This post is written by regular contributor Lydia Sharp.
Not one of us navigating this thing called authorhood can say that we aren’t stressed. Some of this stress is unavoidable, beyond our control. But some of this stress can be reduced with a few changes to our daily routine.
Here are three things that can help you simplify your writing life:
1. Embrace the power of ‘NO’.
Saying ‘no’ to something or someone is usually harder than saying ‘yes’. You don’t want to let someone down by not helping. You don’t want to miss out on a rare opportunity. You think you aren’t doing enough in one area or another, so you pile it on without readjusting the other areas in your life.
But what you may not realize is that by saying ‘yes’ to something, you are by default saying ‘no’ to something else. Conversely, when you say ‘no’ to something, it allows you to say ‘yes’ to something more important. You may already be saying ‘no’ to things without realizing it, just by taking on endeavors that can be delegated or rejected completely.
What you choose to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ to is highly dependent on your personal circumstances and your personal career goals. Here is just one example of an area you can evaluate and easily readjust to simplify your daily routine, by asking yourself:
How much time per day do I spend on social media? What is the return on that investment of my time? ROI can be something beneficial to your career (i.e. increasing your professional contacts, gaining exposure) or something beneficial to your mental well-being (i.e. connecting with friends, entertainment), not necessarily translated into money. Where and when can I say ‘no’ to social media in order to increase my time to do other things daily, such as writing, or caring for my home and family?
Whenever you say ‘yes’ to something, you say ‘no’ to something else. What have you said ‘yes’ to that doesn’t deserve so much of your time, your focus, your energy? What have you been inadvertently saying ‘no’ to that deserves a ‘yes’?
2. Learn to delegate.
I will be the first to admit I have control issues, and I think this is true of a lot of people who have the drive needed to be successful in any given career. I had always lived by the mantra, “If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.”
This mantra can be useful, but it becomes problematic when you try to do everything yourself. You can’t do it all. It’s okay to delegate. It’s okay if someone else does things for you and they don’t do it exactly how you would do it. It’s even okay if they screw things up from time to time, especially if they’re new to the task. They will get better over time, just as leaving things in their care will get easier for you over time.
Ask yourself, “Is this task something that only I can do?” Anything answered with a ‘no’ is an opportunity for you to delegate.
Example: Writing your book is one-hundred percent NOT something you can delegate. But doing laundry—anyone can learn how to do laundry. I’ve been washing my own clothes since I was seven years old because my mother had four kids, a full-time job plus regular overtime, and she knew how to delegate. I still do the laundry for my family now, but my husband takes on the task of grocery shopping, because it is time-consuming and I can’t piggyback it with another task. I can write in between loads of laundry. Grocery shopping can only be grocery shopping until it’s done.
Delegating is an effective way to balance your workload and simplify your daily routine, allowing you to concentrate on the things that only you can do for the success of your career.
3. Stick close to your people.
The longer you are in the field of publishing, the more people you will find that have the same views as you do regarding any number of things, or perhaps they are in a similar life situation as you are. These are your people. They understand you and you understand them. Once you find your people, stick close to them. Check in with them from time to time, to exchange mutual encouragement. Follow them on social media. Be one another’s cheerleaders. This is necessary for your mental well-being as well as theirs.
Sticking close to the right people allows you to recognize and cut loose the wrong people. The wrong people for you are not necessarily bad people. They are just wrong for you, for whatever reason. Maybe they talk about things that stress you out, or they unknowingly trigger bad experiences of your past. It could just be that they constantly tweet about how hard something is for them, whether it be writing or family or finances, and you don’t need someone else’s clutter in your life—you have enough of your own! Cutting them loose will aid your daily routine because a good mindset allows you to be more productive.
Not everyone you meet is going to be ‘your people’, and that’s okay. You don’t need a lot of people, you just need the right people. Is there anyone in your circle who brings you down rather than lifts you up? Let them go. When you cut loose your connections with the wrong people (for you), your connections with the right people (for you) become stronger.
Those are my top three ways to simplify your writing life so that you can be more positive and productive on a daily basis. What other ways of simplifying have you found to be effective?
Join the discussion
Christi Craig says
“…what you may not realize is that by saying ‘yes’ to something, you are by default saying ‘no’ to something else. ” So true, and a good reminder when it feels like saying “No” is too difficult.
I love all your tips, Lydia. Another thing that helps me is when I focus on staying in today: make a list of what I absolutely HAVE to get done today, and don’t obsess about the twenty other things I want/need to do tomorrow.
Lydia Sharp says
Good tip – I can’t live without lists. Thanks, Christi!
Vaughn Roycroft says
All I want is to be one of your people. But alas, you’ve gotten so good at saying no, I fear my chance will never come.
Seriously, a great list of ways to hone in on what really matters, Lydia.
Lydia Sharp says
You are definitely one of my people, Vaughn. 🙂
Paul Anthony Shortt says
No. 1 is probably the most important lesson I’ve had to learn. You must prioritise the things in your life that matter to you, and decide which ones need your attention, and which ones can be let go, or set aside for a while. If you try to do everything, you burn out and leave everyone either disappointed or worrying about you.
This post is pure serendipity. Fate. The Universe bringing me what I need. For several weeks I’ve been struggling to put my routine into some semblance of productive order–and failing miserably. These three things you mention are *exactly* the three things that have most undermined me. I needed to read this. Thank you.
Lydia Sharp says
I’m so glad this helped you!
Anne R. Allen says
Wise words, Lydia! I especially like the advice to surround yourself with “your people” and keep the others at a distance. A lot of otherwise nice people can be toxic for your career. Some have chosen to fail and will do anything to see that you do too, in order to uphold their negative world view.
k. y says
These are good points to remember. also one thing I do to simplify writing time is practicing self-control (usually by meditation) can work wonders. Self-control focuses me onto the task, helps recognize and take steps to reduce distractions and makes me feel more empowered and passionate about what I’m doing. There are times when I completely unplug the internet connection, music,and falling into other books just to get my writing done.
Note: Self-control is not the elimination of emotions or creativity it is directing the emotions and creativity to benefit you and/or others.
Lydia Sharp says
Unplugging from the Internet is always a good tip!
Julia Whitmore says
My 84 year old Dad had to remind me, just this week, to embrace the power of no. What liberation! That’s all I have to do is say NO? Why is it so hard? I will never understand myself.
Nice post and much appreciated.
Valmai Redhead says
This is one of the most helpful articles I have read. Learning to focus and not get diverted is something I struggle with. I am learning to say ‘No’ but it is hard. Sometimes I play for time and say ‘I will get back to you’. I really like your point that saying ‘yes’ to one thing actually means saying ‘no’ to something else. Writing is definitely something I cannot delegate. I had never thought about it in this way before – I needed this paradigm shift – thank you Lydia.
ken matthews says
Lydia: Thankyou so very much for your article. Being stuck in a ” Not able to write mood,” I read your article on distractions, and I realized that the best thing to do was Not Write! When I Cleared My Head of my distractions, It started to work!! I managed to finish a chapter. I just noticed a section on the Cold Canadian North BRR, I was born and raised in Wiarton Ontario, and I know what it is like. I can understand why Suzzanah lives in Australia. That is why I live in Florida USA> Thankyou for your continued support of my project, and may GOD bless U. Best Wishes [email protected]
Esther Campion says
Thanks Lydia. Great advice.
Great post. It is so easy to take on too much, or get lost in all the noise!