Is Time Management Like Baking A Cake?

Elaine R. knows there are many sayings linked to time management, such as:


“Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today”

“Time and tide wait for no man”

But what is it? In very simplistic terms, it’s what it says; it’s managing time, which we do every day. It’s getting the children to school on time, cooking the dinner or baking a cake. For me, working full time means time is an important commodity.

Everyone has things they want, as well as, have to do, but only twenty four hours a day. Breaking time down, depending on circumstances, would probably look something like this:

Sleeping – 8 hours

Travel and Work (Full Time) – 10 hours, this includes time to get ready and eat breakfast.

These two basic requirements take up a minimum of eighteen hours every day, leaving six precious hours. There are also things that are difficult to measure like:

Family, Cooking, Housework and Shopping

These will vary every day. In reality you’re lucky to have two or three hours a day left for writing, suddenly time is very precious, no matter how tired you are.

The question: can the time be utilised for writing your novel or short story?

The answer: It’s all in the preparation, the same as cooking a meal or baking a cake. I eat, breathe and sleep writing, therefore I keep note pads and pens with me for research, jotting ideas, listening to comments, after all they could be used for your characters. I people watch for exactly the same reason.

Management say to use the SMART method to set targets and goals, which is:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound.

This method is useful and has been tried and tested, but it doesn’t necessarily take family life into account. I made writing goals for the Christmas period and, happy with my final decisions, I kept it to remind me. However, sickness and two family deaths knocked me for six, consequently all thoughts of writing disappeared. As I said, life sometimes gets in the way of the best laid plans.

How do I manage?

Initially I looked at how my time was spent and probably, like most people, watching television featured high on the list mainly because it was on and no-one switched it off. Times have changed. Pre-recording programmes means fast-forwarding adverts saves time and I don’t have to remember they’re on.

It’s essential to be organised, especially to achieve. Setting myself weekly, sometimes daily or even hourly targets and not beating myself up if things go wrong.

Planning my writing, deciding what I want to happen and when. This acts as prompts, especially if my mind goes blank.

Family always come first therefore quality time is important. Also household chores are spread around; actually, that’s an exaggeration, my husband does most of them.

The small changes I’ve made to fit writing into my life means my family are also doing other things instead of watching television because they also realise time is a precious commodity not to be wasted.

It’s all in the preparation, like baking a cake.

15 thoughts on “Is Time Management Like Baking A Cake?

  1. But not quite as easy as baking a cake, Elaine. With your busy schedule it looks like you have to time everything almost to the minute so it’s no surprise that it sometimes goes pear-shaped. Particularly when circumstances like those you had to deal with over Christmas are added to the recipe. It must be of great benefit to you to be able to be pragmatic about it when things go wrong; accept the hiccoughs and move on. From what you say I suspect that your family – and in particular your husband – are the icing on the cake.

    • That’s very true Natalie, it has to be said without family support it would be very difficult to fit everything in but we all have busy lives. I do believe that we make time for things that are important to us and I can no longer imagine my life without writing.

  2. It is certainly a juggle Elaine – my house and shopping and TV have definitely gone off my list – although I do look forward to a drama on a Sunday evening!! Lovely piece though

    • Thanks Karen, my apologies for not commenting earlier but I’ve been editing my novel all day but I’m sure you know all about that.

  3. A good analogy, Elaine, though your busy life also seems rather like a juggling act! Setting goals and targets certainly helps me. I have a note pad for lists that’s divided up into days of the week, each sheet being a new week. I write goals for each day and work my way down. There’s something about ticking off items on a list which is very satisfying! And talking of ticking, my egg timer is also very good for getting me to write a lot of words in a short space of time. I’m glad you mention the two elements, ‘achievable’ and ‘realistic’ though, as it’s better to reach an achievable goal than to constantly fail at an unrealistic one.

      • My egg timer is the mechanical sort, Moya, shaped like an egg, which you twist to however many minutes you want to start. It has a maximum of fifty-five minutes but I usually put it on fifteen minutes at a time. I often do that several times in one session as the shorter time spurs me on.

    • I agree Francesca, there’s nothing better then a list that’s gradually being ticked off. The egg timer is a good idea, I’ll have to try that. I do think once the fingers start typing it’s easy to write lots of words in a short amount of time, which is why I don’t hold with the “I’ve only got half an hour” reason for not starting. It’s amazing what can be achieved in a small amount of time.

      • Francesca. that’s a great idea. Should you want to go the 3 minute route you could always try Haiku – encapsulate an idea in three lines –
        To teach man patience
        Must surely be God’s purpose
        For pomegranates.

  4. I’d dread to read the sort of writing I’d produce if I treated it like baking a cake. If I follow a recipe at best a biscuit results. If I use instinct a cake is baked. Writing is like anything you care about and really want to do, time will be found. One’s brain does a lot of unconscious planning and low and behold one writes. I’m not suggesting anyone adopts an airy/fairy ‘it’ll happen’ but it will happen if one has the predisposition, the right mind-set. To return to the cake analogy I suppose it’s a bit like having such familiarity with the ingredients that conscious thought isn’t necessary.

    • I quite agree Moya. I don’t think writing is like baking a cake, it’s all about the preparation in finding the time to write. We all lead busy lives so most of us have to be quite organised to allow ourselves to have that time because it’s easy to always put others first and forget about our own dreams and desires. Once the plot is known the rest often follows but if anyone’s memory is like mine I would always advise write down any ideas and notes to carry the story forward.

  5. A good blog and some interesting comments. At the end of the day the purpose of writing is to sell our work as we are all jobbing writers. So, if we bake or burn a cake (or pick chocolates or gateaux as in a previous blog) as long as the end result is a pile of gold coins who are we to argue!
    Elaine Everest

      • and I see you’ve scheduled your last response at 6.20 am, Elaine R – not day at all for me. I’m lucky I’m not gainfully employed outside the home so I can plan my writing for the times that suit me best. It’s not necessarily the same time every day. What is certain though is it doesn’t happen on its own and each of us has to make it work in whatever way we can.

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