I’ve had a few people tell me in the last few days that my drive and ambition in writing are impressive. This got me to wondering what makes me any different from anyone else. The only thing I’ve been able to come up with is that I choose to focus the vast majority of my free time on something that I love and am trying to build into a full-time career.
To give you some perspective, here’s my world: I work a full-time job (which involves a lot of writing and creative thinking), write (and research) historical fiction (and some women’s fiction), write book reviews for three organizations on a volunteer basis, blog on two sites, read, do social media (mostly Pinterest, and Twitter, but I’m getting better with Facebook) and am in bed by 10:30 p.m. during the week. Lately, I’ve even been managing to squeeze in a workout.
I’m fortunate not to have kids or a husband to worry about (although having someone else to help with the domestic stuff would be great) so I know I’m not in the same boat as everyone else. But, being only one person, I’ve also had to give up a lot to be able to focus on my “other” job with gusto. I am not a morning person, nor do I consume caffeine or drugs. I guess you could say I’m high on my hopes and dreams (and exhausted most of the time). Here are seven tips on how to find more time in your day. They aren’t for everyone, but they’ve worked for me, so maybe at least one will help you, too.
- Be passionate about what you do. Find what it is that makes adrenaline run through your veins and you’ll magically find time to work on it. I promise. I write. It’s my thing. It’s my compliment to breathing. I can’t not write. That’s what gives me the energy to crack open a research book or bang away on the keyboard after eight or nine hours a day of writing in my day job. Sometimes I only last an hour or two. Sometimes the words blur before my eyes or what I write is crap, but at least I’m moving forward. I don’t make myself write every day, but I’ve found that if I can do something (even if it’s just thinking) toward my goals, I feel like I’m taking baby steps forward.
- Turn off the TV. This has been the single best thing I’ve done for my writing career. When I started out, I had cable and watched about four hours of TV a day during the week, much more on weekends. Now I’m down to Amazon Prime and over the air local channels. I rarely turn on my TV. I watch the local news for 30 minutes in the morning while I’m waking up, then watch a show while I’m doing my hair and makeup. Sometimes I watch 30 minutes of something on my Kindle while I’m eating dinner. But that’s it. The rest of my night is reading, research or writing. I got into that habit when trying to finish a manuscript on a self-imposed deadline and have never looked back.
- Learn to multitask. I’m German/Austrian and a Virgo, so that means I am a natural efficiency machine. You’d be surprised what you can combine. For example, I’m famous for tweeting from the bathtub. (TMI, I know.) But it combines relaxation time with social media time. I talk to my parents on the phone while I ride my stationary bike. I listen to audio books while I cook and clean. For me, meditation can even be a multitasking situation because my storylines often reveal/resolve themselves when I meditate. There’s not much you can’t combine with something else. But my writing/researching time is sacred; no multitasking there.
- Limit your social media time. I’m BAD about this one. I like to make sure I check Twitter every night or at least every other night and I’m a Pinterest junkie (it relaxes me, honest). But I’ve found that using Twitter lists helps me control that part. If I’m pressed for time, I can check the few lists that really matter (my agent/agency, Team Awesome, my fav authors) and still feel connected without devoting hours to it. I use my personal Facebook sparingly, and only check my author page and profile on the weekends. Pinterest…well, there’s no hope for that one. I make myself not check it if I know I don’t have at least an hour to devote to it.
- Cook on the weekends. It may sound counter-intuitive, but spending two hours or so on a Sunday cooking up food for the week actually saves you time. It allows you to devote more time in the evenings to what you really want to be doing. Plus, it makes packing a lunch easier in the morning. (I know you could always eat out, but cooking your own food is healthier and cheaper.)
- Know what you’re willing to give up. In order to focus on my writing, I don’t date and I have pretty much given up my social life over the last few years. I’m slowly gaining it back again (I have to set boundaries or it will eat up all my time) and I’d date if someone worth it came along, but for me right now launching my writing career is top priority. And no one can do everything.
- Let some things go. As my friend musician Lee Safar once told me, “If you are truly inspired and want to make something happen, you will. The laundry and house can wait. No one will notice but you.” I’ve seen a distinct trend on Twitter that the closer a writer gets to a deadline, the more likely they are to mention a dirty house and piling laundry. In the end, will anyone die if that waits a little longer? I’m betting no. And I’m a Virgo. We love clean.
I know I haven’t said anything truly original here. You could probably find the same tips on a thousand different web sites. But at least you know these are coming from a real person with real experience and success with them. I wish you all the best of luck in finding more time to do what you love. After all, what we truly love is often tied to our purpose in life and that’s why we were all born in the first place.
Your turn: What tips do you have for adding more hours to the day? What works for you? What do you think about my tips? I want to learn from you!