Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Writer’s Life: How to Juggle Multiple Tasks and Thrive

By Rochelle Melander, @WriteNowCoach

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Being a productive writer used to mean writing quickly and getting one to two books out a year. But these days, authors wear multiple hats and juggle multiple jobs--from actual jobs that pay our rent, to being our own publicist, designer, editor, and publisher. Rochelle Melander visits the lecture hall today to share some tips on how to live the writer's life without losing your mind. Please help me give her a warm welcome.

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach, helps entrepreneurs and professionals write business-boosting books. Her latest book—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It)—offers more tools and tricks for writing your book fast. Sign up for her Plot Your Write Life challenge and learn how to design your ideal writing life. To learn more about the Write Now! Coach, visit her site.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

Take it away Rochelle...

These days, nearly everyone seems to be writing a book. But why?

One agent attributes this to the image of living the writing life: “A successful book agent I know tells me that at least half the people he meets who are writing their first book, are doing so not because they have anything particularly interesting to say, but because the idea of “the writer’s life” appeals to them.” (Hugh McLeod quoted at I Will Teach You To Be Rich.)

If you’re living the writing life, especially the indie author life, you might be laughing at this. Those of us who live and breathe writing—and who’re trying to make a living at it—might not have such a romantic vision of the writing life. We know that it means learning to juggle. All writers must manage a day job, personal life, and writing. As indie authors, we juggle the regular writing tasks (research, writing, revising) with the jobs of a publishing team (editing, book design, cover design, etc.) and a PR firm (press releases, marketing, social media, and more).

It’s tempting to multitask, just to get it all done. When we blog, we keep Twitter open just in case something important comes up. When we revise, we check email between completing scenes.And on it goes. But multitasking profoundly impacts our productivity.

In The Plateau Effect, authors Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson mention a disturbing study: “The Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London published a study on infomania that found checking your email while performing another creative task decreases your IQ in the moment ten points. That’s the equivalent of not sleeping for thirty-six hours or double the impact of smoking marijuana.”


The solution, though, is simple: single tasking. Do one thing at a time with as few external disruptions as possible.In other words, we need to put our butt in the chair and write. (Or whatever task we’ve chosen to do at the time.)

But how do we do this? Over the years, as I’ve researched productivity and worked with many clients, I’ve discovered tools that help writers get more done. Here are five tools that will help you adopt single tasking:

1. Create a calm environment. 

In order to focus on one task at a time, we need to create an environment where that’s possible.

Eliminate: This means eliminating the distractions that regularly pull our focus from writing—like phone calls, texts, emails, social media, children, dogs, piles of paper, and so forth.

Adding: It also means adding the elements that make writing work for us—like soft music, white noise, or a clean office.

So, the successful writer will create a place—either at home or in a public environment—where they are able to focus on their project. For some writers that will mean renting an office, working at the library, or using one of those programs that turn off all access to the Internet.

2. Schedule writing time. 

Set aside time to write at your most productive writing times. If you’ve read my book or heard me talk, you know I am a firm believer in scheduling. I often quote the breast self-exam study—100 percent of women who scheduled when and where they would do their breast self-exam did it. When we know when and where we will write, we’re much more likely to complete our work.

3.Cluster tasks. 

Instead of switching between your many tasks, cluster like tasks together and schedule everything. So instead of switching between writing and social media every five minutes, set aside time each day to attend to each of your tasks, including writing, email, social media, and more. That way, you’ll still get to everything but you will not have to rapidly switch between tasks throughout the day.

4. Provide transition time. 

All students, from kindergarten through high school get time to move between classes. Why shouldn’t you? In the book Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, authors Paul Hammerness, M.D., Margaret Moore, and John Hane suggest using physical stress-busting activities like walking, stretching or lifting weights between activities in order to perform better on the next task.

5. Create work zones. 

The prolific author, poet, and playwright Sir Walter Scott had an enormous desk with two working surfaces so that he could work on multiple projects at once. When we physically shift spaces, we remind our brain that it’s time to switch activities. Think about how you can make use of various spaces in your house or neighborhood to more easily shift between your various roles as an indie author. If you can’t move out of your desk, think about creating project folders that you can take out for each task and put away afterwards. (You can also do this electronically.) Or literally switch hats—wear a baseball cap when you write and a crown when you promote.

Finally, at the end of the day
—clean up your computer desktop and your physical office space so that you can make the big shift from work life to the rest of your life. This will prevent you from showing up at the networking event or your kid’s school with a work hangover. You know what that is, don’t you? You’re present but your head is still in the job of writing or promoting your book—so when someone asks you what you think about the upcoming election, you look at them with that deer-in-the headlights stare.

About Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It)

Find the focus, energy, and drive you need to start--and finish--your book

According to a recent survey, 81 percent of Americans want to write a book. But finding free time to write can be difficult for Americans. According to Gallup's annual lifestyle poll, 60% of working Americans say that do not have time to do what they want to do.

So many would-be authors start writing only to stall out due to writer's block, mental fatigue, and other challenges. Write-A-Thon helps you overcome those stumbling blocks and complete your book once and for all. And you don't have to type away for years on end. Here's a plan that will help you write your book--in twenty-six days!

Write-A-Thon gives you the tools, advice, and inspiration you need to succeed before, during, and after your writing race. Solid instruction, positive psychology, and inspiration from marathon runners will give you the momentum to take each step from here to the finish line.
  • Start out well prepared: Learn how to train your attitude, your writing, and your life -- and plan your novel or nonfiction book.
  • Maintain your pace: Get advice and inspiration to stay motivated and keep writing.
  • Bask in your accomplishment: Find the best ways to recover and move forward once the marathon is over and you have a completed manuscript in hand.
Writing a book in twenty-six days may seem impossible--especially if you don't write full time--but in Write-A-Thon, Rochelle Melander will teach you the life skills, performance techniques, and writing tools you need to finish your manuscript in less than a month--guaranteed!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound


  1. I love the suggestion to wear a crown while promoting! I'll have to borrow my daughter's tiara.

  2. I enjoyed your writeathon book and reread it every so often for encouragement. My writing computer is not connected the the internet so when I write, I write...or stare at the wall...! A tiarra sounds like fun, mabye then I'd actually do more promoting... Re: the study on creative tasks and interrupting with email, I read that it takes 8 minutes to get back into a creative zone after an interruption.
    merrie day.