Hack Your Schedule: More Time, Less Stress
I always assumed if I was healthy enough to go to a doctor, I was healthy enough to work. I love my job. I love writing blog posts and researching new publishing tactics, and I love sharing what I learned with others. Why would I not want to come in to work?
Of course, there are holidays thrown into the mix. I couldn’t expect to ask myself to work 365 days a year, showing up on Christmas morning with my planner in hand to hack out some more self-publishing tips.
There are also family matters. I live far away from my relatives and many of my friends, so being able to see them is not something I’d want to put on the back burner because of work. Also, if my husband has to stay home sick from his job, I do enjoy being able to spend time with him as well.
Then we have the days out of town. Living in an isolated mountain area means making frequent long drives out for any number of reasons, and some of those trips can take up a full day. I can’t assume these trips will all happen on a neat schedule. Some do, but sometimes things simply turn up.
In my professional life, I have a tendency to get wrapped up in goals and deadlines and any other markers of progress I can find. I love the end of the week, when I can look back at a filled planner and see everything I’ve accomplished and how much further ahead I am now than I was in the beginning.
This comes with a downside: I get crushed when I look back and see notes of having to delay things, take an unexpected day off, or goals that I had to cancel entirely simply because I couldn’t make them. I lose steam, and instead of working to achieve goals, I work out of fear of falling behind.
Note: A fear-based mindset drains the fun from the process.
I tried lowering my goals, only focusing on the smallest tasks I could, but eventually, I ran into the same problem. I simply can’t promise to work every single day. I always fall behind.
The new schedule that I decided on several months back has some drastic changes from the schedules I’ve used in the past. One of these changes is that I’ve added a spare day onto every week (you heard that, one spare day every week). I have no set obligations for the day. If I have to miss one day for any reason during the week, I won’t fall behind because I had no tasks to begin with. If something takes longer than expected and I spend a blogging day hunting down a bug on my site, I can always blog later in the week.
The other change I made was cutting out all goals, quotas, and milestones. This was one of my gutsier decisions and came because I hate struggling against goals I could never have reached to begin with. Instead, I log time spent on a task. If I spend three days on a blog post, you can bet it will be much higher quality than if I frantically typed out three blog posts in a day.
The change in my working has been drastic. I’m energized, directed, and I don’t have to face the horrible feeling of falling behind. I also have more time to spend with my husband and less time stressing late at night about how I can possibly reach a certain point by Thursday.
This is what works for me.
What works for you might be entirely different. Writers face the unique challenge of balancing a writing and production schedule from home while also maintaining a healthy home life. When you factor in a day job, kids, and community obligations, it’s hard to decide on a set release date or a set date to finish a draft.
What might be easier is blocking time out and focusing on that. You might not finish chapter ten today, but you can say you’ll spend a half-hour working on it. Or maybe, like me, you have to schedule time off so that you won’t need to worry about it when other matters come up.
It’s all in your hands. What are your unique scheduling needs? What frustrates you when you’re trying to plan ahead, and how have you learned to overcome the unexpected? Please let me know in the comments or join my Facebook group for self-published fiction writers for more discussion.