One of the biggest obstacles writers like us face is figuring out how to balance all our responsibilities and still find time to write. It can be hard to maintain a balance between our personal/professional obligations and our writing ambitions. We can have all the ideas in the world, but none of that matters if we don't make time to develop them.
We can't begin to balance our lives without thinking about how time management plays a role. That is why time management is so important. When we (writers) address this issue up front, we tend to be a lot more productive, meet deadlines, stay organized, and more importantly, balance life and work.
Time management for writers deals with more than just allocating windows of time for writing and other tasks. That was the mistake I made, and so many writers continue to make. Initially, I used to set deadlines and prioritize my tasks to only become frustrated when I failed to be productive.
For writers like us, balancing life and work involves embracing not just the tasks we have to get done, but realistically understanding who we are, the roles we play, and the responsibilities we have. To achieve balance, we have to clearly know ourselves so we can manage our time efficiently.
Think about it. Say, you decide to write every day from 4 am to 6 am. For the first two or three days, you are successful. However, on day four you oversleep because you attended a planned business party the night before. What happened? Before we get into that, let me provide you with another example. Perhaps, you decide your window of opportunity to write is from 1:30 to 3:30 pm every day, but fail to write due to entertaining friends and family all week.
For each situation, you budgeted time and set your plan into action. So, why didn't it work? Here's what happened. In both scenarios, you factored in your personal time but did not consider all of your responsibilities and the roles you play in your daily life. In the first scenario, you set yourself up to fail.
How? Well, for starters, you are not an early riser and hate to get out of bed before 7 am. Then, you assumed it would be easy to change your routine. In the second scenario, you assessed that you have a two-hour window to write, but forgot about an upcoming holiday and the tasks you usually complete.
The real problem is we have learned to be multitaskers who compartmentalize our roles and responsibilities. Basically, we keep our identities/roles/responsibilities separate from one another in neat little boxes and don't pull them out until they are needed.. Many of us have a work calendar, a personal calendar, a fitness calendar, a writing calendar, etcetera. Everything is separate. We expect them to never overlap. But life doesn't work that way. Sometimes, work spills over into our personal time and vice versa.
As writers, we are more than just writers. Oftentimes, writing is not even our main responsibility. We have various personal and professional roles such as parents, employees, spouses, and entrepreneurs to name a few. Without a realistic plan, it can be stressful to navigate our daily roles and responsibilities, let alone achieve life work balance.
We can balance our writing and other responsibilities by addressing the elephant in the room. Time Management. Time management for writers is a necessity, especially if we want to be productive. The first step is to factor everything you are and do (professionally and personally) into the equation.
Who are you? What are your roles? Let's take a look at a few of my roles.
Above, I listed twelve roles I perform on a daily basis. Since I am a multitasker, I have to leverage my time or my life is a mess. Many of our roles are done on autopilot, and we often forget to include them in our plans or take into account the amount of time they take up. It's important to know your roles. Take the time to write your roles down. Review them. You might be surprised about how many hats you truly wear.
When you make a list, it will be easier to see who you are and assess your obligations. What obligations are associated with your roles? Go ahead, and pull out all those calendars. In order to balance your writing and work responsibilities, you need to review your daily, weekly, and monthly obligations.
Below are a few of my obligations that are connected to the roles I listed above.
Each role comes with certain obligations. As a spouse, it is a given that I support my husband and his endeavors. As a writer, I nourish my talents to write. As a professional, I create various lesson plans to teach. One role can consist of several obligations and require hours or include daily tasks. Obligations and roles vary from person to person. What are your obligations? Take the time to write them down. Review them. Sometimes, we are not aware of all that we do!
After you have listed your roles and obligations, you need to think about any outside factors that might hinder your ability to balance your life. These are things that may or may not be associated with your roles and obligations. Remember, you are doing this to find balance between your writing and other responsibilities. Doing so will help you figure out how to manage your time efficiently and discover the best time to write.
External factors can include workloads, limited time, special events, and/or people. What time restraints are there in your life? What are your working hours? Do you often work overtime or on weekends? How much time do you spend traveling to and from work? Are there any events or activities you need to work around? Failing to do this step will cause you to plan a week of writing during Spring Break or Thanksgiving when you have plans to go on vacation or be the host family. In other words, don't schedule your writing without considering upcoming holidays, birthdays and other special events, business trips, vacations, conferences, parties, kid activities and etc.
Once you have realistically reviewed your schedule, then you can begin to balance your life and work. It is possible to balance your writing and other responsibilities as long as you remember these three steps.
Step 1 involves assessing who you are and acknowledging your roles and obligations. Step 2 deals with checking your calendar to see what external factors you need to account for that might prevent you from balancing your schedule.
Step 3 is using that information to build a flexible schedule so you can write and complete other responsibilities.
Balancing life and work only happens when you take the time to evaluate you and then make a plan of action. Want to learn more about time management for writers, be sure to check out next week's blog, "5 Tips to Manage Your Time as a Writer."