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

This post first appeared in 2012.

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!!
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