This topic has been on my mind a lot lately, seeing as how between my kids getting sick and me being diagnosed with chronic migraines and an auto-immune disease, I haven’t been able to work as much as I’d hope. In fact, as I write this, my daughter is asleep in my arms because she can’t sleep in her bed with a stuffy nose and I have to keep her upright. I’m a working mom. Yeah, I get to stay home with my kids so they’re not raised by anyone else and I work 95% out of my house, but I don’t have as much time to work during the day I imagined I would all those years ago when I left my corporate job.
In fact, my average work day is about 90 minutes long. So that means, when I sit down to work, I’ve got to make that time count as much as possible. Here’s how it gets done.
I Became a Nap Warrior
I’m a self-proclaimed Nap Warrior.
My almost two-year-old takes one nap a day right now, and I’m banking on that time she’s asleep to get as much work done as possible while my six-year-old is at school. This means I have about a 60-90-minute window to get everything on my agenda wrapped up before my kindergartner walks through the door (he’s only in school half a day) and my daughter is up for the rest of the day. Yep, sometimes, she naps up to two hours, but by that time, my son is home, and I’ve got to spend what little time I have left catching up with him and his day.
This short window of time is absolutely critical to my day. I’ve trained my brain over the last couple years to be the most productive during this time. It’s an hour or two after I’ve had breakfast, I’ve got my workout in for the day, I’ve already dived into my favorite business podcasts or audiobook, and my creativity is ready to start firing. I’ve worked this time into my routine to the point if I miss it, my entire day is thrown off and it’s almost impossible to wrestle it back.
Of course, things happen, and I’m honestly trying to instill a much more mentally healthy approach to those missed hours (work in progress) rather than a complete breakdown. So if my daughter isn’t interested in taking a nap or she’s sick, that time is cut in half, or even a third, like today, and you’ll see me writing on my phone, handing her off to her dad so I can escape to the library, or burning the midnight oil after the kids are in bed. Which, to be honest, I don’t love because I’ve already had a full day and my now chronic migraines love to make an appearance late afternoon into the evening to remind me to slow down.
So I work hard and fall into deep work during this short timeframe, but in order to be able to fit as much work into that timeframe as possible, I have to have a clear idea of what I’m working on during that time.
I Learned to Plan Ahead
One of the most interesting books I’ve read in the last few years is titled, “From 2k to 10k.” It reads exactly like the title suggests. The author lays out a step-by-step process in which authors can go from writing two thousand words a day to ten thousand. Crazy, right? One of the biggest takeaways for me (besides envy) was taking five minutes to outline exactly what I’d be working on before starting my work day.
Because I don’t have eight hours a day to work like a lot of established authors, I have to make good use of the time I do have. So that means mapping out a quick outline of the projects I’ll be working on that day. This ranges from getting my word count in on the latest book, to writing a blog post (like this one!), creating captions for Instagram and Facebook, or designing all the graphics for marketing that month. As long as I have a clear picture of what needs to get done during that 90-minute window, I usually don’t have trouble focusing and finishing my to-do list.
Right now, I use the Kanban board system to plan out and schedule my goals. From there, I break down projects into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. So at the beginning of the week, I write down my main projects I want to accomplish in my trusty planner, then break them down further over the course of my 6-day work week. Some days it looks like nothing but writing, or like right now, my days are full of revisions and drafting a proposal for my latest book.
As long as I have a clear picture of what I need to be focusing on for that hour and a half, I’m making progress on my goals without sacrificing time with my kids and husband or having to burn the midnight oil.
I Finally Put a Support System in Place
It’s taken me a long time to realize it’s impossible to get everything done myself. Only having 90 minutes a day (usually spent on actually writing my books), doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for me to plan, create, and execute my marketing campaigns or add any last-minute initiatives. Honestly, all the marketing strategies I took on this year could be done by a full-time content creator, and someday I’ll make enough money to hire to perfect employee for that. But right now, it’s just me, and I’ve learned (especially this year), that I can’t power my career alone.
I’m still putting in the hours and doing the hard work myself, but my husband has stepped up to take the kids after he gets home from work so I can escape to the coffee shop or library. This summer I’m hiring my niece to watch the kids for an additional five hours a week so I can meet my next two deadlines. Hello Fresh is delivering healthy meals to my door, so I don’t have to spend an hour planning my family’s meals for the next week. Granted, not everyone is able to do this, and honestly, I cringe at the fact I have to rely on others for help, but at some point, I had to pull on my big girl panties and realize that if I wanted to go all in on this writing gig, I couldn’t do it alone.
I have an amazing support system in place (after years of convincing myself I didn’t need any help), and guess what? So does everyone else working to power their careers and still prioritize their family and friends. Nobody can run their business solo, despite what a lot of authors and business owners would have you believe.
And there you have a glimpse into how I manage to meet my book deadlines, send in new proposals, and keep on top of my marketing—all in 90 minutes a day. Any of these sound familiar? What could you accomplish in 90 minutes a day?