I’ve seen the words ‘faffing about’ appear in various media streams lately, often juxtaposed with the word ‘goals’. But if you’re anything like me, it’s difficult to achieve goals when you’re busy faffing about. Don’t get me wrong – faffing about has been very useful up until now. I’ve made lots of new writer friends, learnt a great deal and frequently cured writer’s isolation with a daily dose of humorous tweets. But my big goal, the one that introduced me to social media faffing in the first place, is to get something published one day, preferably with an income generated from it. To achieve that, I’ve decided to become more savvy in the faffing department. Here are some hacks I’ve found useful:
It’s helpful to know how you’re actually spending your time (instead of how you think you’re spending it). This can help you focus on areas where you need to minimise faff, or highlight activities that can be multitasked (see below for ideas on getting Siri to help you out). I downloaded the aTracker app on my phone (there are many similar apps available) and for the past week I’ve recorded just how much faffing I’ve managed to do. This app was very easy to use and I was able to email myself the following chart that shows the extent of my faffing.
At 33%, sleep is my biggest single time waster. And that’s with making a concerted effort to rise slightly earlier each day. I am NOT a morning person. It’s going to take a lot to change this statistic, so I need to look at other areas I can tweak. If the amount of sleep you’re getting (or not getting) disturbs you, you can easily create a pie chart that excludes this (or any other) chosen category.
At 12%, social media is my next biggest time user. But in my defence, I usually choose social media faffing over tv faffing at night time.
The 9% ‘other’ is hard to qualify – making a cuppa, going to the loo, washing my face etc, so I won’t bore you any further.
The two wedges of 8% (16% total) represent family, cooking and housework. I don’t plan on reducing family time – but it’s probably time the kids did more around the house…
Which brings us to the whole point of this exercise – the amount of time spent on novel writing (under 6%), other writing – which includes attending a weekly writing group (7%) and reading (6%), is well below where it needs to be if I want to achieve my publishing goal. I intend to keep recording the data for a while to see how it changes. I recommend giving one of these time manager apps a go. You might be surprised how you actually spend your time!
Facebook Pages Manager app
My Facebook ‘writer page’ achieves top marks (100%) for its response rate, however Facebook doesn’t seem too impressed with my ‘turnaround’ time, which is averaging 9 hours at the moment. To achieve a faster Page response time, without interrupting my writing flow, I have downloaded the Facebook Pages Manager app on my phone. An alert appears on the phone’s lock screen, giving me the opportunity to respond immediately to any comments, saving the full Facebook newsfeed for when I have more time. This photo shows a notification from the app (which I chose to ignore), but being notified of Page comments as they appear has been useful. I’ll be interested to see how the ‘response rate’ on my page changes over the next few weeks.
(Thanks to everyone who responded to my ‘experimental’ Facebook post this week – this is what I was trialling.)
Siri can do more than tell jokes
I use the ‘notes’ app on my phone constantly. Separate folders are set up for blog posts, book reviews, scene ideas etc and I add to them whilst walking, cooking etc – basically anytime and anywhere something pops into my cluttered head, it’s transferred into a note on my phone. I can then ‘air-drop’ the longer notes into my computer, saving the need to re-type them. (A quick google search confirmed similar technology is available on android platforms.)
This week, I decided to take this a step further. Being voice-activated, Siri can take notes without you having to touch the phone (including unlocking it at the sound of your unique voice). Siri took the attached note while I was driving my car to writing group yesterday. Ok, her punctuation isn’t perfect, and she didn’t understand every word I said, but all that happened without taking my hands off the steering wheel. The prospect of ‘writing’ while ironing excites me very much!
Trust the Boys in the Basement
Having said all that, I do need to trust my subconscious more and resist the urge to write down every single little thing that pops into my head. Possibly one of the best writing-craft books I’ve read recently talks about ‘trusting the boys in the basement’ – i.e. your subconscious, instead of making too many notes of scenes and ideas.
This week I did a stocktake of the ‘useful’ notes and ideas I made on my laptop mid last year. I had avoided looking at those laptop notes for months, having moved the majority of my writing tasks to my desktop. But knowing that they were there clouded my brain, making me anxious about not having actioned any of them in a while. It was a bit like putting off tax returns. Guess what? I was able to delete every single one of them. Maybe it was the process of writing them that was useful, but I’m going to try and be more conscious of whether I need to take a note in the first place.
Twitter apps (Buffer / Tweetdeck / Staus brew)
My procrastination over electronic scheduling has finally become counterproductive. Whilst it was beneficial to learn this platform with a ‘hands on’ approach, it’s now time to become more strategic.
I have been using Tweetdeck for a while. The ‘lists’ feature is extremely useful for keeping track of the users you’re interested in, or connect regularly with, rather than faffing through countless feeds. It also removes ‘promoted’ ads. Once you have a list set up, you can easily add to it as soon as you have any ‘new followers’ (I usually go through their tweets first to make sure they don’t self-promote too much), or if you find you’ve been interacting with someone in particular, you can add them to one of your lists at any time. This is a screen shot of some of the lists I’ve set up. It makes keeping tabs on twitter a breeze during breaks from writing.
I haven’t had luck installing the Buffer app on my Mac yet, but it was easy to download and use on my phone. What’s your reaction when you see several tweets or retweets in a row from the same person, then nothing for ages? Exactly. Buffer scatters your tweets or retweets so they don’t appear bundled together, and when used to boost your normal activity (i.e. liking and replying to tweets in the ‘now’) it gives you a much greater presence on this platform, and you’re more likley to pick up new followers or to be retweeted. This app also sends you a friendly reminder if you have nothing in your ‘queue’ that it can tweet on your behalf.
I recommend getting the most out of a tweet by using a hashtag or two. I’m sure it’s not only me who searches a particular hashtag then loads up their Buffer feed with amusing or interesting tweets from other people. If you want to increase the chances of your tweet reaching a wider audience or being retweeted – include a photo and hashtag. Some popular writing hashtags can be found here.
Statusbrew is an app that allows you to check twitter followers and unfollowers. I have loaded this onto my phone, but am yet to use it to its full capacity. A good use of this app is to check who hasn’t followed you back and then send them a polite tweet, mentioning you followed them a while ago, and seeing if they’re interested in following you back. It’s possible that you’ve gotten lost in their ‘system’. I find that when I get really busy, I can go for a week or two sometimes without checking on new followers.
Instagram is my favourite platform. I have managed to build a following over a short period, posting only once or twice a week. I haven’t aggressively sought followers, but instead have used as many appropriate hashtags as possible for each post. A good place to start for hashtag ideas is here, but I have found that keeping an old-fashioned notebook, with hashtags for pets, writing, reading, cafes, places (the city you live, holiday places you visit) etc, and jotting down any interesting ones I come across in other people’s posts, is handy to refer to when posting a photo. If you’ve put effort into taking a nice photo, you may as well throw as many hashtags at it as you can!
Many of your followers won’t comment on or like any of your posts. That’s fine – no offence taken, but it does mean that you will be viewing all their photos as you scroll through your feed – which can become a bit of a time suck once you’ve amassed a bit of a following. It irks me when I get ‘spam’ from people who post a few times a day, but never like or comment back. Yes, I could ‘unfollow’, but if you’re playing the numbers game, there are smarter ways to handle this.
Installing an Instagram tracking app, such as InsTrack or Followers, lets you easily remove those that have unfollowed you. They also provide additional features that give insight into who your most interactive followers are, so if you’re limited on time you can choose to interact only with those.
I use the Pocket app regularly. It syncs across my phone and computer, allowing a web page saved on my phone to easily be accessed on the computer. This is great for twitter links that you want to read later when you have more time, or for saving websites you come across that may be useful for future blog or Facebook posts. It allows you to attach tags to everything you save, making it easy to remember why you saved the link in the first place.
Facebook accountability groups
Facebook makes it easy to set up accountability groups (or any other groups that may facilitate your writing for that matter). I have recently been invited to join a Facebook accountability group and this blog post is a direct result of listing my week’s goals in that group (thank you gorgeous lady – you know who you are!) It’s already reduced the amount of faffing I do and has kept me focused on my writing goals. That’s a great feeling and therefore time spent posting in that group is NOT considered faffing.
Old fashioned methods are sometimes still the best
Once you’ve downloaded all these apps (not to mention all the other sites you’re already subscribed to), you will have countless login details and passwords to remember. Occasionally an app will insist on having its password or user name re-entered. This can cause much faffing about if you don’t have handy systems in place. Computers will save passwords for you, but call me old fashioned – I prefer to write these details down! You can use an alphabetised notebook, risking scribble marks and torn pages when details change, or can follow my lead and invest in an index system – which is also easy for the kids to use. An index system will allow you to shuffle cards around, remove old cards, or update messy cards with new ones. Neat and tidy – and a faff saver.
Ensure your children don’t assume they live in a hotel
I’m a stay at home parent. I’m very lucky and grateful for that. But it also means I have developed a habit of doing everything for my children. Some ongoing chores have already been delegated now that I’m taking my writing seriously and I’m keen to delegate more. I would love to hear from you if have any creative ideas for helping make this dream come true.
These are just a few time saving hacks that I hope will give me more writing time this year. What about you? Do you have any hacks that you couldn’t live without?