People often say to me, “I don’t know how you get it all done!” And truthfully, I don’t really. Having it all and doing it all is a myth. But what I do accomplish is because I have priorities and a constant plan. As a pastor’s wife in full-time ministry with my husband, a full-time college student, CASA volunteer,Prison Fellowship volunteer, and substitute teacher, my writing time is limited and precious. If I don’t make time for it, it simply doesn’t happen. If you want to write, then you must make time to write, because life won’t make time for you.
Here are my 5 main time-management tips:
1. My daily 7. I keep and follow a list of 7 main tasks a day (this is not the same is priorities). I keep this list in my planner and on the whiteboard in my office so everyone can see them:
3. Write/work on Work in Progress (WIP)
4. Study — either for college courses or classes I teach
7. Social Media/Platform building
I may glance at my emails to see if there’s anything pressing, but I don’t answer most of them until after I spend time working on whatever project is yelling the loudest.
I picture putting the 7 daily tasks I want to accomplish an imaginary task jar first. If I don’t, put them in first, the jar gets full of all the other little stuff and the big rocks won’t fit:
Keeping these seven tasks as the biggest “rocks” of my day allows me to fill in the empty spaces with other things that are necessary but not as time-investing, such as household chores, phone calls, etc. Everything else are pebbles, sand or water that I pour into the jar over the seven big rocks. Granted, life isn’t perfect and there are days I have to stray from the plan, but by having these Daily 7 as my ideal daily goals helps me stay focused and get more done.
2. I sometimes write during 2nd/3rd shift hours. If I get the chance and my schedule allows for it, I stay up until 4 AM and write. I usually try to do this two days in a row if I can. Admittedly, this only happens a few times a month but it helps a lot. Writing 2nd/3rd shift keeps me from being interrupted with phone calls and family matters. It gives me a longer stretch of time to focus. I mainly do this if I’m on a deadline or on a roll with an idea.
3. Get enough rest. Seems a bit ironic to write that after saying I stay up all night writing, but I don’t skimp on my sleep. Because I have fibromyalgia, I have to get as much rest as I can or I simply can’t function. So if I do work third shift, I make sure I sleep before I start the shift and catch up on sleep after my night writing binge is over.
4. Eat well (and exercise). Okay, I admit I eat better than I exercise. But since I read about C. S. Lewis’s habit of going for a daily walk, I’m determined to be more consistent about it. Walking organizes the brain, too.
5. Never waste waiting. Smart phones are heaven-sent for people like me. I can answer emails on the run while I’m waiting to pick up the kids or for my turn to check out. Anytime I wait, I’m doing something. I read, answer phone calls, read emails or tweet. If there are errands to run and there’s someone available that can drive for me, I let them drive so I can read or work on my writing. If it sounds like I’m obsessed with writing that’s because I am.
Nothing worthwhile pursuing is easy and sacrifices have to be made. I don’t have a lot of “fun” time, but I have enough. I don’t watch a lot of TV unless I’m listening to it while I’m working. I very rarely sit and do nothing. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did that. My hands are always busy.
And I’m not alone. Any successful writer will tell you they sacrifice a lot to pursue the dream. It’s only worth it if it’s what you’re called to do. And if you’re called to it, then you’ll make time for it. The time fairies aren’t going to show up to stop the hour hand from moving. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get ‘er done.
How do you get it all done? What’s your secret? Share in the comments below!