This is quite an exciting post for me, because one of my followers requested it on Instagram!
*feels so popular*
Since it’s the start of the year (sort of) and the decade, this is a good time to get organised and plan your day, so it fits January perfectly.
I’m an author and editor who is lucky enough to work from home full-time, but that doesn’t mean splitting my time is easy. My books are my love, so most days, I want to spend more time writing (and yes, even marketing!) than editing; however, editing is making the money and the reason I can do this, so how’s a girl to split her time? How’s a girl to prioritise – and stick to it?
There’s a summary at the end if you’d rather skip the bulk of this article.
How I split my day:
8am – 10.30am
I work on my books. That includes marketing, replying to emails, writing, editing, world building, and whatever else my books need at the time.
On Wednesdays, this time belongs to this blog and my author website.
10.30am – 12pm
This is the only time slot that changes depending on my work load. When I’m editing for three authors, I dedicate this 90-minute slot to one of them. When I’m editing for two authors but one needs a lot of work or has a tight deadline, this time becomes theirs.
When I don’t have additional editing work, this time goes to my books, too, but more often than not, it belongs to my authors.
12pm – 1pm
It’s really, really hard for me to remember to take breaks. There are days when I want to work through my break, but it’s important to remember that breaks are necessary.
I can’t help my authors or make progress on my WIPs if I burn out, so this slot isn’t negotiable. The mind might seem willing, but I can’t do a good job if I tire myself out. Me overworking myself doesn’t help anyone. We all do better work when we’re well-rested.
So, I spend this time in a way that helps me recharge. Usually, I go for a walk (with my newly discovered friend, the audio book) or read on the sofa. I put my phone away from me and turn it over so I don’t do anything work related for this one hour.
When that’s not enough to keep me away, I schedule my reading time with Forest App, which locks my phone and makes me feel like dirt when I kill the little virtual tree to check my emails. (You can read more about this in 4 Easy (and Fun!) Ways to Be More Productive)
1pm – 4pm
These three hours belong to my authors. Depending on how many authors I’m working for, all three go to one author or I split them between two authors into two 90-minute slots.
I rarely finish exactly at 4pm. If I’m in the middle of a paragraph or only have half a page left to finish a chapter, I finish the paragraph or the chapter. That’s just me though – if you’re happy to stop what you’re doing partway through a sentence, you do you!
My Bullet Journal
It’d be an oversight if I didn’t mention this here, because my bullet journal in combination with the above routine is the magic formula for me.
I write a weekly to-do list every Monday (sometimes the Friday before), and then I keep it somewhere I can see it every day. That way, I always have my goals in front of me and am much less likely to do other things.
And that’s all I do! I set my routine, and then I keep my eyes on my goals. It doesn’t sound like much – and it doesn’t take long to put something together! – but it’s all I need to stay focussed and get shit done.
How can YOU plan your day?
Time management can be hard, especially when we want to do more than we realistically have time for. I get it. I took a break from this very blog for that reason!
3 things you could look at are:
- Your daily schedule
Write down what you do when – be as precise as you can – and examine where you already have gaps in your schedule and where you’re spending time on things you either don’t enjoy or could cut back on.
Obviously, you can’t cut back on your job whether you enjoy it or not, but if you have three hours every evening where you watch TV, maybe you could dedicate some of that time to your passion.
If you sleep for nine hours or more every night, maybe you can get up earlier and have extra time in the morning.
- The time you need
Not the time you want, but the time you need to work on your passion.
We all want as much time as possible for the things we care about. Who doesn’t? I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t got carried away and abandoned my routine for one day to work on something I was excited about.
While you’ll reach you goal faster the more time you dedicate to it, your life might not accomodate for you to work on it full-time. But you don’t need to either.
Want to write a book? Make 30 minutes every day to write. It may not feel like much, but those words will add up!
- Your self-care time
Spending time on yourself might feel like a waste at first, but consider this:
You won’t get anything done and you’ll feel like shit if you burn out.
I can’t stress this enough. If you want to be at your best, then you need to look after your body and your mind.
Figure out what you enjoy – there’s zero point in jogging three times a week if you loathe running! – and make time for it. This could be your lunch break, an hour after or before work – whatever works for you!
You need regular breaks to look after yourself. Trust me.
Now, this is super important:
Some days will be crap.
Everyone has days when they stare out the window and/or at their screen and just can’t find the motivation to do anything. Everything’s a chore, even getting up and moving to the sofa – let alone the guilt that comes with those days!
We all have days like that, my kitten.
I give you permission to take it easy on those days. Do whatever you need to recharge.
I know the guilt that comes with this all too well: I can’t take it easy – I have deadlines, I have people who count on me! What will they think?
But you can’t do your best work when you’re not at your best. Doesn’t your work – whether it’s something you do for yourself or for someone else – deserve your best? Sometimes the only way forwards is to slow down so you can propel yourself ahead another day.
Most of last week was like this for me. I eventually realised late on Wednesday that my usual routine doesn’t work in this awkward in-between time (I just had three days off for Christmas, I didn’t work on New Year’s Day, and I’m about to have two weeks off for my 30th birthday), so I adjusted.
I’m currently working until 12pm, and then I assess where I am. Can I do more or does that sound exhausting? How do I feel when I look at the screen with the intention of working?
Some days I do more, other days I take the afternoon off for necessary self-care.
If you’re employed somewhere, that’s obviously not an option, but you can still take it easier. Instead of getting up extra early to work towards your goal, working on your personal projects through your lunch break, and then putting in another hour before bed, set your WIP aside. Just go to work and know that your project will still be there when you feel better.
Now, I know several people who’ll frown when they read this and say, ‘I can’t do that, Sarina. I need to make progress.’
I get that too. But as I said above, breaks are necessary. It doesn’t matter how ambitious your daily schedule is (and I know that some people on Instagram pale when they see how much I give myself to do every week!) – when you burn out, you won’t get any of it done.
Is that an option? Is no progress and feeling like crap preferable to taking it easy one day and then smashing your goals the next?
Don’t be an idiot and push yourself regardless of all the warning signs. In the wise words of V.E. Schwab:
‘As a hyper-driven, self-employed, Type A creative Slytherin, it is really, really hard to accept that self-care isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity.‘
So, to summarise:
- I split my days into mornings (time for my projects) and afternoons (time for my authors). On days where I’m close to finishing a project or job, or during times when I have more editing work, I adjust my priorities. Stick to your routine religiously, but be flexible when things change or need extra attention.
- Daily routine + weekly to-do lists = my personal magic formula
- Take a look at your daily schedule. Do you have any gaps? Where can you make time for your passion?
- Be realistic. Spending five hours every day working towards your goals might be the dream, but if it’s not doable you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Half an hour three days a week might not sound like enough, but that’s 1 1/2 hours more than you’re spending right now!
- Look after yourself. I know this is the step you’re most likely to want to skip, but don’t. Self-care is vital to a happy, healthy, productive you.
- Accept that some days will be crap. Give yourself permission to read all afternoon, binge a show on Netflix, go for a long walk, or do whatever else helps you recharge on those days. We all have bad days. It’s okay.
How do you plan your day? What do you struggle with?