As a mother, wife, and writer, I’m sure you have to have developed some way to schedule your days to get some writing in. As a retired 69-year-old retired legal secretary with no one home except Husband and Maggie Kat, I still find I’m struggling to maintain a schedule for including exercise, Bible study, and writing. That doesn’t even mention housecleaning, laundry, and cooking. Have you devised at any time an excel spreadsheet that you use for scheduling your time?
You know, I have been working from home most of my adult life and I have to say that time management and staying self-disciplined are probably the hardest parts of the job. The actual tasks of being a writer pale in comparison to the emotional strength it takes to make a commitment to yourself and stick to it. It’s a skill that has to be honed and that you have to rededicate yourself to every week–sometimes every day.
That said, there are definitely some strategies to creating a routine that works for you so that you can make the most of your days–one that includes all the facets of your life. Yes, I have two kiddos and I spend a couple of hours each day driving them around, as well as cooking and cleaning and making time for the people in my life, but I also manage to get writing done most days, keep this blog going, and build a business. (Not without it’s fair amount of stress, of course.) It can be done!
1. DISCOVER YOUR NATURAL RHYTHMS
Take some time to figure out your natural energy rhythms. This can take quite a bit of experimentation, but once you lock in on them, you can make the most of them and you’ll be shocked at how much you can accomplish. Are you most energetic when you first wake up, or do you start to hit your groove mid-morning? Do you prefer to be in a more relaxed state when your write or do you need to be at your most alert in order to tap into your creative side?
Track your energy rhythms for a week or two, and then start to play with which tasks best fit into those periods of time.
For instance, I am a slow starter in the morning. My mind is too unfocused to be able to put a thought together. But by mid-morning, I’m energetic and I like to use that time to work on business-related tasks and blogging. After lunch, my youngest daughter sleeps while my oldest is at school and I’m ready to slow down my pace. The quiet lends the perfect time for working on fiction. In the afternoon, with both girls home, I turn to household tasks, which are easier to do while being interrupted (approximately 1,527 times per day).
Find what works best for you, and use it to your advantage.
2. TIME BLOCK
I’ve talked about time-blocking before and I still stand by this–I use it every day. The idea of time blocking is to block off chunks of time to do related tasks. For instance, responding to email, posting on social media, and blogging are all things I tend to do from 9 a.m. until lunch. I write for a couple of hours after lunch. I use my natural rhythms and then get myself in the right mindset to accomplish whatever type of task I’m working on. In the morning, it’s all business. In the afternoon, I get creative.
You mentioned exercise and bible study as well and self-care is a very important part of my routine too. Those are the types of things I tend to do early in the morning to get focused and start myself off in a calm state of mind.
What I love about this kind of schedule is that there is plenty of elbow room for allowing the week to unfold. I may have my mornings blocked for business but if I feel more like doing social media one morning instead of writing a blog, I can shift things around and write my blog another morning that week. Whatever I decide, though, I know it won’t encroach on my writing time because I already have it blocked off for later in the day and so I don’t allow it to.
Using this method, I’ve created a routine for myself that has become such a habit that I no longer have to work myself up to accomplish what I need to. As an added bonus, since my family knows what to expect, they are better about respecting my time too.
3. STAY CONNECTED WITH YOUR BIG-PICTURE GOALS
When you don’t have a boss or other people counting on you to get your work done, it can be hard to make writing a priority. It’s easy to put it off for another day when no one will notice or, frankly, care.
But you care. You notice. And by proving to yourself with your actions–or lack thereof–that your writing is not a priority, you undermine your confidence and your belief in yourself to make your dreams a reality. When you work from home, you have to constantly be realigning yourself with what you want in the long term, and why you want those things, so you do what needs to be done in the short term. In a word: write.
So take a little time to map out what you want for your life and career as a writer. Understand the reasons why you want those things. It will make getting your butt in chair and fingers on keyboard a lot easier.
Get the Free Time Blocking Worksheet!
You asked if I had a spreadsheet for time management, and I’ve actually had one sitting on my hard drive that I’ve been meaning to share for a while! This worksheet is designed to help you get clear on all the things you need to get done each day or week, to prioritize them, and then to create your own time blocks. You can download your copy by subscribing to my newsletter below!
I hope you’re able to get into a routine that keeps you productive and moving, every day, toward the best version of your life.
Today is always the day,