As someone who starts way too many of their Weekly Wraps begging for the universe to grant them more time for everything, maybe I’m not the most qualified person to talk about how to balance your time between the demands of the blog and the demands of life.
Then again, if only professionals were allowed to talk about managing time, they’d probably make it sound like a breeze, and the rest of us would be left scratching our heads and wondering where the struggle is.
SO! Here we are, with an entirely unprofessional guide to making balance happen/recovering from it when it doesn’t. It’s not perfect, but neither am I, and maybe this will help someone else the way it’s helped me.
All right, strong start! Hell yeah! The confidence radiating off this section is…okay, maybe it’s a little underwhelming. I’ll own up to that. But I promise you there’s a good reason.
It’s because I balance my time by asking what I need to be balancing it for.
Am I setting two types of task opposite each other for the day? Am I juggling work with family obligations with blogging responsibilities all week? What is it exactly that I’m planning ahead for? I don’t think it’s possible to find any kind of happy time management strategy unless you know what you’re aiming to do, so I make sure I know what my goals are.
Work vs. Blogging vs. Books vs. Basically Everything Else
In my life, I can jam things into four categories: my job, my blog, books, and a catch-all pile that could be further divided if I had the time to nitpick every single task in that basket.
Of course, my job schedule isn’t a fixed one, so I can only plan for that on a weekly basis, when my managers finalize a schedule for the week ahead. Same with any family events, non-regular appointments, errands, and that kind of thing that crops up at irregular intervals. Those I have to slot into my schedule as they come.
But books? And blogging? I can block out time for that. I can also lay out time for that catch-all category, which often includes writing, crafting, or plain old leisure time when I do whatever I want to recharge my batteries.
When I do this, there’s a lot to take into account. Bookstagram photos, for instance, can take about three or four hours per month’s worth of photos to get the shots I’m happiest with, and I count that under time I set aside for blogging. The same goes for brainstorming post ideas, or for writing reviews and transferring them to Amazon/Goodreads/B&N. Blog maintenance can be time-consuming in a lot of ways, and I have to make sure I’ve set out time accordingly.
Meanwhile, I block out time for reading based on how long it typically takes me to read something in one sitting. My TBR goes in order of blog obligations (especially ARCs that must be read and reviewed before pub day, reviews I’ve promised on a certain date, or reviews that would just be very on theme at a particular time of the month/year), then by whatever I feel like picking up at the time, and most reads only take me four hours at the very most, with a few exceptions. As a result, my schedule shows four hour blocks that I’ve reserved for reading, all in blue.
Hold On, What Do You Mean, “Blocks?”
I mean time-blocking! It’s my way of visualizing what I need to do, with a color code and everything. While I use my bullet journal for writing down specific tasks that need doing each day, my time-blocked schedule shows me my ideal focus categories for each day of the week.
I have this exact sheet taped to the wall above the place where I keep my phone overnight, so I see it every morning when I turn off my alarm. It doesn’t have labels for work or other appointments, since it’s more so meant to structure my days off/time before or after work, but I’ve divided everything into blocks I’d like to attempt to stick to. Blue is for reading, yellow is blogging, green is writing, the little stripe of orange is for meals, pink is sleep, gray is crafting, and purple is my do whatever leisure time (which can so easily end up being something that fits another category).
So, hence the blocks I’m talking about!
But Sometimes Those Blocks Don’t Work
I’m not going to lie to you and say this is a perfect system. It’s flawed, mostly by human error. Sometimes, I procrastinate. Or I want to play video games during a block I set aside for reading. Some days, I have the discipline to say no to myself, and other days, I cave in the interest of not squandering my mental health. A day off from strict routine can be a breath of fresh air.
No matter the reason, though, whether it’s my own lack of discipline for the day, or working the midday shift that cuts into time I’d set aside for writing, or even a family obligation my mom surprised me with, this schedule doesn’t work 100% of the time. 50% of the time might be generous, actually.
50%, though, is still better than 0%. Or 10%. Or 20%. You get the idea.
Having this schedule, even if it’s impossible to hold to every single day, still gives me enough structure to get back on track when things get derailed. I can look at the next day, see what tasks are in my bullet journal, then see where they fit in the time blocks. I can predict when I’ll next have a moment to address what I wasn’t able to finish before, and after that, it’s just schedule, rinse, and repeat.
There are Ways to Make the Schedule Work More Often, Though!
So I can’t get it right all the time. It happens. There’s a lot I’ve learned, however, that makes it easier to stay on track.
For starters, I make sure I have the month’s blog posts planned a month in advance (with exceptions for ARC reviews I add in late, or surprise ideas that I squeeze in). This allows me to plan my TBR and read ahead of my deadlines. Ideally, I like to be done with a book at least three days before the review is meant to go live, according to my calendar. More is better, of course, and sometimes, I end up writing reviews the night before, but a three day buffer is often plenty of time.
I also have specific days for specific topics. Sometimes I have two posts in one day, but with the exception of reviews, which I’ll post any day they fit, and monthly wraps, which go on the last day of the month, Sundays are for new releases, Mondays for reviews, Tuesdays for Top 5 Tuesdays, Wednesdays for writing posts, Thursdays for non-bookish posts, Fridays for discussion style posts or guides, and Saturdays for wraps. Knowing the type of post that’s supposed to go live based on what day of the week it is takes out a lot of the guesswork.
I’ve also written a couple guides that minimize guesswork, too. Knowing my process on rating books saves time during reviews, and knowing whether or not I’ll review a book at all saves even more time! I’ve also got tricks for getting out of a blogging slump, which helps in putting schedules back on track.
Using every trick in the toolbox is often better than just waiting for the worst of the off-schedule blues to pass.
What About Writing?
And now we hit my Achilles’ heel, as we must! I mean, I did say this guide wasn’t perfect because I’m not perfect, but here’s the extra proof.
Writing tends to throw off my schedule so badly. I mean fiction writing specifically, not the writing I have to do for the blog. Between my original work and my forays into fanfiction, I have hundreds of thousands of words begging for my continued attention, and when you couple that with fickle inspiration, it can be TOUGH to write on schedule. Too much forcing myself to sit and write leaves me disillusioned and frustrated. Not enough discipline means my projects sit and wait for million years. Deadlines mean I do it at the last minute (especially true of essays, but thank goodness I’m not in school anymore, and I am SO SORRY to any of my profs if you happen to find this, because yes, chances are really strong I drafted that sucker the night before, thanks for grading it kindly anyway).
Really, this is the one thing I don’t have a great tip for, especially if you don’t have an end point in mind. I manage NaNoWriMo every year because of Pacemaker, but that has a 50k word count attached. For projects I don’t know the final length of, whether it’s word count or number of chapters, that nebulous feeling can be daunting, and the road blocks are real.
The best trick I can offer is to at least attempt to sit and write, if only for a short while. It doesn’t have to be a 2k word day. It can be a 200 word day if that’s all that hits the page, because it’s impossible to keep going at a breakneck pace all the time. Factor in life’s other joys (read: crushing responsibilities), and you hit a major obstacle that takes some pushing to get around or over.
At the end of the day, I’m not a scheduling wizard. I am, though, pretty damn certain of where I should be spending my time, even if I’m not actually doing what I’m supposed to be doing. Knowing where I’m supposed to be makes getting back into the swing of things much easier, especially on days where I lose hours of creative time to my job or an unexpected event. It’s a lot like having a map and a compass when you lose the trail; eventually, you’ll be able to figure out where you’ll cross the real path again.
Or maybe you’ll stumble onto a new path. That happens too.
Either way, this is the long and short of how I manage to make all the books and blogging and everything else in my life coexist without blowing up in my face at every turn. It’s been extremely helpful to me, and I hope that you get something useful out of it as well!