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Thursday
Sep162010

Scheduling

Question of the day: I'd love to hear about your daily schedule, a blow-by-blow, as to how you get everything done.

Sure! Though I think I'm a lot less busy than people think. Or maybe I'm just used to working at such a pace that it doesn't seem like a big deal anymore. But here goes. (And I'm giving you the non-work details too, so working moms can see how I squeeze in other things.)

My schedule depends a lot on where I am in the writing process of a book. For the sake of staving off your boredom, I'm going to lay out how I work when I'm really in the thick of a manuscript. Mostly because this is really when the heavy-lifting goes on, and also because I assume you don't need to read my daily schedule of Facebook-Twitter-J.Crew-gossip sites-CNN, repeat, repeat, repeat. So here goes:

7AM: Kill me, but I get up. I am NOT a morning person and it takes the force of God to get me up at this hour, but alas, I crack an eye open in this general time vicinity.

8AM: After making breakfast for my kids, I hustle my eldest out the door. Either I take him or my husband takes him, in which case, I take my daughter to school by 9AM. 

10AM: Regardless of which child I take to school, I run errands on the way home (this is NYC, so I'm walking everywhere, and it's easiest to bang out a few errands first thing), and am through the door by 10, usually earlier. I eat a late breakfast and screw around online for a bit while doing so. For some reason, I have a tough time really digging into my work until I've surfed the sites I want to catch up on. But once I get all that crap out of the way, it's like wiping the slate clean, and I'm good to go.

10:30-11:AM. This is when I really start writing. If I'm having a hard time motivating, I give myself a deadline: like, you HAVE to start writing by 11AM sharp. 

1:00PM: After writing for two hours or so, I find that my eyes and my brain grow a bit fuzzy. I set word counts for myself each day (or when revising, page counts), anywhere from 1k to 2k (or 15-20 pages of revision). Sometimes I reach this goal in these two hours; many times, I don't. But still, I know myself, and know that I need a break, so I push back my chair for a breather.

1-2PM: I usually take an hour to workout and recharge. (Yes, exercising helps me recharge!) I then run out (or stop on the way home from a jog) and pick up lunch/run a few more errands like picking up food for dinner. (The dinner decision can't be made until my husband has eaten lunch because, lord forbid, I repeat something that he's eaten that day. Spouses- I know I'm not alone in these intricate and lengthy discussions.) 

2:30PM: Eat lunch and mindlessly surf the web again. A lot of breaking gossip can happen over the course of my lunch break!!

3PMish: If I haven't reached my word count goal, I dive back in. I'll write anywhere from an hour or two. OR, if I have a celebrity profile to work on, I reserve this time for that. I tend to at least get the fiction out of the way in the morning because that's much harder for me to motivate on. So knowing that I've put in a few good hours, I'm okay focusing on something else for a bit, like those mag articles. Or I may write a chunk of blog posts for the week. Things like that.

5PM: I usually shut down for the day sometime within the next half an hour, then have to head out to walk the dog. 

6PM: Babysitter leaves, so I make dinner for the kids and hang out with them until 7:15 bedtime. Then make dinner for the grown-ups (and by making dinner, I usually mean heating up something that's been semi-premade at the store). If I have lingering threads from the book still in my brain, I may purge them in the manuscript after dinner, but mostly, I'm done for the day.

So that's the general schedule. Obviously, as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I flip back and forth on the internet, even while writing. Sometimes, my brain needs a 20 second break to sift around and find the right phrasing or whatnot, and often, by tuning out for a few seconds, I find what I need. So I definitely do that too. But for this most part, this is how I get done what I get done. As I said, I don't think it's particularly Herculean. And also obviously, sometimes this shifts. I'm lucky enough that I can pop into my kids' swimming lessons, attend an event at one of their schools, etc. 

Any questions? I'm sure I'm forgetting some stuff...

Reader Comments (16)

Thanks for sharing this Allison. I'm always curious how other working writing moms schedule their lives, since I'm still very much figuring it all out. I feel like you've given me a routine to aspire to. (Minus the taking a run at lunch time, because let's be honest: That's not going to happen.) xoxox

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Buxbaum

I'm just jealous that you get to walk and do your errands. NYC must be amazing! I have to drive at least 20-30 minutes to get to where I'm going and I will drive further so I don't have to go to Walmart! It's fun to see others work schedules.

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Oh yay, I love day-in-the-life-of's!

"For some reason, I have a tough time really digging into my work until I've surfed the sites I want to catch up on. But once I get all that crap out of the way, it's like wiping the slate clean, and I'm good to go."

Me too! So this makes me feel a lot better, haha.

That said, flipping back and forth usually distracts me... I'm impressed that you can multi-task so well! I tend to get everything cleared out in the morning (email, Twitter, Google Reader) and then try to focus (i.e., quit my browser!) for AT LEAST 20 minutes at a time. Usually if I can make it to 20 minutes, I'm good to go for a little while (an hour or so?) before my body starts to feel restless. But if I get interrupted before that 20 minute mark, I essentially have to reset. {sigh}

Anyway, thanks for the insight into your habits! I know everyone works differently, so it's not like we can copy your routine and magically write awesome books, BUT it's still fun to read about!

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristan

Love this. I am endlessly fascinated by the habits of fellow writers. Also, amazed at how similar our days look :) Off to tweet this fun slice of life!

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAidan Donnelley Rowley

That's a nice, healthy-looking schedule. I'm still in the phase where fiction writing is purely a free-time activity, not a 9-5 one, so my fiction writing happens in the after-the-little-guy's-in-bed hours. When I was really in the thick of my manuscript, I'd be up till 2 or 3 a.m. on a very regular basis.

I don't get up at 7 though. That's brutal, brutal punishment.

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStacey W

This is why you are so damn fit and slim! You walk everywhere!
This is terrific - love the deadlines you bully yourself with. It's a great strategy and I'm going to borrow it!

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarah Pekkanen

That's a reasonable schedule and I appreciate that you use a sitter. I meet a lot of "at home" moms who want to do their own business, whether it be writing or a sales job for multi-level marketing company and I always remind them that they'll need childcare. If you want to work, you need childcare of some kind. I have to jump through 20 hoops when I leave for my two week residencies every summer and I have teens, not little kids.

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDawn Maria

Wow. Your schedule seems amazing. I'm sure a lot of working moms out there (or just women in general) wish they had that kind of time. When you have to clock in hours at a 8-5 job there is hardly enough time to get the everyday stuff done like laundry, cooking dinner, running errands, and working out let alone working on creative projects. But props to you! You created this life for yourself.

I'm not thaaat jealous or anything ;)

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

7 is early for you? Lucky you! A lot of the women I work with wake up between 4:30-5:00 AM so they can exercise before work.

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeg

I'm glad that some of you guys found this helpful!

Meg and Liz - please don't misunderstand - I think I've made it clear on this blog how fortunate I am, and how appreciative I am of that good fortune. I don't think my schedule is at all herculean, which I mentioned. I'm just not a morning person, and if it were up to my natural body clock, I'd be up around 9:30.

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Winn Scotch

I loved this little peek into your day-to-day! Glad I'm not the only one that has to surf around before digging into anything remotely productive! Sounds like you've found the right recipe for success. Thanks for sharing!

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi Milton

Love this 'slice of life'! Similarly I have to get writing done in the morning (although my morning is earlier) otherwise I dread it the rest of the day. Why is it that we dread something we love??

The dinner decision 'lord forbid I repeat something he's eaten that day' LOL. We must be married to long lost cousins!!

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Jabaley

You get your kids to go to bed by 7:15?! I am in awe of you! If I can get my son to go to bed before 9 and not keep waking up to come into my bed I feel accomplished. You sound like you have a wonderful system going and, as a huge fan of your books, I am so happy you find ample time to write :).

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterColleen Turner

Super interesting, thanks. I'm interested in how you manage longer term deadlines (novels) vs. short-term deadlines (magazine articles, etc). How do you prioritize what to work on, and do long-term projects ever suffer when the short-term deadlines loom? Or, more specifically, how do you prioritize stuff you're not getting paid to do (ideas for future books, etc) when deadlines loom for things for which you're paid? This is always what traps my time...

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFred

Colleen- mine are still young, so they need the sleep. Also, my 5 yo is up EARLY (but has to stay in his room until 6:30 - on weekdays, and 7 - on weekends) so he doesn't wake his sister (or me). :) But they both need a lot of sleep (like their mama), always have, so they're usually in bed by 7:15, passed out by 7:30-7:40. And the little one still needs a nap but no longer takes one, so that helps usher her to bed quickly.

Fred - First of all, hi!!!!! *waving* Second of all, very good question, will pull it out to answer as a follow up asap. Love to the family! :)

September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Winn Scotch

Thanks for the peek into your life. I love hearing about people's lives and how they compare/differ from mine.

September 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStaci Z

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