This is the bulletin board that hangs above my desk. It features a favorite quote and three questions that I ask myself every day.
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” — Nora Ephron
Have you read for pleasure today?
Have you created today?
Have you walked or exercised today?
What’s been frustrating me for years is that I often don’t answer “yes” to these questions, and yet, they focus on three of the most important things to me: reading, creating, and good health.
But all that changed yesterday.
Yesterday, February 1, 2016, was my first day as a full-time writer.
I now have the flexibility and the motivation to create a daily schedule that reflects my values and my passions. Here’s how it went.
8:30 AM: Wake up, brush teeth, eat breakfast, read the newspaper, meditate, and shower
10:30 AM: Answer emails and tweet
11:40 AM: Go for walk (twice a week, go to Qigong class)
12:45 PM: Lunch and read
2:00 PM: Write, plan, revise, edit
3:30 PM: Break
4:00 PM: More writing, revising, etc.
5:30 PM: Cook
6:30 PM: Dinner with the Hubs
7:30 PM: Administrative tasks and last emails
8:30 PM: Relaxation and Free Time
11 PM: In bed
So, how did it feel to be on this new schedule?
It was heavenly because it fits who I am, what I like to do, and when I like to do it.
Unlike so many people who say you should always do the most important thing first (as in, write!), I don’t work on my writing until I’ve read for pleasure, eaten two meals, and exercised. Why? A couple of reasons.
First, I’m not a morning person and it takes me a good while to get going. Second, I’m a very strong J in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). In case you don’t know much about MBTI, let me tell you that J-people love closure; they love to check things off their to-do lists. It gives me great pleasure and makes me feel really good when I do this. So, I’d much rather finish certain things from my list (emails, tweets, exercise, read) and then have an uninterrupted period of time when I can delve into my creative endeavors without thinking about all the other things I need to do.
The older I get, and the more experience I have, the more I realize that in order for me to be successful in anything, let alone as a writer, I need to know myself and follow what’s right for me.
Not every day will conform to this ideal schedule. Some days (like today, only my second day!) won’t go smoothly due to appointments that can’t be rescheduled or sudden emergencies or Mercury being in retrograde (I have no idea what that means but it seems like whenever I’m having hard days, I’ll hear that Mercury’s in retrograde). But that’s okay. As long as I know what I want to do every day, I have something good to reach for. Over time, if I stick to a schedule that works for me, I’ll be able to produce my best work. And that’s good enough for me.
September 11, 2017 UPDATE: Over the last 19 months, since I first started writing full time, my writing schedule has changed a lot. A LOT! Sometimes I wrote in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes at night. It took me a long time to figure out a schedule that was best for my writing and my personal preferences. I now write mostly in the morning and early afternoon, sometime from 10am-2pm, preferably from 10am to noon. Because writing requires me to make hundreds of decisions, it’s best for me to write when I have the least amount of decision fatigue. That’s why I switched from writing in the afternoon/evening to writing in the morning/early afternoon. For more details, watch my vlog, How to Feel the Fear & Write Every Day.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is also the founder of Prelaw Guru, a law school application consulting company, and the author of The No B.S. Guides for prelaw students.