Most authors today, whether traditionally or indie published, are working on multiple projects. Maybe we aren’t drafting three novels at the same time, but we might be writing articles or blog posts, submitting short stories, or drafting one novel while editing another. Generally, we’re also responsible for a significant amount of our publicity, marketing, and event scheduling. Time management can feel daunting and sometimes overwhelming, especially to creative types!
Here are a few tips to help stay organized, meet deadlines, manage multiple projects, and find the space to imagine and create.
1. Use a calendar! Start with broad strokes. Define your goals and major deadlines, and then back into the details.
Begin with a yearly overview. Note major project deadlines and regularly occurring posts, articles, or interviews. Block off travel dates. Once these things are in place, make a regular habit of reviewing and updating your calendar, and create a weekly work schedule.
I use Sundays to plan. Generally, I scan four weeks ahead and add more detail to my calendar. A month ahead of time, I can clearly see any approaching deadlines and I’m able to refine my tasks and priorities even more for the short term. I also create a detailed, weekly “to-do” list. Each day, I’ll mark off chunks of time for particular projects, and look at the overall balance of the week to make sure I’ve scheduled enough time for the most urgent things,
2. Structure your work life to honor your personal rhythms.
Step one is recognizing you have a rhythm. I’ve learned that I’m productive with task-oriented items like scheduling social media in the morning, but I couldn’t solve a plot tangle before noon to save my life. I’ve also noticed a rhythm to the year. Summers are busy with cons and conferences, so I can’t plan to draft a novel, but I can write blog posts and short stories. There’s no right way to schedule your time, only the way that works best for you.
3. Leave space for the unexpected. Equally as important, know when to say no.
Your calendar will help you do this! When considering a new project, I always sleep on it before making a commitment. Either my creative energy and enthusiasm will grow or it will dissipate. If I’m still interested, I’ll assess the time commitment and consult my oracle, um calendar. If there really isn’t space in my schedule, but I still want to take on the project, I have to consciously reorganize my priorities and be honest with myself about what that means.
4. Use the tools available to increase efficiency.
It’s urgent to streamline the task-oriented side of our work so we have room for creativity. Using tools like Hootsuite or CoSchedule to manage social media and content is almost essential. Quickbooks, or a similar program, can help with accounting and record keeping. There’s a learning curve, of course, but in the end, the time saved is worth the investment.
5. Schedule downtime and time for self-care. Put this on the calendar.
Block off time for the gym, a yoga class, dinner out. When deadlines loom or the “to-do” list is jam-packed, it might seem practical to bump one of these things. But downtime shouldn’t take last place, penciled in only after all the “work” things. Rather, it should hold equal importance. It has to. Much of the writer’s life is solitary. We’re alone in our own minds for a good bit of the day, and this isn’t necessarily good for our mental health. So be mindful to step away, seek out the company of others, and take care of yourself.
If you’re proactive as opposed to reactive with regard to time management, hopefully, you’ll feel less stressed, more productive, and in general, satisfied with your work-life balance!