How to Cheat to Find More Work Time

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Spring is a such a crazy time for most families. It's the time of year for dance and piano recitals, sports banquets, end-of-the-year school projects, track and soccer practices, graduation parties, state swim meets, etc, etc, etc.

Basically we're trying to cram as much into the calendar as possible before summer arrives.

All the activities tend to wreck havoc on a writer's schedule . . . at least they do on mine!

When things start to get crazy, I have to be careful not to let my emotions get crazy. It's all too easy to start snapping at everyone and to have major pity parties about how little I'm getting done.

As a work-from-home mom, I constantly find myself challenged to balance work and mom duties. Obviously I don't want to short-change my family. I want to be available to them. I want to give them my best. But I also want to give my work my best too. I want to work hard. And I want to put one hundred percent into my writing.

The balance between work and family is a constant tug-of-war.

Although I do fall into the woe-is-me trap, I've also learned to "cheat" to find more work time.

Here are just a few ways I cheat to get in more work:

1. Listen to audio books. 

I firmly believe writers must be voracious readers. We learn an incredible amount about story-telling and writing techniques from studying what others are doing.

But if we're having trouble finding writing time, how can we possibly squeeze in time for reading widely and deeply?

Audio books.

Audio books have been a godsend for me. I have a membership with which allows me to download books onto my Audible app on my iphone with the mere click of a button. Within a minute (or less) I can be listening to ANY book I want.

I listen in the car while driving kids to activities. I listen when I'm getting dinner ready. I listen while I'm putting on my makeup in the morning. And while I'm listening, I'm constantly analyzing and evaluating the stories, and thus working.

2. Listen to writing podcasts.

In addition to listening to audio books on my phone, I also download writing podcasts and listen to those as I go about life. I keep note cards and a pencil handy while I'm listening so that I can take notes to remember and review techniques.

I've found several podcasts that are particularly informative and practical:

Inside Creative Writing by Brad Reed
Helping Writers Become Authors by K.M. Weiland
Writing Excuses by B. Sanderson, D. Wells, M. Robinette Kowal, H. Taylor
The Writing Show by Paula B.
The Narrative Breakdown by Cheryl Klein and James Monohan

3. Get on social media when watching TV.

Yes, the TV does go on in my house. I admit, I have a couple of favorite shows. And I watch movies from time to time.

I've learned that I can watch those shows and sneak in some social media browsing simultaneously. While viewing, I'm able to flip through Pinterest pictures or glance at Facebook updates. During commercials, I can make blog comments or write a quick email.

It's an easy way to multi-task (and makes me feel less guilty about watching TV!).

Obviously, I can't rely on the "cheating" to get quality writing done. I have to purposely plan or set aside time for that. And when life is busy, inevitably the busyness begins to cut into my writing time.

But I really like this quote by JK Rowling. "Be RUTHLESS about protecting writing days." 

That's something I strive to live by. I try guard my writing time jealously. I let family and friends know my scheduled work time. I don't plan other events or activities for those writing days.

I aim high with my ruthlessness. And while I fall short some days, overall the ruthless protection holds me in good stead.

What about you? How do you "cheat" to find more work time? Are you ruthless enough about protecting your writing days?


  1. This is a nice reminder about protecting writing time. I know our summer season gets busy so fast. Some days getting writing done can be really difficult.

    1. Hi Naomi,

      Summers DO get busy too! There's a new onslaught with vacations and summer activities. I think the fact is, we're faced with the challenge of balancing work and family all year long. If we keep putting off writing until we have time, we may never get it! We have to MAKE time. :-)

  2. I have a number of tricks for carving out writing time.

    I get up an hour before the girls are due to get up for breakfast, so I have that time to write, edit, or anything else I want, 7 days a week. I give up my lunch hour in work to write, and at the weekends I go back to my office after the girls have had their breakfast to keep working.

    1. Hi Paul,

      I totally admire you for continuing to work amidst the crazy busyness of raising twins babies! You're an inspiration! :-)

    2. It helps that I was always in the habit of sleeping for just 6-7 hours and getting up well before I needed to be anywhere :-)

  3. I have been squeezing writing time in around my kids' schedules for the past few years and I just signed my youngest up for preschool the other day so I'm super excited about all that new writing time I'm going to get. Up to this point I have been squeezing it in during naps or the wee hours of the morning or night, which has been rough. I have also been looking for some good writing podcasts so thanks for the recommendations!!

    1. Hi Jenny,

      The key will be to protect those writing mornings that you have coming! I've found that it's all too easy to let other things encroach upon my writing days--meetings, errands, other projects, etc.! I have to be ruthless not only in guarding that time from others, but also with allowing myself to get distracted. :-)

    2. Jenny, I'm in the same boat. I have two children and the youngest is in preschool two days a week. Next year it will be five days a week, and I'm drooling over that anticipated writing time. We have a small house and I don't have an office, but the kitchen table is the best place for me to work anyway. I can pop up and down all day as needed. It is a difficult balance being a mom and a writer, but I want my children to learn the importance of responsibility and commitment, and I think I can show them by the way I approach writing.

  4. I've said this before, Jody, and I'll say it again--I am always amazing at how you seem to do it all and I'm thrilled that you shared some of your secrets! Thank you so much for that!!! :)

    1. Hi Amber,

      I'm not always sure how I do it all! Some days I meet myself coming and going! But I have learned that if we want something badly enough, we'll make the time, right? :-)

  5. I often put a book in my purse so if I'm out with my kids at a lesson or appointment I can read in the waiting times. I've also started listening to audio books while I do housework, but I hadn't thought of podcasts. Thanks for including links to some helpful ones. For writing I need bigger chunks of time, so then I usually end up putting off the housework or have my kids (12, 14, & 17) make their own meals.

  6. I do Multi-tasking too. I am sitting on a sofa knitting and watching news on my computer while my legs are busy rocking my baby on the bouncer ;)

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