Take a moment and think of your favorite author. Without even knowing who you selected, I can say with 95% confidence that they had to work a full-time job while writing his or her first or first few books. Writing begins as a passion project for almost all of us and learning how to balance it with all of our other responsibilities is one of the most challenging aspects of writing. Think about it. If we had all day to sit around and write—no work or family responsibilities—we’d be able to crank out at least two books a year.
In reality, however, we may be lucky to type 200 words a day. We all have demands on our time and balancing it all can feel like we’re juggling flaming objects that are ready to burn us in a moment’s notice.
I’m a firm believer that we can have it all—it just takes a bit more preparation and planning. I’ve had plenty of experience over the years trying to balance full-time work, hobbies, family, and writing my first novel. With that experience, I’ve been able to develop a process that allows me to do it all and still take time for myself.
Time block your calendar.
I wish time-blocking had become more popular years ago because it makes a huge difference when trying to find time to write. Personally, I use my Google calendar to color code and schedule every task for each day. Most days, I block out the eight hours I’m at work, exercising, social commitments, traveling, family time, grocery shopping, and more. Then, where I see empty space, I’ll drop in scheduled writing time. Since I color code each task type, I can quickly look at my calendar and see which days I’ve blocked off time to write, and I keep those commitments as I would an appointment.
Prep it all.
Make sure your workspace is always organized and ready for you to return to it. Maximize your efforts with a detailed outline. In addition to preparing your writing time, also think about ways you can prep other things in your life. Meal prepping is a great example. Set aside time one day a week to prep dinners for your family. When you factor in preparing, cooking, and cleaning up after dinner, scheduling a few hours on Sunday to meal prep can save you upwards of an hour every day.
Ask for help.
Many of us think we can do it all without having to ask for help, but that only leads to burnout and bad writing. Whether you ask your partner to pick up the kids from school a few days a week or you hire someone to clean your house every other week, delegating tasks you don’t have to do yourself can go a long way in giving you time back in your schedule.
Remember that dream situation I mentioned earlier about being able to dedicate entire days to writing without any other responsibilities? That’s exactly what a writing retreat offers. A retreat doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to go far. Maybe you have hotel points stacking up that you can trade in for a free two-night stay or you find a really cute cabin an hour down the road for rent on a home rental website—use these options to schedule a writing retreat for yourself.
Scroll through Instagram Stories on your lunch break? Watch TV for a few hours before bed? Spend two hours on the phone chatting with a friend about nothing important? These are all unnecessary distractions that take up time that could be used to write. In an hour-long lunch break, some writers can get 1,000 words on paper—that’s about two and a half pages worth of text. Identify distractions you can reduce or remove in order to insert more writing time without having to sacrifice higher priorities in your life.
Don’t sacrifice self-care.
This lesson was the hardest one of all for me to learn. Quite honestly, I’m still learning it on almost a daily basis. Oftentimes, we sacrifice ourselves first in order to reach our goals. Taking care of ourselves first though, is actually what will keep us happy and able to meet and exceed our goals. Don’t forgo exercise or a hot bath to cram words on paper. A 30-minute workout will produce endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals your brain needs. Those endorphins also do wonders for creativity, which fuels writing. That hot bath can make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated after a long day at the office, leaving you relaxed and in a good head space to write in the evenings. Check out our earlier blog on how your health routine impacts your writing routine for more on this.
How do you balance writing with all your responsibilities? We’d love to share your tips with fellow writers!