Friday, February 25, 2011

Juggling It All

There are days I feel like I belong in the circus. Not because my family is a bunch of freaks—okay, maybe we are, but that’s a story for another day—but because I am constantly juggling a menagerie of items, some of which are dangerously sharp or laden with fire.

When I left the corporate world to stay home with my children, it was as thrilling as flying through the air on a trapeze. Here was my chance to enjoy motherhood, be a good wife, and focus on my writing.

Six years later, I’m wondering how the heck I got all the necessary stuff done when I was working outside my home.

In case no one has ever mentioned it before, writers don’t make a ton of money. Well, Stephen King does, but how many of those did God make?

The average writer—especially those newer ones like me—supplement their income in some way. For me, it’s been as a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book! I love my job, which is a darn good thing because my family is convinced some days I am married to my laptop.

Then when I started promoting my first children’s book, Little Shepherd, it was like adding an elephant into the mix. Have you ever tried juggling an elephant?

Luckily, I’ve always been an organized person who manages her time wisely. I couldn’t cope otherwise. Here are a few tips that can help:

· Track your time to see where time is wasted. We all do it: surf the Net instead of write; get lost in research; allow distractions to steal your writing time. By tracking your time, you’ll be able to identify those areas and develop a plan on how to use your time more wisely.

· Use timed writing sessions. Set a timer for 10 minutes and do nothing but write. You can do this throughout the day to keep you focused.

· Set deadlines—even if they are fictitious ones—so that you have a goal to strive for. I used this strategy and was able to complete a first draft of a manuscript in three months.

· Cut out trade journal articles and keep them in a folder so you can tuck them in your briefcase. You can read them on your lunch hour or while you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

· Don’t be afraid to say no.

· Try to create a schedule that takes advantage of your most creative time. I’m not a morning person, so I tend to write in the afternoon or after the girls are in bed.

· Leave room in your day for the unexpected.

I don’t believe there is ever a perfect balance. One hand will often be handling a heavier load than the other. I’ve put together a schedule that I can live with 8 days out of 10. Some days my family needs the majority of my attention, other days it has to be work and writing. Some days I feel fortunate to blend the two well.

Finding a balance you can live with the majority of the time will help you achieve your goals. You might even find that you can become a master juggler. Just watch out for those elephants!

This post first appeared at Morgan Mandel's Double M. blog on November 8, 2010. 

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