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How Much Time We Really Waste Per Day Isn’t Pretty

If you want to know how much time you waste during the day – time you could spend working on that creative writing or autobiographical or non-fiction manuscript you keep saying you’re going to work on – try running your own company.

I never realized how many minutes I really misused until I started running Innovative Editing as my 9-5.

I always thought of myself as a fairly organized person in my non-writing life. I know that, when I’m working on a story manuscript, I’m pure pantser all the way, complete with twist endings and surprise middles and even beginnings that don’t go as expected.

But in real life, when I’m not absorbed in faeries or first-century Judea or kidnapping plots that put me face to page with tall, wide-shouldered good-boys-gone-bad that I end up accidentally falling in love with…

I like my structure. If I’m going to do something, then I generally want to do it in a certain time frame, knowing beforehand how many hours I’m allotting to that activity.

Am I cleaning my apartment? In that case, I want to know that chore will be over in forty-five to sixty minutes.

Cooking? Well, if the directions say it’ll take half an hour, I know I won’t be done for an hour and a half. So let’s just make it two hours to be on the safe side. If I finish before that, I’ll fill the added space with reading or browsing Pinterest.

Need to be somewhere? Well, there could be traffic, so I’d better give it an extra 10-15 minute window.

Hanging out with someone? Make it a four-hour block. Five hours tops. This introvert can only handle so much people-time in a day unless it’s with very close family or very close friends.

I even remember telling God when I was 13 or 14 that I could plan out certain parts of my life on my own; that he could take a break if he wanted to.

I was partially joking. And partially not.

Most people would never know I was such a control freak. I cover it quite well; plus I have all these much more laidback qualities that, honestly, make me a walking contradiction.

Though apparently a much more disorganized walking contradiction than I originally believed. Once I dumped my standard 9-5 and took up Innovative Editing as a full-time entrepreneurial adventure, I realized how messy my so-called schedules really were.

As it turns out, life is filled with a thousand little distractions that add up big time. And I just never recognized how bad it actually was.

Let’s say I’d allot three hours to editing a particular manuscript, which I’d dive right into for half an hour or forty-five minutes straight, sipping water in the process. But at some point, I’d empty my glass. So I’d stop the clock to get up and get some more, then maybe browse the cabinets for a quick bite to eat.

Should I have it? Should I not? Will I? Will I not?

Okay. No. Let’s be a good girl and sit down at the table again. Back to work. Five minutes later.

After another 15 minutes, I realize I have to go to the bathroom. So I stop the clock again, get up and sit on the toilet, grabbing up one of the comic strip books lying there to read while I’m at it. Just a few pages. Really.

Yet when I get back to my laptop, a whole seven minutes have gone by. Seven minutes that could have only been two.

Then there’s checking Facebook. Which I didn’t have to do until lunchtime. Responding to a text message can eat into the day a lot more than expected too. And those little mental bunny trails I apparently take a lot of during my blog-writing blocks are absolute killers!

There have been days where, by 2:00, I’m an hour and forty-five minutes behind my intended schedule. It’s ridiculous! Rather depressing too.

Because how much more would I have been able to get done if I hadn’t wasted those supposedly little minutes here and there? How much earlier would I have been able to stop working in order to spend quality time with friends and family? Or winding down over some new show on Hulu? Or, yes, working on one of my new story manuscripts?

I love my job. Like truly and completely love it. It’s a great fit for me: encouraging writers to work on their manuscripts and achieve their publishing dreams; strengthening business writing or fellow entrepreneurs to make their words work; and tackling other editorial copy to strengthen it from start to finish.

But there’s more to life than Innovative Editing, even if it is the best job ever. And I might be able to enjoy those other aspects a little more fully – possibly going so far as to finish up a story manuscript this year – if I learn to stop wasting so much time.

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