Bring to mind that feeling when you finish something. When something ends, you feel space open up. Like putting away the holiday decorations, completing a project at work or finishing a school year. You have time and energy to bring something else onto your plate. You also know the feeling of overwhelm, having too many things to manage.
Most of us juggle many priorities: children, work, home, significant other and more. It’s not easy to find space or bandwidth for our own projects. We also underestimate how much space things take, and I am not just talking about physical space. There’s also mental, physical and temporal space. We have a warped idea of how long things take. Most of us feel disappointed that we didn’t do as much as we wanted in any given week. What if we had more spaciousness? What if we could fit our projects into the time available and leave stress of over-committing behind?
When my clients come to me feeling overwhelmed, I ask them to identify their tipping point. When is it all too much? What obligations on your plate put you over the edge? Hopefully, with awareness, you can learn to stop committing before you are plunged into overwhelm.
I have had clients who added book writing to their agenda in the same year that they were either buying a new house, moving to a new country, moving parents out of a childhood home, getting a new job or moving across the country. Guess what happened to their books? They aren’t on the shelves of bookstores. They are sitting in computer files waiting for actual space and the commitment to be written. No amount of coaching could reduce the amount of space those other things were taking in my clients’ lives. It just wasn’t the right timing for them to write their book.
You have a full life too. You are busy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make space to write your world-changing book. You may have heard of the “write your book in a weekend” workshops. The truth is, it’s going to take much longer than that to get your book written and into a form that’s ready to share with the world. Like renovation projects, your book will take longer and require more from you than you might expect.
The biggest mistake people make when getting ready to add a book to their plate is not removing obligations. Sometimes when I ask clients what they will put on hold, they stubbornly say, “Nothing!”
We have a skewed perception of how much we can actually do at any given time. The space in our imagination is vast—infinite, even. Yet the space we have in a day is, alas, limited. Our energy isn’t always full steam either. So we have to go with the flow of what’s manageable in any given week. We need to make space on our calendar for writing time, organizing, researching and all the other tasks associated with writing a book. Some things will contribute directly to our book. Clients, teaching, interacting with our book’s audience, networking at conferences. There may be volunteer obligations or other family obligations to set aside while writing the book.
Now, I am the last person to use the word “realistic.” I learned early on from a former yo-yo pro boyfriend (that’s right, yo-yo pro) that anything is possible—and I have seen all kinds of “unrealistic” things happen in my clients’ lives. I believe the word “realistic” exists largely to shut down innovation and creativity. But in assessing whether you have the space to write a book, you do want to bring in a dose of realism. The last thing I want for you is to add another stressor into your life. It’s okay if now isn’t the time to write your book. Setting yourself up with the space to succeed will build competence and confidence that will allow you to enjoy writing the book.
Let’s take a look at your current commitments. Here’s an exercise my clients have found useful to see what they are committed to. I call it “Mind Mapping Your Plate,” based on the common phrase “so much on my plate.” Putting your obligations visually on one page can give an immediate sense of how much you are actually taking on.
Get a regular sheet of printer paper. On sticky notes or in drawn bubbles, jot down all the major projects and commitments you have over the next three months. They could include:
- Your day job or business (and number of hours/week).
- Special projects at work, like a promotion or a launch.
- Buying a home.
- Moving to another home, state or country.
- Parenting responsibilities, like kids’ extracurricular activities or sports events.
- Volunteer work.
- Travel plans.
- Social and recreational activities.
- Family obligations, like parents’ or siblings’ moves or other caretaking responsibilities.
- Household projects, such as renovating or gardening.
When you see all your current commitments on the page, it’s easy to get a true picture of your availability. This is where you may see what you can set aside while you write your book. As you go through your months writing, many opportunities will arise. How will you fend off more projects and keep your writing space intact? Sometimes we have to spell it out for ourselves. I once made a sign that says “Add No More.” When I pull it out and hang it in my writing space, it reminds me not to add more things to my plate.
Perhaps you thought that because of the title of this book, I would have a magic solution to help you write your book even when you are juggling other major projects. Yes, I can help you, and you will have to make time, space and focus for your book. Consider if this is the right time for you to take on another project.
Are you able and willing to commit space to making your book a priority?
This is an excerpt from my book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing a World-Changing Book. If you’re ready to write your book and want support along the way, this is the guide for you. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, e-book and audio book. Get your copy now.