9 Time Management Tips for Busy Writers

Carol Tice

Improve Your Time Management Mom

Ariella gets an attitude if mommy works too much!

I wish I had a dime for every time someone has said to me, “I don’t know how you do it all!” Many of the people who say this know that I’m married and have three kids–now aged 7, 8 and 17. And that besides my paying clients, I write this blog, blog once a week for WM Freelance Writing Connection, and am finishing up writing an ebook on freelance writing.

So given that this is productivity week, I thought I’d discuss some of the things I do that I believe make it possible for me to balance my busy family life with a good-earning writing career.

1. Exercise. I try to either walk uphill for an hour first thing in the morning, or do Wii Fit yoga before work, or I hike in the woods near my home or bike with my kids. Time spent exercising never subtracts from productivity-it makes you so much more creative and productive that it more than makes up for the time spent, I find. And it’s so important to stay healthy, or you won’t be earning well for long!

2. Have fun. I never miss my regular monthly Mah Jongg game. I go geocaching with my family. Last week, I learned to cross-country ski. I sometimes play Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook with a bunch of my friends. These kind of breaks away from writing for high-quality family time and recreation are absolutely essential.

3. Rest. If you’ve read my previous post on the secret of my writing success, you know that I am always off my computer and away from all writing chores from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown each week. Remember, we’re not called human doings, but human beings. Our bodies weren’t designed to work all the time.

4. Outsource. I have housecleaners come twice a month to take care of all heavy cleaning. I send my teen to the mini-mart for a gallon of milk. I pay a Webmaster because tech stuff makes me cry. If it isn’t time-effective for me to do it, I find someone else to do it.

5. Let go. I do not have a pristine, utterly clutter-free house that looks like a design magazine is about to come take a photo. The pile of shoes and toys on my porch is atrocious. If we can walk about the house without tripping on anything, I’m pretty much satisfied.

6. Ruthlessly organize and prioritize. From my years as a legal secretary, I know to come into my office each day with an agenda. I know what the most important things are that need to get done, and the secondary objectives I’d like to get to, and I knock them out.

7. Turn down low-paying jobs. I focus on finding well-paid work and don’t waste time on low payers. That’s right, prospective clients call me and I turn them down if their rates aren’t in my ballpark.

8. Sleep and TV. I don’t do a whole lot of either. Six hours or so a night of sleep seems to do me, along with the occasional weekend nap. I frankly find the vast majority of TV shows really boring at this point in my life–a couple hours of shows is plenty in a typical week. I Tivo everything so I save 20 minutes watching commercials for every taped hour. Mostly, I’d rather read, write, think, or plan.

9. Say no. The fact is, I don’t really do it all. I turn down a lot of things. Will I organize the elementary school’s auction? No. Will I clean out the closet? No. Will I give a Torah commentary at the synagogue this week? No. Don’t try to conform to anybody’s idea of a supermom…those women are all having quiet nervous breakdowns, I believe.

What do you do to manage your busy schedule? Leave a comment and let me know.


  1. Gary

    Finally…a realistic view of productivity! Kudos, but I would be concerned about the six hours sleep. Not enough, although the naps truly help. When my kids were small, we didn't get much sleep either, so understandable. You've truly managed to embrace the philosophy of "no" as way to keep overload at bay.

  2. Carol Tice

    I definitely am a power napper, Gary–if I need to I'll catch 10 or 15 minutes at some point in the afternoon. Thanks for the feedback —


  3. Judy Hodes


    I to, have learned to say no. It is not possible to be all to all. Of course I learned this the hard way.

    I need to be more active. That is one very good point you made. Finding/making the time is key.

    I no longer watch much t.v. either. I do watch American Idol, because I love music, but that is seasonal. During Christmas holiday, I stopped watching t.v. and began reading and writing again.I read a lot!! I find it more stimulating then anything on t.v.

    Thanks for your tips. Have a great day.

  4. Donald

    Carol — Thanks for these tips. I envy your success! Turn down low-paying jobs, sit back and let work flow to you instead of that grubbing marketing and promotion that take more than actual work, even the luxury of outsourcing household chores.

    This sounds more like "How to Manage Your Life Effectively Once You're /Already/ Making a Living Writing."

  5. Carol Tice

    I'm sorry, Donald, did I say something about work magically flowing to me? I missed that part.

    I market my #*)^& off, in person, on social media, sending queries, you name it. When you market more you get more prospects and can better pick and choose quality gigs instead of having to take everything you're offered–or in the case of many writers these days, instead of returning to your dashboard at a content site and killing half a day of valuable marketing time writing stuff that often barely pays for gas.

    I don't consider my outsourcing a luxury — I consider it an absolute necessity. If you saw how long it would take me to clean my house…look at the math this way — I pay them $100, or I could lose more like $500 of billable time doing it myself. And to top it off, I like writing way more than scrubbing floors. Which option makes more financial sense?

    Don't envy me Donald…don't dream it–be it!


  6. Lori

    Oh, I'm with you on Bejeweled Blitz! And I've found an online Mahjong game….

    I'm someone else who says no. Can I pick this kid up at the train station in an hour? No. Make it after five and I'll do it. Can I find out where we can get a replacement Tivo? No. I can do it after I'm done working or you can make dinner while I look online. It's about knowing your physical – and mental – limits.

  7. Carrissa

    I like your #9 and it made me laugh – the part about those having a nervous breakdown. I have finally decided that my house will never also look like a design catalog even though I strive for it continually secretly – well, apparently no longer secretly. Thanks for these tips. I was surprised to see Exercise at #1!

  8. Carol Tice

    Well hi Carrissa! Glad you've discovered my writing blog.

    I think the tips are in no particular order…though in general I DO feel writers as a group are very sedentary and need to move around more. Sort of an occupational hazard.


  9. Julianne

    Carol, I am new to the field and found your tips to be most helpful, quite along the lines of the way I think, actually. So far as saying, "no" goes, my hope is that if enough of us decline often enough, the good folks in charge of everything will start to scale back and find the beauty of simplicity. So far as my own personal tips for productivity go, I would have to echo your thoughts. I tell people everyone in the household has to help and I've lowered my standards quite a bit.

    Thanks for this site. I'm going to do a thorough tour of it now and I'm looking forward to learning loads.


  10. Carol Tice

    Welcome, Julianne — if you want to read back through all the free advice and tips from this blog, be sure to check the "Carol's blog history" link in the blogroll…about 40 or so older blog entries are living in a cache over at my caroltice.com site still, while I grapple with the best way to get them to migrate over here to makealivingwriting.com…

    Makealivingwriting just recently got its own site, so there aren't a lot of posts on here yet…many more back on the old site. And there's a decent amount more over at WM Freelance Writing Community (see the WM button on the right there), where I am the Thursday blogger.


  11. Robert Earle Howells

    Cool, Carol! Of course, then there's time management for when we're actually sitting at the desk. I find that spending most of the day on Facebook and Twitter is the best use of my time.


    I'm all about focus then. And it's not a discipline; it's a blessing. It's fun.

    I did a very short post on the subject, which anyone can access by clicking on my name above. Short because your time and mine is precious.

  12. Jessie Haynes / JHay

    Carol, these are excellent time management tips, and I'm sure all freelance writers will benefit. Being productive may look like auditioning as Power Girl, but really it is more like my analogy to Captain America's shield on my blog, Which Planner, but of course these geek is more inclined for Marvel any day…any how, the point is that you have to guard your time like no one's business–but yours! Freelance writers, remember this:

    You work for yourself.

    Not for your clients. Clients are part of your business, but you work for yourself.

    You need to honor yourself as an entrepreneur and be sure to take on the tasks with the best ROI and to not be drug down by bad habits or bad form.

    You've offered realistic, all-encompassing advice for freelance writers. I would add to this to have a really good project management system. With All Freelance Writing in your blogroll, I'm sure you won't mind if I direct your readers to my guide at AFW, The Freelance Writer's Guide to Project Management: http://allfreelancewriting.com/2009/12/15/freelan

    Looking forward to hearing more about how you manage things, Carol. What's your project management workflow like?

    – Jessie

  13. Pamella Moore

    Your website rocks and I love the, "Time Management Advice." I am a reformed Mom who does it all and I can tell you it never got easy. So thanks for all the great hints.

  14. Kipu Nerek

    I’m going to coat-tail on what “Very Evolved” said… The way you connect to your audience is… Know who you are writing to. You need to pick a Target Audience and stick to them. You wouldn’t write to an audience of 14yr olds the same way you would write to an audience of 60yr olds.

  15. Chiriqui

    I just wanted to say that I found your website via Goolge and I am glad I did. Keep up the good work and I will make sure to bookmark you for when I have more free time away from the books. Thanks again!

  16. skate shoes

    you should add some social bookmarking icons to your blog posts. At least add one for yahoo.

    • Carol Tice

      Definitely on the to-do list!

  17. Dave

    I like your #9 and it made me laugh – the part about those having a nervous breakdown. I have finally decided that my house will never also look like a design catalog even though I strive for it continually secretly – well, apparently no longer secretly. Thanks for these tips. I was surprised to see Exercise at #1!

    • Carol Tice

      Well, like I said above, they’re in no particular order…

  18. polarffour

    I can see you happen to be an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your facts will likely be quite fascinating for me.. Thanks for all your assist and wishing you all the success.

  19. Marina DelVecchio

    Carol, I love this line! "Don’t try to conform to anybody’s idea of a supermom…those women are all having quiet nervous breakdowns, I believe."

    I don't try to do anything more than I can handle, but I never seem to have enough time to do what I want to do — which is write. I blog for me and for two other online sites — for free — and I teach two college courses in writing once a week, but the grading and planning takes a lot of my time. I mostly compose articles or get ideas for them in my head. I have three in my head right now that I want to write, and I am a mess when it comes to organizing myself, and taking care of the kids, and not taking my frustrations out on those I love because I'm not doing what I need to be doing. I don't know how to organize myself…

  20. Tárhely

    I’m just lurked around, and found your site. I’m really interested. Where can I find more info? Many thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      Subscribe to the blog and keep reading for lots more tips on how to earn more from your writing.

  21. Jocuri Online

    Nice post admin. Keep the good work.

  22. ntathu

    wow..love your tips..saying No, letting go, exercise, rest, sleep, family time and an untidy home – recipe for success….I like it. For me, its yoga – i try and fit in a daily early morning meditation practice/breathing/prayers and or asanas. Like you I have three children…thankfully mine are teenagers so i feel less time-pressed to be on demand…..stay blessed and thanks for all your insightful blogs. Nx


  1. Make A Living Writing » Blog Archive » To Earn More, Writers Need to Recharge — Fast - Frank advice about the business of writing. - [...] the more you learn how to do it time-efficiently and without wiping yourself out. That ability to keep yourself…
  2. http://%/bvxhuet4 - ... trackback ..... Tr¨¨s bonne morceau de contenu , c'est tr¨¨s semblable ¨¤ un site que j'ai. Veuillez tester les…

Related Posts

A Look Inside Den 2x Success Stories

The Freelance Writers Den is the online community where freelance writers learn how to grow their income -- fast. Inside the community, there are two levels: The Freelance Writers Den is for freelancers who are just getting started, learning the basics, and giving...