March 10, 2019 by Sarra Cannon
When I first started writing, I thought that would always be the main part of my job. But as I moved into self-publishing, I started to understand that there is a whole lot more to being a published writer than just writing! So, how do you get it all done when you’re expected to fulfill so many roles as an author in today’s world?
First of all, you have to understand that you can’t get it all done!
Believe me, I understand how frustrating that is. We want to do it all. We want to be a rockstar on every social media platform, have the best covers, write a lot of books each year, learn all we can about advertising and newsletters, all while being a good wife, mom, or friend to those around us.
But if you try to do it all, all at once, here’s what’s going to happen.
You’re going to do a little bit of everything, half-way. Very few projects are going to be completed to the best of your ability, and you simply won’t see the results you were hoping for.
And you’re going to feel completely stressed and overwhelmed the entire time you’re working. Does any of this sound familiar?
A couple of years ago, after feeling completely burned out and exhausted, I decided enough was enough. I surrender!
I couldn’t do everything, and I was tired of doing everything half-way and never seeing the results and forward motion I wanted in my career.
So, I set about on a mission to organize my time and get serious about focusing in on what’s most important in my writing career.
Below are five ways I organize my time as a writer. As a result of this system, I was able to write and publish five novels last year, start a YouTube channel, produce a course, record and edit over 75 videos, increase my income significantly, run better promotions on my books, publish 12 new paperback versions of my novels, and more… All while raising a six-year-old.
And you can be just as productive (if not more!). Watch my video on How I Organize My Time As A Writer or keep reading for my tips.
This may not sound like the most obvious place to start, but it’s a place I believe most people overlook. And in my opinion, it’s the single most important step to taking control of your time.
We go where we’re pointed, so if you haven’t taken the time to really think about what direction you’re wanting to go long term, how do you know where to point yourself? How do you know what decisions are best for you in the long run?
So often, we make decisions based on what’s pulling at our attention right now or what feels urgent in the short term. But constantly putting out short-term fires is not a great strategy for making all your dreams come true.
When we live our lives in this way, we end up either running around in circles or heading toward someone else’s version of an idea life.
If you truly want to start making significant progress toward the life and career of your dreams, the first step is figuring out what that dreams really are. What do you want? Who do you want to be? How much money do you want to make, and what are you willing to do to get there?
Once you have a crystal clear vision of what your ideal life looks like, that vision will guide every single decision you make about how to act and where to spend your time.
Let your vision be your guide.
This is a big one. First off, notice the word “Realistically” in the title above. This. Is. Key.
One of the biggest things that messes us up as creative entrepreneurs is that we are constantly biting off way more than we can chew. When we plan, we somehow magically think we are going to be able to do five times more work than we can actually, physically do.
And then we’re disappointed in ourselves and our results.
When you take a realistic look at your time and plan your projects accordingly, you are setting yourself up for success. This is a difficult step at first, because our brains rebel against this idea of doing less, but I need you to trust me on this one.
Planning to do more than you can realistically do is not going to magically help you do more. It’s just going to leave you frustrated and overwhelmed.
And what’s worse, it’s going to split your focus in a million different directions.
When you plan with realistic expectations, you can focus in on ONLY what’s most important. And you can actually GET IT DONE.
I love to plan in 90 day segments, as well. 90 days is just enough time to make significant progress on my goals, but it’s not so much time that I lose my focus or start heading in the wrong direction.
It’s the same reason I love writing in smaller sprints of time. There’s magic in focusing for a set period of time.
Each 90 days, I decide on 3 major goals. Then I break those goals down into projects. Once I have my projects set, I break those down even further into bite-sized tasks.
Once the planning stage is complete, I set up a kanban board on my wall, assigning each goal a color and each corresponding task a sticky note in that color. Here is an example of how I set up my kanban board.
I used to have the most scattered schedule of all time. I would write for a few minutes, get distracted by a post on social media or a text, switch over to a newsletter I wanted to write, get lost reading an article about the state of ebooks, and then try to go back to my writing project.
You can imagine how much I got done in a day, right? Almost nothing.
That’s when I learned about calendar blocking. This is a technique where you set aside larger chunks of time in your schedule each day to do deep work on a single task or project.
What that looks like for me is I set aside time for writing tasks every day from about 9am to noon. That means no social media, no emails, no distractions. I write.
In the afternoons, I also have a block of time set aside from 1pm to 4pm. Each day of the week, I assign this block of time a different “theme”. Like social media is Monday afternoons, recording new videos is on Tuesdays, editing is on Wednesday, and so on.
During those blocks of time, I like to do what is called “batching”. This means instead of recording a single video and moving on to a different type of tasks, I will record a batch of videos all at once. While I’m already in the zone and focused on that type of task, I can get twice as much done, because I’m not forcing my brain to switch focus.
Another key part of my organizing process is that every Sunday I sit down with my HB90 Planner and decide which tasks I’m going to tackle this week.
Since I already have my tasks for the entire quarter laid out on my kanban board, I simply look at my schedule for the week and decide which of those tasks I have time to complete this week.
I will assign those tasks a slot in my calendar blocks for the week, and voila! I know exactly what I’m supposed to do at any given time during the week.
No second-guessing. No overwhelm. No distractions or feeling like I need to take on a million new projects. I simply stick to my plan and watch things get done.
This is another tip that might seem counterproductive to some people. How is taking time off supposed to help you get more done??
Well, research shows time and time again that the more hours we spend working, the more we fall into diminishing returns on our time. In fact, recent studies show that working more hours doesn’t actually mean getting more done in the long run. It usually just means spending more time working.
But I totally understand the temptation to work all the time. We are especially prone to this as writers, because our characters never shut up and our story brains are always working. Am I Right?
That’s why it’s so incredibly important to take time to refill the well. Do something that’s just for fun and just for you. Spend time with family, go on a shopping trip, take a walk, or take a bath. Whatever inspires you or relaxes you is worth taking the time to do.
I used to feel guilty whenever I wasn’t working, but the truth was that I spent all of my time ultra-stressed and getting nowhere.
When I got back into gaming and taking time for myself and spending more time with my family, I started getting so much more done! It turns out happy Sarra gets a lot more done than stressed Sarra! Who knew?
If these tips resonated with you, or if you recognize yourself in the stressed-out, overwhelmed way I used to be, I’d like to invite you to join my upcoming HB90 Bootcamp.
This course is a 3-Day intensive Bootcamp where I personally walk you through every step of determining your ideal vision for your life, deciding on your goals for the upcoming quarter, breaking those goals down into realistic projects and tasks, and getting more done in one quarter than you usually get done in a full year.
This course is literally changing lives, so if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and are ready to take control of you’re time, I’d love for you to join us.
Here’s what past students are saying about the HB90 Bootcamp:
“Sarra Cannon’s HB90 Bootcamp is one of the best investments. I have found great value in being able to make the right kind of goals and focus on the progress. Her ongoing support and sharing have benefits that spill over into other aspects of my life, not just the writing. If you are thinking about taking this course, do it. You will be so glad that you did!” -Dinah Pike, Author
“TheHB90 method has helped me so much. Particularly with my focus, as well as completing projects, and moving closer to my goals. Bootcamp set me up, helping me to identify my priorities, figure out what I really wanted, and motivated me for the upcoming 90 days. The course is detailed enough to take you through step-by-step, but it is also flexible so you can tailor it to your particular needs if you prefer, and Sarra is amazing, really helpful and supportive. By the end of my first quarter with HB90 I have already been more productive than I was the entire previous year–I highly recommend it!” -Jo Homer, Author
I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.