Most of the writers I know manage some kind of a day job for at least 40 hours a week, but sometimes a lot more than that, as well as all of their writing projects. It can be really hard to figure out ways to manage that and in my case, I don't even have a spouse or kids to complicate my schedule further. What I want to share today are some tips and tricks I’ve found to help manage my energy while spending my day working.
1. Taking a serious look at what my schedule actually looks like.
I know that it may sound a little silly but actually conceptualizing the times that you are committed to anything related to your day job is vital. If your commute is an hour in the morning then you probably can't try and squeeze in an extra 45 minutes of writing without sacrificing some major sleep. If your job allows for remote working then maybe you can easily fit that in first thing in the morning.
Know the reality of your job: do you actually get to take a lunch break where you could write? It's a really vital part of figuring out what times are even available for you to write. Know when the busy seasons are for your day job. If you work in financials than the end of fiscal year is probably going to be a really stressful time for you. By knowing that, you can try to mitigate the number of projects or external creative due dates you have during that time. Be aware of the most stressful times in your job if it follows a pattern like that and try to work around them.
2. What are your priorities?
Figuring out what projects are the most important to you can really help make sure that when you do you have time to work on your creative endeavors you actually know what to work on. For a long time I spent a lot of energy spinning my wheels trying to figure out what project I was even supposed to be working on or wanted to work on next. I lost a lot of time by not having my priority set. Now I know what projects I have coming up and what projects I really want to accomplish. It really helps make sure that the limited time I do have is used well.
3. Figure out what your energy levels are through the day.
Some people get out of bed and can immediately write. Some people can stay up all night writing. Some people hit their peak energy in the afternoons. Figuring out how your energy cycle works give me a huge help. It also can potentially point out some problems in what you're eating or your activity. I noticed that I tended to get really sleepy in the afternoons which lead to me realizing that I probably shouldn't be having giant pots of pasta for lunch every day. It made me sleepy. Now I'm perkier in the afternoons and I've also found that I can get a lot of writing done during my lunch break at work.
While I still occasionally work in the mornings, I found that I am a lot more likely to use the mornings to read and ease into my day. Figure out what works for you rather than trying to work against your body’s natural rhythms.
4. Take care of your body.
This one always makes me roll my eyes a little bit but it is really important to remember to take care of your body. Now I am by no means saying that you need to be a gym rat or anything like that. I know that for me if I'm not eating at least some fruits and vegetables and getting a little bit of exercise I am a lot less productive and creative. If I'm really struggling, I try to get out and take a quick 10-minute walk around the parking lot. This also means that I try to pay more attention to how I'm sitting and the ergonomics of my desk. It’s not a sexy or exciting tip but this really make a huge difference.
5. Know what you're giving up.
Part of embracing creative endeavors outside of your day job mean sacrificing things. For me, it mostly means sacrificing video games and TV shows. I am woefully behind on every pop-culture series and I haven't played a game through to completion in years. I've given those things up for the most part because I know that my energy is better spent trying to accomplish my goals. I had to realize what sacrifices needed to be made in order to continue writing in a way that could potentially build a career. It sucks and a lot of the time I still fail and get sucked into playing the Sims. But remembering what I'm working towards and what that requires helps me get back on track a lot easier than it would other hand.
Most writers are managing some kind of a day job and everybody’s schedule and requirements will make that look very different. I'm incredibly privileged to have a remarkable amount of free time available to me because of where I am in life. What works for me may or may now work for you but I really think that stepping back and being thoughtful and deliberate about the choices you're making with your time and energy make a world of difference.