Wednesday, April 21, 2010

5 ways to manage online time & 5 reasons online time is important

Of all the things I need to manage, internet time is on the top of my list. It’s easy to get sucked in and hard to break out of the interwebs! On the other hand, I think it’s important to be online, at least some of the time.

Here are five suggestions * for managing online time and five reasons you can use to justify** the hours you spend there.

Managing Online Time

1. Set The Timer: If this suggestion sounds familiar, it’s because it was in my last post as a suggestion to help complete chores and/or creative projects. The beauty of the timer is that you can also use it to keep the internet from being a time suck. Before you go online, figure out how much time you have to spend, then set the timer for 5-10 minutes before that. Why set the timer early? Because it always seems like I’m right in the middle of an email or reading a blog post when time is up. If you give yourself an extra 5-10 minutes, you can finish what you are doing without feeling rushed.

2. Only Go Online After Your Work Is Done: Think of the internet as a reward for all your hard work on a manuscript or a painting. It’s like an ice cream sundae after a week of dieting, but without all the calories.

3. Use Social Media Only On Certain Days: Stay offline for whole days at a time to stay on deadline or achieve goals. You could also set a specific online schedule every week. My current process is to set weekly goals for my WIP. My week starts on Thursday and ends the following Wednesday. That way, I don’t have to rush to get done by Monday, when I want to spend time with my family on the weekend. Monday thru Wednesday is when I rush to finish weekly goals. Thursday and Friday is when I plan the next set of weekly goals and start in on them. If I need to go offline to get my work done, then I do. The internet will still be there when I have more time.

4. Think In Percentages: If you take the total number of hours that you have to work on your manuscript or art, then figure out how much of that time is spent online, it can be a staggering statistic. (Note: This one made me cringe at how much time I’m online.) Here are two easy math examples to show you what I mean.
- A full time writer or illustrator, with 40 hours a week to work (no weekends, that’s family time), that spends 2 hours a day online, M-F = 10 hours a week. That’s 25% of their writing or illustrating time!
- A writer or illustrator that has 14 hours a week to work (including weekends, because of a day job), that spends 1 hour a day online = 7 hours a week. That’s 50% of their writing or illustrating time!
Those are just examples that made the math easy, but it also makes it easy to see how those hours online can add up. Try it yourself. Is your percentage what you want it to be?

5. Take An Internet Vacation: If the internet is causing you to ignore your family, your writing, your art, or other obligations, you might want to think about taking a break from it. Take weekends off, or take whole week, or a month, or stay off line until you’ve made the deadline for your project. Pick a time period that works for you, then re-evaluate your online time when that’s over.

The Benefits of Spending Time Online

I. Research: The internet is a great place to start your research for the project that you’re writing or illustrating. It can also point you to books and people that are important to seek out to make your WIP or illustration seem authentic.

II. Industry News & Networking: There are a ton of children’s book people online, including agents, editors, publishers, authors, and illustrators. Many of them post helpful articles or links to news about the industry, as well as book recommendations to add to your reading list. You can also find critique groups and friends online. They understand what it’s like to create children’s books, even if your offline family and friends do not.

III. Education: If you want to learn how to do something, you can probably find a tutorial or explanation online. There are many articles specific to children’s and YA books, including articles and blog posts on: plot, creating characters, how to put together a PB dummy, fictional settings, writing queries and hooks, how to write a synopsis, agent submission guidelines and preferences, and even how to paint in Photoshop.

IV. Community: Twitter, Facebook and discussion boards might seem like a waste of time, but they’re not, if you limit your time on them. Sometimes it helps to talk with others online; you’re not the only one struggling with your WIP or illustration or getting rejections from an agent.  Time spent online is a lot like talking with colleagues in the break room at a regular job, which is a good way to maintain your sanity and possibly make a few friends.

Discussion Boards for children’s book and YA writers & illustrators:
Helpful Twitter Chats:
  • Mon. 10pm EST #pblitchat
  • Tues. 9pm EST #kidlitchat
  • Wed. 9pm EST #yalitchat
  • Thurs. 9pm EST #kidlitart
V. Fun: We all need to have fun or escape at times. When you go online, there are friends to talk with, games to play, news about what’s going on in the world (outside of publishing), stories to read and inspiring art to look at. Go play, then get back to work!

* Not that I’m an expert on managing my online time … but I keep trying. Eventually reason will win out over shiny objects and fun links, or at least I hope it will. If it doesn’t, I may have to call in the zombies to keep me in line. There’s nothing like the threat of brain munchage to alter your behavior.

** I can justify almost anything, really. It’s my super power. I’d rather have the power to heal myself when I get injured or fly like Superman, but being able to finesse the BS is a useful power too. (I knew my art degree would come in handy eventually – I learned the art of BS while getting my BFA.)
This is the second in a series of three Time Management articles.

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