Writing and Life Balance

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statue with balance scales.jpg
I'm struggling with juggling everything in my life as yet again I took on a big volunteer position. Some days I think, that was such a stupid thing to do. But yet . . . I love the volunteering. And since I've moved to a new community it's a great way to meet people. Other days I remind myself I've achieved balance before. That means I can again.

Earlier this year a friend met with me and asked how I'd kept it all balanced. (This was before my life changed with a move, etc.) Here's what I told her and what I need to listen to again myself.

Discipline
First, schedule days and times for the different tasks. And then stick to it.
I'm a morning person. That's when I should write. However, it's so easy to waste time on stuff that isn't creative. It's not that those things don't need doing, but I should do them later. Therefore, my renewed covenant with myself starts with the following Monday through Friday schedule:


  • Mornings: focus on personal or assigned writing. Obviously deadlines are important, but if I never get to write my stuff, I'm committing to too much work-for-hire or writing assignments.

  • Don't read any email, writing newsletters, or listservs until after lunch.

  • Blog posts, book recommendations on my website may be done in the afternoon.

  • Volunteer tasks may be done at 3 p.m. or after.

  • Until things are less busy, spend less than ½ hour per day on twitter and/or facebook.


There are a few planned exceptions to this new schedule of mine:

  1. Thursdays are my "write outside the house" days. I meet with a friend at a library and write. Unless I'm waiting for an email to complete a project, email can wait until I get home. If I am waiting for one, check for it then get off the internet.

  2. Fridays are "focus on my instructing" days. I'm paid to critique assignments and give instruction for my students. It takes time, so unless I have no students, this is the day's focus. Often this work flows over to Saturday.

  3. Monday finish up any instructing not done. I've been lax on this lately and it gets stretched out too far, which frustrates me. Being frustrated is counterproductive.

Prioritize
I like reading writing online resources: blogs, newsletters, etc. I like participating on writing listservs. I like doing chats or follow agent events on twitter. I like and need to read children's literature. There's a problem for me with these things--they take time and often distract me from my main purpose--writing. So, how am I handling this?


  • Selective subscriptions to writing newsletters and blogs. I've unsubscribed from ones I wasn't getting to, from ones that aren't as important to me, and even from ones I've enjoyed, but for which I just don't have the time.

  • Narrower participation in listservs. I've always chosen digest format, but now I've cut down to four listservs. Two are directly related to my volunteer position. One is for my local area writers. The last is a private small group of writers who support each other.

  • At the moment twitter chats just aren't happening for me. I'm not even reading transcripts. I'm rarely on twitter. If I am, I use tweetdeck.

  • Evenings, except for my Thursday critique group, are my reading time. Most of the time I read middle grade and YA fiction. But it's okay to read an "adult" book now and then, too. Or to watch a movie with my husband. Or spend time with friends or family.

Life and Volunteer Duties
I'm putting the "to do"s in the afternoons, evenings and weekends. This includes house hunting, laundry and chores, paying bills, shopping, etc.

That volunteer position - I'm committing to not spend every day on it, especially not Fridays. In the past I've found it helpful to have a different email for the volunteering. That means when I open "my" personal writing email, if I see one related to volunteering, I should not read it, but forward it to the other email. And then don't check that volunteer email until the scheduled time of 3 p.m.

Of course, sometimes there are appointments or other commitments which interfere--instead of stressing about them taking my writing time, my plan is to do what needs to be done and move on.

I think all this will help me be less stressed and more productive as I try to balance writing, life, and volunteering. Here's to "sticking with it."

picture courtesy of j mason on morguefile.com


4 Comments

Wow, this was exactly the reminder I needed! With school starting and grandkids back in school, it's time today to get back to writing basics! Thanks for that nudge in the ribs!

Good points, Susan. I've just opted out of some newsletters because I wasn 't getting to read them and they were just banking up.

I love posts like this. I tweak my schedule a lot, and like to see how other people handle things.

I'm adding this to the list of helpful essays for our upcoming SCBWI schmooze on the writing life, where one of the subtopics is "How Do You Find Time to Write?" Thanks!

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