Recently I had a submission through my website about the time management / work-life balance for a writer. By day, I am an Account Manager at a digital creative agency called Gatorworks, which demands a lot of mental capacity as well as the occasional late-evening or Sunday afternoon at the office. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it can sometimes bleed into my writing life. So it was relatively easy to understand where this question comes from, and unfortunately, it’s a topic that writers have struggled with for years and years.
Every writer is different, so I can only tell you what has worked for me, but hopefully these tips are universal.
1. Try your best to maintain a schedule
I write at least 1-2 hours in the evenings on weekdays and three hours every Sunday (starting at 2PM). While it’s difficult to stick to that schedule, I try to make it work. It really is crucial to keep time dedicated to writing, because it forces you to make it part of your daily routine. Rather than finding time in between your schedule to write, writing becomes part of your schedule, if that makes any sense. You may have to sacrifice some Netflix hours occasionally but if you really love it, it won’t feel like a sacrifice.
2. Take advantage of office off-hours
You know the rare moments before people get to work and after everyone leaves where the office is quiet and the phones aren’t ringing off the hook? I tend to clock out and write or edit for a half hour or so. Sometimes coming in early or leaving a little late can really help you get in some extra writing time in an environment meant to keep you focused. Also, lunch breaks! I’ve edited many a friend’s manuscripts during my lunch hours.
3. Work in an environment that is supportive
This may not be possible for everyone depending on where you work, but it’s very healthy to work at a place where they accept your passion for writing. Obviously you can’t let your writing life interfere with your work, but it’s nice to talk to coworkers about your writing goals and have them support you in your dreams. I know it makes all the difference for me. My boss and coworkers all want to come to my book launch and clapped and cheered when my first set of books arrived at the office. It was an amazing feeling.
4. Vacation days = Writing days
If you feel like you want to take some time to really knock out your manuscript, don’t be scared to call in sick or take a vacation day to really buckle down on writing. That’s your time and you earned it! It should be reserved for something that makes you happy, even if that is just sitting at your laptop writing in a coffee shop.
5. Create to-do lists
Keeping track of what needs to be done (especially when you are getting published and nearing your book launch) is incredibly important. I have a little task list in my gmail that helps me keep track of writerly things I need to do, even if it is a big task like “Finish drafting MG sci-fi”, then there are smaller tasks like, “schedule tweets in hootsuite” or “revise synopsis” “critique friend’s manuscript” or “write blog post” etc.
6. Take personal time
Don’t forget that writing is like a second job, and it’s important to take vacation time from that too. Go to a movie, take a walk, don’t force yourself to write if you feel overwhelmed by that blank page. While it’s just as important to get those words out on the page, it’s also important to stay healthy mentally.