As a single mom, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to balance a career and life. As I like to put it to my friends, I don’t have a watch that tells my son what time he is allowed to hug me yet the slightest interruption is guaranteed to crush my focus. Taking that into consideration, this level often seems out of reach. Not to mention the very idea of finding a little equilibrium between the two sounds downright crazy. But with a little care and planning, it can be done.
1. Find a Time That Works for You
In my case, the summer is the worst. My son is on vacation and the noise is often endless. On these days I do far more research than I do actual writing. Not everyone has the same schedule. Perhaps you prefer to complete one piece at a time divided up into many segments or maybe you have a certain time of day when the kids are busy or asleep allowing you to sneak in a couple hours. It’s not always easy to find this time, but with a little drive and creativity, anyone can manage.
2. Don’t Set Your Goals Too High
Throughout the greater part of our lives we are taught not to set our goals too low but for the writer/parent this can, in reality, work against you. When I first started writing I would drive myself to exhaustion on some days, determined to reach a certain point with my book. The next day I would wake up and drink an extra two or three cups of coffee just to keep going. To avoid this make certain your goals work with your life. Not to say a strong goal is entirely a bad thing, just don’t let it overwhelm you if your time or other factors don’t exactly allow for it.
3. Where Are You Comfortable?
Some writers prefer to write sitting at a small table in a crowded coffee house while others prefer the serenity of their home. While our options as a parent aren’t quite as broad, we can choose our ground. I for one am spoiled on the lack of noise that comes with the school season. I sit in my favorite corner of the couch with the laptop on my knee. Perhaps the outdoors is more your style or you’d rather sit at the kitchen table where you can watch the screen and listen for the kids. Whatever your preference, It’s much easier to focus when you are comfortable with your surroundings.
4. Work with What You Have
One of the most important parts of being a writer and often one of the most difficult to achieve. Know your schedule and work around it. Are Saturday and Sunday your usual days off? Maybe you can cram and extra hour or two in on those days. It’s much simpler to get the most out of your day when you know what’s coming. On those occasions when you get a surprise, say a sleepover for instance, use the time to your advantage. Obviously one must account for day to day requirements such as household chores and trips to the grocery store but with a little adaptability it isn’t so overwhelming.
5. Leave Room to Breathe
Where on earth do you find this when you’re already scrounging for extra time? It’s certainly more easily said than done. Even so if you adhere to the concept of not exhausting yourself with unachievable goals and you train yourself to adjust a few minutes here and there is very possible. Even if it’s just a page or two of a book before bed. Resting your mind is just as important as exercising it.
6. It’s Ok to Ask for Help
When first starting out as a writer, trying to explain to a person your intentions isn’t always an easy feat. We often find ourselves embarrassed by the lack of income that every writer initially faces. There is no reason to feel this way. Actually more people have a great deal of respect for aspiring writers then you might think. The archaic phrase, “starving artist” though initially true has far overstayed its welcome in this century. If you’re having trouble making time and you have a friend or relation who could help you along, it’s ok to approach them about it. You’ll probably not only get a helper but a personal cheerleader along the way.
7. Watch out for Multitasking
Though it can be helpful, multitasking isn’t always a positive approach. It’s one thing to do a little reading while feeding the baby or making a phone call on your way into town, but don’t let this habit run your life. It is much more difficult to absorb information when you are only offering up half of your mind. Though this allows for more progress it also allows for more mistakes. No one can blame a writer for their excitement but if our focus doesn’t match that excitement, what started as a gain really ends up setting us back two extra steps. Life often runs at a fast pace, but as long as you can find your happy medium, the flow of day to day life will come naturally.