Saturday, October 11, 2014

Weekend Wildcard: Writing with A Day Job by Lee McKenzie

Harlequin Heartwarming author Lee McKenzie gives some of her tricks for carving out time to write starting with her morning routine.

Not every author I know has a day job, but every author I know has a life that’s brimming with family, friends and significant others, household chores, social obligations, medical appointments, community and charity work, and the list goes on. Add a writing deadline to the mix and you get a person with little time to spare. Add a full-time day job, and you have a sleep-deprived person who’s cutting corners, often taking care of everyone and everything but herself.

That was me last winter. With a full-time temporary assignment in a government office and a book contract complete with deadline, I didn’t have a spare minute to call my own.

But was I using my time wisely? I wish!

I’ve always been an early riser with a simple and straightforward morning routine. Get up, make coffee, quickly check email. An hour later I was scrambling to get ready for work and running for the bus. Sound familiar? I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Now for the really pathetic part. Was I was annoyed with myself for frittering away this time, my most productive time? You bet I was. Did I do anything about it? I am beyond embarrassed to confess that I did not.

 And then last spring I happened upon one of those random shares on Facebook (yet another morning time-waster) that changed everything. It was one of those inspirational posts that usually keeps me scrolling but that one resonated with me, so I clicked through to the page and then to the website, were I found a course called How to Create a Meaningful Morning Routine. I seldom sign up for anything online, but the idea of having a meaningful morning routine for a mere $9.95...what did I have to lose?

I’m happy to say it was money well spent. I worked through the lessons to develop a basic morning routine that gradually evolved into MY morning routine.

My morning routine now starts at bedtime, when I set up the coffeemaker, lay out clothes for the next day, and check to see that my alarm is set for 5:00 a.m.

That’s right. 5:00 a.m.

I get up when the alarm goes off, pour myself a cup of coffee and read for fifteen minutes. I like my morning reading to be something inspirational, and it has ranged from Colonel Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth  to Romance Is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last by Harlequin editor Patience Bloom.

I use a timer so I don’t get sidetracked and when my fifteen minutes are up, I turn on my laptop and spend the next fifteen minutes on what I call my book-of-the-heart project. I have no idea what will become of that book. I love the story and the characters, but most of all I love that it’s put the fun back into writing. When the timer goes again, I make a note of my word count and close the file.

By then my creative juices are flowing and I spend the next half hour working on something more serious, which is currently what I hope will be my next three-book series. That proposal is on my editor’s desk, so please keep your fingers crossed!

After an hour of being productive, I still have plenty of time to get ready for work without feeling rushed. Some mornings I actually head out the door without even checking email (imagine!) but if I do log in, I set my timer.

The best part of this is that no matter how the day unfolds, I’ve done something for myself. Even if I spend the rest of the day spinning my wheels in the muck of my day job or come home exhausted and ready for bed, I don’t feel guilty. Why should I? I started the day by putting myself first and accomplishing things that really and truly matter to me.

If you’ve found a way to beat procrastination and be more productive, I’d love to hear about it.  I’m also delighted to offer a copy of my new release, The Parent Trap.


Please post a comment and then be sure to check back to find out if you’re the winner!

Happy reading!


Lee

To find out more about Lee and her books, readers are invited to visit her at www.leemckenzie.com.

16 comments:

  1. Most books say to "eat the frogs first", as in do what you don't want to do first or what needs to be done first, but sometimes that doesn't work with the amount of time allotted. I DO find that writing things down helps me immensely. If I don't write it down, I often don't remember to do it. I TRY to schedule things throughout my day; sometimes it works, but more often than not it doesn't because life gets in the way.
    I admire what you do. That's a great idea doing all that first thing in the morning before "life gets in the way". I tend to get more done in the evening, so that's when I try to schedule more things.

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    1. Laney4, I live by lists! I envy people like you who can work in the evening. I've usually run out of energy by then.

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  2. Even now, when I'm retired from the day job, I still need a timer to keep myself productive. Good post, Lee, and THE PARENT TRAP is a great book with a gorgeous cover!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! All of this month's Heartwarmings have gorgeous covers, including yours, Back to McGuffey's!

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  3. Lee, thanks for the tips and the ongoing inspiration. I'm not a morning person so I can only shake my head at your routine and the accomplishments in the early hours of the day. Your point, of course, is to have a routine and to stick with it. Thank you.

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    1. Routine is so important, Graham. Just not the time-wasting kind of routine I used to have!

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  4. Lee, congratulations on The Parent Trap - and what an admirable morning routine. (And isn't Patience Bloom's book fun? It proves editors aren't really goddesses, they're just human beings like us!) I'm a total list-maker, but I also like some sense of flexibility (or at least the illusion that I can do what I want!). So what I started trying out a few days ago is to make a list first thing every morning (6:00 for me) that's segmented into 3 parts: morning, afternoon, evening. I decide what I want to accomplish in the day (writing plus everything else, including laundry, banking, email, etc.) and roughly how long it should take or how much time I plan to spend on it, then I slot it into one of the three spots. It's helping me be realistic about planning how much I can accomplish in a time period, and also allow myself some flexibility in each time slot - e.g., after dinner, do I want to do my exercises before working on the discussion guide for my next book, or vice versa? So far it's going amazingly well.

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    1. Flexibility is key, Susan! On days I don't work, I still try to stick to my morning routine. The rest of my day is far less structured but still (I hope!) productive.

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  5. Good morning Lee,
    I have to confess to being a big time procrastinator these days. I used to be super organized with time slots for everything I did. Now though, since selling my restaurant and moving closer to my daughter and grandchild I find myself easing back, taking time to breathe and enjoy life. Do I get as much done? No, but I don't feel the stress of those earlier days either, :)

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    1. Family is first and foremost with me, too. I can't think of anything more productive than spending precious time with your daughter and granddaughter!

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  6. Loved reading about your routine - so inspiring! Congratulations on your release! Lisa McManus

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! I'm so glad you dropped by!

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  7. What a great process, Lee! Like Graham, I'm not a morning person either, but I love the idea of making sure to pay yourself first, so to speak. It's definitely worth it. Best of luck with your proposal!

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  8. Hi Lee,
    I'm so impressed with that list of tasks you accomplish every morning. I don't have that kind of energy level, but do manage to mark off times during the week that I call 'booked'. That's when I get some writing done.
    Best of luck with 'The Parent Trap'.
    Sylvie Grayson

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    1. Sylvie, I loved hearing about your "booked" times. Thank you for sharing that with everyone. I'm picturing a closed office door with a "do not disturb" sign on the knob!

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