How To Balance Writing & Life
Finding a way to balance writing & life can be a tricky thing. The impulse of most is to simply eke out more time in the day to write.
The impulse of most is to simply eke out more time in the day to write. Or to try to write while doing other things at the same time as they are writing. Don’t worry, it’s an impulse I often have to contend with as well. Especially when things get really hectic and I haven’t written for more than a week.
In that situation, I would do anything to write to allow myself the chance to jot down a few words. But I’ve seen big improvements in my writing output and my chances of having time to write when I follow these tips. I hope they will be of value to you and allow you to balance writing and your life.
Give Up Multitasking
We live in a world where we are expected to do what seems like a million and one things at the same time. It seems like we all know at least one person who excels when doing multiple things at once and under extreme pressure of some sort.
I’m going to tell you something, though: humans are not multi-taskers. What we think of as multitasking is really rapidly switching between two or more tasks. This rapid task-switching comes with a cost, a decrease in productivity. Having a hard time believing this new bit of information isn’t made up? Try this little experiment:
Take two sheets of paper and place them side by side. Set a timer of some sort, like the stopwatch function on your phone. Now write half a page, switching between each paper or document with each new sentence. When you are done, turn the stopwatch off. You may be surprised with how long it took you to finish the things you chose to write.
Repeat the process with a third document or paper, making sure to focus only on that task. When you’re done, you should notice that it didn’t take you as much time to finish things.
You may be thinking, what about those who can multitask and do it well? Those people are supertaskers. Not much is known about them and the current estimate is that they’re only 2.5 percent of the population. That means it is unlikely you’re a supertasker. If you are, carry on. You have a rare gift. The rest of us will just have to content ourselves with doing one thing at a time.
Find A Task Management Method That Works
Now that you’ve given up multitasking, let’s turn our attention to task management. Why? Because if you’re not multitasking and even if you are, you need a way to get things done. And the more efficiently you get things done, the more time you have to write. Or spend time worldbuilding. Or research. Or..well, I think you’ve got the picture already.
There are many methods out there for you to try. From a simple to-do list to planners to programs like Trello and more. I personally use a hybrid method of task management.
When I’m not on the computer or need a break from digital task management, I use a Bullet Journal®. Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal method is a fast and simple analog method of managing tasks. It’s great for those that want to unplug or keep their digital world and physical world separate. And the best thing about it is that you just need a notebook and pen/pencil.
You can find out more on his website: bulletjournal.com
During blogging hours or when I plan to be online for an extended period of time, I use the best task management app ever. I use Asana.
Asana is an app originally designed as an internal task management system for the Facebook team. You can change its background, arrange things into groups of projects called workspaces etc.currently, my background is set to Spooky. There are swooping bats, black trees, and a cream-colored moon. Perfect for the darkly inclined or those writers that need a touch of Gothic flare in their time management tools.
You can find out more about asana on its website: asana.com
Experiment with digital methods and analog ones. You’ll find what works for you. And when you do, stick with it. Tweak it.
Separate Writing Time & Personal Time
After going through the trouble of giving up multitasking and finding an effective task management tool, you should have more free time. Free time to write and free time to live your life. The question is, how do you balance writing time and personal time without smushing them together?
There’s no easy answer, but I have come up with three questions that should help.
1) What Prior Commitments Do You Have?
We all have commitments to uphold. Some will be personal like dates with the significant other if we have one. Others will be writing related like wanting to write 1-page of your novel a day or writing a fan essay.
Knowing what those things help with allotting unscheduled time to other things we want to do. Some of that time may be a show you watch every week. Other bits of that time, like the 15 minutes you have free in the morning before starting your day, can be used for writing.
I like to write in the evenings and try to make sure, whenever possible, that I have some free time to write them. But if I don’t, I try to eat a quick lunch and get a little in then. However, one thing I will not give up is my nightly Star Trek episode rewatch and a cup of tea. Nor my reading time right before bed. There are times when bed is late and times when bed is at a decent hour, but Trek and my before bed read relaxes me. Allowing me to start the next day refreshed.
2) What Effect Has Not Having Writing & Personal Time Separate Had On You?
With the acknowledgment of commitments, ideally, comes the realization of what effect not separating personal and writing time has had on you.
Have you, for example, found yourself feeling grumpy due to a lack of ample writing time? Has your work stagnated? Have things you enjoyed doing before become dull or a chore?
I’ve experienced all of these unfortunate side effects of a chaotic life. Being a creature of habit, I have noticed some resistance in myself to change. The benefits of reminding myself that being too go with the flow does not work for me is astounding, though.
I can write a poem a day or a short a week. A chapter or two of a novella or novel-length work is much easier to get done during the course of a week. Finding time to read is easier. And I am, in a general sense, much calmer overall because I’m invested. Invested in keeping a balance that makes me the most productive I can be, and the most content.
3) What Can You Give Up?
For all the things we love to do and want to do with our free time, separating writing time and personal time means giving up some things. Not to deprive ourselves of something we love for the sake of something else we love. That should never be the goal of giving something up. But to clear away things taking up space and adding no value to our free time.
Are you someone who doesn’t read Romance novels but keep buying them? Give them away to someone who will read them and read your preferred genre or sub-genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy instead. Do you hate the way your favorite show has gone? Find a new show that brings value to your life. Are you trying to write at night when you do better writing in the mornings? Then get up a bit early each day and work with your writing rhythm. Do what you love at the times that work for both your schedule and you.
If you’re doing what you love and allow yourself to be in the moment, to give that thing all your attention. Then you’ll gradually get better at separating writing time and personal time. Coming to see both as unique opportunities to do things you love or spend time with the people you love, without worrying about the million other things you have to do.
Those other things? Well, they’ll still be there. You can’t make them vanish into the ether. But you can be at peace in the moment, you can find a balance between writing and the rest of your life.
Want to chat about mindfulness? The latest book you’re reading? Ask what an omniscient narrator is? See what interesting things I’m pinning? You can find me on Facebook and Twitter, and follow me on Pinterest.
How do you balance writing & life?