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How to Write a Book - When You Have ZERO Time

Setting Consistent Goals with less than an Hour a Day




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One objection I hear from authors and aspiring authors all the time is, “I don’t have time.”

It’s become the go-to fallback option for busy people. And I get it. Life has an uncanny knack of expanding to fill up the time we allot ourselves for work, play, relaxation, building a business, and, of course, writing.

(Case in point – I’m writing this introduction and formatting this article while making three different dinners for my three kids, talking to my staff on Slack, and trying to find a dinner reservation for next week… and failing miserably).

For most people faced with a blank page and a deadline, it’s easy to give up. After all, it might take 100 hours to write your first draft – and who has time for that on top of everything else?

Thankfully, like any process, writing a book (and running a writing business, marketing, sales, publishing, etc) can be broken down into more manageable chunks. And when you can find your focus, amazing things can happen.

Today, we’re talking to Daphne J Huff. Who, despite having a toddler, a full-time job, and running a podcast (among other things) still finds the time to get her “butt in chair” and get those words on the page.

So far, Daphne has written 4 books – on top of everything else she does – and is going to take us through a typical week in her (hectic) life, and share her processes for getting the right work done at the right time, while still fitting in all the other important stuff life throws her way. 

Enter Daphne…



A Week in the Life of an Indie Author Mom who is Currently Potty Training her Toddler and also Works Full-Time and has a Podcast (I’m tired just writing that title).

Good morning! I am writing this from my bed, getting over from a cold, with my three-year old son next to me watching videos on my phone while I spend an hour writing blog posts.

Is this what I thought my Saturday would look like when I imagined the “writer’s life”?

Everyone’s life looks different. I get that. But we’re all still human, and things like sleeping and eating will (hopefully) happen every day. With a full-time job in addition to my writing, podcasting, parenting, and general adulting, lots of things have to happen every day. Are you searching for that secret of how to fit it all in?


Don’t do it all.

At least, not every day.

To show you what I mean (because I am an INTJ and hate people who don’t give concrete examples), I kept track of everything I did for a week. It was an illuminating exercise, and I encourage you to do it, if only to see how much time you really spend on Facebook.

I’ve sprinkled in tips along the way, so you can just jump to those if you have a boss/toddler/spouse who is starting to question just how long your bathroom break needs to be.




6:00-6:30 I hit snooze twice but once I’m up I take 10 minutes to tweet about a new podcast episode and schedule Facebook posts for the day before my son calls for me to come eat breakfast. My husband usually takes care of him in the morning, so I can sleep/work a bit. (TIP #1: Get others to help you. A lot. Even if they load the dishwasher wrong, just leave it and say thank you.)

7:15 – 4:15 My husband is working from home since daycare is closed, so I have a relatively relaxed drive into work instead of the usual daycare drop off. I work at a non-profit and love my work and colleagues, so I am lucky and really enjoy my workdays.

I use breaks at work to check podcast stats and chat with my writer mom friends. Having them there at the touch of a button is kind of amazing for those really awful moments. Today it’s mostly just chatting. (TIP #2: Have author buddies who are at the same stage, or slightly ahead of you, to encourage and support DAILY)

4:30 Without Toddler, I am free to hit the grocery store on the way home. I notice they’re now doing home delivery and take a flyer. It’s expensive, but may be worth it to save time. (TIP #3: In the saving money vs. saving time debate, choose time whenever you can. You can always make more money with that extra time you saved.)

5:15 At home, I stick the roast chicken I got at the store in the oven, and make mini pizzas for Toddler, who of course refuses to eat them. He eats an apple though, so I don’t complain too much.

After dinner, I grab another 10 minutes to check stats and try and figure out how to tweet an image (I only started a few weeks ago and Twitter is exciting but confusing). Toddler plays quietly next to me with this little treasure chest box he hides snacks and toys in.

6:00 – 6:30 Husband has to go out tonight, and once he’s gone, Toddler gets a bit of videos. But after a day home with dad who had to work (= movies all day), he is kind of over screens. His treasure chest keeps him occupied so I keep working a bit longer. (TIP #4: screen time is not the devil. Just don’t tell your mother-in-law how much he actually gets.)

6:30 – 7:15 I close my computer and we play for a while before his bedtime routine of teeth brushing and ten books (see, all that screen time doesn’t mean he doesn’t like books!)

7:15 – 8 When I put him to bed, he wants me to stay in the room (which he never does with his dad, sigh), so I tweet, do newsletter stuff, FB post planning, update show notes…

8 – 8:45 I do yoga and brush my teeth. If I wait until after writing I’ll never do it! (TIP #5: Self-care before writing whenever possible.)

8:45 I finally get to work! It’s a writing week. I get about 35 minutes in before my concentration wanes.

9:20 – 10:20 I do a little website and blog work, trying to stay up for a twitter chat at 10. I crash after about three tweets.

Total work time: around 1.5 hours

Total writing time: 35 minutes about 800 words




6-6:30 I only hit snooze once! I get 30 minutes of Facebook to “wake up.” I really want to stop this but it’s a hard habit to break.

6:30 – 7:45 Husband is extra tired this morning, so I do the morning breakfast routine and dress Toddler, who is not cooperating at all. At least he is in a good enough mood for me to listen to a podcast in the car. Some days he asks me to “turn off the talking” and while it’s frustrating to lose that “learning” time, I know a quiet car is probably good for both of us.

7:45 – 4:30 Working hard. A little Facebook and Twitter during breaks. Also a quick email to my alpha reader because I was feeling stuck in the story last night.

5:15 Husband worked from home again today and already started dinner by the time I get home. Toddler is still cranky, so I stay with him, we all talk and eat.

6 – 7:45 I head to the gym to meet a friend (TIP #6: non-writer friends are important, too!) but she doesn’t show. I get through 2 podcasts, I get home earlier than planned, and I even dictated a little in the car, about 400 words. (TIP #7: you don’t have to dictate entire books. Just a bit here and there can boost your word count). I brush my teeth and wash my face as soon as I get home.

7:45 In bed writing. I get to 1000 words total in about 45 minutes, and then stop so I can have some TV and talk time with Husband.

10 – in bed with a book

Total work time: 30 minutes.

Total writing time: 1 hour 1000 words




I think you pretty much see the daily routine I have. Today, I manage to not hit snooze at 6am, but instead of getting extra time to write or work, Toddler needs some cuddles in bed.

I somehow manage to get some food in the slow cooker and everyone is dressed and out the door on time. (TIP #8: Get a slow cooker.)

Another typical day at work, and once home with Toddler around 5:15, I put away dishes and laundry and get dinner ready, while he plays nicely in his room (was not the case 6 months ago, I would cook with him in my arms so I needed less gym time back then).

My husband gets home, and then I’m off to a night of volunteer work. I am exhausted when I get home and am in bed by 9:30

Other than a little Twitter and email during work breaks, there was no work or writing time today.




Typical morning but I am trying to wake up earlier to do yoga. I’m on the mat by 5:35.

Regular morning routine, followed by a very busy day at work. I get home at 5:20. Husband worked from home today and made pancakes. Yay! Everyone loves pancakes.

5:50 – 6:20 Grabbed a half hour of writing time while they played. About 800 words. (TIP #9 – PLOT. I spent the prior week plotting, which helps me jump in quickly.)

6:20 – 7:00 I do bath time and a few books, and then Husband puts him to bed.

7:00 – 8:00 Writing time. I get to a total of 1500 words.

8:00 – 8:30 Day job work call with someone 13 hours ahead.

8:30 – 9 messing around online, checking stats.

9:00 In bed with a book (waking up early means earlier bedtime!)

Total work time: 30 minutes.

Total writing time: 1.5 hours 1500 words




The day starts at 5:30 with another early morning for yoga and a bit of work (signing up for promotions and Pinterest). Husband does the morning Toddler routine and made eggs.

Another busy workday. Husband got home early and made dinner. I put in a load of laundry. We eat and all hang out until about 6.

6-7:15 Twitter, reaching out for podcast and blog stuff, some personal Facebook time. Toddler interrupts a few times while husband gets him ready for bed. (TIP #10: Don’t try to write content while kids are awake. Unless you lock your door first.)

7:15 – 9 I’ve been feeling a little sick all afternoon, and I try to relax with Netflix and then a book, but it’s not working. It is a long and miserable night.

Total work time: 1 hour



Saturday and Sunday

The weekend I am sick as a dog. Stuffy nose, sore throat, the works. I get in about 1h15 of writing time Saturday morning, 2000 words. Then I do an hour of podcasting work before attempting to interact with the world. It fails pretty horribly (I burn myself with tea) so it’s back in bed after lunch. I watch a lot of Netflix and read, but manage to get in an hour of newsletter drafting, an hour of Pinterest/Facebook, and a final 45 minutes of formatting blog posts and creating images on Canva. Toddler is in and out all day, but trying to stay away so he doesn’t get sick, too.

Sunday I feel even worse. I am totally quarantined to the bedroom, but have a few brief bursts of energy. I spend an hour on the podcast in the morning, then an hour writing 1700 words in the afternoon.

Total weekend work time: 4h45

Total weekend writing time: 2h15 3700 words

Maybe this wasn’t the perfect week to show you, since I got sick. But it’s January in New England and with a young child in daycare, I have just accepted I will get sick at least once or twice this winter. The nice thing about all this work is that it can be done lying down in bed. Despite being sick, that’s still what my weekend work time looks like. There’s one day that I tend to be able to get in 3-4 hours of work, and one where it’s only 2, if I’m lucky.

Total weekly work time: 8h15

Total weekly writing time: 5h20 7000 words

In any given week, I have about 10-15 hours available to do this. I don’t work on the podcast every day. I don’t work on the blog every day. I also don’t make dinner every night, my husband does 60-70% of the childcare/housework stuff, and I don’t apologize or feel guilty about either (most days). I have one or two days a week that I don’t write. But I still got an average of 1000 words a day.




A few final things to add:

I organize my year by weeks. I don’t write or edit in weeks that I launch, and I don’t edit and write in the same week. Whenever I have those “Oh I should write that!” or “That looks like a cool marketing trick I should try” moments, I open my Evernote, jot it down, and then get back to the whatever I’m supposed to be doing. This takes discipline, and of course I still get distracted, but has made things so much easier!

I don’t use a daily planner. Because I have a day job, I only need to plan the evenings and weekends. I use a monthly planner with a weekly to do list that I can consult whenever I have those 10, 20 or 45-minute chunks of time. Less than 45 and I tackle marketing or website/blog technical things. More than 45 is “content” time (blogs/writing). Though you’ll notice I snuck in some creative ways to boost my word count, since this was a writing week.

My life’s not perfect, but by letting go of what I thought a writer’s life “should” look like, and learning to love the one I have, I’m much happier and am doing all the things I want to do.

Just not every day 😉

In alphabetical order, Daphne James Huff is a Capricorn, INTJ, HR professional, mother, podcaster, wife, writer, and yogi. If you want more details of the lives of writer moms, check out Writer Mom Life, the podcast, website, and Facebook community created by and featuring indie author moms. There’s even a workbook to help you in your self-publishing journey, created specifically with busy moms in mind.


And now we want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments: “What does a typical week look like for you? How do you get your “Butt in Chair” time?” Leave a comment:

  1. Trina Bailey says:

    I enjoyed your post and agree with the importance of making time to learn in the car. My car time is typically devoted to audiobooks but I will definitely check out your podcast!

    ENFJ mom of 3

  2. Selene says:

    Interesting to see someone else’s schedule! I also work full time, but that means getting up at 5:30 and getting back home at 7:30 for me. I’m usually fried afterward and it’s difficult to be creative. (Editing is a little easier.) Any tip on how to have more energy left? I’ve tried getting up earlier instead, but honestly I’m basically sleepwalking at 5:30, at 4:30 I’m a zombie.

    1. Emma says:

      Hey Selena, I know how you feel! One thing i found helpful is to find time mid day–may I suggest lunch time? If you can grab even 45 minutes–pack your lunch so this makes it doable for you to hit the keyboards and eat at the same time. I also used my driving (commute) time to plot the story line. I even do plotting while washing dishes, in the bathroom, brushing my teeth. SO this means when my fingers get to the keyboard it’s just dumping things from my brain down–like when you download things from the computer…ie your brain! Hope this helps.

    2. Daphne James Huff says:

      You won’t feel creative right away, but part of the reason it’s so often suggested it that doing something at the same time every day starts to trigger the “hey we’re working” muscles. It’s like any habit: once you do it for a while in a certain way, it feels weird to not do it. My brain is trained now to know that at 8/9pm, it’s writing time. It’s actually hard for me to write in the mornings on weekends whenever I have one, since I’m so used to evenings!

  3. Eevi says:

    There are so many things I love about this post! It just goes to show that one doesn’t have to spend hours at time to write a book. I too work full time (from home), and have two little guys. It’s not always easy, but we can always find time even if it’s just 30 minutes) for something we really want. I usually work on my children’s books during nap time and then again once everyone is in bed. My day starts at 5 am and I go to bed between 12:00-1:00 am. Thank you so much for this beautiful post and for showing others that it IS possible. It IS doable! You only need to want it badly enough!

  4. Laura says:

    Hey Daphne, thanks for sharing your experience. Your post shows that it’s possible. I wish I could find a way to organize myself the way you do. I don’t have kids, but I do work 9 hours, sometimes 11 and when I get home I only want to sleep and watch TV. I want to write, but I just can’t concentrate enough time to do something useful.

    1. Daphne James Huff says:

      Accountability partners can really help! I have 2 author friends that I’m working on a joint project with, so we remind each other about deadlines. And my alpha reader asks me almost every day if there is something new for her to read. So having that external motivation is useful on those days you might not feel like doing it. And it’s kind of like exercise – it’s hard to get started, but you almost never regret having done it!

  5. Kris says:

    Thanks, Daphne. This is so relatable – my threenager writes and illustrates his stories (exercise books and colored pencils are awesome) while I write mine. I hope to start blogging this year, so your story gives me hope that I can chip away at the odd article alongside everything else. Cheers!

  6. A Kelly says:

    I really enjoyed your article. Really, mothers everywhere are superwoman. I have a demanding full time job, but I don’t have kids… and I still complain about not having enough time to write. So, hats off to you!

    A lot of articles about finding time to write usually try too hard to be motivational but end up making me feel cynical because the writers didn’t really show what they were talking about. But yours is different, it’s concrete, it’s on your face, and you’re not holding back about telling us the reality of it, and at the same time you offered practical advice.

    Thanks for sharing Daphne!

  7. Lou says:

    Great article. Love this thank you!

  8. Barbara says:

    Great article. I get it as I raised four children while going to school full time. I studied when they did while playing with a baby on my lap.

    Today is much nicer. No children at home but I still work a full time job. I live almost off the grid, so things are a lot calmer than if I was in the city as there are only so many places you can go and things to do in the area. It does enable to me to more writing as there isn’t that much to do unless you like TV…which I don’t.

    My week:
    M-TH I work from 7:30 to 5:30. I get home around 6:30 or later. I check my email first to get it out of the way while fixing supper
    By 7:30 I sit and write or edit for an hour.
    8:30 I’ll take a break to work on my website (I have totally rebuilt it but I still have a few issues with it) or do a lesson on one of the classes I”m taking or work on marketing (I am changing my schedule to include marketing three times a week)
    9:30-10:20 I spend time writing or editing again most evenings. If I’m overly tired, I’ll read or go to bed early to ponder a scene, develop a character or ponder a new idea.

    Fri-Sun I sleep in until 7. I’ll get up and check email first and take care of all issues there.
    8-9 (give or take a half hour) I’ll write or edit. (Every other Saturday I baby sit for four hours so this is for when I’m home)
    9-10 I eat and chat with my guy and play with the dogs
    10-11 spent writing or editing.
    11-2 I spend on other things which are fun like hiking, reading or a necessary trip to the store. This would also be when we take the dogs for a walk (I’m talking two dogs who are between 60-80 lbs and don’t walk nice on a leash).
    2-4 I spend however I darn well please. This is time is mine but can be combined with shopping (Nearest town is 15 miles away, nearest large store/mall is 55 miles away) or getting out and walking/hiking in the area.
    4-6 is fixing meals, cleaning and not doing much of anything.
    6-7 recheck email, do a class or learn something new.
    7-8 writing or editing
    8-8:30 break time
    8:30-9:30 back at working on the computer, writing, editing or working on my website or taking a class. On the weekends I vary this pending my levels of concentration at the time.
    9:30 on I read. It’s my time to regroup and get a handle on the competition…lol
    I normally do 11-15K words a week not including my blog or other writing I do, averaging between 40-50K words a month. My normal hour is between 900-1.5K words.

    1. Daphne James Huff says:

      Thanks for sharing Barbara! I’m always fascinated by others schedules. I love that you schedule breaks for yourself while writing. It can be tempting to spend a whole chunk of time working, but it goes much better if there is some breathing room.

  9. Amy Waeschle says:

    I get up at 5am and turn off all my email and social media so I can just write until 6:30 when my kids wake up and need me for help with breakfast and getting ready for school. This is critical writing time for me! I’m “on” and totally have the house to myself. My husband leaves for work at 5am which helps. My day job is a mix of content writing for businesses, freelance editing, and other creative writing gigs, but I try to get in 1-2 hours of work on my latest self-pub fiction and/or do research for the fiction in the afternoon. It is not nearly as productive as my morning shift.

    I have a hard time using screen time to keep my kids occupied while I work, so I don’t try to write when they are awake. That’s why I didn’t write books for about 6 years…I was too busy being a mom and wife. Now I have 2 kids, and they are not toddlers (thank God) and will sometimes go play together for hours. If I get a break like this, I will usually do research, watch a webinar or do other learning, or work on marketing for my current books and projects.

    I feel like I should do more marketing but right now I’m focused on finishing my freebie magnet book. Just today I started a program that is teaching me how to do my own audiobook, so on top of all of this I’m going to try to add in time for the production. I’m excited for the challenge, and can’t wait to have it ready for distribution.

    The biggest time saver is to NOT spend a lot of time on social media. When I go there for marketing purposes, it’s for a specific thing I want to do, instead of just scrolling my feed or whatever. It’s a huge time suck and can drain my creativity in a heartbeat.

    1. Daphne James Huff says:

      I definitely need to work on my social media time suck issues! I tell myself it’s for marketing, but I highly doubt that needs to take quite as much time as I let it 😉

  10. M T McGuire says:

    Mwahahahahrgh! Loved that article and loved the hints.

    That is pretty similar to my week! I have a window of about 3 hours each day and 20 mins social media time in the morning. I break it up into chunks and use the pomadoro method – basically, I set a pinger for 20 minutes and then work at whatever job is up next for 30 minutes. Like Daphne, I write about 400-800 words in 30 minutes, depending how well I can visualise what I’m doing.

    My ‘job’ is looking after my parents. I do a 275 mile drive round one of Britain’s stupidst motorways to see them for lunch every wednesday and I run their bank account, pay the care team etc. I also have shonky knees which require exercising regularly and a 9 year old boy who is a complete gas to look after but needs play time and fun with me.

    The parents situation does take it out of me emotionally so I have to pick my time of day to write. Breaking it all up in to micro chunks is definitely the way to go. I schedule blog posts etc in advance, too – which always makes me feel smug and orgainised.

    When you lack time, I think it’s very tempting to try and sprint at one thing until it’s done, but that method is actually really frustrating because I don’t get it done in my day and feel down. Conversely doing a little bit of each thing makes me feel a little less panicky by kidding me into thinking that all the stuff I’m engaged in is progressing.

    I’m working on the plotting – I did the free Joe Nassis course and it really helped thanks for the heads up there, Nick S – so I’m hoping to finish an 80k novel and to 15 – 20k shorts every two years. This is not a prolific output but at least it’s something … and something is better than nothing.

    The most important thing, I reckon, is to kid yourself that you are taking control and then to just push on, only looking at what you’ve done rather than concentrating, too much, on what you have left to do.

    Yes to everything in this article, and I hope my twopennorth helps, too.



    1. M T McGuire says:

      PS, sorry should add, that 3 hours is the length of ‘work’ time, so that includes anything that pops up in parent world, gardening, cleaning the house, socialising etc. So my writing slots do tend to come up at 20 – 30 mins a day BUT, when it’s all planned, I get to do them! 😉

  11. Garrison says:

    Very helpful and encouraging article. Love the practical advice. Thanks!

  12. Kosa Ely says:

    So great to read your article Daphne. Made me laugh and really appreciate how much easier it ought to be for me now that my kids are grown and taking care of themselves. I wrote and illustrated my first two books when they were little and I was running two businesses and yeah, that was hard.

    Now my time challenges are juggling my writing and marketing alongside my business and travel schedule. The never-ending marketing, website and social media “must dos” along with so many online courses and interesting webinars keep me busy and learning but not writing.

    One of my take always from your article and other’s comments is to schedule my writing first, and schedule my marketing second. That way I can move them both forward peacefully, and they no longer have to compete with one another for my focus and attention.

  13. Eli Hinze says:

    What an inspiration! Small efforts done consistently really do materialize into big results. What an awesome lady!

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