Writer Wednesday: Time Inventory

Kipper spends a lot of quality time napping
Kipper spends a lot of quality time napping

Continuing the theme from last week of ‘know yourself‘ — and more importantly, I suppose, to know your habits — I have some homework for those who would actually like to write more. Take inventory! Not of things, but of time. Here’s the form.

Print it out and consider a typical day. I know that can be a challenge right there. What’s a typical day? For me there are teaching days and non-teaching days and they go very differently. If you have trouble choosing a typical day, then either choose the most trying day in recent memory or simply the last 24 hours.

While you don’t have to go minute by minute, the more accurate (and honest) you try to be, the better you will be able to shape your days in the future. No one has to see this but you.

Okay, done? Good.

Now evaluate the way you spend your day. Chances are you spend the biggest blocks of your time at work or sleeping. You may not be able to change the former, but don’t immediately jump to cutting the latter. Shakespeare was spot on:

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

You need good sleep. Most people don’t get enough and go about fatigued and somnambulant. Try to sleep at a regular time and keep a journal next to the bed to write down your first thoughts in the morning. They can be very rich with subconscious connections. I’ve sorted out problems many times by thinking about what I needed to figure out before going to bed and immediately writing down in the morning the solutions my subconscious worked out while I was asleep.

What you need to look through this inventory for are the thieves of your time. Shade out or highlight in one colour all the things you do not wish to change (make sure sleep is one of them unless you’re clocking something like twelve hours!). What’s left is what you have to work with. For most people there’s stubborn thief who loots a lot of your day:


I know, I know — you want to relax after your work day and at a certain point, the brain needs a chance to wind down. But if you want to carve out a consistent 30-60 minute window for writing regularly, giving up a portion of your television watching will likely be the easiest way.

There are others: Got a long commute? Try writing during it. If you ride on a train or bus, get used to people looking over your shoulder. Who cares?! Write something spicy or horrific to make them stop. Driving? Get a digital recorder and muse your thoughts aloud as you drive instead of listening to talk radio or that oldies station.

Find the time; make the commitment.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver

Read all the Writer Wednesday posts here.

Brain Pickings gathered up routines of famous writers.


  1. Widdershins says:

    Princess of Time Thieves – Bejeweled Twist!

  2. Dora says:

    Wonderful post and so timely (pardon the pun). I can’t wait to print the form and take a time-inventory. i tend to procrastinate the closer i get to the “final” version of a piece (of what i think is the final version, at least). I’ll let you know how i do.

    1. katelaity says:

      Good! I want to hear feedback. I hope what works for me works for others.

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