As a writer I have long struggled with mountains of plenty and valleys of scarcity. I write this post during a time of plenty – so much so that my nerves are frayed. The reason is simple – I have overscheduled myself. Here are some of the things I keep forgetting to do that will have prevented this unfortunate event from occurring:
Know What You Can Do
Have an idea as to how long different tasks will take you to accomplish. After eight years, you would think I would have that down pat, eh? Guess not!
The only way to really understand this is to keep records and reference them. If a topic takes you an hour, it takes you an hour. Never budge from that, unless new data says otherwise.
Have Set Work Hours
The best way to get over your head is to not realize you are about to dive off the deep end. Figure out what hours you can work and schedule projects in accordingly. This will give you a basis as to when to reschedule certain projects or turn away (blasphemy! I know…) work.
Make this ironclad. If you have a dedicated business computer set it up so that it saves your work and logs you out a little after quitting time. Both Windows and Mac OS have features that make setting up such a system a cinch – all you need to do is use a limited account. Which is something you should be doing anyways, out of security considerations!
Nothing can ruin your ability to create content than simply experiencing a mini-burn out. Take breaks every hour to protect your hands, throat (if you are like me and like to dictate), and mind. One mini-burn out can turn into a major crisis as the effects build up over the days and weeks.
A good way to integrate this into your work day is to put breaks into your calendar program. Have it flash a reminder and follow it – even if you are in the middle of a sentence. Taking a break will do more to help your productivity and state of mind than anything else (except eating lunch – can’t skip that!)
Don’t Work Weekends
I know, I know. You can’t choose your work hours. That is the message you get starting out, especially if you do not have a large client base to work with. Here is a dirty secret – your clients aren’t working weekends. You are a professional, work like one. Take days off to concentrate on yourself and your family. Otherwise you will just create turmoil that will negatively impact your work from beginning to end.
It may not seem like it at times, but you do have a life outside of work. Make certain that you take time to take care of everything you work to provide for. Groceries, children, pets… well, hopefully you take care of the last two more than just once a week!
Plan, Plan, Plan
Have a plan for your day, a plan for your project, and a plan for when those plans get shot to heck in a hand basket. It becomes immensely easier to figure out if you can fit something in if you know what is supposed to come next.
I have found that integrating an online calendar with a smart speaker is amazing. I just ask my Echo what is coming up and am told what is happening and when it is going to occur.
Experiment with different systems until you find one that works. The key is consistency – otherwise you will have a dozen different calendars all telling you different things. The horror!
Have Open Hours for Surprise Work
New work happens – especially when you are busy with current projects. Keep at least one working hour per day open for unexpected things. If nothing happens – great, you can shut down the computer early. If something comes in – even better. You will get to do more without destroying your work-life balance.
If the hour isn’t field and you have nothing to do, use it to expand your skill set. Write your next novel, perhaps. It is time you set aside for work, so make the most of it! Your career and pocket book will thank you later!
Take a Vacation
I know this seems like an extension of “take a day off,” however it is vital that you step away from work to recharge your batteries. In 2015 I was working 15-16 hours per day for weeks on end. I didn’t realize what it was doing to me until my writing suffered. Everything was poor: grammar, spelling, my sense of humor… It had thrown me into a nasty bout of depression.
I was forced to take a week off from my biggest client at the time, Affinity Express. I still had other work, but it was around 5-10 hours per week.
That week off didn’t cure the burn out entirely, but it helped enough for me to figure out that I needed to slow down.
What Burn Out Preventing Tips Do You Have?
I keep the suggestions box open for a short period of time after publication. If you have any comments, feel free to share them below!