A few observations on time management

by Sarah Acton


I’m reassessing the boundaries I’ve been living within regarding time management and writing practice. Most of all I’m thinking about how to root these within mythological, ecological and poetic dimensions rather than clock time.

I’m currently otherwise unemployed, so I’ve had all day to write for two weeks…so how come I was producing more work whilst juggling two part time jobs?

Time for a new approach to time, and this is what I have to share so far:

  • First I’ve been observing how I am spending my days. There’s a lot of constant movement: creating things to do here and there, none of them urgent. The framework is often hung around a task at the end of the day, and I work backwards from this, almost waiting to fulfill the final task rather than start something productive even half way through the day. There is confusion between what I need to do, and distraction.
  • Day dreaming, thinking, walking and time out on the land, beholding and listening to nature are not distractions, and should be prioritised, not permitted as mini-rewards. I give myself absolute joyful permission to study life in this way as often as possible.
  • Social media, looking for interesting courses, and wondering what to do next in life by looking at my friend’s online communities are huge distractions. Less screen time is good. I can write first drafts in manuscript, in fact I write differently in manuscript, I focus deeply when I’m away from the screen.
  • The concept of creative time is conditioned by clock time. Energy put into different small activities as the minutes pass by creates a groove and pattern that leads often into distraction. This is all in my control, I am not a passive bystander. This is happening and I’m making it happen by using my energy in this way.
  • Reclaiming my time has nothing to do with the amount of hours I can give to writing, and everything to do with how I mentally prepare and approach each session, and my attitude to my life on this earth each day. Embodying my life more fully is a conscious decision as are all of the small decisions I make as I take a seat at my desk to work. Everything is connected.
  • Working in less familiar surroundings, or in certain atmospheres from time to time can assist the quality of work and focus. As I sit here I’m remembering that I like to work in empty churches, the heavy stone cools my head and the dim stained glass light calms my eyes.
  • Exercise, and health are important to focus long term. No one gets to be the exception on this one.

Foolishness? No, It’s Not.

Sometimes I spend all day trying to count the leaves on a single tree. To do this I have to climb branch by branch and write down the numbers in a little book. So I suppose, from their point of view, it’s reasonable that my friends say: what foolishness! She’s got her head in the clouds again.

But it’s not. Of course I have to give up, but by then I’m half crazy with the wonder of it — the abundance of the leaves, the quietness of the branches, the hopelessness of my effort. And I am in that delicious and important place, roaring with laughter, full of earth-praise.” (Mary Oliver)







3 thoughts on “A few observations on time management

  1. Sarah, this was an absolutely lovely post. You had me pondering about the way I use and perhaps misuse time, to the detriment of my creativity. Here’s to daydreaming! I was just at a writer’s conference where a best-selling author said that in the early days of learning to write a novel, when he was a grad student and it all felt so hopeless, he fell into a daydream that finally led to a major breakthrough in his writing. His professor read this piece, so much more alive and with a much more distinct voice than everything that had come before it, and asked, amazed, “What happened?” The author answered, “It came to me in a daydream.” And so yes here’s to more of that in our daily lives!


  2. Sarah, this post was filled with great food-for-thought. It was interesting that you said you like to do some writing in manuscript, away from the screen, and that you write differently that way. I have experienced this too, and find that my writing in longhand is more spontaneous and less calculating. Thanks for sharing these thoughts about your process!


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