Hello Friends and Welcome.
First off, if you’re reading this as the post goes live-thank you so much for your patience. I realize that my writing posts typically go up on Mondays and this is going up on Friday instead. Those of you who follow me on social media know that one of my close friends from college unexpectedly passed away over the weekend and it’s thrown me for a loop to say the least.
Today I wanted to talk about one of the struggles that many writers deal with, which is finding time to write when you have a lot going on in your life. As I am writing this I am working full-time, revising the novel I currently refer to as Autumn Sunrise, blogging, studying Business Law for my CPCU designation, and in the midst of the final week of preparation to Go-Live with a huge project that’s been taking up a large chunk of my time.
Right now, life is crazy, busy, and wonderful. I have no regrets about all that I’ve taken on. However, when you also factor in normal housekeeping duties as well as kitty playtimes (which Luke Skywhisker feels are most important) that doesn’t leave a ton of time for writing.
So with all of that going on, how do I manage to find time to keep up with everything and still get writing done?
I have a dedicated morning routine which includes a mini-writing session. My morning starts when my alarm goes off at 4:40 am. I get up, make my bed, check that Luke has water and food, and make coffee. While the water is heating up, I do my devotions for the day and typically finish by the time my coffee is ready. I will sit down and read at least 10 pages of nonfiction before I open up my computer and start working.
I take some time to draft and format blog posts to keep things moving along. After that is done, I will do a free writing session. This morning writing session rarely has anything to do with my current WIP. Instead, it is an opportunity for me to write short stories, get out scenes for new stories in my head, or even play around with poetry. I started this when I was studying creative writing in college and trying to make sure that I was building a habit of writing every day.
I don’t give myself any pressure about how much I write in the morning. I just open up a blank document and start typing. I am always surprised however, when I go back to revisit some of these morning writing sessions and discover that there’s some spark of an idea that could be explored. The novel I refer to as Autumn Sunrise was sparked by a series of these writing sessions.
I work in 30-45 minute blocks of time. In the evenings and on weekend days I tend to work in 30-45 minute blocks of time. I set a timer and get to work with whichever task I have decided to tackle, whether that’s cleaning, writing, or studying. I often surprise myself with how much I can accomplish in a short amount of time. After the time goes off, I get to a stopping point and take a small break. After my break, I will either go for another session of the task I was working on or I will move onto another task.
Of course, I also allow myself longer breaks to read – but I still set a timer most of the time. I mean, we have to right? Otherwise we’ll just sit there and read the entire book while accomplishing nothing else. Once the timer has gone off, I will finish the chapter/section that I’m in and move onto a task on my to-do list. If I’m satisfied with all the tasks I’ve accomplished by mid-afternoon, then I do not set a timer and will curl up with Luke for an untimed session of reading or watching a movie (lately it’s been Knives Out – anyone else obsessed with this movie? I keep finding new things every time I rewatch it!).
I’ve learned that for me, the timer keeps me on track. I can afford a little reading break, but I can’t afford to do nothing but read all day most weekends.
I plan for the week ahead. Every Sunday, I take a look at the week ahead and I plan out my workouts, my meals, and roughly what tasks I am committing to accomplishing each day. For example, if I plan to publish two blog posts, I plan to give each post three days: one to draft, one to edit and revise, and one to format. With my CPCU studies, I know that if I want to study two chapters a week I need to look ahead at the chapter and break down the reading over the days I will do the reading, I need to devote time to reviewing old material, I need to make flashcards for any terms or concepts that I’m unfamiliar with, and I need to take practice tests.
With my meals, I look at what I have in my fridge and cabinets and work out what meals I can create. Then I map out roughly when I am going to eat those meals and make my grocery list for any ingredients I still need. I meal prep on Sundays, chopping veggies at the very least.
I give myself grace. Some days things just do not go according to plan and that’s okay. Two weekends ago, the only thing I wanted to do one morning was watch some old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and that’s what I did. I didn’t beat myself up. I watched a few episodes and then got to work and managed to get my house cleaned and planned out my week. No one is perfect. No one can do only work or manage themselves constantly. I allow myself the freedom to take breaks and change my mind.
I’ve also forgotten to set the timer on occasion, mostly when I’m reading. I’ll realize that I’ve read a lot more pages than I had expected to read in half and hour. I don’t beat myself up. I just get back on track and move forward.
I pick a specific focus. I do not try to do everything at once. Daily, I do make time to read, write, and study. However, I’m not reading 200 pages, writing five chapters, and trying to study 50 pages of my textbook on the same day. There’s a lot that I do, but I don’t do it all every day. I choose one area to focus on. If Monday my focus is revising the next chapters of my novel, I will read a few pages and focus on reviewing class material but spend most of my dedicated evening work time on the revisions.
I also focus on one thing at a time. If this 30 minute block is for drafting a blog post, I do my best to get the words on the screen. I’m not focused on editing at this point. I’m also not getting concerned with the other items on my to-do list. As soon as I’ve finished the task, I can move on if there’s still time left. But for this block of time, I am focused on this blog post and until I’ve finished drafting it, I will stay in my seat with Luke on my shoulders, unless he chooses to get up and go zoom through the apartment.
How do you manage to make progress on everything you have going on? I’d love to know!
– Kellie Katrin
One thought on “Finding Time: Writing While Working Full-Time and Pursuing Higher Education”
Dear Kellie: You outlined everything with painstaking detail. I loved reading it and having an insight into your lifestyle and habits. Thank you for letting me in. I will read your post again and respond back to your question sometime soon, i hope. please give me a shout if i don’t.
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