Monday, November 6, 2017

How to Manage Your Crazy Workload Without Going Crazy Yourself [Guest Post]

Hi, my name is Tessa … and I’m a workaholic. I love the feeling that comes from staying productive and reaching new milestones. It keeps me striving forward as I reach for my dreams. This has lead me to a career as an author, associate literary agent at Hartline Literary, YA acquisitions editor at Illuminate YA, and editor-in-chief for Pursue Magazine.

Although being a workaholic can become unhealthy if it gets out of hand, I’ve learned, through trial and error, how to manage my crazy schedule without going crazy myself.

I think this is an important skill for all writers to learn. In order to make a living as an author these days, most of us can’t simply depend on the royalty checks we receive from our books alone. Aside from managing social media, email, and marketing our books, we have to create other streams of income as well. This can come from booking gigs as a speaker and/or a writing instructor or becoming a blogger, freelance writer, freelance editor, etc.

But how is it possible to effectively balance these separate entities without going crazy?

It comes down to evaluating how we spend our time. Here are 10 ways I’ve managed to keep everything on my plate—without losing my mind in the process.

1) Keep a planner (or productivity app).

Although there are several planner/productivity apps people use to organize their time and tasks, I prefer to use a physical planner. For the past few years I’ve used an Erin Condren planner. This allows me to keep track of my daily to do lists, set monthly goals, and keep track of my deadlines.

2) Prioritize.

On my planner, I use a highlighter to highlight the tasks that are a priority for that specific day. Doing this helps me to not become overwhelmed when I look at the list as a whole, and instead I can focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished that day. The lesser-important tasks are then pushed to the next day. If they aren’t complete by the end of the week, then I usually try find time to accomplish them on Saturdays.

3) Take breaks.

Even though I love being ambitious and staying productive, I’ve learned (the hard way) how important it is to take breaks. I try not to work any more than eight hours a day—then I’m off of the computer for the rest of the day. I’m far more productive in the long run when I do make it a priority to take daily breaks.

4) Make time for yourself and have quiet time with God.

There’s a difference between taking a break from work and making time for yourself. When you aren’t working, do you find yourself working on other projects or doing favors for others? Analyze where your energy is spent. For most of us, it’s impossible to spend eight hours a day entirely focused on ourselves. We have a life to manage, after all! However, our energy is replenished when we do devote a certain amount of time to ourselves daily—and most importantly, when we make time to spend with God.

Every day, I try to do something for myself—whether it involves taking a walk with my dog, spending time with friends, or reading a book that I’ve been itching to read. But even if I can’t find time for myself, I make sure to protect my quiet time with God. After all, He’s the One gives me the strength I need to accomplish the daily work He’s given me. And the time I spend in prayer and in the Word will reap both earthly and eternal benefits (1 Tim. 4:8).

5) Keep a regular schedule.

This is probably the hardest for me. I’m more of a night owl, so it requires a lot of self-discipline to go to bed early and wake up early. But I’m most productive when I can get an adequate amount of sleep at night and keep a semi-regular schedule throughout the day.

For instance: In the mornings, after I have quiet time, breakfast, make coffee, and do my morning exercise, I then spend 20 – 30 minutes scheduling social media for the day. After that, I’ll spend about 20 minutes answering important emails. Then I begin to work on knocking tasks off my to-do list, beginning with the most important. I continue to work until around 5 or 6 in the evening.

6) Assign days to specific projects.

This is something new I’ve started to do, and I’ve already found it to be beneficial. Since I work for separate entities, it’s easier to organize their specific tasks and assign them for different days of the week. This may change, however, depending on deadlines and such.

7) Don’t overcommit yourself.

Do I sound like a hypocrite by advising this? ;) Honestly, I have had to learn this the hard way. I don’t like to say no to new opportunities—but I can’t juggle too much at once. When I try to do this, then I end up devoting only a small amount of my attention into each project.

I know how much I can handle per day. So, whenever I’m presented with a new project, assignment, or opportunity, I don’t let my emotions make the decision; instead, I evaluate my current to-do list. I analyze whether or not I’d have the time/energy required to perform this task. Then I can realistically know whether or not I should move forward or say no. The latter isn’t always fun, but it’s a vital part in keeping my sanity—and staying more productive in the long run.

8) Don’t be afraid to hire—or ask for—help.

I have interns and others working with me at IlluminateYA, Pursue Magazine, and Hartline Literary (including Stephanie!). Without them, it’d be impossible for me to manage 100% of the job’s responsibilities entirely on my own.

If you’re finding it difficult to juggle your separate jobs, perhaps you should consider hiring help or seeking unpaid interns. You can hire a social media manager, secretary, publicist, etc. You can also find college students who would be happy to work at an unpaid internship in the field they’re studying. Consider posting an ad on

9) Keep your health in balance.

When our mental/physical health isn’t in balance, then we can’t adequately accomplish our daily tasks. This is why keeping good health has become a priority in my life. I make sure that my daily diet gives me the nutrition I need and that I exercise daily. Click here for my complete list of 8 ways writers can keep their health in balance.

10) Stay focused and eliminate distractions.

Only you know what distracts you the most—whether it’s social media, YouTube, housework, texts/phone calls, etc. Whatever it is, do what you can to remove those distractions when you sit down to work. Give yourself a time limit for the task you’re accomplishing; that way, you can stay focused within that timeframe.

I’ve found it helpful to change up my work locations. Some days, I might work from a coffee shop; other days, I’ll work at my standing desk; other days, I might work on my screened in porch. Do what works best for you. Just make sure that 100% of your attention is given to the specific task at hand.


In order to make a living from working on your passions at home, you need to first learn the art of time management and self-discipline. Analyze how you spend your time and when your energy is at its peak. Discover how you can best keep track of your tasks—whether it’s by using an actual planner or an app.

Then, create a schedule that will allow you approx. eight hours of work, eight hours of non-work (which includes breaks and quiet time), and eight hours of sleep.

Only then will you learn the secret to managing your crazy workload—without going crazy yourself.

~ ~ ~ 

How do you manage your time and workload? 

Do you prefer to use a planner, productivity app, checklists, etc.?

Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens lead her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of Tessa's first teen devotional will release with Bethany House in 2018. She's guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blog, mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website:

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