How to do it all (sort of): Manage writing, the day job, family, and life with these tips

This is a post by Pavarti K. Tyler

Recently someone said to me, “It must be so nice to work from home! You have so much time to do what you love!”

Immediately, I began to list internally all of the things I haven't done yet this month, like laundry, paying the bills, making a dentist appointment, calling my father.

It's true on one hand. I am blessed. I have a loving and supportive husband who supports the hours I spend in my office writing and the flexibility in my schedule that allows me to substitute at my daughter's school. In fact I'm so lucky that I feel like I shouldn't complain, as if admitting how tired and over extended I am somehow means I don't value the amazing life I have.

I do value it. But sometimes I'd really like a vacation.
[jbox] For example the other night I was up until 2AM. My schedule the next day was:

  • 5:30AM – Get up
  • 6:00AM – Go to grocery store to get lunch for kids before husband leaves for work because I didn't have time to do it yesterday.
  • 6:30AM – Wake/dress/feed kids
  • 7:30AM – Begin checking emails/Facebook/social media
  • 8:00AM – Take kids to school
  • 8:30AM – Take giant dog for a walk so I get some exercise and so he doesn't drive me insane all day
  • 9:00AM – Start working through my Novel Publicity to-do list, including solving mysterious website problem on client's site.
  • 10:00AM – Client Call
  • 10:45AM – Emails/Facebook/social media
  • 11:00AM – Solve client website problem and begin to fix
  • 11:45AM – Leave to teach Creative Writing
  • 12:00-12:45PM – Creative Writing
  • 12:45-1:30 – Meet with Ninja's school counselor regarding behavior
  • 1:45PM – EAT SOMETHING
  • 2:00PM – Tax Client Project
  • 3:00PM – Emails/Facebook/social media, flip laundry, straighten kitchen
  • 3:30PM – Pick kid #2 up from school and drive carpool kids home
  • 4:15PM – Grocery Shop with kids in tow
  • 5:00PM – Put groceries away and start kid #2’s homework
  • 5:30PM – Emails/Facebook/social media
  • 5:45PM – Realize I did nothing to prep for dinner
  • 5:50PM – Pick up kid#1 from dance class
  • 6:15PM – Start dinner
  • 6:30PM – Take kid #1 to Brownies with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because I didn't make her dinner in time.
  • 7:00PM – Eat
  • 7:30PM – Get kid #2 ready for bed while husband goes to get kid #1
  • 8:00PM – Kids in bed
  • 8:15PM – Dinner Dishes/laundry/straighten house
  • 8:45PM – Emails/Facebook/social media
  • 9:00PM – Talk to husband, finish work, write, relax?
[/jbox]

Ahh the never-ending fun. And it is fun. It's all oodles and oodles of fun. There's just so much of it! So how do I do it? Well, partially the answer is:  I don't.

I have a friend who says it's only possible to do two and a half things well at a time. So if you're doing right by work and your family, you only have half effort for something else like the house or friends or writing. The fact is that you are going to fail at something. I don't know if I agree with the two and a half number, but the sentiment is true.

The number one way to survive doing it all is to accept that you are going to drop the ball on something. Your house may be dirty, your friends may be annoyed that you don't call, or your spouse/children may wander into your office occasionally just to remember what you look like.

There are a few things you can do though to minimize the effects of this:
Practice saying you're sorry

Yes, I mean it. Go ahead and start now. Or perhaps consider apologizing preemptively. Even your biggest supporters are going to get annoyed at some point; accept it, know that it means they love you, don't get defensive, and apologize.

Make a to-do list

There are a number of online and iPhone fancy tools you can use to do this, but I recommend you stick with an old-fashioned pen and paper. Writing it out makes it manageable, and looking at those crossed off items is a good way to remember that you have accomplished something despite the number of things still left to do. I keep a few master lists, but every morning I wake up and make my to-do list for the day, knowing full well I will not get them all done. And then I work my way through it. Just don't forget to include eating, relaxing, exercising and laughing on your list. Those things are just as important as everything else.

Stay organized

There are too many things going on to try and remember them all. What blog am I guest posting on today? What kid has what activity tonight? Who do I owe a call? I know this sounds like your to-do list, but it's a little more comprehensive. These aren't just things you need to do, but things you need to remember. I use Google Calendars to keep all of my blog/promotional events in order. It even sends me reminders so I don't flake out which, honestly, with this much on my plate, I'm prone to do. I even color code it.

Play nice

Have too much to do? Feeling overwhelmed? Well, here's a secret: you aren't special. You aren't a unique snowflake who is so different from everyone else. We all have school/work/family/illness/life to deal with and we are all just doing the best we can. Of course there are extenuating circumstances, but each person’s hardest time is only hard in proportion to the rest of their lives. What wears me down will be different from what wears you down, but chances are we've both been there.So try to remember that. The next time someone flakes out on you, be nice about it. Next time you can't get something done or live up to a commitment, email that person and tell them. Communicating and being forthright is a thousand times better then just not doing something you promised to.In the same vein, when someone does step up to the plate for you or helps you out, remember to say thank you.

Remember you aren't alone

When things get weird in the neighborhood – who you gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!How about when things get crazy in your friendships, relationships, work life, writing, parents, kids, and school? Who do you rely on? I've been super lucky to have found some amazing people both in real life and online who I can call when I need some help or even just to vent.

Be flexible

Things not going the way you planned? That's ok! Did your non-fiction true-crime book turn into summer-fun Chick Lit? Go with it! Stories tell themselves, and your life is as much a story as your manuscript. Remember to let go a little–don't fight against the current so hard. Maybe life is pointing you in the direction you need to go. There are adventures to be had, so don't force it. Just see what happens! The easiest way to stress yourself out is to insist that something that just isn't working must be done.

Just Keep Swimming

In the immortal words of Dory the Fish, just keep swimming. Keep moving forward, and eventually you'll get there.
Pavarti K Tyler, Marketing Department DirectorAbout this post’s author:

Pavarti is a member of the Novel Publicity Team as Marketing Department Director. She also provides content editing as a consultant or for her Novel Pub clients. Her unique experience as a dramaturge, both on and off Broadway, has provided her the opportunity to work closely with many playwrights and directors, allowing Pavarti to consider both the literary and audience perspective. Pavarti K Tyler’s novel Two Moons of Sera is a Fantasy/Romance and is being released in a serial format. Her next novel Shadow on the Wall is scheduled for release in early 2012. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

 

Suzanne Lilly, the TeacherWriter

Ah, you’ve shared what so many of us feel. Thanks for giving us a few tips for getting it all done, and for sharing how full a writer’s day can be. Wishing you much more success in 2012!

    Pavarti

    Thanks! It’s amazing how much we can do in such a short period of time. No wonder I’m always sick! 🙂

Stephanie

I really enjoyed this post! It made me laugh because it’s so real. Sometimes I wonder how anything gets done at all.

Thanks for the helpful tips.

🙂

    Pavarti

    Thanks! I’m always saying I need an intern!

shannon

Parvati, thank you so much for this. I’m working full time while trying to establish my editing business, and I am guilty of flaking out quite a bit. Thanks for making me feel a little better about trying to do it all & missing the mark.

    Pavarti

    Thanks for commenting Shannon, it’s really hard to start a business while still working full time! Good luck!

Todd R. Tystad

Pavarti, just looking at your schedule makes me tired. But your tips are valuable and I appreciate you sharing some ideas that I need to apply more often. Parents do the most important work of all and you’re doing that and a whole lot more. Forge onward!

    Pavarti

    Haha, thanks! It’s no wonder I end up falling asleep at 8 some nights huh? Thanks for commenting. I hope the tips help you find some sanity.

Nicole Alexander

I work full time and write in my off hours and have often wondered what it would be like to be a stay at home writer. Granted, I don’t have kids, but you’ve helped me see the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I especially liked the “play nice” tip. Thanks and good luck with your hectic schedule!

Elizabeth Lawrence

I’m also a stay-at-home writer/mother, and this was something I really needed to hear. It’s often difficult to explain to people with traditional jobs(especially my husband) why I don’t have time to fold the laundry or do a few errands while the kids are in school. Thank you for offering these survival tips!

Cege Smith

Thank you for sharing this with us! It does feel sometimes like I’m running all day long in one spot accomplishing nothing (although in reality I am accomplishing many things, just not exactly what I wanted to.) I love the idea to make your to do list with good ole paper and pencil. I’ve tried the fancy stuff and it doesn’t work- but a simple post-it note always does the trick. 🙂

    Pavarti

    I’m partial to index cards myself more than post-its but it’s the idea that counts 🙂 Good luck Cege.
    Pav

Pavarti

Thanks Nicole. I love being a stay at home writer! I wouldn’t do it any other way, but that doesn’t make it easy.

Pavarti

OMG it’s so true. I always get “how is the house exactly the same as when I left this morning??” Umm, because I’ve been busy! I’ve worked from home since long before I took up writing and self-publishing and unfortunately people always under-estimate what it’s like to work from home. Getting comments like how I work “bankers hours” or “playing” during the day really wears me down. Keep at it, you’ll get there.
Pav

Donna Brown

Pavarti,

I LOVE this post. Every time someone mentions working from home, I mentally think ‘Yes, but you get to go home at 5 p.m., whereas I live in my office!’. I love it and I’m very very blessed to be able to do it but it’s much much harder than people think. And I don’t even have children (I don’t think cats count!).

Next time someone else says, ‘Ooh lucky you, daytime telly and loafing off all day’ I shall direct them to this post!

Thanks
Donna

    Pavarti

    I know! I’d love to just turn off my computer or close an office door. I know fewer and fewer people get to do that esp now with our ever present phones, but man, I’d love to sit at my desk at home and pay bills and write without work infringing.

M.E. Anders, the Cult Slayer

Hi Pav! Excited to read your guest post, here. You sure are all over the web. 🙂 Thanks for the tips about working from home. Even though my life is still simpler at the moment, it is a challenge to fit everything into the day that a stay-at-home writer should.

    Pavarti

    Thanks ME – I love your tag “the Cult Slayer” – awesomeness. You are one badass chick! I appreciate you commenting. It’s amazing how many full time jobs one person can hold isn’t it?

Mary Elizabeth

Thank god I’m not the only one. I do have a full-time job at the moment, but my schedule is packed very similarly to yours. I thought I was doing something wrong because I couldn’t ever seem to finish my to-do list. In fact, the older I get, the more it seems like I’m constantly putting out fires and not even knocking the “critical” items off my list. Argh! Then in breezes your post like a cup of warm tea. It’s so comforting to hear other writers are struggling with the same things and have come up with ways to cope. Thanks for this great post!

    Pavarti K Tyler

    Thanks ME 🙂 It’s true! I can lose HOURS just checking emails and putting out fires and never get anything done!

Adriana Ryan

Thank you! I could not believe how much my 3×5 index cards from my school days have come back to help me. I hand write lists on them, because they make my lists look short and manageable. Even if, you know, #3 is like “Save the world by 4 PM. And do a load of laundry while you’re at it.” 😉 Glad to see I’m not the only one.

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