New Year, New Work Schedule

Calendar Jan 2016

Nat’l Wildlife Federation 2016 calendar*

In September, my daughter started full-day Kindergarten. Thoughts of how much work I could get done in the roughly 6 hours she was at school made me giddy. Before she’d been born, I’d been a workhorse, churning out words like crazy! This was going to be like old times.

Only it didn’t happen that way. Instead, I would find myself at the end of her school day wondering what I had spent all my time doing. In spite of my best intentions, I felt like I was getting nothing accomplished. My marketing languished, my non-writing projects ground to a halt, and worst of all my fiction writing word count dropped to zero. The only items I managed to get done regularly were my blogs—because other people counted on me to get them done.

Frustration and failure marked my days.

So I began my new year with a new approach. I scheduled my workday. It looks something like this:

Daughter goes to school, then:

45 minutes: exercise and social media/email

2 hours: writing fiction

45 minutes: exercise and lunch

1 hr, 15 minutes: marketing and social media/email

1 hr, 30 minutes: free time

Then my daughter’s back from school.

After she goes to bed: 2 hours: blog posts

You can see that I carved out specific time for my fiction writing. I had to do that, or I would fall into the same trap as before—thinking I didn’t have enough “time” to get into my world or my story. You may also note that this is the largest block of time in my workday. Priorities.

And, yes, you read that second to last entry right—I scheduled free time. This is time for me, to recharge after the workday and before my daughter gets home and we rush into the hurly burly of her after-school activities. I use this time to relax, but also to accomplish those “home projects” I have such as keeping up with the family photo albums or working on my genealogy or converting old videotapes to DVD. Having this time keeps those projects from piling up and adding pressure to me. And some days (like yesterday), I nap during that time.

My evening hours are slotted for blog posts (I usually write 2 a week), but if I’ve finished my posts for the week, then I use the time for whatever I want—fiction, projects, reading, sleeping.

So how’s this new schedule working?

Great! I set alarms on my phone, and when that rings, I am on to the next section of my day. The most exciting thing for me is that my word count has shot up. From January 4th through this post, I have written/revised 11,609 words. Even more exciting is that 8,504 of them are in my current fiction work-in-progress (WIP). I went from literally 0 words per day to an average of 1,000 words a day on my book. That’s something to celebrate!

This schedule is for weekdays. This past weekend, I had 2 days with 0 words written. I did a bit of research and reading, but got nothing written. Last year, this would have upset me. But with almost 6,300 words written (5,000 on my WIP), I could relax instead. I don’t expect that every weekend will be a goose egg for writing, but if I maintain my word count during the week, I won’t sweat it if it is.

I know there will be weekdays that I can’t adhere to this schedule. I will have errands to run and appointments to keep—in fact, last Thursday I lost the whole school day that way. But that’s okay, too, because most of the time this will work for me. This schedule keeps me focused because I know I will have a chance to “get to” everything I need or want to that day. It keeps me accountable by having those alarms going off and urging me to the next phase.

I am liking this new schedule, and the results speak for themselves.

Most of us writers are self-employed and self-motivated. What are some tricks you use to stay on track?


*Calendar photo copyrights: Penguins–copyright Phillip Colla/ Seal & Fox–copyright Lisa & Mike Husar/

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