How to Get Your Writing Done … When You Have Lots of Other Responsibilities, Too
Writing can be tough. It takes time, energy, and focus – all of which are in short supply for many of us.
It can be tough getting any writing done around a full-time day job, especially if you work long hours. But even if you only work part-time, or don’t work at all, it might be really tricky to fit your writing around other responsibilities in your life.
Writing around a day job can be tiring – but in most cases, you’ll at least have clear boundaries around when you’re “on” and “off” the clock for work.
If you have caring responsibilities, though, or a lot of chores to get through, then it can be tricky to carve out the time for writing.
Here’s how you can fit in your writing around household, parenting, or caring responsibilities:
Step 1: Recognise That Housework and Caring Work … Are Work (and They Take Time)
The work that I can easily quantify, track, manage, and record is my freelance work. It’s easy for me to estimate how long an article is going to take to write – and easy to mentally categorise it as a piece of work.
With housework and parenting responsibilities, it’s trickier. Sure, some things take up a clear and defined period of time – like walking the kids to school – but others feel much more nebulous.
Here’s just one example. Putting a load of laundry on only takes a few minutes; transferring it to the tumble dryer takes a couple of minutes more; folding and putting away the laundry might take five minutes or so. It feels like “nothing” … but added up over the course of a week, all those loads of laundry can easily take up a couple of hours or more.
Before you look at the practicalities of making time to write, it’s important to recognise that housework, looking after children, preparing meals, taking care of elderly relatives, working in the garden, and so on … are all work!
They may not require you to work specific hours, but they could easily take up as much – or more – time than a full-time job.
Step 2: Get Other People On Board … and Be Really Clear About What You Need
It’s easy to think that the other people in your life – especially those you live with – will know what needs doing. After all, if there’s a big pile of dishes in the kitchen sink, you’d think it’s obvious that they need washing.
For your partner, roommates, or kids, though, chores might not seem at all obvious. If you’re the one at home all day while they’re out at work, you’ll be much more aware of what needs doing – because it’s probably been bugging you every time you caught sight of it.
Plus, if you’re the person who usually handles the chores (or the childcare, etc), then you likely have a mental checklist of what needs doing each day. Someone else coming into the same situation won’t know all the moving parts in the same way that you do.
This is why you need to be really clear with other people about what you need. Ask for specific help (e.g. ask your parents to watch your toddler on Friday mornings so you can write, or ask your partner to do the dishes on alternate nights). It’s also a great idea to get agreements on the calendar or in writing, so there’s no confusion about who’s doing what, when.
Step 3: Find a Regular Time for Your Writing
Is there a time each day, or each week, that you could keep clear for your writing? It might not necessarily be at your “best” time of day (though if you can manage that, go for it).
When my kids were smaller, I used to write most weekdays from 5.15 – 5.45pm, as my husband was always home by that point, and that time slot fitted neatly between my kids’ teatime and their bathtime.
While I don’t think it matters from the writing perspective whether you always write at the same time of day (or on the same days each week), I do think it’s a lot easier to stick with your writing when you have a regular, reliable time for it.
Step 4: Use Alexa (or Another Digital Assistant) to Help Streamline Household Tasks
We got an Amazon Echo (Alexa) a while back and I’ve found it hugely helpful for keeping the house running smoothly. So much so, we now have four of them in different rooms! Before we got our first Echo, I wasn’t sure it would be much use to us as we don’t have any smart lightbulbs or sockets or appliances … but we’ve found Alexa useful in so many other ways.
Alexa remembers everything on our shopping list, reminds us to do things like put the bins out, has reminders to keep the kids on track in the mornings (without me having to remember to do so!), plays the music the kids want without me needing to help, answers maths and spelling questions when I’m busy, keeps us on track with timers, and so much more.
I know it seems like a small or silly thing when it comes to making time and space for writing, but not having to think about all these tiny tasks frees up my mental focus.
Finally … if you’re managing a household, taking care of kids, caring for someone, or just doing a whole lot of stuff, then please give yourself some grace!
Even if, on paper, you seem to “have time” to write, it could be incredibly hard to find the energy and focus. Don’t compare yourself with other writers – who may be in vastly different circumstances or stages of life. Instead, find ways to carve out a little bit of writing time (but don’t sacrifice sleep or much-needed downtime for it).
Do you want some help making the most of your limited time? Check out Supercharge Your Writing Session. It’s a quick guide, suitable for all writers, that’s designed to help you get the most out of your time … even if you don’t have as much of it as you’d like.
Or are you struggling to fit writing into your week? Take a look at Supercharge Your Writing Week. It’s packed with useful tips for busy writers – on topics like getting support from the people around you and on what to do if your week isn’t going as well as you hoped.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
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