One of my favorite activities is reading books on time management. I know, I’m weird.
Some of these books are clearly not written by women, or at least not women who have normal children and the responsibilities that go along with caring for other human beings.
“Get up an hour before your family,” they say, “and you will have an extra 15 days in your year!” If I got up an hour before my family did, I would be waking up before 5am every day. And, according to these books, I am also supposed to put in an hour or two after my family goes to bed. So my sleeping hours would be reduced to approximately 3.4 hours each night.
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Look, I’m not good at math, but to me, that equals very tired and essentially non-functional. There is simply nothing that is important enough to me to get me out of bed before 5am daily, and that’s okay. Not everything in your life has to happen in the dark, and the best thing you can do is to be honest with yourself.
On the flip side, I firmly believe that you absolutely have time to write in almost any situation. In fact, I believe that you have time to do anything you want to do, in almost any situation, and it always comes down to a matter of priorities. I have met many people who claim not to have time to do things, and I never, ever believe them. This is partly because I am not a very friendly person, but also because THOSE PEOPLE ARE LIARS.
“I work 100 hours a week,” they say. To which I say, LIAR.
To work 100 hours a week, you either have to work 20 hours a day, 5 days a week; 16.6 hours a day, 6 days a week; or 14.2 hours/day, 7 days a week. That’s just math, and I used a calculator.
To get to those hours, if you started work at 7 am, you would be working until after 9pm, seven days a week, until almost 11pm, 6 days a week, or until 3am, 5 days a week. You might have an occasional week like that, but there is no way that you are sustaining that level of work for an extended period of time, unless you have a very, very broad definition of work. When do you eat? When do you go to the bathroom? When do you shower?
No one works 100 hours a week over the long haul, and if you are working those hours, then you’re not doing a good job at all, because science says so.
“BUT I’M A MOM,” you say, and I hear you, sister. I really do. I have five kids, and they weren’t always ages 7-17. At one point, they were 1 day old, 3.5 years old, 6 years old, 8 years old, and 10 years old. And they needed a lot from me, and it took many hours every day to care for them. I definitely did not get up early to write. Do you know what I did? I HIRED SOMEONE TO CARE FOR THEM.
Yes, I did. From the time my very first baby was born, I have paid for childcare. There are many affordable ways to do this, and there are many ways to do this even if you have an infant, even if you have a kid with special needs, even if you are breastfeeding — the list goes on. You can always find a way to make excuses, if you want to, but be honest with yourself about what you are doing.
Never, ever say you don’t have time to write — or do anything else, for that matter. Say, “It’s not a priority for me to ________.” Because that’s what you’re really saying.
When I had one little baby, I hired someone to watch her in my home for 4 hours every morning. During that time, my baby got a pumped bottle or two of breastmilk, or I took a 10-15 minute break to nurse her at some point, but the rest of my time, I was in my office with the door closed, and if the baby cried, the babysitter took her out of the apartment. I paid her to do this, because I wanted to write for those four hours.
(Of course, that baby is 17 years old today, and a lot of the time she hates me, so I am not guaranteeing anything here.)
By the time I had five kids, I was very fortunate and I had in-home help — babysitting and cleaning — for about 8 hours every day, plus a bunch of the kids were already in school. I had been a freelancer for 10 years at that point, so I had clients and fairly steady income. I worked about 6 hours every day, which is about as full time as I want to be. I took breaks to nurse when my baby was hungry, but I didn’t spend hours as a human pacifier if I had deadlines.
If I didn’t have work lined up, I was absolutely happy to spend the entire afternoon on the couch, watching Weeds and “nursing.” But I didn’t ever say, “I don’t have time to write.” I had plenty of time, and I chose to use it holding my baby. This is a worthy endeavor, but I have not yet found anyone who will pay me for it, so when I wanted actual money, I had to put the baby down and write.
“BUT ABBI YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND,” you say, and so I say to you, prove it. Take a time challenge. Laura Vanderkam is the queen of time challenges, and one of my personal heroes. Download her time tracker (also known as “a spreadsheet”) and use it for a week.
(Laura has written a bunch of awesome books. I highly, highly recommend that you read 168 Hours and I Know How She Does It.)
The first time I completed a time challenge, I found a lot of time that I could reclaim. At the time, I was partially homeschooling two of my kids, and that was wreaking havoc on my writing time. But when I stepped back and looked at the big picture — the 168 hours that you and I have every single week — I figured out ways to give myself back an extra 3-4 hours per week.
If writing is a priority for you, you’ll find time for it, because there are so many ways to find — or buy — time for writing. Here are five that I came up with:
1. Pay a high school student to take your kids to the park for 2 hours twice a week.
There are no high school students in your area? Go for a responsible middle schooler. You have the only children in the entire 10-mile radius? Then who will hear them fighting with each other while you are locked in your office writing. (Bonus: if you somehow get arrested for letting your kids fight with each other, you will probably have a LOT of free time in jail.) (That was a joke, people.)
2. Cut a deal with your spouse where you each get one evening off from childcare/housecare per week.
Your spouse doesn’t do childcare/housecare? Well, one evening a week, neither do you. LEAVE THE HOUSE. Your spouse will have to figure something out, and it’s unlikely that anyone will die.
3. Bribe one of your older kids with an extra hour of television on weekends in exchange for taking younger siblings out of the house for 45 minutes after school each day.
You don’t believe in bribery? Fine. Simply add it to that kid’s responsibilities. You have to believe in either bribery or responsibility. Pick your poison.
4. Order groceries online instead of going to the store. Use the grocery shopping window to write.
There is no online grocery delivery in your area? I… fine. Pick a different number.
5. Give yourself one weekend morning off. Let your spouse figure it out.
See number 2 above. You’re a single parent? Get a babysitter one weekend morning. You work all the time and you desperately need those hours with your children, or you cannot possibly afford a babysitter? Do you have friends? Relatives? Can you barter?
At the end of the day, you have to WANT to make the time to write. If you want to sit and talk about how you reallllllllly want to do this, but you just can’t because of these 27 reasons, then fine. But if you have the time to be reading this post, YOU HAVE TIME TO WRITE. You are choosing to use that time for something else. Either writing is priority for you, or it is not.
Only you can decide.