Identify what’s important and make time

In this life there are always things we want to do, and things we have to do. Then there are the things we should do…

All this has me writing really long to-do lists, at which I often stare perplexedly trying to decide which item to tackle first.

Sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out where my creative writing endeavours should lie on the list. Should writing come before or after washing the dishes… doing the billable work… figuring out how to use the latest software so I can send invoices and pay the mortgage…?

In truth, the priorities change on any given day, depending on how high the plates are stacked and how short are the deadlines.

But one thing I have discovered. If I make the time to do the important (to me)-but-not-necessarily-urgent things (like writing), the other important-and-urgent things somehow get done anyway.

Yep, if I prioritise writing, the essential work gets done anyway.

This doesn’t of course mean I can spend all my time writing, but if I carve out a manageable chunk of time — say, an afternoon in a cafe — it ensures the writing goes forward. This makes me happy. Very happy. Which helps me get more efficient with completing the other tasks that need to get done.

There’s a lot to be said for giving in to what we want to do. For allowing it to be important. Life would be really dull if all we did was what we have to do, or feel we should do.

I’m not suggesting we should throw away all sense of responsibility in order to cater to every base whim. But I am suggesting we should identify what’s important to us, accord it suitable respect, and then treat it as important by making time for it.

Sherry Isaac posted last week about how priorities float to the top of the to-do list naturally — which is true. But in my own experience the things that float are the things I have to do (except for sometimes when I just throw prudence to the wind), and I want to take a more active stance. If I wait for my writing to prioritise itself, well… hmm… (Not very happy!)

In my case, I choose most often at present to carve out my writing time in a local cafe. This is beneficial to me for several reasons:

  • It gets me away from all the other things clambering for my attention at home, particularly now that I’m working from home.
  • It gets me away from the internet; I’m good at not logging on to cafe WiFi, although I do have my phone so I’m not completely cut-off.
  • It gets me out of the house into a vibrant environment where I can interact with people.
  • The food is much better.
  • [Most important!] I come away with words down that would otherwise not exist.

What endeavours do you wish you had more time for — or more success in prioritising? Do you think this approach would work for you?


12 thoughts on “Identify what’s important and make time

  1. I really admire you for making the time to write in a steady, smart way by going to a cafe to avoid all the distractions that inevitably happen by staying at home.


  2. Way to go, Ellen! Good for you for prioritizing your writing. Cafe writing is the only way for me to truly focus on my WIP. Otherwise every day tasks are so distracting for me.


    1. It’s great, Elizabeth. But you need to find the right cafe. 🙂
      I do wish, however, that I was better able to write at home. Perhaps as I get into the swing of working from home (a new venture for me) I’ll be better able to partition my time.


  3. I need to do this ~ prioritize the writing ~ because, you’re right, if I don’t, it doesn’t get done and then I’m kicking myself. A café would be great, but I don’t see it happening for me. Maybe if I pick a particular time… I’ve got to do something!


    1. I can imagine it’s not possible for everyone to take the time out in a cafe. It could even be argued that it’s a bad habit for me. The key is shoving stuff to the side for a finite period – it might only be a couple of hours…

      I remember the days (years ago) when I would spend the whole of Sunday writing. I had breaks, but writing was the focus. What’s happened to those days?


  4. Ellen, first, thanks for the shout out.

    I admire your resolve to put your writing first, carving out those days to haul your heinie forth to said cafe and ignore the world. We should all be so lucky as Tami Clayton to have a writing cave, but you seem to have found a reasonable substitute.

    I was without internet for 5 days–don’t ask–and while my writing productivity soared, the apple cart is lopsided, and today, I’m playing catch up with messages that MUST be dealt with.

    As for the rest, meet my delete key!


  5. It sounds like you’ve found your answer for prioritizing your writing. That’s awesome 🙂

    I like to carry around a paper notebook and some fountain pens for doing some writing while I’m on the go–I like the idea of having my writing place be wherever I feel like doing some writing. Sooner or later I need to get back onto a computer, though, as that’s where I like my stuff to ultimately reside.

    I think my biggest problem is that I have more hobby interests than I can probably juggle alongside school and writing. I like to read. I’d like to be able to play an RPG again. I love to play video and computer games–not as much as I did when I worked in the industry, but it’s still a favorite pastime. I could get more writing time if I made some cuts, but deciding what to cut is hard.


    1. Mike, I think it’s one answer… but I’d like to regain my ability to write at home more often – especially to utilise the small time windows in between things.

      I carry a notebook around with me as well. I use it for writing myself notes about plot and emotion and it’s part journal too…

      And I hear you on the hobbies! But it IS important to have a balanced life — we can’t be creative without life experience!


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