Last updated on March 12, 2017
Writing time – as writers, the thing we all need the most and the thing stolen from us from when life gets in the way.
It’s a constant fight to carve out writing time from any regular day. The annoyance factor of this coordination ranges from Cat’s Cradle convoluted to rocket biology baffling right up to DEFCON-5-the-next-person-who-interrupts-me-shall-be-shot full mania. If you’ve been there, you know what I’m referring to.
The more you organise your life, the more successful and prolific you’ll be during your precious writing time. Since we all have to deal with life, finding ways to work smarter in everything will help protect what writing time you can find.
5 simple, but awesome life hacks to find more writing time
1. Have small children? Arrange your schedule around them.
I have 4 demon spawn, so I know from whence I speak. When they were small and went to bed early, about 7:00-7:30pm, I went to bed when they did. Then, I started my new day anywhere between 12:30am-2:00am and got in a consistent four to six hours of solid writing time before they woke. Despite that writing time, I still got them through breakfast and to school on time. With that early start, then I ran through banking, shopping, meetings or anything else I needed to do. Most days, I even got a couple extra hours of writing time in the afternoon before they got home from school. This approach works great for freelancers or stay-at-home parents and even with a part-time job.
Structure your time as it suits you best. I worked on large fiction projects when I first woke, because that’s my most creative time and smaller commercial content jobs in the afternoon when my brain was in business mode. I ran my house this way for about 7 years while working a combination of freelance jobs and part-time jobs.
2. Responsible for feeding the whole family? Create menus and cook ahead.
Work out the household meals by week and shop specifically for those meals (don’t forget the school lunches and snacks!). And then? Do all your cooking on one weekend day. This works great in a household with older school-aged kids and parent(s) working. I used this method myself when the kids were older and still hung on to as much writing time as I could while balancing the needs of the family.
After you cook all the dinners for the week, label all the containers with their contents and put up a list of available meals on the fridge. Allow the kids to choose their dinners including the flexibility to mix-and-match and just warm them up. I’m a big advocate of cooking from scratch, so we saved a lot of money on no take-out food except for special occasions and I never worried the kids weren’t eat well, because all dinners included wholesome ingredients with vegetable sides.
No cooking in the evening through the week allows more family time and some spare writing time for you. This also creates the built-in bonus of teaching kids the important life skill of how to make choices (among limited, approved options). Go creative parenting!
3. Limit your social media marketing time and use tools to help you manage it.
While important for indie authors, it’s easy to lose days a week on social media which will, of course, eat up all your limited writing time. Be strict with limiting your social media management time to only an hour or two a day or every other day.
Use the schedule options in Facebook for your FB author page and a social media platform like Tweetdeck (free), Hootsuite (free), Commun IT (paid/unpaid), Round Team (paid) or Sprout Social (paid) (or about a thousand others – check them out and see what works best for you) to pre-schedule some tweets and posts through the week. You still want to interact with your followers and engage them, but you’ll be able to focus on that productively during your ‘marketing time’ while the scheduler keeps your feeds fresh and your name out there without losing all your writing time. If you’re on Goodreads, add the automated RSS feed for your blog to your profile for extra media exposure with one shot every time you post an article.
4. Take advantage of delivery and online options.
When you have a busy family life, it comes with a lot of obligations. We can’t skirt most of those or your household would fall apart and everyone would be starving and naked. Even if you don’t have a family, there are still important errands to run, bills to pay, tasks to complete or you wouldn’t be able to survive.
As a single parent of 4 children combined with my natural tenancy for over-achievement, I was always busier than most, so doing things the most efficient way possible was crucial to fitting it all in. Even before the Internet, I was a big fan of having things delivered – what a time saver. The Internet just gave me more options. Anything from clothes to gifts to groceries to writing supplies to appliances and furniture – anything. After research and comparison, once I find a place that carries what I need for a good price with payment options I prefer – like Interac at the door or Paypal, so I’m not constantly hammering my credit card – I use the heck out of them.
Juggling a full time job plus usually two or three or four part-time, casual or freelance jobs, plus kids, plus errands, plus composition writing time, if I didn’t use delivery for most things, the grocery, clothes and school shopping alone would have killed any hope of grabbing writing time I had. I hate malls, so still have most things delivered and take advantage of online self-service options for anything bill-related up to and including federal income tax. It’s convenient, they never close, and I can attend to them when I have time even if it’s 3:00am.
Much easier than working around brick-and-mortar store and office operating hours restrictions. Everything gets done, it leaves me time for the kids and most important, it doesn’t eat into my writing time. You may not be able to use it for everything you need to get done, but check out what online options are available for what you use in your particular circumstance and see how much time you can gain for yourself.
5. Snag writing time while you commute!
Obviously, this isn’t going to work for you if you drive, but it’s an awesome way to grab some writing time if you take transit or a train into the city from the suburbs to a full or part-time job.
At this point in my life where my kids are older and all but one are no longer in post-secondary school, the personal schedule adjustment option doesn’t work for me, so I came up with other inventive ways to expand my writing time. Nowadays, I use my commute time for writing blog posts or freelance content pieces and for new story development.
Anything that needs research, I employ the “bracket method” for. Don’t know the “bracket method”? This entails inserting a bracketed comment to myself to look up, investigate, grab sources to cite, fact check, look up a better word, etc. while I’m writing, so I don’t stop my creative flow during that limited writing time and remain focussed on using the quiet time to get a rough draft out.
I’ve come up with some of the best material sitting on the subway train. What else is there to do, after all? The distractions in my life can’t find me, there are all sorts of interesting people with quirky behaviour to observe that often spark ideas and it gives me something to busy myself with so crazy people don’t catch my eye and think it’s an invitation to talk to me. Self-preservation and more writing time combined – that’s a win-win.