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Working within your Limits

With Covid changing life drastically over the past year-- there has been a lot of discussion about work-life balance, how to manage time, how to disconnect, and generally how to have a more productive relationship with your job. One aspect that doesn't seem to get addressed often is limitations.

Every single person in the world has a limit. The struggle is finding your limit. But how do you do that? The best way to determine your limits is to collect data. Study yourself, a bit like a science experiment. Are you more productive in the mornings or in the afternoons? How much sleep do you need to feel rested? Do you prefer to communicate via phone or email? Collect as much data on yourself as you can.

Take a week or two to really study yourself. Of course, things are going to change in your limits and productivity levels, whether its because of a strict deadline, family obligations, change in seasons, whatever.

Take some time to develop a "base-line" of when you feel the most productive and the most fulfilled in your work.

Many authors have 9-to-5 jobs that take up a lot of their time and energy. There are also family, friends, exercise, housekeeping, and a million other things that take up time in your day. Collecting the data and knowing the adjustments you need to make is very different than actually making them.

Here is some of the data we collected on ourselves:

1) We will ignore/lose/not look at planners/paper/phone notifications if at all possible.

2) When we miss daily goals or don't finish a to-do list, we feel bad about ourselves and overwhelmed.

3) We are not morning people. We don't start to feel productive until 5 PM or later.

4) Our attention wanders easily, and we get burnt out doing one task for too long.

5) Noise is a very big distraction.

6) We get flustered when we get an idea, fix a plot hole, or have the perfect line of dialog and can't get it written in the correct place. We lose good ideas writing them on scraps of paper!

Now, some of that data is more complex that other pieces of it. We looked at how we felt, when we were productive, and what we found helpful and made a quick list. Here is a list of some of the adjustments we have made to make our writing life more productive based on the data above:

1) Writing a to-do list on a white board and not paper/a planner/a phone.

2) Setting weekly or monthly goals-- not day by day goals.

3) Sitting down to write after 9 PM.

4) Working in 20 minute bursts-- then checking Twitter.

5) No music, TV, podcasts, or other distracting noises while working

6) Keeping all Word Docs/Goo

gle Docs/etc. open to easily switch focus when an idea strikes

The adjustments you made don't have to be massive, life-changing things. Hearing things constantly about "pushing your limits" and "the grind never stops" and "there are no excuses" is not something we believe in. Limits are there to protect us (though testing them now and then isn't a terrible idea!), rest is important, and there are a thousand excuses! We know we will never, ever be the people to wake up at 5 AM and write before work, and that's okay. We will also never be the people who write every day, and that's fine too!

Know your limits, establish boundaries, and do your best. That's all you can do. Hang in there.

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