Two weeks ago, after I wrote about Writing More, Faster, Smarter (and my goal to have written about half a million published and/or publishable words by this time next year), Laura had a question. She asked:
[Y]ou handle a lot of the household stuff. How do you balance that while working, exactly? Do you have specific time slots, or do you retreat to a cafe? I found myself getting sidetracked by household stuff and it bugs me. Stuff that felt like it was hanging over my head because I was home from the dayjob and had the “chance” to take care of it. Even if it could have waited. I was still successful in getting *something* down, just not nearly as much as I’d hoped. What would you recommend?
Laura’s right. I handle almost all our household stuff — all the grocery shopping, other household goods shopping, cooking, household correspondence, and the limited gardening we do, along with the vast majority (95%, maybe?) of errand-running and home maintenance. (I consider it a fair deal — my husband commutes downtown every day, works a job that requires him to sit at a desk at specific hours, and he earns a paycheck that evens out the craziness of freelance cash-flow — not to mention guaranteeing us benefits such as health insurance.)
While it’s a fair deal, it still requires a lot of time management. My solution is uniquely suited to “full-time” writers (the quotation marks mean I’d be full time if I didn’t have to do all the other crap in the above paragraph), but it might be helpful for part-timers trying to structure their time. My secret:
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Friday, I write. I do almost nothing but write, from 8:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. (I take breaks to shower, make and eat lunch, prepare elements of dinner that have to be prepared before 5:30, and, um, use the restroom.) I *try* to fit fitness breaks in — walks around the block for 10 minutes at a time, but after taking the first one around 10:00 a.m., I’m usually too time-pressured to do another couple in the afternoon. Yes. I know this is unhealthy.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do everything else. I take an exercise class from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. on both of those days. From 10:00 on, I complete all the household crap (including cooking meals that can be made in advance for days when writing runs long). I also socialize — these are the days I schedule lunch or coffee breaks with friends. I do my damnedest to schedule doctor’s appointments on Tuesdays or Thursdays, although that’s not always possible. I also use Tuesdays and Thursdays to do all my self-publishing work — corresponding with editors and designers, formatting ebooks and print books, uploading files to vendors, fighting with vendors over payments, coordinating group projects, such as SIX TIMES A CHARM (6 light paranormal novels for less than a buck — buy your copy today — Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo!), etc., etc., etc. Finally, I use Tuesdays and Thursdays to do all my publicity and promotion — writing posts for blog tours, doing advance posts for my blog and Magical Words, updating my website, etc., etc., etc.
(Every other Friday, I take off, to correspond with my husband’s Flexday program, where he works long hours on nine weekdays and gets every other Friday off.)
My to-do list for writing days is brief:
- Make my husband’s lunch
- Make my lunch
- Eat breakfast
- Respond to urgent email
- Write (I specify which chapters)
- Eat lunch
- Write (I specify which chapters)
- Make dinner
- Eat dinner
My to-do list for admin days typically runs to about 20 items, but may be longer if I’ve got a lot of household stuff and a lot of publishing admin stuff.
I settled on this system after spending several years where I set priorities for each day, based on my perceived urgency of the overall to-do list. Using that system, I found it very difficult to carve out writing time — the concentrated butt-in-chair time seemed always to come last, around 4:00 p.m., when I couldn’t produce enough to meet my deadlines. Moreover, in times of writing crisis, *nothing* got done on the household/admin front.
My current system has made me vastly more productive than I was. It also leaves me constantly dissatisfied — On Mondays, Wednesdays, and writing Fridays, I *always* want to write the next day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I *always* have more projects I want to complete. That dissatisfaction, though, drives me to be more efficient and more likely to complete each day’s assigned work.
(Incidentally, I just completed a 45K romance novel in a month — from blank screen to edited, publishable draft — using this system. My admin days gave me a chance to muse on plot problems and to research details, so that my writing days were maximally useful.)
If I were adapting my schedule for a part-time writer, I would consider a couple of models. I could mandate “before noon” to be writing time and “after noon” to be admin time. Or, if I were investing a week of vacation, I could apply my every-other-day model.
So? What do you think? Do you use a model like this? Do you think you could make one work for you?