Last time I talked about the importance of having a plan. Scheduling in time to write is possibly the most valuable thing a writer can do to increase productivity, and therefore, overall satisfaction. I recommend one hour of real writing each day. (For me, afternoons are best.) My schedule includes everything else that happens regularly, too, like work, household chores, meal plans, and even exercise. The key to success, however, is being flexible and not letting the schedule itself stress you out. You aren’t a slave to the plan. It is there to serve you.
One of the biggest time sucks for me happens online. Emails, social media, and other duties seem to steal away the hours and next thing I know there is no time (or energy) for writing creatively. Again, this is why a plan is so vital.
I open my email every day. (I have several email accounts for various jobs.) I know some people who only open their emails three times a week, or what have you. This would never work for me. I open each account every day and scan through for anything urgent. Then, I mark the rest for attention later. Sometimes this just means flagging or starring, sometimes it means putting it in a separate folder. Generally, anything that needs attention stays in my inbox until it’s dealt with and then I file it into its appropriate spot. My initial go-through takes me anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. If it’s time-sensitive, I’ll try to deal with it later that day, or if it’s something that can wait, I save it for another designated day. In short, emails don’t have to rule your life! (Scan your inbox and delete, delete, delete! You are not obligated to read all the junk!) I also use my email as my preferred method of notification, so I get a lot of notices from Facebook etc. Again, if it’s not urgent, I leave it for later.
I’ve set aside specific days of the week for different ‘hats’. Monday is my ‘Office Day’ where I do all my planning for the week, pay bills, file, and look after bits and pieces from each of my roles. Tuesday and Thursday are set aside for my author and publishing business. This is when I schedule my social media posts, blog, maintain my website, do other marketing, etc. Wednesday is ‘Inscribe’ day (suffice to say there are a lot of duties involved!) and Friday is ‘HCOS’ day. (HCOS is the name of the school I work for.) Does this mean I never do HCOS work on a Tuesday or won’t look after an Inscribe need on a Thursday? Of course not! I look after the immediate and urgent each day as needed. But many (most) activities can wait a day or two, so as much as possible, I try to stick to the plan for my own sanity. Otherwise, my various hats could easily take over.
Sometimes these activities take an entire morning. Sometimes they only take an hour. Sometimes I have to continue later in the afternoon or evening. However, no matter how long it takes, I schedule one hour of writing each afternoon shortly after lunch. If it doesn’t work to write after lunch then I might have to do it in the evening. It doesn’t matter. One hour. Every day. (I consider editing to be part of this if I’ve finished a manuscript.) Some days I can only squeeze in that hour. (Sometimes it’s less.) But often I find the time stretches and I want to keep on writing. Bonus!
At the risk of sounding like a control freak, I’ve also taken to scheduling in other things like household chores, grocery shopping, exercise, and even a weekly menu. I like a clean house, I like clean bedding, and I like regular meals! However, if I leave cleaning until company’s coming, or there is no food in the house and I’m scrambling to think about what to make for dinner, I’m less likely to be at peace (and therefore also less likely to feel like writing). While ‘Pasta Monday’ or ‘Crock Pot Wednesday’ might not be hard and fast, having a menu plan for the week and the groceries to cook said menu, is a huge stress relief. (Remember Monday’s Office Day? This is when I plan my weekly menus and make a grocery list.)
This is all well and good, you say, since I no longer work outside my home. Well, having a schedule while I worked fulltime, was a pastor’s wife, and had four kids at home, actually kept me sane! NOT having a schedule is far more stressful. Even if you can’t strictly adhere to the plan, just having the plan can be enough to keep you from spinning in circles.
Of course, let’s not forget scheduling in time for prayer and Bible study. This is perhaps the most important thing that keeps everything else on track. Again, planning to spend time in the Word and in prayer helps me maintain the kind of spiritual discipline needed. Left to my own devices, I might push off this most vital part of my day.
Planning in this much detail might not work for everyone, but I have found it helps me stay on track in every area of my life. It also keeps me accountable to my own goals and makes me more productive and therefore satisfied with my life. When I stick to it, that is!
Tracy Krauss, current ICWF President, has more than 20 books and plays in print and has successfully launched several titles onto Amazon’s best seller lists for sustainable periods of time. She has taught seminars using this model and hopes that what little insight she has gained can be used by others. Website:tracykrauss.com