Intriguing Observations ~ Time Management
The Intriguing Observations series was created to gather some of the greatest supporters and bloggers to provide their own insight on all things creative both in their ventures and their techniques. This week on the guest series is paranormal romance author, Susannah Sandlin (@susannahsandlin)
Time Management for Whacked-Out Writers
I’m not sure exactly when it happened. This time last year, I was sitting around and twiddling my thumbs, working on my little book blog, waiting for my first novel to be released.
Everything was under control.Until it wasn’t.
I looked up six months ago and realized I had a crazy amount of stuff on my plate: an urban fantasy series being published this year, a paranormal romance series coming out this year, a blog that had gone daily, a pile of freelance commitments, book-promotions…oh yeah, and a full-time day job and a family.
I realized when I broke out in stress-induced hives, something had to give.
I came up with five ways to better manage my time so I could do frivolous things like sleep.
1. Make a Master List.
Once I committed to writing a second series, I had to sit down and take a hard look at my workload. The first step was making a list of everything I had to do, organized by date. Not just the huge things like “deadline to turn in XYZ book to editor,” but also the blogs I’d agreed to write, my own blogs, the columns I write for my publisher’s website, personal appearances, etc. Everything getsassigned a deadline, even if it’s one I set myself.
This might seem like busywork—another time-suck. But how can you really look at all your commitments if you don’t have a way of really looking at everything in one place? My list gets reviewed and updated at the beginning and end of every day. Anything that doesn’t get finished gets bumped to the next day.
2. Decide What to Let Go
Assuming my novels are my first priority, what things on my list took the most time but had the least payoff in terms of either advancing my name, improving my writing, or making money? What were the things most likely to throw my schedule off? I ended up leaving some group blogs and stepping away from a freelance copyediting job I really loved but that had a very unpredictable workload. I knew eventually, it would cause a trainwreck with my own deadlines. The other thing I’ve let slide is housekeeping, but, hey, anything for the cause.
3) Outsource What You Can Afford.
The next time-management step for me was seeing what on my master list I could outsource. At first, there wasn’t a lot because I’m such a control freak that I wasn’t willing, for example, to take on a partner for my daily book blog.
But I did find a few things to send out. I streamlined my daily blog by spending a few hours on Saturday writing posts for the entire week, then turn them over to a virtual assistant (i.e., “friend willing to work cheap”) to post them for me and dig up the artwork. I do a monthly series of columns on new book releases for the website of one of my publishers, and it is a massive undertaking but good exposure. So I have that same assistant pulling together all the raw material each month. Then I can spend two or three hours editing and assembling it in the right format. Finally, I decided to use the fabulous Bewitching Book Tours to set up my online tours for new releases, which has been a huge time-saver.
Money’s a factor in outsourcing, and you have to weigh what it would cost you to outsource against what it might gain you in time. But it’s tax-deductible J
I mentioned earlier that I do all my blog posts ahead of time and outsource the actual formatting and posting. During the week, I just respond to comments. I recycle my columns for the publisher site into four blog posts a month for my own blog. My reading time has become limited so instead of reviewing books, I do a mix of reviews and author Q&As, which take much less time.
Another thing I did with social media was join a few “Tribes” on Triberr. It’s increased my blog traffic quite a bit and reduces the amount of time I spend on Twitter, although it has to be used judiciously to avoid coming across as a spammer.
5) Maximize Your Writing Time.
Notice how in this whole post I haven’t mentioned real writing? Every author has to work out a system. My day job runs from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. I take a couple of hours off and then work from 8-11 p.m. every weeknight on book writing, revising, or proofing. On Sunday, I usually put in about a ten-hour writing day. Unless I’m on deadline, I take Saturdays off. That routine is religion. I rarely vary from it.
To maximize those three hours, I use onlinestopwatch.com to write in thirty-minute spurts. Until that timer goes off, I can’t reread. I can’t check email. I’m also a plotter—“pantsing” is a luxury I don’t have time for, since it usually means more revisions.
I still feel overwhelmed when multiple deadlines pile up at the same time, but at least I have a system in place to manage it. What tricks can you share for managing your writing time?
Susannah Sandlin is the author of paranormal romance set in the Deep South, where there are always things that go bump in the night.
A journalist by day, Susannah grew up in Alabama reading the gothic novels of Susan Howatch and the horror fantasy of Stephen King. (Um…it is fantasy, right?)
The combination of Howatch and King probably explains a lot. Currently a resident of Auburn, Alabama, Susannah has also lived in Illinois, Texas, California, and Louisiana.
Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781612183541