How to Write a Gazillion Books and Do a Gazillion Things While Listening to God and Keeping Your Sanity

Busy schedule? I understand.

I have book deadlines April 1 and May 1 (with another project of devotions due April 15). We’re moving to a new house on April 1, and I have a 2-day trip this week and a 3-day trip next week. And that’s just the beginning of my to-do list! I have a grandma to care for, a wonderful husband, and three kids still at home: one in college, one in his last year of high school (who I homeschool), and a toddler! We also have another family living with us for a few more weeks. Five more people including kids ages 10, 7 and 5!

In addition to that there is the daily stuff of being a writer: emails, phone calls, my weekly radio show and social media (Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest), which I insist IS work. Okay, to me social media is super fun and doesn’t seem like work, but I do have some marketing stuff too because By the Light of the Silvery Moon released March 1 and Beyond Hope’s Valley is releasing April 1.

How do I manage a schedule like that?

The thing that helps me handle a schedule like that is to put everything (as I think of it) into slots on my schedule (on my computer). I use iCal and when I put everything into my computer it looks sort of like this:

I include EVERYTHING in my calendar:

Morning quiet time
Time with my husband and kids
Phone interviews
Bible Study
Blogs I need to write
Grocery shopping
Daily writing goals
Phone calls I need to make
Emails I need to answer
Date nights
Small group
Church events
Housecleaning and laundry

Putting everything into my calendar gets it off my brain. I don’t have to think about it because I know I’ll get to it–each thing will get it’s turn and each thing has to learn to be patient.

Then in the morning I prayerfully hold my schedule up to God and ask what He thinks of it. Sometimes I feel the need to just scoot those to-dos off to another day and take my grandma to Wal-mart. Sometimes the list gets done quicker than I thought and I have “space” for a nap. And I take that nap, too, because all those other things I have to do are still in their space and are still waiting patiently!

Sometimes my heart is moved in a different direction during morning devotions, or my mind is moved in a different direction by a book idea that won’t leave me. That’s important, too. I’ve learned NOT to let my daily to-do list take control of the creative part. If there is a new idea that I feel the Holy Spirit is directing me to I stop and listen to that. God knows my to-do list, too. I figure if He wants me to pause and redirect my creative energy then He has the rest of the items on my to-do list figured out, too.

God has also provided me with wise advisers. I’ll often adjust my daily calendar after talking with my husband. John’s great about helping me pick out what’s really important. I also heed the advice of my agent Janet Grant who is great about telling me what idea can wait and what idea needs to be acted on NOW. I trust Janet and her advice has been right 99 percent of the time. (I personally can’t remember the 1 percent when she wasn’t right, but maybe there was a time?) Janet acts as a wise counselor to me, and it’s important to have someone who can “see” the bigger picture when I tend to get focused on the daily little stuff.

I also keep my heart tender to the needs of my kids. There are some days Alyssa (2) needs more interaction and direction. There are days she’s not content playing with play dough, sitting next to me, as I answer emails. There are times when she doesn’t want a nap and I’ve had to reschedule phone meetings that I set up to be during her nap time. There are times she’s sick and I’ve had to ask for a few extra days on a writing deadline. There are some days (nearer to book deadlines), when I find a babysitter so I can go to Panera to write.

My older kids need attention too. When my daughter wants to sit down and talk or my son asks if we can go to lunch–just the two of us–I know I need to make time. Sometimes I’m able to adjust my schedule that day, but if that’s not possible then I move other stuff aside and “write them into my schedule” as soon as possible. For example a few weeks ago Nathan wanted to go to lunch. I had a few phone meetings and some important errands that day, but we set a time for two days later. Knowing we were going to spend quality time together in a few days made us both happy.

As you know, “life” isn’t always great about sticking to a schedule BUT it’s worth an effort to try to give everything a spot. Life happens, things change, and that’s okay. It’s just easier for me to have everything written down where I can see it. Because iCal manages my to-dos, I do a better job of loving and caring for the people and tasks in the moment.

So, what about you? Any tips or advice on how you manage your schedule?

Meet Tricia!!

Do you live close to Philadelphia, PA? I’ll be in Philly March 14th 6:15 – 7:30PM at Philadelphia City Institute (A branch of the Philadelphia Free Library) I will be sharing about writing and how to write the next great novel. For more information on this FREE event, be sure to check out my website.

I will also be speaking at MomLife Boot Camp in Tyler, TX March 23-25. For more information on MomLife Boot Camp click here.

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  1. Tricia, I enjoyed your post. I,too, get things “outta the brain” by scheduling them a spot on the to-do list. It’s the only way to roll, yes? 🙂 One tip that I live by is similar– when I’m praying and my mind begins wandering or working on another project/problem, I stop and jot down a note about it. I’ve learned that simple act will release the pressure and let me return to whatI love best, His fellowship. Have a good one and let us write on!

  2. Your points are well taken. I have been working on a variety of to-do lists, and still have yet to alight on one that really resonates. With what I have learned over the past few months, however, I may give iCal another look, based on your suggestions.

    The prayer and remembering to listen part is so important, isn’t it? When I either don’t take the time to listen, or brush off any message because my to-do list looms, inevitably that decision comes back to haunt me.

    As you say, God knows our to-do lists, and I would have to add He can see a much bigger picture than I. 🙂

  3. Shellie, I LOVE that tip! I have that happen to me too. I usually open my computer to jot down a note, but they I get distracted even more! I think I’ll just keep some slips of paper with me. Thank you, friend!

  4. Kim, it’s so important to find something that works for us! People come up with great ideas, but sometimes they just don’t work.

    Putting God first and seeking Him always works. You’re right. It does help to get input from the One who knows all–I’m learning to figure that out!

  5. Tricia, I really admire your mindset. I’m a planner/list girl, and I love my Google calendar … yet I still find myself getting overwhelmed. After your reading your post, I wonder if I would benefit from putting EVERYTHING on the calendar. Because I love how you say that “everything is waiting in its slot.” When I get overwhelmed, it’s because I’m thinking about everything lumped together on my list. If I knew items had a slot, maybe that would help.

    I’m amazed at how you get everything done. I have two kids (4 and 20 months) and I’m not on deadline right now, but I STILL get so overwhelmed by everything.

    Thanks for your post 🙂

  6. Stephanie, It does help me to do it that way. I put everything: grocery shopping, sorting mail, cooking dinner, calling my mom 🙂 Then, when I am bugged by something I tell it to hush, that I’ll get to it.

    It also helps me not try to squeeze to much in one day. No, it doesn’t take me 30 minutes to sort through some mail but there are other things that come up and the extra 20 minutes is handy. 🙂

  7. You are SUPER organized! I’m pretty organized too, but I enjoy spontaneity and sometimes I feel restricted by my own scheduling.

    I really like what you said about creating your own schedule and taking it to God for approval. It’s awesome to hear about your example of heeding God’s wisdom in even the small details. I love that because so many people/Christians think of God as this very important Being who doesn’t really care about the trifles of our lives.

    On the other hand, it’s way too easy to take our lives in our own hands and not even stop to wonder if God cares about the schedule. It’s easy to get cocky and think we have our days all mapped out, when really He’s the only one who knows the future.

    I love reading about how other moms manage to balance family time with creative/work time, especially with God as that key factor. I’m trying to encourage others in that same area. Thanks for the post!

  8. I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this! I often wonder how in the world you, and others like you, manage to fit in writing. I have the most amazing ideas at the most inconvenient times, but when the moment passes, it’s so hard to pick that creative thought back up. I love that you actually stop to follow your creativity, as the Holy Spirit leads, of course. I’m going to try to do that more. Thanks for the amazing advice!

  9. says:

    I am a super organizer and tend to jot down and enter on the computer every thought and bit of my life–home & work–as it comes out a thousand miles an hour. Usually it works well. Yet at times I feel overwhelmed. (And I worry about others who aren’t as enthusiastic about our informaton-overload way of living.) At times I need to simply allow myself to seriously unplug. (Pinterest doesn’t count!) Thanks for the great morning read!

  10. Thank you Tricia for opening up about how you do it all. I’m convicited to start working on somthing I’ve putting off because I “don’t know where to fit it in” I know it is a work the Lord is asking me to do, I just need to be more disciplined and make the time.

  11. God will show you the perfect way, Pam!

  12. I love this post, it makes me think with prayer it’s all possible. You are way busier than I am in my life and I sometimes don’t give a priority to prayer and quiet time and I know I need to. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Oh wow, Tricia! My calendar looks a lot like that, but it’s not nearly as terrifying as reading about yours! Yikes!

    On mine, I also add media time for socializing and try really hard to stay within those confines. I don’t always succeed (more like rarely) but they are there as good reminders.

    Love your inspiration.

  14. Not only do you amaze me with your scheduling ability but inspire me as well.

  15. Thank you Kristine and Marji!

  16. I can relate as I get ready to leave with just one of my six kids to speak at a homeschool conference. One thing that works for me on my really busy days (I think it’s important to have a couple of days a week that aren’t so busy) is using SmartPad on my iPad. I schedule my appointments and SmartPad fits my to-do’s around them. If I goof off, I can see possible tasks drop off as possibilities for the day. I also look at it as God being my boss. He gets to interrupt my schedule whenever He likes. His priorities are my priorities! Great post!

  17. I completely agree we have days and weeks when we DON’T schedule. Our bodies, minds, and spirits need seasons of rest too!

  18. Thanks for sharing! I also use (online and as an app) I can jot don all my lists priorities, categorize, include notes, etc. set a due date and not worry about it. If I get an idea while dressing in the morning, I can shoot an email to RTM with the task and my notes and know it will be waiting when I get to work. It is a lifesaver.

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