Today, everyone is busy. Technological advancements, meant to make our life easier, tend to take away precious hours. Job and family commitments can multiply and eat us alive. Often there is precious little time remaining for our writing careers. To find a suitable balance, we must create structure in our lives.
Balance does not imply that every aspect receives an equal slice of the proverbial pie but rather adequate attention. Meeting one need may require ten minutes while another demands three hours. Before we begin slicing and doling out our time, we must first determine what’s important.
The best way to accomplish this task is to form a list. What do we value? What goals must be achieved? Consider the very basics first. Sleep and work (if we are employed) will take the greatest chunk of our day. Add family commitments to the list. Don’t forget household chores, physical activities, and relaxation. Finally, list all aspects of writing, from creating to promoting.
Before we divide our valuable time, what can we eliminate? Do we need to curtail certain activities? Are there duties that can be passed along to someone else? Once our list has been reduced to manageable levels, we can divvy the hours, remembering that we only have twenty-four at our disposal. (Although I keep lobbying for a 40 hour day.)
Now that we understand what we’ll do with our day, we need to determine when we’ll accomplish each item on the list. While certain tasks remain unmovable, we should design our schedule to showcase our best side. Avoid relegating family to a time when we are exhausted or exercise to a slot we’ll only ignore. Our writing time is no different, and whether it’s the middle of the night or right after lunch, we should schedule it during our peak performance hours.
Ironically, there will be days when we are unable to follow our schedule. The life of an author can be quite chaotic at times. However, we need a base on which to build. It’s easier to alter an existing schedule that to create a new one each day from scratch.
A calendar is an author necessity. It is the only means by which to keep track of commitments, both in the real and virtual world. Miss one or two appearances and we’ll soon discover no one wants to book an irresponsible author! Setting two appointments for the same time slot is another disaster we want to avoid. A calendar will keep us on track.
Since each new day presents a different set of tasks, maintain a to-do list. This will prevent that unique item from slipping through the cracks and into oblivion. Compile the to-do list the night before and write down future tasks for the days ahead. If we tackle the most important items first, then we know they will be completed.
Interspersing a few five-minute projects throughout the list will speed our progress and buoy our sense of accomplishment in the process.
By now it’s obvious that we need to establish a framework in all areas of our life. With structure, a schedule, and a to-do list, we are better prepared to complete our writer and author duties. We are more likely to write for two hours if we’ve designated a time and placed it on our list than if we simply intend to make the effort at some point. Through repetition, many tasks will become part of our daily routine. Once we’ve established a pattern, accomplishing our goals will be much easier.
Our greatest enemies at this point are distractions and time stealers. Situations will arise when a diversion momentarily derails our progress. Unless it’s an emergency or has the potential to change our life forever, we shouldn’t focus on distractions. Time stealers are much more subtle. Ten minutes on a social site turns into thirty; an email sends us on a frantic goose chase for an hour; a phone call eats up our entire afternoon. We must be on the lookout for distractions and mindless time stealers or they will consume all of our carefully laid plans.
Authors and writers exist in a unique world, one that can be quite chaotic at times. However, we are happier and more productive when there is balance and structure in our life. Designing a schedule that can be easily followed sets us up for greater success!
Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” L. Diane Wolfe is a member of the National Speakers Association and an author. She conducts seminars on book publishing, promoting, leadership, and goal-setting, and she offers book formatting and author consultation. She is the author of seven books, including two non-fiction titles and a NA/YA series, The Circle of Friends. Wolfe travels extensively for media interviews and speaking engagements, maintains numerous websites and blogs, and contributes to several other sites and newsletters.