Calling it a Day


Since this relatively new book idea, I’ve become obsessive compulsive about how I structure my days and organize my time. Before, my writing time was based largely on “whim” — I’d see windows of opportunity to sit at my laptop, but if there were others things I needed to do (laundry, shower, eat, run errands) — they’d get priority.

This is the surest way of devaluing my time and never getting published.

But now, I’m responsible to a lot of people — my co-editor, eighteen other contributors, and now, very recently, my agent.

So my former bullshit writing schedule had to be tossed out the window for something that more resembles a “real” work day.

Mondays and Wednesdays are my “golden” work days. These are the mornings that I have childcare for the baby. The sitter comes at 9:30, I hang out with them for 15-20 minutes (the baby needs this “warm up” time), then I go to my favorite wireless spot, work, and come back by around 1:15. During this time, I allow myself one errand to run, as long as it’s something that takes less than 15 minutes. And while it’s so, so appealing to do a big grocery shopping during this time, when I don’t have to bring a toddler who refuses to sit in the shopping cart, I deny myself this luxury. My work time is work time — I have to respect this time for myself, because no one else will.

When I get home, I play with the baby until her nap time, which is between 2-2:30. The older two get off the bus at 2:40. I give them a snack, hang out with them, and when they are sitting at the table either doing homework, reading, or drawing, I can squeeze in another 30 minutes or so of work. Between 3:30 and 4, the baby wakes up, and from then, until all three kids are  in bed (by 8:15), the laptop is abandoned. Then from 8:30-10:30, I work some more, get upstairs to bed, and read until 11. On these days, I get a good six hours of writing in. I also respect my night time writing — if someone calls, I don’t stay on the phone for more than five minutes. My husband packs the kids’ lunches for the next day.

Tuesday, Thursdays, and Fridays are another story entirely. I manage about 4 hours of writing, but most of it is after the kids go to bed (I stay up later), and in 10-15 minute spurts when the baby is distracted. The writing is of lower quality, because the largest chunk of time I have to write is at night, after I’ve given myself to the kids all day. I lose my train of thought often, and it’s hard to stay on task. But until the baby starts childcare this fall, I’m kind of stuck.

I carve out a time on Saturday to work as well. Usually, I can manage a 2-3 hour chunk of time during the day, and then also write at night. Nothing much ever gets done on Sunday until after the kids go to bed. There’s just too much catching up on household stuff to do.

I often wonder about whether I’m being as efficient as possible. Do you work from home or freelance? If so, how do you structure your time? Is it working for you?

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10 thoughts on “Calling it a Day

  1. Sounds to me like you have a good schedule. I write every weekday, but usually only for about two hours. But I’m not on a deadline. 🙂 Most of the rest of my time is spent doing house stuff, running errands, etc. I established the schedule when I had an afternoon class and also used the afternoons for consulting work once the class was over. I could go back to using that time for consulting work, but I haven’t. I’d like for the next writing project to go more quickly, so I might do something like a two-hour chunk in the morning and a two-hour chunk in the afternoon. The kids get home at 3, so very little can happen after that. I’ve seen writing schedules by professionals all over the map. Some write for many, many hours a day. Some only a couple. Most write every day.

  2. That seems like a lot of writing – thirty hours a week? It’s like a full time job. You supermoms never cease to amaze me.

  3. Have you read The Wednesday Sisters? Simple but I think you would get a kick out of it. About a writing club. Cute.
    Anyway, I know you will be a SUCCESS! Keep writing you can do it.

  4. Hi Belinda,

    I can’t wait to read The Wednesday Sisters, Belinda! It’s next on my list.

    Thanks for your vote of confidence!

  5. Thanks for sharing your writing schedule, you seem to have a great system in place! I work full time and am a mother to two girls, 3 yrs. and 7 months. My husband stays home with them, he’s a great SAHD, and by the time I get home, eat dinner, spend time with the family, I am exhausted. I try to write during my lunches, but unfortunately I end up working through them often. I have that mother guilt that I’m not spending enough time with my family. Right now I’m challenging myself to write daily, even if it’s only for 15 minutes to get in the habit of writing every day.

  6. You certainly have your hands full, Kathy. I’d say 15 minutes a day would be a great goal. And when you know you only have 15 minutes to write — you’d be surprised at how many words come out onto the page!

    Best of luck!

  7. I really admire the effort you put into finding time for writing. That’s something I’m really bad at, actually. I tend to just write whenever, and most of my time I spend on my writing projects is spent researching and not actually writing. Research is good, but I suspect I use it as a form of procrastination.

    It’s an endeavor of mine actually, to begin to carve that time out. To actually block it and sit and dedicate time to full on writing.

    So good job.

  8. Aleks,

    I still really struggle with it. What I’ve portrayed here is a “good week” for me. It’s my ideal. Sometimes I do stick to this schedule, other times fall short.

    My biggest problem, is that if I have a day where I don’t do much writing, I then feel guilty, putz around, and then do even less writing.

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