Through my years as an author with a day job, I have had to learn to cultivate a work routine at home. It’s so easy, when you’re working for yourself and not a boss, to procrastinate, to push back deadlines because there’s nobody to keep you accountable. This tends to brew guilt, though, and then you get stuck in a spiral of feeling guilty about procrastinating, and then having anxiety about that guilt and then not being able to work because of the anxiety.
I have struggled with executive dysfunction, and, while it’s not so bad nowadays, I’ve had to try several methods to manage to get shit done. Lists, schedules, etc., and they’ve all worked for a while, until I started ignoring them and fell into a procrastinating spiral again.
My latest method is schedule blocking, and I feel like sharing it with you in case it might help someone else.
Basically I’ve determined 6 key categories of things I want/have to spend time on. I wouldn’t recommend using too many categories as you might get lost in them. For me, these categories are:
- Getting Ready
- Meal Plan
Some of these are not that long, but they need doing, so I felt it was important to include them so I don’t get stuck in a “I’ll get to this right after I finish X” type of situation. I’ve also only blocked a regular 9-5 workday, on my days off for my day job. Feel free to adapt this schedule to the hours that work best for you.
I decided how many hours needed to be allotted to each category, and the time of day where I felt the most productive for each one, and then I placed my blocks.
The idea is that I’m still making to-do lists, but instead of just begrudgingly staring at them and picking the easiest task haphazardly, I’m picking a task that fits the block I’m in.
You’ll notice that I included a block for hobbies. This is important. Make time for yourself where you don’t have to be productive, where you can read, play video games or watch TV, whatever it is. It’s essential, especially in trying times like these. The fact that it’s built into your schedule means you don’t feel guilty about not doing work during this time.
I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t reading much, but then whenever I would make time to read, I’d feel guilty I wasn’t working. The schedule blocking method helps alleviate a lot of guilt.
Once again, this is the method that works best for me right now, but I’m sure you can find a lot of other techniques out there. Try a bunch of them! Mix and match them! What works for someone might not work for you, and that’s okay. Feel free to share your own tips with me!
What matters, all the time but mostly in these hard times, is to be kind to yourself. Remember that it’s okay to be scared and anxious, and to feel unproductive. You do not have to be a productivity beast in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m just sharing these tips to help you if you feel like you need some structure.
Take care of yourself, I love you all so much, and I’m sending y’all the biggest hug from 6ft away.
you never think you can do it, until you do.
you go, i’m too scared, i’m not good enough, what if i screw up?
you go, this is not my place.
you spin a thousand what-ifs, a thousand reasons to stop yourself from ever getting out of your comfort zone.
you silence yourself before anyone else can do it.
you blame it on the anxiety, you say it’s self-care.
but sometimes, the best way you can take care of yourself is by seizing opportunities.
opportunities to grow and shine, and maybe to screw up and learn.
you cannot grow if you never fail.
but also, you cannot grow if you don’t acknowledge your strengths.
yes, it’s gonna be hard, but you can do it. you’ve done so many things.
just look back.
did you think you could ever achieve that thing?
yet you did.
of course you need hard work, and timing, and sometimes even a bit of luck.
but the first step is always you deciding to do the thing. no excuses. no buts, no what ifs.
just show up.
and do the damn thing.
So I released my first novel last month, after six years of hard work and doubt. I am now a published author, and I found myself thinking about young Emilie.
Tiny seven, eight, or nine years old Emilie, with her neatly trimmed bangs, her freckles and her little round glasses.
Tiny Emilie wanted to become an author. She looked up to Anne Shirley, Emily Starr and Jo March, and she wanted to write books. She wrote short stories starring cats and dogs, which she illustrated herself. She wrote clumsy poetry about autumn, with metaphors lifted straight from the pages of the heroines she admired. She started a lot of projects. Some were rip-offs of Anne of Green Gables. Some of Lord of the Rings. She never finished any of them.
Eventually, society told her that being an author is not a valid dream. Nobody actually becomes an author. It’s something that only happens to others. Tiny Emilie had to grow up and find real ambitions. Become a teacher, for example. A translator, maybe. She looked everywhere, for a long time, but nothing really appealed to her.
But she kept writing. She discovered fanfiction via Harry Potter, and from fandom to fandom, she honed her skill.
Until Bobby, the man that is now my husband, took a look at one of her fanfictions, and saw talent. “This is as good as most published stuff,” he said. “You should write a book,” he said.
And so, Not-So-Tiny Emilie dusted off her old dream and got to work.
Six years later, with my book in your hands, I’d like to think Tiny Emilie is proud. I know I am.
I’m trying my hand at blogging. I think I’ll explore subjects such as my writing process, mental health, and writing in fandom. Let me know if there’s anything you want me to talk about!