|Meal planning gives me more time to write.|
As I’ve entered a new season in my writing life (working 30 hours a week and trying to juggle the demands and activities of two kids who never seem to stop), I’ve had to make some changes in my life to help me maintain my productivity. I’ve also begun to transition from writing freelance magazine and newspaper articles to working on the craft of writing fiction of all lengths. But even with a packed schedule I’ve managed to produce several short stories in the past year and polished up a YA novel that’s been sitting on my computer for years. Sometimes people ask how I manage to fit it all in. It’s not easy, and it requires a fair amount of juggling.
Here are a few tips for staying productive when your life is an endless cycle of “get up and go.”
I embarked on a journey last year to shed some unwanted pounds and clean up my diet. My result is that I feel better now than I have in years. This requires weekly and sometimes bi-weekly grocery shopping and meal planning on my part, but I have to do it keep my mind and body working efficiently. On the weekends, I roughly sketch out four or five dinners for the next week and check my pantry to see what ingredients I need. I do my shopping on Saturdays or Sundays, and also make batches of muffins, mason jar salads, and soups that my entire family can use for their lunches. I pack my lunch almost every day for work, and many times during the week I use a slow cooker so dinner is ready when we get home. This gives me more time in the evenings to focus on writing projects.
Divide Up the Household Chores
While I wish we had the money for a cleaning service, it’s not something our family has prioritized at this time. Instead, I came up with a plan to get the kids to pitch in more. They both have phones, and they have to do specific chores each week or the phones will go “on vacation” until they are completed. I made up coupons for specific tasks and created envelopes for my son and daughter. They each have to do the dishes four times each week, clean their bedrooms and bathrooms once a week, and dust separate living areas in the house. If they want to earn extra money, they can do that by selecting a coupon for vacuuming, walking the dogs, preparing a meal, cleaning windows, etc. While they don’t do the “extra” chores very often because they are busy, it helps me out tremendously to know their living areas upstairs are tidied up each week.
Watch Less TV
Yes, I said it. I am a total TV junkie (crime shows are my favorite) but I’ve had to cut back in the past year. I DVR my favorite shows and binge them when I have downtime, but that only happens every couple of weeks. We don’t subscribe to any movie channels on cable because there’s not a lot of time to watch them. I try to get in at least 1-2 hours each evening putting together my agent wish list, revising drafts or researching submissions and that takes priority and it helps me stay productive.
And sometimes, I have to forego the writing and cut myself some slack. When I start to feel run down and have the urge to sit on my couch, binge watch "This is Us" and eat pizza, I do it. It makes me a much better writer (and person) when I take the break I deserve.
So there you have it. These tips aren’t a magic solution, but they help keep me sane. They also keep me from eating take-out every day and fussing over a messy home. I’ve been pleased with the amount of work I’ve been able to finish since I implemented many of these changes and hope some of them will help you, too!
Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer, marketing director at a nonprofit theatre company, and busy mom to two kids ages 12 and 15. Learn more about Renee at FinishedPages.com.