Recently, I seem to be swamped with writing projects. I’ve been trying to working on:
- My novel.
- Blog posts for this blog.
- Blog posts for my freelance writer website.
- Blog posts to pitch to other websites (to build up my freelance writing portfolio).
- Short stories for a couple of competitions I want to enter.
So, I think it’s safe to say I have a lot on my plate, even if it is all self-inflicted!
Because I’ve been trying to juggle so many projects, I’ve been trying to figure out different ways to really maximise my writing time so that I’m actually making progress on my various projects, as opposed to just flailing madly and getting nothing at all done. So far, some of my little tricks and techniques seem to have worked and have helped me get more done, and feel less stressed about my writing.
So I thought I’d do a list of tips for other people trying to juggle multiple writing projects!
Here are a few of my techniques:
As much as we’d all like to think we can ‘do all the things’, there are only so many hours in a day. Therefore you sometimes have to prioritize your various writing projects in order of when they need (or you want) them to be completed. That way you know which project is going to require the most immediate time and attention.
For me, my novel is a pretty big priority. It’s something I’ve been working on for months already, and I feel like if I put it on the backburner for too long I’ll lose my momentum with it. Being a fiction author is something I’ve wanted since I was a child, so I’d like to hopefully have a publishable manuscript written and edited as soon as possible! However, this blog and building my freelance writing career come a very close second, and so the short stories will, unfortunately, have to be consigned to the ‘if I have time’ pile for now.
I think that knowing where your writing priorities lie is important if you’re someone like me, who always has new ideas for things they’d like to do and has a tendency to then attempt to do them all at once. ‘Doing everything’ doesn’t really work, and so knowing what projects are the most important to you, and focusing on those first, is one of the best ways to get work done (and hopefully then you’ll have time for the things lower on your ‘pyramid of priorities’).
- Set goals.
I don’t know about you, but personally, I find having a lot to do really daunting. The thought of ‘I don’t have enough time to do all this!’ can quickly escalate into panic and then turn into procrastination, as it feels better to not even attempt to complete the mountain of work before me than to get stressed as I struggle to complete it.
Therefore I’ve recently been trying to set small, but fairly specific goals, to not only encourage me to get writing but also break up the work into smaller, less scary chunks. For example, I’ll tell myself I want to have written so many words of my novel by a certain date, or have posted so many times on my blog within a certain period. I’m a sucker for a good goal (which is why I love NaNoWriMo so much!), so this really helps me focus, and get stuff done!
- Block out your time and allocate different projects to different time blocks.
Because I have a full-time job, I already know that for a large part of my day I’ll be unavailable to work on my writing (if only they’d let me stand behind the cheese counter at work and do some writing in between customers!). Therefore I need to maximise the time that I do have free for writing, and have started doing this by allocating different projects to different time slots.
For example, I’ll decide that if I finish work at 3 o’clock on Thursday, I’ll work on a blog post between half 3 and 4, a potential article to pitch between 4 and 5, and then I’ll work on my novel for a while after I’ve eaten.
This avoids any dithering and time wasting on the day, and I can simply sit down at the allotted hour and get to work. Plus it tends to circumvent those stressful feelings of ‘Where am I even going to start?’
- Allocate projects to slots that are best for that project.
Personally, I find that I write different things better at different times of the day. I prefer writing nonfiction earlier in the day when I’m refreshed and feeling wide awake (although I can’t often actually work on writing in the morning, seeing as I usually have to get up at 5 AM to go to work!). However, when it comes to fiction writing I’m something of a night owl, and will often still be tapping away at my computer until late at night. Something about being in that slightly sleepy state allows me to go with the flow more, and be less self-conscious about my writing, which is definitely a good thing when writing fiction. I also find fiction writing more fun, so it’s kind of like my treat after having written all the nonfiction I wanted to write.
This method of allocating time slots really helps me get the most out of my writing time, and if you find that you also have a natural writing clock like me, I really do recommend tapping into it!
- Set a timer and have focused writing time.
Sometimes just having the time to write isn’t enough: you need the focus. Therefore I’ve started setting a timer going (I use an app called Tomato One on my Mac) when I start work on a project, whether that’s my novel or a blog post. Usually, I only set it for twenty minutes, after which it alerts me and I have a five-minute break before the next twenty-minute time block starts.
Personally, I find that telling myself ‘you only have to focus and write for twenty minutes’ is less daunting than knowing I have to sit down and work for an unspecified amount of time, even if I know it will be followed by another twenty minutes after that.
Overall, I’ve been able to manage my different writing projects a lot better since trying out some of these methods, and I think it’s all about finding what’s best for you. It can be hard when you feel torn between so many projects, with them all vying for your attention, but with a little organization and experimentation with your writing process, it is definitely possible to juggle multiple writing projects.
So how many writing projects do you typically have on the go at any one time? Do you like to focus on one thing at once, or are you like me and want to do everything at once? What are your tips for juggling writing projects?