Thursday, February 6, 2014

Structuring Our Lives ... by L. Diane Wolfe

Today, everyone is busy. Technological advancements, meant to make our life easier, tend to take away precious hours. Job and family commitments can multiply and eat us alive. Often there is precious little time remaining for our writing careers. To find a suitable balance, we must create structure in our lives.

Balance does not imply that every aspect receives an equal slice of the proverbial pie but rather adequate attention. Meeting one need may require ten minutes while another demands three hours. Before we begin slicing and doling out our time, we must first determine what’s important.

The best way to accomplish this task is to form a list. What do we value? What goals must be achieved? Consider the very basics first. Sleep and work (if we are employed) will take the greatest chunk of our day. Add family commitments to the list. Don’t forget household chores, physical activities, and relaxation. Finally, list all aspects of writing, from creating to promoting.

Before we divide our valuable time, what can we eliminate? Do we need to curtail certain activities? Are there duties that can be passed along to someone else? Once our list has been reduced to manageable levels, we can divvy the hours, remembering that we only have twenty-four at our disposal. (Although I keep lobbying for a 40 hour day.)

Now that we understand what we’ll do with our day, we need to determine when we’ll accomplish each item on the list. While certain tasks remain unmovable, we should design our schedule to showcase our best side. Avoid relegating family to a time when we are exhausted or exercise to a slot we’ll only ignore. Our writing time is no different, and whether it’s the middle of the night or right after lunch, we should schedule it during our peak performance hours.

Ironically, there will be days when we are unable to follow our schedule. The life of an author can be quite chaotic at times. However, we need a base on which to build. It’s easier to alter an existing schedule that to create a new one each day from scratch.

A calendar is an author necessity. It is the only means by which to keep track of commitments, both in the real and virtual world. Miss one or two appearances and we’ll soon discover no one wants to book an irresponsible author! Setting two appointments for the same time slot is another disaster we want to avoid. A calendar will keep us on track.

Since each new day presents a different set of tasks, maintain a to-do list. This will prevent that unique item from slipping through the cracks and into oblivion. Compile the to-do list the night before and write down future tasks for the days ahead. If we tackle the most important items first, then we know they will be completed.

Interspersing a few five-minute projects throughout the list will speed our progress and buoy our sense of accomplishment in the process.

By now it’s obvious that we need to establish a framework in all areas of our life. With structure, a schedule, and a to-do list, we are better prepared to complete our writer and author duties. We are more likely to write for two hours if we’ve designated a time and placed it on our list than if we simply intend to make the effort at some point. Through repetition, many tasks will become part of our daily routine. Once we’ve established a pattern, accomplishing our goals will be much easier.

Our greatest enemies at this point are distractions and time stealers. Situations will arise when a diversion momentarily derails our progress. Unless it’s an emergency or has the potential to change our life forever, we shouldn’t focus on distractions. Time stealers are much more subtle. Ten minutes on a social site turns into thirty; an email sends us on a frantic goose chase for an hour; a phone call eats up our entire afternoon. We must be on the lookout for distractions and mindless time stealers or they will consume all of our carefully laid plans.

Authors and writers exist in a unique world, one that can be quite chaotic at times. However, we are happier and more productive when there is balance and structure in our life. Designing a schedule that can be easily followed sets us up for greater success!


Known as “Spunk On A Stick,” L. Diane Wolfe is a member of the National Speakers Association and an author. She conducts seminars on book publishing, promoting, leadership, and goal-setting, and she offers book formatting and author consultation. She is the author of seven books, including two non-fiction titles and a NA/YA series, The Circle of Friends. Wolfe travels extensively for media interviews and speaking engagements, maintains numerous websites and blogs, and contributes to several other sites and newsletters.

You can learn more about Diane at her website and blog. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Showcase my best side - check!

Writing for Pleasure said...

Great post , good to read.
I am so pleased all is going well for your cat. hugs.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you for hosting me today, Patricia.

Yvonne, we are so relieved Spunky will be okay.

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Diane.

Diane - Thanks for your ideas on time management and focus. It's all about priorities isn't it?

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

I need to do a list. I do. Funny thing is, I always do lists during high stress times, like Christmas, but I think I would benefit from a daily one.
Thanks, Pat and Diane!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Glad you're here, Diane and hope you return often. Your posts are always helpful.

I keep a To Do List and my calendar (plus a separate calendar just for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog schedule where I'm a co-editor) where I can see then all the time as I'm working at my computer. Keeps me focused.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Margot, yes it is.

Cathy, I'd be lost without my daily to do list.

Patricia, I keep about five lists!

Stephen Tremp said...

We'll often spend a weekend eliminating small stuff in order to free up time in the week to be more efficient.

They can become those distractions and time stealers that cause us to spin our wheels and fail to gain traction.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Diane & Patricia,

I find lists indispensable. Even with a diary to jot things down, I find that I still need a list to keep me on track.

Those time stealers are another thing I need to get under control.

Good advice, Diane.

Gina Gao said...

Glad that Diane has been hosted here. Her tips are always helpful.

Southpaw said...

Perfect timing. This month I decided I have to figure out how to schedule my time to get some writing in.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Stephen, my whole day can be eaten up by small stuff sometimes.

Joy, I have lists for my lists.

Thank you, Gina.

Holly, now you know what you need to do.

Nicki Elson said...

Make a schedule and follow lists -- I've definitely got to get back to doing that. Because when distractions aren't on the list, I stay away from them, but when there's no list...

Lynda R Young said...

I love my lists. I need to follow them more regularly though.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Structure? Structure? What's that? My idea of structure is to put a note in my bra and when it falls out at night when I get ready for bed, that's my signal to take care of whatever prompt is on it.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Loving helping writers get read with my HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including the multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter ( .

Mason Canyon said...

Patricia, thanks for hosting Diane.

Diane, great tips. I hadn't thought about putting minor tasks in with the major ones. That would make it seem I'm getting more accomplished. Hoping Spunky is doing well.

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Pat. Hi, Diane,

This post couldn't come at a better TIME... This is something I TOTALLY need to do. My life is spinning way to fast for me to keep up.

I used to be so good at maintaining my time but this past year has been nuts.

Thanks for the tips, Dianne!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great tips for working in more writing time, Diane! Thanks.

Melanie Schulz said...

You're right- don't know what I'd do without my calendar!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Nicki, that's when they really come at you.

Carolyn, that is so funny!

Mason, it's those batches of little ones that make me feel like I am moving forward.

Michael, time to start list-building again.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

L. Diane has taught me so much. Her book is always at hand.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Structure truly helps, and lists are a must. However, there are days when creativity or exciting ideas seem to hold sway. As a homeschool mom, I've found that my unique schedule challenge revolves around giving enough time for my kids' creative moments and excited-about-life-and-learning moments - I need to balance that time with my writing time, but that time is precious too.

Medeia Sharif said...

I need a calendar and to-do list to keep myself accountable. Great post.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Susan, thank you.

Tyrean, your schedule sounds like mine - chaotic at best.

KK Brees said...

Anybody here make a list and the first item is "Make List"? Feels good to check that sucker off. But lists are important. As the day's demands pull on us, a list keeps us focused. great post!

Milo James Fowler said...

Balance is definitely key, and I'm already a list-maker. Problem is, my lists are all in my head, and I really should write them down. Might help me sleep better.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

KK - LOL! I've done that.

Milo, the secret to achieving goals is writing them down.

Sherry Ellis said...

Making a list is a good way to stay organized!

Arlee Bird said...

Darn it! I keep meaning to take to heart all these good suggestions you've made here, but I do get distracted a lot. If my computer would just work consistently well that would be a good start. I've gotten so dependent on my computer for so many things (including a lot of my reading) that when a disruption comes (like super slow internet), there goes my schedule. Plan B and C helps, but still is often wrought with disruptions and sidetracking.

Great post nevertheless.

Wrote By Rote
An A to Z Co-host blog

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Lee, Internet issues mess me up. Especially when 99% of my list requires it.