I stumbled upon this way of structuring my writing life when I read an article in the Readers' Digest when I was a child: "What You Can Do with an Hour a Day." It told of artists completing work for juried shows on the hour-a-day system, of self-taught men achieving levels of intellectual brilliance by reading for an hour a day at the Library of Congress, of greatness and glory accumulated sixty minutes at a time.
As an adult I read Anthony Trollope's fabulous autobiography and learned that he wrote and published his huge, sprawling Victorian novels by writing for a short, fixed stint each morning, while working full-time at a high level position for the British postal service. He penned these words which I committed to memory: "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules."
To measure my hour, I use this hourglass:
I love it so much! With the hourglass, I don't need to watch the clock and rue the fact that it's now 5:02 instead of 5:00, so my hour has been ruined. Instead my hour begins when I turn over the glass and begin to write.The sand trickles through the glass as words trickle through my pen.
My goal is to complete a page during my hour: just one pitiful, pathetic, puny page. Yet the simplest math will show how many pages a year one can fill with this method. How quickly they add up!
This leaves me the remaining 23 hours a day to sleep, work (I've had a full time job for most of my writing career), enjoy time with friends and family, walk, read, and Google myself to see if I've possibly won any major awards that they forgot to tell me about.
I read this line once, attributed to Goethe: "Never hurry, never rest." This is my writing mantra.