I feel like I could pick any one of these aspects of my life and dedicate myself fully and still not have enough time to do everything I want to do. So how do we get everything done? Is it really possible to live your life and pursue your dreams as a writer?
Yes, it is.
And it’s all about finding balance. Being intentional and smart with your time. You should never feel like writing is coming before other obligations or passions. Nor should you feel like any part of your life is hogging all your writing time. All the ways you spend your time need to share a part of your day. It’s not easy, but I want to share a strategy with you today that has helped me get the most out of my time.
How to Balance Writing and Life
Make a Master List of Everything You Do
Sometimes it is helpful to see how you are spending your time and how you want to spend your time. Start by making a list of everything you do in a day. It will be easier to organize if you create different lists for each hobby/responsibility. These categories might include work, writing, family, exercise, etc. You may also need a miscellaneous category. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write a list of activities that fill a typical day. The idea is to get specific. Include everything you do in a day that takes up your time. Even things like browsing social media or watching Netflix. You want to have a good understanding of where your time is being spent.
Now, spend another 10 minutes adding anything else you’d like to accomplish in your day. Don’t worry about how much you can get done in a day. You want to get a clear understanding of how you want to be spending your time. Think of all your interests and create a list of what you’d like to do if you had all the time in the world to pursue each one.
By now, your list is probably much more than you can accomplish in a single day. That’s okay. The point is to have a better understanding of how you are currently using your time and how you could potentially be using your time better.
The next step is to focus on what activities on your list matter most.
Define Important Areas of Your Life
If you feel like you have too many goals, remember you have your whole life ahead of you. Consider focusing on a few now and putting some on hold. For me, besides my goals as a writer, I hope to travel the world, master the art of making bread (or pastry), run a marathon, become a semi-decent photographer, study nutrition, do more puzzles, read more, and have more time to be involved with my children and their development/education. But I just cannot do all of that right now. So I rarely do puzzles, I’m not pursuing my photography hobby, and I know that marathon will have to wait.
If you can’t focus on everything it’s important to know which areas deserve most of your attention. This doesn’t have to mean you can’t spend time later for other areas of your life that you want to develop and improve, but you have to start somewhere. You can define the important areas of your life by asking yourself a few questions.
- What are my priorities?
- What hobbies give me the most joy?
- What is easiest to pursue later?
- If I had to pick one, what would it be?
- How many hobbies can I reasonably pursue right now?
- How long will it take me to accomplish this dream?
- How will I feel if this never gets done?
Create Your Ultimate Plan
With an understanding of your current priorities, take a look at your list and circle or highlight the most important activities. The ones you want or need to spend time on each day, or each week. Once you’ve highlighted the most important activities, you’ll need to make a plan for how you will allocate your time to focus on these priorities.
I personally like to use a planner that has an hour-by-hour schedule. This helps me plan exactly how long I want to spend on a certain activity. It might be enough to make a daily to-do list, or to sit down and create some goals and plans to help you focus on the things you want to accomplish. Whatever you do, find a system that you can keep up with. If planners aren’t your style, don’t use one. If you make to-do lists but never refer back to them, a more detailed goal/plan might be helpful for you.
You’ll also want to evaluate your system on a regular basis. If a month has past and you still haven’t put any effort towards one of the priorities you highlighted, maybe you are still trying to do to much. Or maybe there is something in your day that isn’t as big of a priority. I know I’m constantly finding the right amount of time to be on social media. I’ll get into phases where I’m checking every hour and just scrolling through random posts. Social media serves a purpose in my life. I love connecting with friends and seeing what they are up to. But I can definitely get sucked in and find myself taking yet another buzzfeed quiz. Which isn’t a bad thing to do, but deep down, I know I’d usually rather spend that time writing or even doing a puzzle.
As you understand all the activities that demand your attention and prioritize which ones you want to focus on, you’ll be able to accomplish more with your time. Live with intention, and you’ll be able to balance all of your responsibilities and passions.
What passions are you excited to have more time for?