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Trying to Mesh My Fantasy With Reality by Nancy Christie

So in my fantasy life, this is how my day would be…

I would enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee while watching the morning news and reading the current issue of The New York Times. Next, is yoga, followed by my morning two-mile run. Then I would spend a few hours in my office, first checking my in-box (which holdsonly the past 24-hours’ worth of emails) before working on my book projects.

Twelve noon? Ah, time for a delicious leisurely lunch followed by more exercise (biking, hiking or whatever my heart desires—I have plenty of time!) then back to my office to handle client projects. When the clock chimes five, I shut down for the day, pleased to have met all my deadlines.

Have I mentioned this is a fantasy?

In reality, I get up somewhere between 5 and 5:30 AM, chug down a cup of coffee while trying to catch up the news and read the three-day-old newspaper. (It was delivered on time—I just couldn’t get to it the same day it arrived!) If I’m lucky, I might squeeze in a few sun salutations before heading out to what I still refer to as a “run” even though 90 percent of it is done at a walking pace.

Then I head into my office, turn on the computer and am immediately confronted with an inbox that now registers more than 1,000 emails. I delete the obvious spam, red flag the “I have to answer these sometime in the next 48 hours” ones, and consign the rest to the “when I get around to them” folder, which is rapidly resembling the Bermuda Triangle. (They get in but are never seen again.)

Once that’s done (or at least as done as it can be since the emails just keep on a-comin’!), I am faced with the eternal and forever-unresolved question: what to do first

Do I 

  • work on client projects (which pay the bills)?
  • handle the edits and marketing projects for my short fiction collection Traveling Left of Center (all of which have to be done within a certain timeframe to meet the publication schedule)?
  • write some new fiction (which feeds my soul but doesn’t bring in anything approaching cash)?

(Did I mention that I have also assumed additional family responsibilities that, while I am more than happy to do so, still take up a certain amount of time? And that I am adding a room onto my home, which necessitates meeting with contractors, reviewing bids and choosing everything from fixtures to furnishings?)

For the most part, I try to cover all three, some days more successfully than others. But my point is that my schedule, like just about everyone else’s I know, is stretched to the breaking point. And for creative people, the additional challenge is that so much of what we do doesn’t translate to dollars-and-cents but still needs to be done. 

  • If you’re an author, you spend a lot of time on marketing tasks that are required as part of the platform-building process. This takes time and in some cases money, for which you don’t receive any direct financial compensation.
  • If you write for magazines or companies, you spend a lot of time marketing as well: seeking new clients, connecting with editors, educating yourself about changes to the industries you specialize in as well as learning how to do a wider variety of writing projects. Again, no payment for your time but an absolute requirement if you want a steady income.

While I don’t claim to have a perfect solution to the time-crunch problem, I am willing to share some tips that work for me. 

  • Prioritize. As tempting as it may be to make everything a priority, the fact is there are levels of importance. For me, client and magazine assignments are, for obvious cash-flow reasons, at the top of the list, followed by ongoing marketing calls to make sure the work keeps coming in.

This year, given the increased personal responsibilities I have, plus the fact that Traveling Left of Center is coming out in August, I had to rethink how to spend what time I have. My decision? Concentrate on book marketing activities but put on hold any work on my novels and book for writers. 

As for my blogs—and whatever made me think I could do four blogs in the first place?—I have increased the number of interviews and guest posts so I can still provide quality content to my followers without having to write everything!

  • Organize. I am a diehard Outlook Calendar user. Everything is on Outlook: family appointments, client deadlines, my social media schedules to make sure I tweet/Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn my latest blog posts or any relevant announcements.

I also use the Calendar to track my “work writing” marketing To-Dos. It impresses the heck out of editors, clients and prospects when I call and say, “When we talked on December 12, you suggested I call back mid-February so here I am! What can I do for you?”

The latest addition to my Calendar is a recurring entry that lists blogs I’d like to comment on. Do I get to all of them? No. But at least I get to some of them, and since I also note down when I post a comment, I am more likely to “make the rounds,” so to speak.

  • Categorize. The temptation is to look at your schedule at a pie and then label the entire thing “work.” The trouble is you are facing a burnout of epic proportions if you do that. You need to balance things the best you can, and make sure that at least several times a week you do something that feeds your soul and takes care of your body. For me, that translates to the aforementioned walk (when I also do my creative brainstorming—I got the idea for this post on such a walk!) and short story writing.

You have to figure out what is that important to you and then make room for it. Even 30 minutes a few times a week is better than no minutes at all! The point is to make sure that you are living your life, not just workingthrough it.

Does it work perfectly? Of course not! Sometimes, despite your best efforts, events transpire that tear holes right through your schedule. But if you have a plan, you can always adjust it to fit the new normal that has developed.

I hope these suggestions help you deal with the never-ending, omnipresent challenge of time versus life! If you have some that work for you or ideas for how I can improve on mine, feel free to comment! 

If you would like to know more information on Nancy, you can reach her through her:
Blogs: Finding Fran []
The Writer’s Place []
One on One []

Social media links:
Twitter:  @NChristie_OH

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