront and you create specific goals that you want to meet during your allotted writing time. You also establish ways to do things so you are most effective and productive. And you are very successful and you get the writing done in an enjoyable manner.

• Motivate

It can be very motivating to be able to just sit and focus on what you are doing. Your mind won’t be scattered and your attention will be poised on completing a particular writing small writing goal during your allotted writing time. In fact, you will actually be motivated to continue writing until you have completed your goals.

• Provide a sense of direct engagement

You will also feel engaged to write when you’re in the optimal zone and do what you planned to do before you sat down to write. Your mind will be focused on what you are doing and not on anything else, thus engaging you thoroughly in what you are writing. This will provide you with a wonderful quality of experience during your writing time.

• Avoid distractions and disruptions that intervene and destroy the experience of writing

The most important way for writers to be productive and successful is to ensure that they keep distractions and disruptions to a minimum when they write. This will create a fun experience of writing, one in which the writer won’t feel stressed and frustrated and one in which she will want to return to over and over again.

Given these benefits, all writers should strive to write in this optimal zone. It can be hard at first to set up your environment and writing time so that it is distraction free and focused. But keep trying, because once you achieve this state not only will your productivity increase but you will want to write more often because of how great you feel when you write with this kind of peace and fulfillment.

Try it!

Irene S. Roth