Creating the Perfect Time Management Soufflé

One of the greatest parts of my job is that I am so blessed to be surrounded by people more talented than I am…so I can learn. Who Dares Wins Publishing makes this easy, and that is why I love having my fellow WDW authors as guest bloggers. You guys might remember Natalie Markey. Well, she’s back! And she is going to teach us a critical skill for success in any field, but especially in the writing/publishing field. TIME MANAGEMENT! Oy vay! How I struggle with this…which is why I seek out experts. Her bio is at the bottom of the page, and so are links to buy her book.

Today, I am going to share Natalie with you guys. Take it away!


Everyone is trying to be many people at once. I have the writer me, the wife, me, the mommy me, the housekeeper me, and well you get the idea. But how can you take everything that you are and cook it all up to create the perfect time management solution mold for you?

No one said life was easy—it’s hard. So are soufflés! I love to cook and still mastering a soufflé is very much a work in progress! We are all chefs struggling to find the right ingredients for life. How can you master that perfect soufflé?

It is possible to have it all and keep that scary to-do list at bay. How you may ask? Below is how I do it on most days while caring for an active toddler, a demanding dog and two bunnies.

1. Day of Cleaning- Before you can really take on your life’s goals (all of them) you need to have a clean space to accomplish them in. This is the hardest part for some. It helps me greatly to just assign a big clean day once a month. This way nothing gets too out of hand. Now I will still put stuff away and do some cleaning each week normally as I wrap things up for a day. However, a good clean should get a full day for the main reason, as it will have your entire focus. By assigning a day you won’t be feeling pressured to get back to your WIP or write next week’s blog posts. You won’t feel bad putting those things off because they weren’t scheduled for that day. By having a clean work space you can find things easier, move around with ease and make the most of all your time.

2. Reasonable To Do List- I’m a fan of lists. Many people are but keep your list reasonable. You know realistically how much you can do. Don’t exceed that expectation. If you create an impossible to accomplish to do list then you will only be depressed when it doesn’t get done. I try to put at least 2 extra items more than what I think I can get done. This way if I make more time I can always strive for the whole list but if these items need to moved to the following day then it won’t be a big deal.

3. A Well Thought Out List of Goals- Always keep your goals in mind. What do you really want? Don’t get so bogged down with social media and other projects that you lose sight of your big picture.

4. Priority List- It’s good to have a to do list but if there is no order to that list it could be more troublesome than helpful. In all aspect of life you need to do some things before other things. Wednesday’s is our trash day. If I waited until I met my daily word count before taking the trash out then I could miss trash day. It is just as important to prioritize with your writing as it is to prioritize with other areas of your life.

5. Spiral– For daily notes. Keep track of where you stopped when you must run into that meeting or when the baby wakes up from naptime. This will save time when you can return to writing. The days of trying to find where you left off are over! I use my daily notebook as a place to keep any ideas or distractive thoughts that pop into my head as well.

The other day I had a great idea for a scene later in my WIP. Instead of jumping to that scene or forgetting the idea I wrote it all down and then quickly returned to the original scene I was working on. It is important to stick to your goals and stay on track. Ideas are great but don’t let them take over your work!

6. Extra Pens- Or anything that you may need but frequently lose. I am always losing pens so rather chasing them around the house and wasting time, I always keep extras by my side so I can avoid a search. Think about what supplies you need to get your work accomplished and keep them close at hand to avoid getting up and trying to find them.

7. A Few Dabs of Non-Writerly Passions- Discover you non-writerly passions and use them to help ease your writing stress. Not only can doing the things you love ease stress but it can also save you some time. If you are stressing over a scene sometimes walking away from it is the best way to handle the problem.

What do you love other than writing? I love cooking, reading, and caring for my pets. For this example I’m going to talk about cooking. I love cooking (I bet you figured from my references.) at my house I cooks all the meals except for the times my husband has time to grill with his work schedule. Dinner must get made at some point so that’s what I do when I get stuck on a scene or I need a break from writing. I can relax, make dinner and return to my writing with fresh eyes. This really saves time!

You can rise to greatness, just as your soufflé can rise to yumminess. Just like you know what foods you like, know what routine works best for you. If you don’t know then I advise keeping a journal and tracking what time of day you do various tasks. Are you effective at doing that task at that time of day? Until you have the answers don’t be afraid to experiment. You don’t always have to follow the recipe! Figure out what your time management tastes are make it work for you.

And you can think you’ve found the best way to manage time and then still hit snags. Remember I said in the intro to this post, “I do it on MOST days.” Life happens. My dad was diagnosed with heart failure on December 27. That was not in my plan. Spending time at the hospital during his surgery was not a neat bullet point on my to do list. Things did not get done. While being out of town for a month and half and not being able to write too much I fell horribly behind in my non-fiction and it took me a while to return to my groove.

Life happens. Sometimes the soufflé burns. Always refer to your priority list and remember what needs to happen first if you can only do one thing.

How did you find the best time management “recipe” for you?


Thanks Natalie! So what are your biggest time management issues, questions, problems? Everyone who shows Natalie some comment love today gets double entries for my critique prize.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

Natalie C. Markey is a veteran freelance journalist of ten years. She is the author of ‘Caring for Your Special Needs Dog.’  In addition to multiple freelance contracts, she continues to write non-fiction as well as young adult and middle grade fiction. Markey speaks professionally about dogs from an owner’s perspective as well as teaching on writing issues like how to have it all as a writer and a mother and time management for the busy writer.  A native Texan, Markey currently lives in an Arkansas forest with her supportive husband, daughter, dog and two rabbits.  Follow her at @NatalieCMarkey Pen to Publish blog


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  1. Great post, man I am such a big believer in step one, cleaning up your space. My father was in the Navy and that’s where he learned to “clear the decks” to put everything away when you are done with it so you have a clean surface when you start the next project. I know I think better when my desk space is clear and I have room to think. And instead of one spiral, I have about four different little notepads all within reach for easy scribbling.

  2. Nice to be following your blog. I know it’s a little thing–but visually the blog is easy on my eyes, and therefore more easier for me to read. Look forward to reading more. 🙂 Sam

  3. A great analogy and a a most helpful blog post! Many thanks! Had many unexpected editions to my life in the last few years and had to remind myself that family comes first. Thanks!

  4. What voodoo do you use? Just finished scolding myself for getting wrapped up in a blog research, which went late into the night and then — never mind. These are good reminders. They are all on my time management list: day of cleaning (once every two weeks on full moon and new moon house gets a top to bottom), spiral notebook for notes, lists, priorities, extracurricular activities (yoga!), etc — but do I use them? I try, but today, definitely needed the push. Thanks.

      • asraidevin on March 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm
      • Reply

      Love the idea of cleaning on the moon.

  5. These are great tips and that souffle looks delish! I like the idea of spending all day cleaning, especially if you can rope the rest of the family in too. I keep thinking back to a friend who seemed to have lots of balance in NZ and always looked amazing. She took car of her kids during the day, went out most nights to socialise or cut hair and caught up with housework on the weekend. Though of course she didn’t read a hundred blogs about hairdressing in-between lol. It’s so wonderful for everyone to share there thoughts, because so many writers worry they don’t have the balance.

    • athenagrayson on March 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm
    • Reply

    Finding a non-writing creative thing to do with your hands also frees up your Girls (or Guys) in the Basement to percolate up some solutions to troubling parts of your stories. I use crochet to let my conscious mind focus on a right-brained thing (counting stitches) while my left-brain goes out for recess. And success breeds success, so when I finish a crochet project, that completion sends echoes out to the other places in my life as well.

  6. Cleaning up the space. Definitely.

    This week in the UK we’ve had 70+ degrees which broke the record for March after a mild winter. Which meant we leapt out to treat paths/driveway/patio with cleaner then power-hosed the suckers. First seasonal cut of the lawns and there was major shake-down in this house which caused panic attacks among the males who vacated the premises for twenty+ hours. All I’ll say is that it wasn’t pretty. I can make a man cry, no problem.

    Rooms were aired and bottomed out. Bedding was hung out in the sun, wonderful smell much better than the tumble dryer.

    Fingers twitching, now back to editing ms, almost ready to rock it out to beta-readers and onto the next project.

    In control – all is well – long may it last.


  7. I have to admit. I’m a perfectionist and all kinds of things pull me away from my WIP. Right now, I’m in the throes of planning a bar mitzvah for my son. That has been on my list for the last 12 months (okay, 18 months), and I am doing a little bit each day but it has still pulled me away from my WIP.


    I’ve had to say to myself: it’s okay. This is a special time and rather than gripe about it, I’ve had to put WIP on the back-burner. Not the worst thing. I’m still blogging. And networking. But one Oman simply cannot do everything.

    • Debra Eve on March 30, 2012 at 4:01 pm
    • Reply

    I so needed to hear this right now. I have full-time job unrelated to writing and it sometimes leaves me exhausted. I never seem to be on top of things. (Love Julie’s idea of cleaning on the full and new moon and will definitely implement that one.) I think perhaps the problem lies with #3 and will focus there. Thank you, Natalie!

      • athenagrayson on March 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm
      • Reply

      Debra, you might find some help in menu planning–once every two weeks, you buy your meat and supplies, prepare or pre-season your meat & veggies in freezer bags, and keep a freezer inventory on your fridge. Then you thaw a dinner in the morning and cook it at night (or even easier, put it in the crock pot). You spend less time wondering what to make for dinner and prep work for making it, and just cook and be done with it.

      Frontload your thinking about dinner by doing your planning and shopping and prepwork one day a week (for me, it takes about half a day–I have menus, shopping lists, and instructions ready to go–an hour at the grocery + an hour and a half for prep + 1/2 hour for cleanup and storage and I’m good to go). Think about what you’ll have for dinner in the morning while you’re fresh.

  8. *woman* dagnabit

    1. I thought maybe Oman was some new-fangled word for fabulous person.

    2. I was thinking you’d given me a new Yiddish word and I was about to whip out my fave Yiddish dictionary. How you dash my hopes!!

      1. Jenny: If you want a Yiddish-sounding word, start the sentence with “Oy” and just add “ishy” to the end of any word. For example:

        Honey, how are was your day?
        Oy, I’m feeling a little headache-ishy.

        And there you have it. Yiddish-101. 😉

  9. Thank you for this incitation on time management Natalie! I feel like this piece was specifically tailored to me because I have struggled with everything you mentioned, from the cooking, cleaning, to the mommy times and so forth. I’m very much encouraged to have the much needed order after reading this, because I know it’s achievable. Thanks to you Kristen as well! Love your blog!

  10. Kristen this could not have come at a better time!! Thanks to both you and Natalie (whose site I just visited!). Happy Friday!

  11. Thanks for the tips, Natalie. I had never thought of scheduling a clean day, but that makes sense. Better than my approach that has always been, when the cat is nesting in papers, it’s time to put things away.

    I’m glad to see that I am not the only one who keeps a spiral notebook for this kind of daily log. With all the programs on computers now for that sort of thing, I thought everyone else had gone digital, while I was still using the old trusty pen and paper. (smile)

  12. Step 1 is the hardest for me – I get the workspace clean but then the pesky day job takes over with post-it notes, papers and problems. Curious – does anyone have a good tip for small spaces with heavy work loads?
    Wait! That’s it! Get rid of Pesky Day Job and do only what I love – WRITE 🙂 There now. All better. Suddenly I’m craving souffle

  13. I like the idea of ‘non-writerly’ passions…I have a few, but can’t seem to find the time to do them! Thanks for your insights…

  14. Thanks so much Kristen and Natalie. Time management strategies are always wecome and help to keep us on track. Getting bogged down with social media is something I’m guilty of. As a digital immigrant rather than a digital native like kids are today, I’m still learning and finding it such a wonderful way of networking BUT it’s easy to lose track of time. As writers we need to network but sometimes I realise that I’ve done lots of reading and networking, but no writing for days!

  15. Organization is difficult for me. You should see my desk. I know I need to clean it off, but it always seems to end up crazy, and I find I ignore the mess and write anyway. I don’t know if I would work better without all those bits of papers piled on top of each other. It’s a thought….

  16. “Dont lose sight of the big picture”. That sums it up there. Need to post over my computer desk. Indeed! easy to get tossed up in a whirlwind tornado of things to constantly do that are not part of your # job in writing – actually WRITING. Since my book came out I put increased pressure on to get the 2nd book out and the 3rd written. How to slow down? Not sure, but working on it. Concentrated chunks of time help, and attainable to-do lists daily and a stopwatch! (oh, and coffee, lots of coffee)

  17. I love the idea of a cleaning day. I multitask best by single tasking. What I’d like best is if someone else had a cleaning day in my house…

    Great post, Natalie!

  18. “Everyone is trying to be many people at once. I have the writer me, the wife, me, the mommy me, the housekeeper me, and well you get the idea. But how can you take everything that you are and cook it all up to create the perfect time management solution mold for you?”

    –This is my life. Totally. Between working full time, wrangling two kids, & I have precious few hours at night when they’re asleep. It’s definitely hard to find time for both writing and blogging. I usually feel like I’m neglecting one or the other. Here lately, it’s the writing (gotta build that platform, right?!)

    Thanks for the great tips

  19. Great advice, Natalie. I haven’t yet found my perfect time management recipe, but I’ve had some success with it. I have my blog ready to publish first thing in the morning, then I work on my fiction, take a break, and prepare my blog for the next day.

    I definitely need more pens and spirals, and I find that taking a break for cleaning can be very grounding. Thanks for a great post. 🙂

  20. My “perfect time management recipe” changes depending on what season of life I’m in. When I returned to college several years ago, I discovered color-coded schedules. Yea! And then I had kids. I had to internalize my priorities, goals, etc and be able to “roll with the punches” and “shoot from the hip”. I think the “management issues” I have are mostly in my head. How I think and feel. I have high days and low days. I keep pressing on, struggling to pull through the bottom-dweller days and be somewhat productive. I also find social media to be kind of entrancing and leeching. Good post. Something to return to and reevaluate our time management. Thanks!

    • Karen McFarland on March 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for your great advice Natalie! I find that I too need to have a clean space so that I can give my undivided attention to other things, like writing. But oh boy does life happen. My life lately has had its fill of doctors, doctors, surgery and more doctors for my DH since his accident and that has thrown my life a real curve. I jumped into Kristen’s class to learn how to blog and create an author platform amongst this crazy chaos. So with your father’s illness I can appreciate how that can derail the best made plans. I do hope that he’s better and that your life settles soon. I guess we all need to make realistic adjustments when these things occur to keep our sanity. Thanks Natalie for this helpful post and to you Kristen for sharing Natalie with us! 🙂

  21. Tag! You’re IT!! Go to my page and see!

  22. Well presented and thought provoking

  23. I have to agree with everything you suggest…last night I sat & contemplated what I had achieved so far this year. It seemed the appropriate time as Spring blooms. I wanted to record what I loved, what I had seen & what I had done, so far this quarter. And I realised that for some my advancement might appear fairly unremarkable. However, I have achieved my personal goods that I set back at New Year, so I am happy. Now I have to move forward, set the next goals: 1) complete my novel, 2) start a new blog to give me more options & 3) Find an Agent – that’s the big push for me for 2012! I have to trust my instincts and go for it! Wish me luck…

  24. Natalie, sorry to hear about your father. It’s cruddie when a parent gets diagnosed with something chronic. If it’s a long haul situation make sure you put time aside for yourself and let the other family members do some of the lifting. Best wishes.

  25. Great post!! I really need to do this–assign one big cleaning day. I work and work to catch up but it all seems to get out of control. Yes, I think I will do this. And you’re right, I also need to organize other areas of my life first, so I can bring the whole back together and make progress. Thanks for the encouragement.

  26. As one who has been suffering from writer’s block due to lack of focus, I’m going to start with Item #1 and work my way down this excellent list. It HAS to help. Thanks to both Natalie and Kristen!

  27. Reblogged this on Jan Morrill Writes and commented:
    As a writer who has had a lack of focus in the last several weeks, I am going to start with Item #1 and work my way down this excellent list. Keep your fingers crossed!

  28. While I am an organised persn, I find procrastination can see me over organising. Thank you for the helpful post

  29. Reblogged this on Gossipboys.

  30. Love the souffle analogy. One big cleaning day and month? Never would’ve thought of that. I always break it up throughout the week and it drives me batty. I’ll have to give this a try. And extra pens? Yes! All the ideas are great, thanks Natalie!

  31. I love your time management approach and have to do the scraps of paper make notes all the time trick. I’m always on the go so I’ll forget my ideas if I don’t write them down. That is a big time helper. Then when I sit down to write I have a list of ideas to choose from.

    I’d love to see more posts on this topic Kristen! It’s such a struggle for all of us, so any eureka moments you have along the way would be so appreciated if you share them with us!

    P.S. Getting excited to hear you speak at DFW! I feel like I’m attending a blogger celebrity conference cause so many awesome peeps will be there!

  32. Thank you Natalie, my time management is non-existent and I’m not sure whether my house would survive the shock if I had a ‘clean day’. But after six weeks of coping with a family disaster (my mum got ill and passed away) I think I need to re-evaluate and make my life more manageable. So your advise couldn’t have come at a better time, thanks again. 🙂

  33. Cleaning? For a Whole Day??

    *sigh* Okay, yes, I know, I need to clean things. But the writing is so much more fun than the cleaning. 😉

    I do love the whole time management thing. I’ve never been good at it, but I’m willing to try a new idea. Thanks for the post. It’s going in my ‘keeper’ file.

    • lynetteaspey on April 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm
    • Reply

    Great post, and I enjoy the comments just as much. It’s like being in a noisy, chatty cafe (my favourite sort of place).

    While reading this post, I thought, “Yes, that’s me!” And “all of the above, plus homeschool”. (Yes, I often laugh at my crazy self). This is why I write at night, have very baggy eyes and drink a lot of coffee. 🙂

    I have already obtained a copy of Kristen’s “We Are Not Alone” and recommend it to those who are trying to build, or are trying to untangle, their marketing strategies in an indie- and inter-dependent world.

    I would also like to throw into the post a technique for time-management that I have been using — and I do this for my daughter’s schooling because it’s just as hard to motivate and direct her as it is myself — something I learned from a terrific homeschool teacher. It’s very simple. You “bank” time. Dedicate a notebook to your “time bank”. Down the side list the tasks that you *must* accomplish. For my daughter that is her maths, reading, spelling, composition, science. Then, divide the page into columns marked “Estimate”, “start”, “Finish”, “Time” and “Banked”. The time banked is the difference between what you thought your task would take and how long it took in reality. Don’t punish yourself if you overshot your estimate, learn from it. When you’ve banked enough time, give yourself a reward. Over a month, my daughter has banked eight hours and has chosen to redeem that time as a day out with me. I am, of course, in time-debt. (*sighs*).

    When it comes to my writing, I find the biggest hurdle is tapping into my creativity when I’m just plain dog-tired. Without doubt, there are times in your life when you just have to accept that things will go slower than you want, but having the long term strategy *really* helps.

    So, Natalie and Kristen, thanks for providing this forum. I don’t usually leave such long comments, but I was so pleased to find this post and to feel — “not alone”. 🙂 Cheers! Lyn.

  34. Thanks for this, Natalie. Often times, you come across organizational “helps” that end up just heaping more work on you. They are gimmicks… but this was a very practical list to keep in mind.

    Kristen… you also have my appreciation for inviting her to your blog.

    Laura Ritchie

    • lynnkelleyauthor on April 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm
    • Reply

    I like the clean one day per month to get my writing space uncluttered. I’m so unorganized and things get piled on top of one another and before I know it, I feel like a hoarder. I need to take this advice and put it into practice. It will save me hours of searching for things and moments when I feel like I’m losing my mind. Finding balance, or something that slightly resembles it, is a challenge for me, but I’ll keep at it and improve in one area at a time. Thanks, Natalie.

    And thank you, Kristen, for hosting Natalie.

  35. This is great advice! I am one of those persons who get distracted very easily. I have found that taking several very short breaks helps me focus better and stay alert. I love the cleaning day suggestion. I just have to be careful not to let it become procrastination. Thanks again for such an interesting and helpful post.

  36. Reblogged this on The Jeffersonian and commented:
    This is a test post to TJ.

  37. #1 really resonates with me. Not only can I not write in a messy room, but it’s a nice, productive break. Honestly though, time management is something I’ve been struggling with as job and creative responsibilities have been increasing tenfold. Hopefully I can get better. Thanks for the great advice!

    By the way, Kristen, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award:

  38. Definitely do not practice cleaning my space, but I just might start doing just that!

  39. Reblogged this on Tamieka73's Blog.

  40. I’m a huge fan of getting someone ELSE to clean my house once a month – it’s the best $75 I spend each month! Then that’s off the list and I can spend time with my daughter. I find that I’m most productive first thing in the morning and late at night so I try to do my writing then.

  41. Oh I so needed to read this! Great post, Natalie and thank you Kristen for hosting! Love the once a month cleaning, never would have thought of it, but such a little thing makes it so much more manageable.

  42. From this wonderful post, I took away a completely critical word for me: PRIORITIZE! I must stick to my own guns about what is most important for me to get done with my writing any given day!

  43. Definitely perfect time management is the key to success for anyone either for personal time or routine scheduling or even for business and therefore I personally like and would suggest Replicon time management software which is very hassle free and can be quickly implemented.

    The best part is that it can also be easily accessed from anywhere using a web browser and at the same time it has got some cool features and nice usability too. It can be used with QuickBooks etc and has been pretty useful for overall time management either personal or work related.

  1. […] Creating the Perfect Time Management Souffle by Kristen Lamb. […]

  2. […] # # Kristen Lamb’s blog has a helpful post by guest Natalie Markey called “Creating the Perfect Time Management Souffle.” This post lists seven items to help writers manage being “many people at once.” […]

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