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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?

Ready?

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.

 

 

Monday

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

 

 

Tuesday

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

 

 

Wednesday

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.

 

 

Thursday

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

 

 

Friday

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:

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