Swoon Author Caitlin Lochner: Time Management Tips for the Busy Writer
Okay, real talk. Being a For Real Actual Author is pretty dang great—but it’s been cranking up my anxiety to no end. During the months leading up to A Soldier and a Liar’s release date, I found myself struggling.
Answering interview questions, writing guest blog posts, participating in social media (a challenge for a reclusive introvert like me), doing school and class visits, preparing for my launch events—I even started querying again and found the perfect agent to partner with. And this is on top of being a full-time graduate student and a Graduate Teaching Assistant for an online class of 180 students. And I also finally went to the doctor about my chronic sleep problems, which led to me having to make several other appointments. And of course I wanted to spend time with friends and family and maaaybe find time to read non-school-assigned books or play video games (Kingdom Hearts III came out and the only thing I wanted to do in my life was play it). And maybe I should eat. Oh yeah, and I guess I should be writing somewhere in there.
Needless to say, I don’t know how authors with families to take care of manage all this on top of their other responsibilities (you author/parents are the real MVPs).
So. How do you do ALL the things without curling up into the fetal position on your kitchen floor and rocking yourself back and forth wishing all your tasks away?
1.) Lists are a girl’s best friend.
I seriously don’t know what I’d do without lists. They’re something I’ve used since I was in high school to keep track of everything in my life and make sure my head didn’t explode. I always write them down by hand, and then feel that satisfaction of physically getting to check each task off once I’ve finished. I love lists for a couple different reasons. For one, it reassures me that I won’t simply forget to do something. For another, I finally stop agonizing over everything just swirling around in my head. By looking at everything written down, it looks a lot more doable.
2.) Planners are a girl’s second best friend.
Okay, so this is kind of cheating since it’s pretty similar to #1. BUT. Having a good planner is super important. Everyone’s needs and preferences are different, but I have a Day Designer planner that I love to death. Each page is a day, and that day is split up into sections: a top three tasks list, a general to do list, a motivational quote, a space to write something you’re grateful for, and a timetable. The timetable is especially helpful for me, because on days when I’m feeling overwhelmed and like it’s impossible to get everything done, I write down a schedule for myself. Once I block off specific times for certain tasks, I feel so much better. It looks doable. It is doable. It calms down my anxiety and makes me motivated to sit down and get to work. That is, so long as I...
3.) Don’t set unrealistic goals.
I am supremely guilty of this one, even though I know I do it and I keep telling myself not to. But you have to stop setting the bar so high that you couldn’t feasibly reach it. Because I don’t know about you, but when I tell myself I’m going to write four guest blog posts, grade 180 of my online class’ assignments, read and line edit and write critique letters on three workshop pieces, and read two short stories for class and then I don’t meet that goal (gee, I wonder why), I feel like a failure. I beat myself up about something I just couldn’t have accomplished and then it affects my mood for the next few days. Take it easy on yourself and try not to overstretch yourself. It’s just going to wear you out all the more.
4.) Make time for what’s important to you.
Whether that’s going out to lunch with some friends or sitting down to play a video game (Did I mention Kingdom Hearts III came out recently?), make sure to build in time for the things that matter to you. And that includes things that help you relax, too! If you constantly keep working because you tell yourself you don’t have time to take a break for even a couple hours, you’re going to run yourself into the ground. And trust me, once you take that much-needed break, you’ll be able to jump back into your work with a much more positive attitude and more motivation than ever.
5.) Remember to breathe.
And eat. And exercise. These things are not only necessary for basic human survival, but for your mental health as well. Everything’s going to be okay. At any given point, ask yourself what would be the worst that could happen if you don’t finish something. It won’t be the end of the world—even if it might feel like it. Because you know what? You’ve got this.