Where I’m At Now (Productivity Experiment)

SUPER BORING POST AHEAD. Kind of. If you want to see how my days look, what my job entails, and what I need to work on, you can totally stay. But no pressure. I’m just putting this here so we have something to compare my experimental schedules to. There are probably more interesting Buzzfeed articles and kitten videos out there to fill your time.

Okay, then.

Here’s a look at the baseline schedule I’m tracking right now. This is highly variable, of course. Holidays, sick days, and snow days happen. Medical appointments and car repairs eat into work hours. Summer vacation is a total crapshoot. But ideally, this is my weekday schedule:

6:30 – wake up. Morning routine (wash up, let the dogs out and feed Jack, gratitude notes, tea and breakfast, meds/vitamins, reading, plan my day and note top 3 goals, and 10 minutes meditation + floor stretches (if I don’t get distracted)

7:30 – kids up, showered and dressed, pack lunches, make sure everyone gets breakfast, do last night’s and this morning’s dishes, get the boys off to school

9:00 – walk Jack, listen to music, finish up housework that’s likely to distract me while I’m working at home.

10:00 – work time

12:00 – lunch

1:00 – work time

2:30 – stop work

3:00 on – homework, housework, family time, errands, cooking, supper, read to kids, wash hair, whatever else needs to get done, relax

9:30 – kids to bed

10:00 – bed, maybe read a bit, maybe just crash

It looks so simple laid out like that. Maybe not quite enough work hours to do as much writing as I want and take care of the promotion I should be doing, but decent part-time work hours.

And at its simplest level, my goal here is just to make the most of all those hours. To figure out how to get my brain to stop freaking out when I sit down to write and just frigging do it, to switch gears when I need to let go of work and do something else, to learn how to relax in those unclaimed after supper hours and to enjoy the time I get with my family… and more importantly to figure out how to gain more energy and conserve it so I have something to offer myself and others later in the day instead of turning into an unfocused zombie (mombie?) like I did three days out of last week.

…plus organizing my time/energy/attention so I can tackle all of the tasks related to my job (story brainstorming/planning/beats, writing, revisions, editing, marketing, hiring and coordinating editors and cover artists, answering emails, writing short stories and posts for my newsletters, critiquing work for other authors, networking, doing live reading events, managing my social media accounts and facebook reader group, bookkeeping/taxes/finances, and keeping on top of ideas and news that are relevant to my job without being distracted my the insignificant things) and my home life (you can probably fill in the blanks there. Two kids, three cats, two dogs, one husband who works full time, blessedly few extracurriculars, no hired help or childcare).

Because in reality (and last week’s time-tracking-induced efficiency aside), that schedule usually looks like a chunk of Swiss cheese when you take out the time I spend chatting on messenger, checking my email, scrolling through Instagram for too long, getting lost in an irrelevant Wikipedia rabbit-hole, searching for papers I’ve misplaced, responding to crises I could have avoided had I organized things better, procrasticleaning, and giving in to the urge to do non-critical tasks instead of ones that are important but aversive.

I said I was going to be honest, right?

I’ll let you know on Monday how the second baseline week panned out on this schedule, and then we’ll take a look at what I’m already doing to plug those Swiss cheese holes.

For now, here’s a look at the work projects I’m going to be working on over the next few months. You might notice two things: First, that there’s not a lot of business/promo-type stuff listed. My focus right now is on handling all of the writing I need to do to meet a few firm deadlines I’ve got coming up, including having a major project ready for an editor who books a year in advance. Second, this is a lot to accomplish in <20 hours a week between now and mid-January, even if I’m using those hours consistently and effectively. We’ll see how it pans out.

  • finish drafting Phoenix project (YA Fantasy/Dystopian): ~60K words to go
  • Get Phoenix revised, self-edited, and ready for critique
  • prep Phoenix for editor (post-crit revisions + polish)
  • Fixes on pen name book 3 when it’s back from the editor, polish for beta read*
  • plan and draft pen name book 4
  • book 3 cover art (commission, brainstorm, supervise, approve)
  • proofread, format, and publish book 3
  • try to plan and execute book 1 promo surrounding release of book 3 to get the series selling

Time to get cracking.**


*For anyone who’s interested in my writing process, here you go:

  • initial idea, brainstorming, plot and character arc outline, story beats and basic scene outlines
  • drafting (I generally average 1200 words an hour with scene planning and no distractions, and I take revision notes along the way instead of halting my momentum to fix things. I do, however, do a lot of sentence-level second-guessing and fixing as I’m writing. I can’t just leave cheeseball dialogue or dead-end ideas sitting there until revisions. This is probably why I don’t hit 2K words an hour, but it also means my first draft is more polished than it would otherwise be.)
  • rest time (at least 2 weeks to give me some distance and objectivity)
  • read through, look for places I could take the story deeper or make it more interesting, watch for plot holes and character inconsistencies, etc.
  • revisions (could mean massive rewrites or smaller edits)
  • critique (one fellow author and two more casual but sharp-eyed readers read the story and point out flaws/opportunities I might have missed)
  • further revisions and stylistic polish
  • professional editing (up to 6 weeks for a novel, during which time I’m working on something else)
  • edits back, make changes and fixes
  • cover art (I always hire someone for this, but it does require my time and attention)
  • beta read (three or four more readers offer feedback on what should by now be a polished manuscript)
  • fixes and multiple proofreads
  • formatting for ebook and paperback
  • order paperback proof and read over one more time
  • publication

**It probably goes without saying, but I have a tendency to plan bigger than I can actually execute. I get really optimistic in the planning stage, ignoring my average writing speed or forgetting the time I need to plan scenes, overestimating my ability to focus, and not accounting for lost work time. Building those factors into future deadlines will definitely be part of this experiment.


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with five cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. www.katesparkes.com www.tanithfrost.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

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