Note from Jane: The following post by Joshua Graham (@J0shuaGraham) is the third in a series sponsored by Nook Press, offering tips and advice from authors on writing and publishing. Read earlier sponsored posts from Nook:
- How to Build a Writing Group in Your Community by Nathaniel Kressen
- The Importance of Your Book Cover: Finding the Right Fit by Colleen Gleason
- Why I Choose to Both Self-Publish and Traditionally Publish by CJ Lyons
The one thing no one ever told me before my first book got published was how much time I’d spend on non-writing related work. Even if you’re a traditionally published author, you have to engage your audience, which often means using social media.
You might be thinking, “I bet those big-name #1 New York Times bestselling authors don’t have to worry about that.”
Don’t believe me? Let’s take Sandra Brown (since we’re talking about New York Times #1 bestselling authors) as an example. In an interview I did with her on Thriller Radio, she spoke about how much social media work she had to do, and how it challenged her schedule. Even someone whose publisher doesn’t exactly skimp on her publicity and marketing budget can’t dedicate herself solely to the writing.
To that end, I’m relieved to find that I’m not the only author who has to balance writing, marketing, and publishing—and manage the business end of it.
But what’s the secret to that balance?
I took a cue from my wife, who is a very successful businesswoman and my top adviser. In a word, LISTS! Make to-do lists every day and put tasks in priority order. Personally, I use Microsoft Outlook and sync it with my Google calendar and account, using a tool called gSyncit. On my Android phone, I sync my tasks with an app called Google Task Organizer (GTO).
Without such tools, I would be challenged in meeting all my deadlines.
If you’re like most writers, you’ll probably notice that your to-do list is formidable and overwhelming. We’re all given the same 24 hours a day, and somehow have to find a way to manage it. Here are a few principles I’ve found helpful:
- Identify your goals within a set time period: Are you aiming to complete a book in six months? Or are you trying to increase your readership and newsletter subscriber list? Whatever it is, you’ll want to list all the concrete, specific tasks related to achieving this goal for whatever period of time you’ve set.
- Select your top three priority tasks for each day: Of course, you may have more than three, but try to focus on the absolute top three, and at least one or two of these should probably be related to that goal from #1. Keep this as a subset of your overall to-do list, as a separate visual landmark. If you’re looking at 30 goals, you’ll probably get anxious before you even start.
- Allocate sufficient time to accomplish your top three tasks: There may be days where there truly is only time for one task. Be flexible, be creative. Just be realistic.
- Schedule time to take a break: It’s easy to forget that you need a break if you’re not a cross-country truck driver. But even desk warriors need some time to get up, stretch, and go outside for a change of scenery. Invest at least 15 minutes in the middle of your work day to do something completely different and stress free. When you return, you’re able to focus better.
- Have clear boundaries. While you want to ensure that you don’t have interruptions and distractions while you work, it’s also important to protect the quality of your life outside of work. So when your work is over for the day (or allocated portion of the day), leave it at the office as much as possible. Be 100% present for your family, friends, and yourself. Leave the smartphone in your pocket and resist checking your social media, sales figures, or emails when you’re not (supposed to be) working. The better the quality of life outside of work, the better condition you’ll be in for those work hours.
- Write out your mission statement and review it often: There will be times when you’re treading water in endless tasks. Every now and then, come up for air and look at your mission statement. Re-evaluate all your work-related tasks and activities in light of that mission. Do they pertain? How much so? Can you say no? Should you keep with it? There are times when you know you have to make cuts to your schedule. Your mission statement can be an effective tool in your decision-making process. [For a great post on setting a mission, read this advice from Dan Holloway.]
If you don’t succeed today, tomorrow’s another day. And there will always be another tomorrow, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t knock it out of the park every day. Just evaluate, relax, and try again.
Let me know in the comments: How do you organize and balance your creative and business life?