Finding Balance in the Writing Life: 3 Tips for Making and Keeping a Schedule

Aug 4, 2011

Yup, it's another "finding balance" post. Because, like I've mentioned before, finding balance is a daily thing. And I'm trying something new that seems to be working well that I wanted to share.


Most of us have some kind of routine: wake up, feed the kids, eat breakfast, go to work, clean the house, make dinner, go to bed...any number of things come and go in our days, and we usually live in a kind of pattern that may or may not help us get those things done. And when all is said and done, it doesn't often leave a lot of time for extras. We try to squeeze in writing time and blogging and dishes and family activities, and after a while, it's exhausting juggling all those balls. When we do get a bit of extra time, we sometimes don't even know what to do with it, and waste that precious time.

I was feeling all that just last week, so I decided to try something I've tried before, but to change it up a bit. I was going to go beyond a jumbled routine, and make a schedule. And I was going to KEEP that schedule. Here are a few tips if you think this is something that might help you.

1. Base your schedule on your current routine.
If you really want to make that schedule a part of your life, you don't want to throw everything out of wack. Do you usually wake up at 6:30 am to exercise? Excellent. Pull up that Excel sheet and plop down exercise at 6:30. My schedule basically follows my current routine, but now, it has an order. Where I used to just do the dishes whenever I had a spare moment, I now actually have a scheduled time for housework. By consolidating and scheduling my "spare moments," I now actually have time to do the things I crammed into those moments.

2. Leave yourself reminders.
The hardest part of a new schedule is remembering what the schedule IS. For me, I took a screenshot of the Excel sheet where my schedule was, edited it as a picture, and set it as my desktop background. That way, I can refer to it whenever I need to. I also set alarms on my phone to remind me what I'm supposed to be doing. That way, if I'm cheating and wasting time on the internet, my phone will ding to remind me it's time to go play with my son or make dinner. Is it sort of pathetic that I get caught up in the internet that easily?

3. Be flexible.
Don't feel guilty when you don't keep the schedule perfectly! It shouldn't be a dictator of your life. Sometimes, things will come up, or it'll take longer to eat lunch, or my son wants to go to the park instead of watching a movie while I work. Sounds good! Be flexible with the schedule. When life does what life does and things get a little crazy for a day, that's okay. You can try again tomorrow.

It's really amazing how much such a simple thing has helped me find the time I need for everything. In just a few days, my house is cleaner, my son is having more fun, my work is getting done, I'm spending more time with my hubby, and I have more time for writing. My internet time is productive rather than a waste of time. Even with the expected schedule interruptions, I feel happier and more capable.

So, my friends, how do you schedule your time? What is your routine, and how do you find time to do the things you both need and want to do? What tips can you share that help you balance your life?

18 comments:

Margo Berendsen said...

Great idea. I esp. like the tips of putting the schedule as a desktop image and programming alerts on the phone!!

I NEED TO DO THIS (you are not the only one that grimaces admitting the power of the internet to suck you in)

Great post on True Spirit and enthusiasm, too.

Jenny said...

I have to do this! I just started blogging, and my writing schedule was already hit and miss. I think I will pencil in-make schedule. Thanks!!
mjlnmorris@gmail.com

Deirdra Eden-Coppel said...

You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you the Best of Sci/Fi Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.
~Deirdra

Ruth Josse said...

I love this! And I am totally doing it when the kids are back in school and we have a semblance of routine in our life again.

I love the phone alert idea. Hadn't crossed my mind to use them for anything besides bill reminders and my calendar.

Abby said...

Ah - I love this post. Life is all about balance to me. And while I usually have a super set schedule, my youngest child has thrown that out of whack with her own compulsiveness. However, I think its time to get back on schedule. I love a routine. It just keeps me in check. Thanks for posting this.

David Powers King said...

Excellent tips! Time is a little tough for me at the moment. Good thing I finished what I was working on. Good time for a break. Since I have no set schedule, I write when I can, on whatever I can (napkin notes are pretty fun).

Janet Johnson said...

Just what I need! I made a schedule at the end of the school year, but when I left for France, it went out the window. I need to try that . . . and I love the idea of setting up alarms. Smart!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Schedule's are so hard to keep up. I really need to make one again though. I find I waste a lot of precious time on the internet. Which I shouldn't do. I guess it's just a habit that I need to get rid of. Thanks for the tips! :)

Emy Shin said...

This is such a great idea. I always make schedules that I don't keep, primarily because I try to drastically change the way I do things. Basing the schedule on my current routine is an awesome idea.

Will definitely have to try it out!

Shelly said...

Depending on my work schedule, I do things in half hour, hour or two hour chunks of time.

Cynthia said...

I love for phone for reminders. I have it remind me of practices, doctors appointements. I love it. I usually write out on a sticky note pad first thing in the morning when I get to work of all the thing I want to accomplish after I leave and at lunch time. Then I bring it home and stick it to my window above my sink. It' doesn't get lost there and I always see it and refer to it. Weird I know.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I loved this post... I badly need a schedule to bring my focus back to writing :)

Angie said...

Sounds like a good idea. I am a bit resistant to schedules, but I think I'll have to try it, especially once school starts.

Madeline Bartos said...

I think this post just saved me from being a frantic high school freshie. (I guess I already am. . . I'm changing from a school with a graduating class of 11 to a school with kids who can grow facial hair. Creepy.) I had a schedule for one day, and I remember it was probably the most productive day of my life. Too bad I'm not productive enough to make a schedule again. ;) Fantastic advice!

bekahjane said...

schedules are a hurdle for me.. enjoyed reading here this evening.
cheers!

Jessie Humphries said...

I am about as good at schedules as I am at laundry...uh, not good. But trying.

Caitlin said...

Great post! I have to keep myself on a writing schedule to get anything done. I used to be able to write whenever, wherever, but those days are long gone.

I base my schedule around my husband's work schedule and my daughter's day. Problem is, my husband's schedule rotates every so often. I have to switch it up pretty often. Definitely agree with #3, you have to be flexible.

Adam Meyers said...

Schedules keep my life in order, but I'm still figuring out how to do one that works for me. My life's about to get hectic so I guess I should figure that out soon. :) I like your idea of making it your computer background, I may have to try that soon.

 
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