If you do creative work, you might consider how to get more done in less time. In the world of multitasking, creatives can become lost because they scatter their thoughts and feelings among too many things to do. I’ve read advice for creatives about making chores into activities. Run all your errands in one afternoon. Cook and freeze enough meals all day to feed everyone for a week or more. Answer routine emails once a week until your inbox is empty.

Of course, I’m going to talk specifically about writers here. You probably know that I’ve done a lot of research on time management and personal organization. And I’ve come up with a set of guidelines from all the research to use myself.

Over the last two or three years, though, I’ve become frustrated with my schedule, which in theory should work so well. I kept wondering why it didn’t. I’m going to show you what I used to do, and what I’m doing now. And why I think what I’m doing now is better.

My days had a set schedule/routine, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I take Thursday and Sunday off—Thursday to shop instead of the weekend, and to do other errands, perhaps see a doctor, whatever comes up. Sunday is my unplug day—I check email morning and night, but the rest of the day I [try to] stay away from the computer.

This is what my schedule looks like:

  • Get up, get dressed, get coffee and orange juice, turn on computer, make bed while computer warms up.
  • Drink coffee and juice, read and respond to emails.
  • Write 1,000 words on work in progress—fiction
  • Exercise.
  • Eat lunch while reading newspaper (resting eyes from computer glare)
  • Housework, more email, odd jobs—not my best time of day to do creative work. I have one chore planned for each day—bathroom and kitchen day, dust and dry mop day, vacuum day, and so on—more about this later.
  • Four o’clock, put computer aside, no more housework, relax for an hour, reading a book.
  • Five o’clock, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up kitchen, read or do email until seven.
  • Seven o’clock, work for one hour on a writing project or marketing.
  • Eight o’clock, downtime or more email, Facebook.
  • Nine o’clock, more writing projects
  • Ten—finish up on computer, shut it down. Read until bedtime.

Okay, I left out personal grooming, talking to my husband, goofing off.

You’ll notice I don’t watch TV. Well, rarely, I watch football games once a week during the season, and the occasional show my husband is recommending, or a movie he’s watching. Not really my thing, though.

Looks really good on paper, doesn’t it? Not that many hours of work.

The trouble is that the marketing also gets interspersed in there—Twitter, Facebook, blog articles, a newsletter every so often, and lots of other stuff I can’t even remember now. If I don’t schedule those times to relax, I don’t relax.

And usually, by 7 o’clock, I don’t want to do anything more. There’s simply too much stuff! Scattered stuff.

So, I have a new plan using the project idea.

  • Mornings stay the same except the writing new stuff switches to marketing when I’ve finished a project until I can’t think of another way to promote that project, then I go back to new writing.
  • Afternoons stay the same except I do projects instead of small bits of housework—my plan is:
  • Monday, major project, will differ each week.
  • Tuesday groceries, some cooking in advance.
  • Wednesday, catch up on email/home office work.
  • Friday/clean house.
  • Saturday laundry..

But evenings become either more writing/editing or marketing—in other words, not doing both every night, again, until it’s done for the latest project.

I’m not saying this is going to help, but it might. I’m a bit excited about this experiment. But would it be better to continue in the afternoon working on writing and marketing, and doing the other chores after dinner? Like with a regular job? Or reverse it and do the housework/chores first thing, get them out of the way, then spend the rest of the day writing? I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.

So, I’ll report back in a month or so. Stay tuned!


Friends, neighbors, countrymen, children, spouses, co-workers, telephones, email (“You have new mail!!), regular mail, the doorbell, and sometimes your own mind interrupts over and over again, every day.

How do we handle all that? Hopefully with tact and firmness. First we need to get firm with ourselves, set some boundaries.

If you owned your own business (maybe you do, but for those who don’t . . . ), you’d soon become aware of your need for time management. Maybe you’d read a few books, look for tips on-line, talk to people who seem to get everything done and then some.

One major trick is to prioritize tasks every day. For most of us, that means doing the most important things early (unless we’re those rare birds who do their best work after dark). After that, we can do some of the less important, but still necessary, stuff.

What’s this got to do with interruptions? Everything. You set a time when you are not to be interrupted unless, as one writer puts it, there’s fire or blood. Go behind a closed door, if you can.

Do the most important things when babies are napping, older children are in school, spouses are at work, no one else is home; in other words, when you are most likely not to be interrupted. If older people are home, get behind a closed door for an hour or so. Then come out, both for a breather and to catch up with everyone, let them know you’re thinking of them. Back to work if necessary.

The second part of this is to schedule the other type of interruptions, such as email and phone calls, for another time.

Scheduling can make the difference between chaos and getting things done. Play around with it until it fits you just right. Then stick to it for three weeks running (the time it usually takes to create a new habit), and see how much smoother your life is running, and how much more you’re getting done every week. You may be surprised because you’re more relaxed, as well. Now excuse me while I go do a few household chores. I do them in the afternoons because that’s the time I’m most sluggish mentally. Be sure to take your natural rhythms into account when planning your schedule. And please get back to me about how it worked. Remember—fire and blood.