One of the most perplexing things I discovered when I began to write full time, was how to structure my days.
I wasn’t sure whether to start the day writing, or to get other jobs done first before I started writing, or to have set days for writing and set days to do other things.
But this wasn’t the first time I’d had this problem.
Years ago, I was studying for a degree and I was doing it long distance from home.
9 months of the year I had to study and send in assignments before sitting an end of the year exam (the one thing I couldn’t do from home) and then I had 3 clear months off until the next 9 months of study began.
During the 9 months of study I found it difficult to structure my days because whenever I was studying I was thinking about all the other things I had to do. Yet while I wasn’t studying, I always felt like I should.
It was as though I just couldn’t focus 100% on anything. I always felt like I should be doing “something else.”
And it was the same when I first started writing. I always had the feeling of what I “should” be doing and it was never what I was doing.
It’s something that I’ve battled with for years, although to a lesser degree now.
I’ve even tried reading about how other writers structure their days in the hope that I could try it and it would work for me too.
But none of them were successful.
Some people say it’s always best to write first thing in the morning, but I’ve found that all those that say that are either single or have a wife to do all the other things (cooking, cleaning, child rearing) while they get on with their work.
There is one writer who I’ve read about who says he gets up at 5am to write during the quiet time before the rest of the family gets up. After breakfast he goes to a nearby coffee shop to write. What I find amazing is that he has 6 (or is it 7?) children who are all home schooled. So who is looking after them while he writes? His wife, I guess.
In the end I’ve had to settle into my own way of working.
I don’t have the luxury of leaving someone else to take over my responsibilities at home. I’ve always looked after my own children (who are now old enough to look after themselves) plus I do all the cleaning, cooking, washing, ironing, dog walking, etc, so I have to plan all this into every day too.
So how do I do it?
Well, it’s taken me years to settle into a writing routine. At first it was hard because I was also having to learn a lot, like creating websites, formatting ebooks and articles, using different pieces of software and a lot more other things.
I also had to learn the publishing trade from scratch because when I first started writing, there were only a few ways to self publish, and when I first did it I was ridiculed online about not being a “proper” writer.
Thankfully things have changed and it turned out that I am a “proper” writer because I went on to self publish nearly all my own work and have established my own writing and publishing company.
How I Structure My Writing Days
One thing I have learned over the years (and I probably already knew it if I’m honest with myself) is that I’m an “all or nothing” type of person.
What I mean by this is that I either jump in and do a complete job or I don’t do it at all. So if I’m writing a book, that’s all I do, or if I’m writing blog posts, that’s all I do. I kind-of envy those who can write for an just hour here or there. But it’s not for me. I have to do things all at once.
I sit and write several blog posts at once and schedule them to be published (go live on the blog) on different days.
My subscriber list for blog posts is also automated so that every time a blog post is published, it’s also emailed to all my subscribers.
Sometimes, I do write blog posts and publish them straight away but mostly they are written ahead of time and scheduled.
I do the same with marketing articles. I write them all at once and set up a schedule for publishing them so that they span out over a few weeks at a time.
I do social media the same way. I’m either on it or off it all in blocks of set time. I’m not one to browse these sites very much. I simply look for what I’m interested in, scan my timeline/feed/homepage, share a few things, publish a couple of things and then get the hell out of there. I always think that social media is full of trolls and bad attitudes and it doesn’t take much to upset people. All you have to do is disagree with their opinion and they are baying for blood, so I don’t hang around too much and only check in because it’s helps with marketing.
When I’m writing a book, I set aside a week or two to do it and then I just do it, and I don’t do other writing jobs, unless I have a deadline for getting other things done, then I’ll take a bit of time out to do it.
And depending what I’m working on is how I structure my week.
For instance, I have just finished setting up a new blog for my website Getting Rich Slowly. I was trying to upload a WordPress blog and add a suitable theme but it was so much work that in the end I couldn’t be bothered with it, even though I’d spent a whole week trying.
But trying to learn it all took a long time so I was working all day every day, which isn’t how I like to do it but the time just seemed to flash by every day with very little getting done.
In the end I settled for using Google’s blogger platform for adding a blog to my site, and it looks really good.
My Writing Hours
On a usual week, I only work for 4 to 6 hours a day, during which time I have two ½ hour breaks for coffee and then lunch. And I only work 3 days a week which is usually Tuesday to Thursday. The other two week days are reserved for all the other things I have to do including batch cooking so that I have enough meals to last all week without having to cook from scratch every day, and shopping.
I usually start writing as early as possible in the morning, but sometimes other things creep in like if one of the dogs gets ill, or someone calls about something important. This won’t hold me up all day, it just means I have to start work later than expected.
I usually try and work for only 33 minutes at a time. This is an idea I got from the late, great copywriter, Eugene Schwartz, who used to set a timer for 33.33 minutes and work till it buzzed and then take a 5 minute break before setting the timer and working again. He did this only 5 or 6 times and then he was finished for the day.
He always said that it’s not how long you work for that’s important, but how much you work during that time, and his 33.33 method worked for him for years and made him a multi-millionaire. So if it’s good enough for ol’ Eugene, it’s good enough for me. And it really does help me to get more done when I’m working. I set my timer for 33 minutes and when it sounds I take 5 minutes away from the computer to go to the toilet, or get a cup of herbal tea, or hang out a load of washing, or pat the dogs, or just to simply stand outside on the deck and admire the view (which is a pretty good view, BTW). That 5 minute break makes all the difference and I come back to work feeling refreshed.
Working this way allows me to stay focused and keep writing because I know that timer is going to sound so I can’t waste time surfing the net or clicking unnecessary links on random websites. I just have to stay focused and do what I have to do.
The Products I Use
Naturally, I need to have software and hardware to help me work.
My main computer is a Mac Book Pro. I also have a Mac Book Air that I use strictly for writing and nothing else. I also use it for when I want to work away from home, like in the park or in the local library. I find that being away from home helps me to concentrate on the days when I just don't feel like working at all.
When I need to cut out background noise, or I just need more help to concentrate I use audios that I listen to while I work. I really like the ones that help keep me focused.
I use Adobe Dreamweaver to design and update my websites. This was an expense piece of software but it is invaluable when I’m doing anything to one of my sites (except my blogger blogs because they are 100% online and not at all on my computer, except for backup files).
I use Pages for Mac to write articles and ebooks. I do have Word installed on my computer but I much prefer working with Pages. I have templates set up for articles and ebooks so that I only have to choose the template I need and then I can get straight to work with no need to format anything because all the styles are all ready set up.
I use a company called Covers Corp for most of my ebooks covers because they are fast and good at what they do (and also extremely cheap).
I sometimes use a free program called jdarkroom for distraction-free writing because it’s a basic text editor with no bells and whistles. Just a black screen with green text, just like in the bad old days of word processing.
I have a desk diary that has a full page for every day and I use this to write down everything I need to do plus things I don’t want to forget, like ads I have to take off my websites after a certain date when sales are over, or webinars I want to attend.
I outline all my work the old fashioned way with pad and pencil. and then I write straight to computer. I do prefer to write everything by hand but it takes too much time to type it all up afterwards. It’s okay to do that sometimes, but day after day (and forever) takes too long.
Some people are surprised when I tell them that I’m not really a technical person and many things about working online baffle me. I do manage to get by with what I know but I don’t know a whole lot. Only what I need to know. I often read things about others doing amazing things online with members only sites and online courses, but I have no idea how they accomplish it, but that’s probably because I have no interest in doing these things myself.
I also have a book keeper to do all my paperwork and an accountant who does my end of year tax reports. Math is not my strong point either so I leave these things to other people. But I do like to read through my end of year accounts to see how much money I made from all my products and the other ways I make money online.
My Different Streams of Income
Obviously, my main source of income is from my own books and ebooks.
But I also make money from affiliate sales and advertising.
I take great care to choose affiliate products because I don’t want to recommend products that people don’t like or don’t want.
Some of the things I advertise I don’t use myself but I sell them because I know that others will find them useful. This is because I realise that we’re all different.
I used to use different types of advertising on my websites, but these days I only use AdSense but I don’t use it very much. I keep the ads to a minimum and usually only put them further down the pages and not at the top.
AdSense doesn’t make me a whole lot of income but the $100 or so that it does bring in every month, is not bad.
I often get asked about putting paid ads on my websites. I keep getting emails from people who want to place ads, but I always refuse. I just don’t feel comfortable doing that. Maybe I’ll change my mind in the future, who knows, but right now I don’t want to. Maybe I’m missing out on a lot of revenue, but at the moment I’m busy working on other things.
And that’s about it.
The way I work every week isn’t revolutionary or very inspirational. But I do hope it helps to make you realise that you don’t have to do a whole lot to make money writing.
You just have to be determined to do it, structure your writing time correctly and keep writing.
You can see that I don’t write full time, even though I call myself a full time writer. What I mean by “full time” is that it’s what I do for a living. It’s my whole income.
I do have a part time job cleaning a couple of the local banks where I live every evening but it only takes a hour or so to do and I don’t do it for the money (little that it is). I do it for the exercise. I did think about joining a gym or something, but then I saw this job advertised in late 2014 so I applied and got it. And the extra exercise I get from polishing, sweeping, emptying bins and mopping is great.
I also use my job as thinking time. It’s such a routine job to do that it frees up my mind so I can really brainstorm ideas that I have which is a great use of my uninterrupted cleaning time when there’s just me in the building and no one else. Some nights I listen to writing podcasts while I work which is also a good use of the “busy-hands-empty-mind” time while I work. So my little cleaning job fits in perfectly, gives me exercise and helps me write too. Talk about a win, win, win!
So if you’re not achieving the results you want with your writing, perhaps you should look at how you structure your writing time and how much focus you have while you work, because 2 hours of focused writing time is worth 8 hours or unfocused work.
My schedule is working for me and maybe it’s given you a few ideas too.
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