How to Juggle Your Writing With a Real Life!
That is the number one question I get asked by readers. It comes up when they discover I’m married, I work a full-time job, I do volunteer work, I have friends, family, and responsibilities. They also find out I’m self-published! Which means I also do marketing, author events, publishing, and run my Timothy Trimble business. That’s when I usually have to pull out the smelling salts.
After they wake back up I give them the simple answer: I want to! In truth, the answer is just a little more complex, but not as difficult as everyone thinks. It’s all a matter of desire and focus.
One of my upcoming book projects is called, “The Exploits of a Night Writer” in which I give a very detailed narrative of what it’s like to be a writer while trying to live a “normal” life. But, since this is Vocal Media, you’re here for the quick reads, the 411, the “Come on and give it to me man!” simple steps. Well, since you asked, here it is.
Focus On the Important Things
Look at one of your hands. There are only five digits on it. To be effective and productive in your life, you have to narrow down the most important things to just five things. Mine are:
- Oh, my. I don’t know. There are so many other things. What am I going to do? Ugh. Music? No. Scuba? No. Racing. Argh. Okay, okay. I’ve got it. Writing!
Whew! That was a struggle. It has to be done. This is the only way you’re going to get it done. Everything past five items is now secondary! These top five items are the most important!
Stay In Your Circle of Influence
The Circle of Influence is the area where you have direct influence over the outcome or results. The time you spend in this circle is precious. It means you’re getting things done.
What are some Circle of Influence items?
• Chores! Yeah, I know. But, get them done and out of the way, and you’ll not be thinking about them when you’re trying to write. On the flip side, don’t let a massive list of chores be the excuse for not getting any writing done. Set priorities (that will be a different article) and focus on the important ones.
• Employment. If you’re not financially independent, you have to earn a living. Be the best you can be at your job and your employer will be happy with you enough to give you raises, which increases your savings, and hopefully, lead to the potential for writing full-time (if that’s what you want). Be balanced, however. Extra time at work takes away from time you could spend writing. No one ever said on their death bed, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”
• Caring for family members. Those who are closest to you and need your care are going to be your biggest advocates. Care for them while also helping them to learn how to care for themselves. (Delegation is also a future topic).
• Necessities! This is everything else you have an important influence over. Shopping, healthcare, phone calls, paying bills, home maintenance, etc. Set the priorities and get them done. If you can set a regular schedule for when you do these things, it becomes much easier.
The opposite of the Circle of Influence is the Circle of Concern. Items that you are concerned about, but you have no control over. The Circle of Concern is Evil! Repeat after me, “The Circle of Concern is Evil!” It steals your time. You don’t get anything done. You can step into it and before you know it an entire day has gone by and you have nothing, absolutely nothing, zilch, to show for it.
What are Circle of Concern items?
• The News! World events may be important, but if it’s not local emergency news that has an impact on you and your own world, then it’s just stealing your time.
• Sports! If you’re not getting exercise by participating and you’re just an observer, then it’s stealing your time. I personally recovered over 100 hours a year by quitting football and Formula One racing. I don’t watch it. I don’t talk about it. Nada. And guess what? I don’t miss it.
• Binge watching! You know the five seasons of that medical/sci-fi/crime/romantic/drama series you just watched? You just lost around seventy hours of time that you could have spent in your Circle of Influence.
• Worry! A huge amount of time and energy can be wasted worrying about things which you have no control over. Most of the time these are things we’re waiting for decisions on. Will I get the job? When will the doctor call me with results? Instead of waiting and worrying work on things you have influence over.
• Games! Ugh. Sensitive topic. I personally lost thousands of hours playing an online, massive, multi-player video game. I’m totally ashamed of those lost hours. I could have written 2-3 novels in that amount of time.
By now, you get the point. Take a look at where you’re spending your time. Keep a journal or log for a month and you’ll be amazed at all the time you’re loosing.
Finding a Balance!
About now you’re thinking, “Hey, what about having fun? I need time to unwind and relax. I can’t be on the go all of the time!” That’s true. It’s called “sharpening the saw.” If you keep using the saw for cutting and doing work, it gets dull, then becomes less effective. That is true with our personal selves as well. If we’re constantly striving for productivity, we get burned out, and then we’re not good for ourselves or those around us. I’ll be blunt and honest with you. Sitting on the couch with a six-pack and streaming three movies, back-to-back might be relaxing, but it’s not sharpening the saw.
There IS an exception to that. If you’re in the living room with your friends and family, there’s a table of snacks and beverages, and you’re spending the entire day watching your favorite movie series, then that falls into the category of time with family and friends, and that is important. My family has a Star Wars day once a year. But, sitting there alone, in the dark, just you and the remote, doesn’t count.
What are some ways to find balance and sharpen the saw?
• Get into nature! Go hiking, kayaking, birding, boating, etc. Get outdoors, smell the air, look at the beautiful things, and have an admiration for nature.
• Read a book! It’s not the same as streaming a season of your favorite show. When you are reading, your mind is engaged. You become a part of the story as you visualize it. By reading a book you can go to any place in the universe, become whatever you want to be, and experience whatever you want.
• Do volunteer work. By giving yourself for the benefit of others, the rewards are tremendous. You not only have a direct impact on the lives of others, but your sense of worth and accomplishment is one of the greatest saw sharpeners ever.
• Writing! You don’t always have to be writing stories or stuff to market. It can be a personal journal, a letter to a loved one, or just a stream of consciousness thoughts. Pour out your words and you’ll be greatly refreshed.
• Music! Either listening, watching musicians, or performing yourself - there is no better way to uplift your inner being than by being touched by music.
• Time with a friend/loved one! Go somewhere and spend some time with someone you care about. Talk, cry, laugh, embrace, and repeat. Mic drop! Enough said.
So, where is the time for writing?
Now that you’ve found more balance, have defined what is most important, and are trying to stay in your Circle of Influence, where is the time for writing? Well, look at the time you used to spend doing all those other things that are now no longer time-consuming. Use that time to do what is important to you and that will include writing. It all depends on your circumstances and what type of person you are.
Some like to do their writing in the early morning, others are in the evening, and some just spread it out through the day, or whenever they get a chance. Setting up a schedule is very helpful as well. Just to give you an idea of how I find the time, here is the schedule I usually work with:
• Monday: Usually no writing. I try to start work a little earlier than normal to put out any fires that started over the weekend and to wrap my head around my schedule for the week. My evening is dedicated to preparing public speaking assignments for a volunteer event on Thursday. If I have any time left over, I do some marketing and business operations, or pay bills if it's that time of the month.
• Tuesday: Early morning writing allows me to squeeze in 1-2 hours of writing, depending on when I can drag myself out of bed. Lunch time is spent doing marketing and promotions for my writing. The evening is usually family time. If the family time turns into watching a movie or streaming shows, I try to do some multi-tasking and pull out the laptop for some writing.
• Wednesday: Another early morning session and hopefully some more during lunch time. The evening gives me another 2-4 hours for writing if my family hasn’t scheduled anything.
• Thursday: Early morning again. I usually work through lunch and leave work early for my volunteer event throughout the evening.
• Friday: If Thursday night wasn’t too late, I try to do another early morning writing session. The evening is usually more family time or socializing with friends.
• Saturday: Sometimes I’m able to squeeze in some early morning writing, but usually I’m preparing for a full day of volunteer work. I might get an opportunity in the evening.
• Sunday: Again I aim for a little writing in the morning followed by volunteer work and then hanging with friends for most of the day. I usually get a chance to squeeze in some writing in the evenings.
Yes, I’m pretty busy. However, I am productive, and I’ve been able to release 3 books, multiple stories, and articles with this schedule. It takes focus, dedication, and determination. Is there more to it than this? Absolutely. If you keep watching here, in future articles I’ll be covering the handling of Social Media, Distractions, Setting of Priorities, Delegation, Coping with Unexpected Life Events, and how to be a Prolific Writer.
Regardless of how you do it, just write! I've done it. You can too!
Copyright © 2017, Timothy Trimble
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Thank you for reading.