How I made time for writing in a busy life

I’m a mother, a wife, a full-time worker, a friend. So I say “I’m too busy” a LOT. But this November I decided it was now or never – I wanted to win #NaNoWriMo. I needed to find time to write that didn’t mean giving up TV, sleeping, or Joe Biden memes.

November is nutso. It’s nutso for lots of people, not just for me. I know that it’s nutso for everyone. It’s nutso for every parent, for non-parents, for marrieds, for singles, for gays, for celibates, for animals, for America – just completely berserk busy for EVERYONE.

Sadly, however, November is the time that the Gods of #NaNoWriMo decreed that we celebrate National Novel Writing Month. And so, it is during this crazy busy month, when I’m already time poor poverty-stricken, that I had to get a little creative to figure out how to fit it all in, how to make time for an additional 50,000 words in a month AND additional blogging every week AND additional social media posting every DAY.

Just FYI, here’s how cray cray my month is shaping up to be:

  • Writing in my first #NaNoWriMo novel (requiring an additional 1,667 words a day, which takes about an hour and a half to two hours to write – EVERY DAY)
  • I launched this blog (which requires, at the very least, a new post each week of around 1000 words each)
  • I built my new Facebook page which required testing and tweaking, more testing and more tweaking
  • Created a social media strategy to drive traffic to my new blog – a content calendar is crucial when you start!
  • Set up my first email newsletter (including free download for the month of November)
  • Organised and helped my daughter celebrate her ninth birthday
  • Got hung up on the US election and subsequent fall-out and obsessed on social media for about 48 hours about President Donald Trump
  • Cheered my brother-in-law through his heart transplant
  • Cheered my niece through her Year 12 final exams
  • Put in some long hours at work so I could catch up on a missed magazine deadline (I’m the editor of the REIQ Journal, a monthly magazine for real estate agents)
  • Re-decorated my sons’ bedroom including trips to IKEA for new beds for them both
  • Ordered all school books for 2017, including our first year of high school
  • Spent every Friday night cheering on my kids at swim club
  • Spent one Saturday cheering on my kids at our first inter-school swim carnival of the season
  • Attended one end-of-year dance concert
  • Attended one end-of-year gymnastics carniva

Identify every tiny pocket of time

The key to finding time to write was to look objectively at my day. And I don’t mean this: I get up at 7am, have breakfast, go to work, come home, have dinner, watch TV, go to bed – crazy busy, right?!. That’s the mythical day, the day that doesn’t really exist. In order to create actual time, usable time, it required me to look hard, with a liberal dose of ruthless honesty at my day.

My actual day looks something like this:

6:00: Alarm goes off. Hit snooze three or four times.

7:00: Check phone for news updates, texts, and emails, then roll out of bed and shuffle to the loo before going to make coffee.

7:10: Like and share a dozen or so Facebook posts, scan through my Instagram feed, check Twitter, shuffle off to the shower.

8:00: Get out of shower. Now I’m late! Blow-dry hair, get dressed and jump in the car. Do make-up as I drive to work, applying mascara and eyeliner at the 17,000 stop lights on the commute.

8:45: Get into work, finish tidying up make-up that got smeared on the car trip. Make coffee. Fire up computer, check social media, check emails. Check work emails.

9:45: Start work.

11:00: Check social media.

11:55: Better finish that proposal before lunch.

1:00: Get lunch. Check social media. See the most hilarious Joe Biden memes yet. Laugh, make my colleagues look and laugh, then share across all social media platforms.

2:00: Work, work, workity work.

3:00: Meeting. Sneakily check social media while pretending to take notes in the meeting on your laptop.

3:45: Meeting ends, nothing decided. Plan another meeting.

4:10: Back to work, not long til knockoff!

5:00: Out the door. Check social media as pulling out of carpark.

6:00: Home, flop on couch. Get off couch, pour alcohol into a large container, flop on couch. Wonder if Walking Dead is on tonight. Turn on the news.

7:30: Eat dinner on the couch in front of 7.30 Report (it’s just called 730 now, no Report). Wonder how much Leigh Sales is getting paid. Think to self, ‘I could do that job’.

8:00: Get off couch, pour wine. Flop on couch.

10:30: Wake up. Hubby gone to bed. Turn TV off and shuffle off to bed.

Here’s my day with some writing time built in

What if, instead of hitting snooze three times, I actually got up at 6am? That’s an hour until I have to get into the shower. I can write almost 1000 words in an hour. If I did that every morning, seven days a week, that’s 30,000 words right there. Just by switching that one habit.

What if, instead of sharing Joe Biden memes for an hour, I actually worked on my writing? Let’s say it takes half an hour to eat lunch (and that’s only sloths and tortoises – most humans take 15 minutes) then that’s 30 – 45 minutes of writing time! That’s at least 500 words right there, in just one day. Multiply that by every work day in November and that’s 22 x 500 = 11,000 words!

I can easily add my Joe Biden meme-sharing activity to the evening, while I’m flopped on the couch wishing I was Leigh Sales.

Add that to my 30,000 words from 6am – 7am and now I’m up to 41,000 words.

And then what if on each Saturday and Sunday in November I wrote an additional 1,125 words (about 1.5 hours of writing)? That would add another 9000 words to my total – BANG! I’m at 50,000 words!

Do you see how that works? Just by finding some small pockets of time and multiplying it I created additional time without sacrificing anything important (and most importantly, keeping the Joe Biden memes).


Putting it into practice

It’s hard to carve out the time that used to be for yourself and devote it to writing. But it’s not impossible.

I work full-time and I have three children, and I need at least eight hours sleep every night. That last bit is non-negotiable.

Well, so is the full-time job.

And three kids.

So I find pockets of time.

As I type this, I’m sitting on the floor of my daughter’s dance studio. I’m surrounded by dozens of little girls in sequinned outfits. Tap shoes and ballet shoes and jazz shoes are walking past, mothers are chatting and I’m sitting on the floor typing on my laptop. If I don’t do this now, it will not be published by Monday and I want a new post published every Monday. Early days in the life of a new blog require a lot of intense posting and nurturing.

When making the kids’ pancakes for Sunday breakfast, I have the laptop sitting on the kitchen bench beside the stove and I type while I wait for the pancakes to be ready to flip. Tap tap tap, flip pancake, tappity tap tap tap.

It takes a little while to be able to dip in and out of your writing so quickly, but eventually you do get proficient. You have to.

But I do it because I need to keep writing. I’ll never be a writer unless I actually write.

Being disciplined

As proud as I am of my discipline, if I’m truly honest there are a few activities in my November dot points that were costly time suck activities that didn’t need to be there. Ahem, the 24-48 hours I spent obsessing over the US presidential election result. Perhaps scale that back and focus on the meaningful activity of *writing*. Donald Trump will still be president in a month. Obsess over it in December.

Don’t be ruthless

As much time as I spent organising my daughter’s birthday (and this year there was no real *party* as such – we had a family gathering only), you can’t ditch those family events. You have to still be part of your family – you can’t opt out and you shouldn’t opt out.

So when you’re looking at your daily routines, remember that while family time may seem like an easy way to find a pocket of time, it’s not really a great idea if you want your family to remember you in December and, I don’t know, buy you a Christmas present.

I hope I helped!

Would love to hear how you found some pockets of time in your routine and what you created that time for – was it reading? Writing? Painting? Crocheting? Knitting?

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