How would YOU clear this schedule?

Help?I’m swamped enough that the migraines are back, and I’m putting this in front of my readers hoping someone will see a way for me to clear a lot of stuff out of my schedule quickly. I’ll be honest. I’ve got nothing. I can come up with ideas for books and courses all day long, but when things get this backlogged, I get stressed. I’ve been focusing on doing just three things a day, and doing them well, but even that is not clearing things.

Here’s the schedule:



Publish books and stories for which I own rights that are simply sitting on my hard drive

  • Talyn
  • Minerva Wakes
  • Midnight Rain
  • Last Girl Dancing
  • I See You
  • Night Echoes
  • Last Thorsday Night
  • >>—4EVR—>

Copyedits, Corrections, New Covers, Republish

  • Fire in the Mist (Have commissioned cover art, need to put it together)
  • Bones of the Past (Have commissioned cover art, need to put it together)
  • Mind of the Magic (Have commissioned cover art, need to put it together)
  • Hunting The Corrigan’s Blood (Cover needs new text only)
  • Warpaint (Cover needs new text only)
  • Light Through Fog
  • Rewind
  • Strange Arrivals
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • The Devil and Dan Cooley
  • Hell On High

New Fiction

  • Cadence Drake Three: The Wishbone Conspiracy
  • Korre Three: Redbird
  • Rest of the Cadence Drake series
  • More Longview stuff
  • More short stories
  • Just more fiction…lots and lots more fiction.


How To Revise Your Novel Expansion

  • Revise Talysmana
  • Add step-by-step demo to the course


How To Think Sideways Walkthrough

  • Moon and Sun Three: The Emerald Sun (Book for the How to Think Sideways Walkthrough)
  • Plan: Write the book in one hard push, then
  • Put together the walkthrough in the same fashion

ADDED LATER: How To Think Sideways Quick Fixes

  • 10 remaining

How to Think Sideways

  • Weekly email with new HTTS Live Discussion link
  • Set up weekly Discussion Classroom Page
  • Set up weekly Discussion in forum
  • Comment in weekly discussion.
  • Monthly chat: Four remaining
  • Personal bonuses for students who received them: As scheduled

How to Write A Series

  • Finish The Philosopher Gambit (copyedit, formatting, cover copy, and uploading, and product setup on three systems remain)
  • Post the story in class
  • Put up all revised versions of Longview 1 & 2 on Amazon, B&N, and my shop
  • Start writing Longview 4: The Vipers’ Nest
  • Start teaching MODULE 4 in the classroom
  • Finish and publish Longview 4
  • Finish MODULE 4
  • Start writing Longview 5
  • Start teaching MODULE 5 in the classroom
  • Finish Longview 5
  • Finish MODULE 5
  • Start writing Longview 6
  • Start teaching MODULE 6
  • Finish Longview 6 and the series
  • Finish MODULE 6
  • Survey the class for the bonus course
  • Write the bonus course
  • Set it up in the software

Ugly Baby / Ugly Workshop / Ugly Mastermind

  • Survey class for next module
  • Create Ugly Baby module
  • Create Ugly Workshop module
  • Do fiction launch post-mortem email for Launch Observers List
  • Do fiction launch forum post-mortem with Tom Vetter in UW and UMM
  • Do fiction launch, emails, post-mortem with Cat Gerlach
  • Do fiction launch, emails, post-mortem with Volunteer 3
  • Do fiction launch, emails, post-mortem with Volunteer 4
  • Do fiction launch, emails, post-mortem with Volunteer 5
  • Do fiction launch, emails, post-mortem with Volunteer 6
  • Decide if the process in reliable enough to set up a fiction launch class

Yarnlings MM

  • Check in before they think I’m dead
  • Do regular monthly updates on what I’m doing and how it’s working


Copyedit and correct every single page of every single writing course, and every single page of my sites. More than a million words.


Website Development for Holly Lisle Online Writing School/ Readers Meet Writers/ OneStep Writing Website Dev

  • Build “what-it-needs-to-do/ how-it-needs-to-work/ how-I-want-to-use-it” wireframes for Dan (a lot of these are already done)
  • Daily updates and brainstorming on what we’re doing

Community Posts

  • Minimum one daily until I get through this backlog

This Blog

  • At least once a week

Writing Tips Newsletter

  • 2 new tips a month

Fiction Newsletter

  • Build SOMETHING…my readers are just hanging there with nothing cool happening whatsoever

Other Mailing List emails as needed

  • I mail something to at least one list about twice a week, and try not to overlap

Help Desk

  • Monday-Friday Daily



Personal emails

  • Monday-Friday Daily (after clearing a lot of subscriptions, these are down to about 250-300 a day, so that’s MUCH better)

So there it is.

I am wide open for suggestions.

Everything on this list is important. It all has to be done. It’s all stuff I love doing, it’s all stuff I’m excited about, but my two long-term goals are:

  1. Spend more time writing fiction
  2. Spend more time actually talking to my readers and working with my students


I’ve read every word posted to this point. And the first thing that jumps out at me is this:

1.) How the hell did I never think of INTERNS?

I didn’t want to ask for volunteers, but I will happily trade writing courses in exchange for things like bug hunting, copy editing, and help with reformatting courses.

2.) Nobody writes my words but me. So ghostwriting is out.

Having readers and writers contribute guest posts, tips, and discussion ideas is in, though. I like that idea.

3.) The organizational tips are enormously helpful.

As stuff piled up, Calendar (the Mac software) stopped being quite as useful as it initially was. The reminders are good, but getting everything ON the calendar is a mess.

4.) Because of the migraines, I’ve been doing the relaxation, meditation, and exercise all along.

At this point, my issues are in actually clearing the load. I see a light, though, in how I can do that.



I now have the better part of a plan of action for the next few weeks. Thank you, ALL of you, for every single comment here. I’ll continue reading comments tomorrow, but right now, I’m sitting down to set priorities and clear out everything that can be delegated.

I’ll be back to the blog when I have some internships to offer, and when I have a clear picture of what the next few months are going to look like for me.

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147 responses to “How would YOU clear this schedule?”

  1. Nikhita Avatar

    Oh, my God, Holly. Interns!!! Yes, please~ I honestly don’t care about being paid for working for you, so if you want any help WITH ANYTHING, I’m totally open, especially from May. I’m an avid reader so if you need any copyediting issues, I will totally be your gal. 😉

    You can email me at!

  2. Dwayne Allemao Avatar
    Dwayne Allemao

    I work in an extremely task based environment, and the lists of things to do, can get daunting. Most of the time it makes sense to group them as you have done, by categories, so that their similarities can be taken advantage of from a perspective of ‘best use of your time’

    However, when the list gets very big, the emotional impact weighs me down a lot and I start feeling helpless and hopeless. At that point I switch gears and sort things exclusively by size. What can I get done easiest and soonest? I knock a couple of those out and I get some sense of accomplishment. Even if it’s not the most efficient use of my time, if I can get a few items off the overall list, the boost to my spirits is more than worth it.

    1. Texanne Avatar

      Yes, by size whenever possible. That will reduce the number of tasks and therefore the length of the list. Great idea, Dwayne.

  3. Linda Bates Avatar

    Here’s the thing – I don’t want to barter with you, I will just offer to help. Perhaps I could do some editing, corrections for you and spring them back to you. That’s it! Short and sweet. I could offer in all directions in all sorts of ways, but I really don’t know you as a person, never worked with you, so have not built a relationship with you, but I know your writing and style, so am willing to go there with you if you are?


  4. Ariel Avatar

    Since you are in actual physical pain due to psychosomatic causes (stress), your brain is working against you, so I would recommend a more Muse-based list than a You-based list. Divide things up into objective difficulty and mental difficulty. Something like “Add text to the finished cover” is a task that goes onto the “Easy” list, but if for some reason the Muse balks and you hate that task, it goes onto the “Easy but I hate it” list. Depending on how you’re feeling–and on any hard deadlines–you can chose what task(s) to work on for the day. And I nth everyone else about the delegation.

    You probably summarized your tasks for this blog post, but if you haven’t already, break them into the smallest possible steps and then divide the steps into the categories.

    Figure out how long it takes you to do things. A big part of being overwhelmed is a lack of knowledge. If you know how long it takes you to perform your tasks, you have more data to work with. If you can write 1,500 words an hour and whatever you’re writing will probably be about 5,000 words, then you know it will probably take you about three and a half hours and can plan around it accordingly.

    But the biggest thing overall is that you need to be more efficient. I use the Pomodoro technique and it works well for me, but you might want to research different productivity hacks on a procrastination break.

    1. Geraldine Avatar

      Migraines are not psychosomatic. They are real events in the brain that have many triggers – stress, changes in the weather, smells, bright lights, food, food additives, physical exertion, and so on. Heart attacks can be brought on by stress, by physical exertion. Asthma can be brought on by scents, by food and food additives. Are they psychosomatic, too?
      This is a poor assumption. Do some research before making remarks like this.

  5. gabby Avatar

    oh boy, oh boy.

    I definitely think you need to prioritize and then take a step back and put some things on hold because that list is way too long.
    Don’t add any new “this would be cool” stuff to the list. Not until you’ve cleared out your existing priorities.

    1) First priority: Determine which one is more important- fiction or non-fiction.
    From what I’ve read before, your heart is in fiction (although you have a great non-fiction community–of which I am a part of and appreciate everything that you have done for us–so you don’t want to drop that completely.)
    If it was me, that means I would freeze the non-fiction stuff (anything you are looking to add to your existing non-fiction ‘wouldn’t this be nice to do for people’ gets put in an “ON HOLD” pile. No new ideas allowed. All done.). You want to just deliver on what you’ve already promised to your non-fiction community.

    2) Get your existing work published, YESTERDAY
    This stuff needs to be making you money. I would publish the current versions, just as they are.
    The beauty of self-publishing- you can publish now. And replace with better covers and corrections later.
    And if you have your pointers inside the books to your “Fiction Mailing List” you can let existing readers know when you have a new version out and they can re-download. (like a “hey, look at this pretty new cover? I’m so glad to reveal. If you have the story, take a moment to get a fresh copy now. If you don’t, how can you resist?)
    If it was me I would set this up for 5 days a week for 3-4 hours in the afternoon. (This is what might normally be your revision block.) Make this for old fiction until you get this stuff published and out of your queue.

    3) Write new fiction. Get a schedule of what you are most excited about for new fiction.
    Put your new stuff in order of ‘I can’t wait to write this’ and set aside sacred time for your new fiction. One story at a time. (for instance 3-4 hours every morning)
    Ignore how it fits into non-fiction lessons because you want to pick the stuff that you are most excited about writing and that you will be most glad that you had a chance to write. This part is for you.

    4) Help Desk- Since you’ve moved to group launches hopefully this will get a little better. Definitely setup helpdesk hours for yourself, maybe 1 hr daily or every other day even (2 hrs if something on the site blows up). I might pick as a noon-time thing. Use as transition time from new to old fiction. Whatever comes in after those hours can wait for the next day. Definitely auto file in your To Do folder for the next day. Nobody will die if they get an auto-email saying “I got your email and I’ll let you know as soon as I have a fix or if I have additional questions. Please expect a 12-24 business hours turnaround timeframe for all helpdesk resolutions”)
    (so for me, new stuff morning. Helpdesk noon. Take a walk/exercise. Old stuff/revision-afternoon

    5) Personal emails- definitely look into auto-filing if you haven’t already. 250-300 a day is too many!!
    You want immediate access to family/friends emails but anything else should get filed and just dealt with in a lump. I’m thinking Monday as part of #7. (or whichever is going to be your non-writing work day…)

    6) Ugly Baby Launch Observers List- find some way to delegate this more. You don’t want to be so wrapped up in launching other’s work that you don’t have time to work your own projects. Think of any tasks from this that you can cut so that you aren’t running everyone’s launches. This one project alone sounds like a full time job.
    To me this is a ‘wouldn’t it be cool idea’ but your schedule is too full. Something has to drop.
    I feel this one is asking you to make the choice- do you want to launch your own fiction or someone else’s? If at all possible find some way to make this a once or twice a week commitment.

    7) Every Monday or every other Monday: Setup office hours for items below and stick with it. Also move to only once every 3 weeks or once a month to release these, if at all possible, on all of these. Then each Sunday you have a different list of newsletters you have to work on, and you rotate the list. You can always increase the frequency later but right now, your schedule is too full. Also you can have draft emails where you can be adding ‘isn’t this cool’ items for what you want to say next time.
    a) Fiction newsletter- send out an email once a month. and/or whenever you have something from your backlist or new stuff published.
    b) Community Posts backlog- I’m not sure what this is but I would definitely recommend somehow grouping this so you handle it for an hour or so every Sunday morning. something like that. You don’t want this interrupting each of your workdays.
    c) Yarnlings update- once a month
    d) Copyedit and correct writing courses/site (set aside a couple hours on Sunday to work on this and just get to what you get to). Myself, I would move this to very low priority/completely on hold… til you get the new stuff out there. On course revisions, I would maybe add those as part of your revision block. So revise a backlog book, get it published. Revise a course lesson. Move to next book. Then revise the next course lesson. Cycle through til it’s done.
    e) This Blog- move to once a week and as part of your new book release and course notifications.
    f) Writing Tips Newsletter – Move to once a month til you get your schedule more manageable.
    g) Other Mailing List emails as needed- Again just once a month for each one.
    h) Weekly email with new HTTS Live Discussion link- can this be delegated to an HTTS mod? Or handle on Sunday with the rest. Or possibly every other week?

    8) Website/Software Development- move to at most 2 day/week for updates and brainstorms. Setup recurring meeting to go over progress and questions. At most 1-2 hours and outside of your normal writing time. Maybe at noon during helpdesk hours.

    9) Updates to the courses: This seems too much to me. Trying to make your fiction and non-fiction work together sounds good in theory but I think it would be hard to be creative while you’re also having to teach and show your process (kind of writing in the store window like Heinlein, but with feedback). I think some of these you have wanted to get written for years (Talysmana, Moon and Sun 3). The other piece is that you are writing and then having to get a video up and write-ups. This all quadruples the time it takes to write. This is where I would definitely stop thinking of new things to help us students out with… you got to put your own schedule/sanity first.
    I would switch this. Write the fiction first (if that is your priority) After the book is done, then go back and think about how you did it. And just keep a book diary as you write but very informal. And you can formalize when you go to incorporate into the classes. But during that timeframe. But I can’t see where you fit this block.

    So now I’m at:
    Mondays: Newsletters and non-writing tasks. Course corrections. Clear out your personal emails.
    Tues-Fri- AM- New fiction.
    Noon- Helpdesk and 2x/week call with Dan about the new site.
    Go for a walk to clear your head
    PM- a) Get your old stuff posted.
    b) After that queue is cleared out- get some of your bonus stuff done based on the new fiction you wrote.
    c) revise your new fiction and get that published.

    Really I think you got to prune this list though. Drop everything you can. Don’t try to do more newsletters or more frequent newsletters. Just get consistent about what you already do. And if you can, do those less often. You want to write fiction. And maintain the value of the non-fiction you already have (which means not adding to the list of non-fiction commitments. Just don’t do it!)
    (If a non writing task is already taking up a lot of your time, think about formalizing when you work on it and pruning back the frequency.

    1. gabby Avatar

      Typos- 7d- I meant monday not sunday
      7e- I meant once a month
      7h- I meant Monday

    2. Geraldine Avatar

      You have thought this out well, and said a lot I was thinking of, in a very clear manner.
      Since most students have trouble keeping up with course materials and assignments anyway, slowing things down won’t hurt anybody. And the existing stuff is so good, adding more can sometimes add confusion, especially for beginner writers.
      Holly is amazing – what a mind!

  6. Dennis J. Frank Avatar
    Dennis J. Frank

    KISS= Keep it Simple Sweaty!

    As a retired Project manager, I notice a common theme. You have only 24 hours in a day and yet you are trying to fit 30-40 hours worth of projects into each day. Here is a Time Management System that the best managers in the world follow:it’s hard to do, BUT worth your time and effort. Follow the 80/20 rule to help you sort out the most important from the lower value projects. 1. Make a list of all your projects for the next 60 days. Now prioritize the most important on the top 20% that your life cannot live without. Now divide and conquer the next 40-60% and drop the last 30-20%.If you want to keep your sanity and lower your blood pressure, then you have to change the way you manage your most valuable projects! OR hire an assistant to relieve the pressure you have created.
    Good Luck !!

  7. Anthony Avatar

    Hi Holly

    Thank you for sharing your challenge.

    I think others have suggested this in different ways, but here’s my take, in case it helps. I use a four list process – the fourth list isn’t needed here, so:

    Taking all your items, make three lists:
    1.The things only you can do, which are time-sensitive (that is, you have to do them asap, or ‘now’.)
    2.The things only you can do which are not time sensitive.
    3.The things you don’t have to do personally (but retain responsibility for the outcomes of) like reformatting, cover design, etc
    Then rank priorities as you see fit in list one and do those first. Delegate list three to apprentices or interns or students in return for the experience plus whatever you see fit to offer. Put up the list here and ask for takers.

    Leave list two until list one is done.
    If ‘everything’ is on list one, you just have to prioritize by doing first the things that will affect your long term vision most (So ‘writing fiction’ time has to be allowed for, etc).

  8. Linda Avatar

    I’m doing an online marketing course. Two things that the company does that might be helpful.

    They’re taking the course I’m doing off the market because they’re rethinking and revising it. The won’t be selling it again until after the revision. I’d suggest that you stop updating and adding to your course in bits and pieces. Let it remain as is. Revise it on a more sane schedule. Launch it all at once when you do next year’s sale. You’ll be able to charge more for the new course. Your current students will get the update, as we will for the course I’m referring to. And, you can take a look at the course as a whole and see how to improve it from a student’s perspective. I have lots of ideas on that, if you’re interested in one student’s experience. Right now, it seems like you’re thinking in terms of individual lessons, rather than the big picture. I think a look at the big picture might be helpful.

    Two, they have trained student advisors. Every student is assigned an advisor. Included in the class fee is the ability to send questions to your advisor. If the student’s advisor cannot answer the question, it goes up to the founder, which would be you.

    However, for a small monthly fee, you send your actual homework for your advisor to take a look at it and make suggestions. They is full-time paid work for the company I’m taking the class from, but you could use volunteers or interns or pay in courses until you can afford to pay them directly. Charging for the homework checking service allows you to earn more money, working toward paying the advisors sooner, rather than later. That allows your students to get the personal attention, but takes a lot of the load off you.

    You do the Q&A via the forums, but a more personal Q&A, directly related to the student’s specific issues is a real selling point for the class. And by having trained student advisors answering the questions, you don’t have beginners giving advice to beginners or people with personal ideas about “the right way to write” sending people off in the wrong direction.

    In the short run, it’s more work for you because you have to train your advisors so their answers reflect what you’re teaching. In the long run, it will give your students a more personal experience. The other bonus is that you will get feedback from every student who sends it questions or homework, which will help you write better courses. You will have a much better idea of what aspects of the course are the most confusing or difficult than you get from forum posts. I’d bet most students don’t post on the forums, so you only get a sliver of an idea right now.

    I don’t know if that’s all helpful, but it is how one successful teacher solved some of the issues you’re having. The guy runs a multi-million business teaching online marketing to small businesses and bloggers. I’m not sure if it’s OK to mention who he is because he does, at least partially, compete with Jeff Walker and I know you’re an affiliate of his.

  9. Terry Tuttle Avatar
    Terry Tuttle

    Oh yes, please consider looking for interns and/or bartering with courses! I’ve been lurking around your sites since middle school, but I’ve only been able to pick up freebies. Plus, I’m finishing an ebook and POD-formatting internship this spring and I’ve been hoping to find something to add to my experience after that’s over. In my experience, it’s pretty easy to hand over formatting things to others, compared to copyediting and other, more involved parts of the publishing process––and that sort of thing can get time-consuming fast, so it’s just the sort of thing that’s good to hand over.

    Will you post a call for people, if that’s what you decide to go for? Because I’d love to spend the summer adding to my formatting résumé…

  10. Kimberly Powell Avatar
    Kimberly Powell

    If you ever need a volunteer or an intern, I am here to help. At the present moment I am in the middle of two books myself and helping a friend edit her book. Time is precious, but don’t let it overwhelm you. Why not combine all your helpful hints newsletter with your ‘how you’re doing and what you’re up to’ post. I’m also going to copy your schedule and see what else can be combined and I will email you my thoughts and suggestions. All I need from you at this point is an email address.

  11. Lauren Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    For me, having a chunk of time to work on a project is crucial. While working on projects in 15 minute increments is very helpful, I find that I need to devote a chunk of time to the project periodically.

    My suggestion is to either break up your week or each day and devote that chunk of time to specific projects. For instance, Monday’s could be your fiction day and you devote all day (or the morning or afternoon) to writing fiction. Tuesday can be non-fiction day, etc.. That way you can be assured that each project gets regular attention.

    I hope this helps, even just a little bit!

    Good luck!


  12. Nicola Avatar

    Wow, so many comments already.

    I think you have to prioritise. And avoid to begin something new just ebcause you said you’d do it.

    Make your work with Dan priority number one. Once that is out of the way, you will have SO much time to dive into fiction.

    Cancel all subscriptions (make a list what you cancelled so you can re-subscribe later), you don’t have time to read anyway, and if you have the time, read fiction.

    I haven’t heard much about the HTRYN expansion, so maybe that’s not very developed yet. Don’t touch that until you’ve finished one of the other classes, or even longer.

    Also not sure you’ve talked about the HTTS Walkthrough stuff much (the Quick Fixes don’t run through all HTTS lessons, just in case you want to add to youor to-do list ;-)) and since you have to write a whole book for it – put it off.

    Leaves HTTS, HTWAS and the Uglies – rotate them. We can all wait a bit or a bit longer and this way, you’re not leaving anyone hanging for months.

    Block a day per week for blog, newsletter, Yarnlings, newsletters and organisation stuff.

    Reduce writing tips newsletter to once a month, email each list only once a week (or less, most of us know how busy you are), do flash fiction for the fiction newsletter.

    Unless you need the money, hold off on the re-publishing and copy-edits section (unless you can get someone else to do it).

    And about the fiction writing … well, there will always be a new course, I guess. So unless you make time for your fiction, it will take a backseat for a long time (I know how it feels, been my life for the past 10 years and counting).

    We appreciate all you do for us!
    I hope you clear this massive schedule soon!

  13. Kristin Avatar

    Here’s a good tool I learned at work. Draw a 2×2 grid. One axis is cost – high cost, low cost – in this case, time is the cost. The other axis is benefit/reward. Put each of your items on the grid in one of the four boxes. (We used to draw the grid on a huge piece of paper and put each item on sticky notes so they could be moved as needed.)

    After you’ve gone through the list, do the items in the high reward and low time cost box first. The items in low reward high cost are last.

    Good luck!

  14. Misty Avatar

    You have my sympathy. I also tend to be wildly optimistic about what I can and can’t do in a given time frame, and get frustrated that I can’t do all of it RIGHT NOW. :/ For what it’s worth, I’ve developed a system that seems to be working really well for me (especially since I tweaked it for this year). Here’s what I do:

    Every year, I sit down and make up an “in an ideal world” to-do list for everything that I want to accomplish that year, if everything goes perfectly. (Note: each task should fit into a single month, at the most. If it’s bigger than that, unless it’s an ongoing thing like exercise, break it down into component parts until each part fits within one month.)

    Once I have my year-long master goal list, I put each item into four categories:

    1. Important but not urgent
    (Anything that must get done at SOME point, but doesn’t have a deadline associated with it. Most of my ongoing first-draft projects are in this category, since they’re all on spec.)

    2. Urgent but not important
    (Things that have deadlines, but it won’t be the end of the world if you miss it, as long as you don’t ignore it repeatedly… Answering emails, exercising, and social media are in this category for me.)

    3. Important AND urgent
    (MUST get done and also has a deadline… For me, this includes paying bills, anything with a self-imposed deadline that has already been announced, etc.)

    4. Neither important nor urgent
    (Anything that you would like to do, but it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t get it done /this/ year. NaNoWriMo, studying another language, and reading for pleasure usually fall into this category for me.)

    Once I’ve done this, I sit down and make a game plan for how I’m going to attack getting all those things done, in the form of monthly “to do” lists. Here’s how I do that:

    First, I use 12 sheets of paper and label each month, and line them up side by side on the floor (I know, it sounds weird, but this is what works for me). Or you can put two/three months per sheet of paper, depending on how many tasks you will have on each month. It’s just really helpful to me to have them laid out side by side like this.

    Then, I pencil in my “Important and urgent” tasks on their appropriate months. These go first because they’re the easiest (they have a deadline, so you already know where they have to go), and also because everything else has to fit in around them.

    Next, I add my “important but not urgent” goals. I add these second because these are the easiest to get “pushed back” by less important things, if I’m not careful.

    Finally, I fit the “urgent but not important” and “neither important nor urgent” into whatever cracks are left.

    As I’m going, I try to make sure that the things that can be pushed back are kind of mixed in with the stuff that can’t, so that if I’ve overscheduled myself for one month, it won’t break my entire system.

    Then, I have weekly and monthly planning sessions to monitor my progress and plan for the next week. Which I also have a system for, but this post is getting kind of long. To be honest, I could probably teach a whole HTTS-size class on my system for goal-setting, but I figure it’s probably too much external structure for most people. 🙂

    The secret ingredient that keeps me from stressing, btw, is that I don’t allow myself to worry about ANYTHING on my “Master” to-do list unless I’m in a major planning session (and since these only happen yearly and monthly, it ends up being only about 20 days out of the year or so). On a daily basis, I just focus on the tasks that I’ve set up /for that day/ and nothing else, no matter what else is going on. The most “big picture” I allow myself to get is paying attention to the rest of the week to readjust my daily to-do’s as necessary. Otherwise I get overwhelmed and start getting migraines.

    Good luck! You’re definitely an ambitious soul and I salute you! 🙂

  15. Kyralae Avatar


    Your question is a difficult one to answer to someone that is as driven as you are. My suggestions would be:
    1- Add to each and every one of those items the time it would take to accomplish the task if that were the only thing you were working on.
    2 – Break the list into pieces of ‘have to be done now’ and ‘long term goals’.
    3 – Blogs, email info, newsletters – dedicate a specific day or half day or whatever time it takes to do them all in one pass and put that on your calendar.
    4 – Your fiction is important to you – dedicate time through the week to focus on just that.
    5 – Set up contingency plans – if you can’t focus or something you are trying to do is just not working – turn away and do something else on your schedule.
    6 – Several have mentioned interns or trading work for rewards – take those tedious time burners that can be performed – copyediting – and let someone help you.
    7 – Website review of your existing courses and websites – are you aiming too much at perfect? Will they function as they stand? If they function – publish them as is and come back to them when your plate isn’t as full. They are working now – let it go and work on higher priorities.

    Now for words of experience – get the stress under control. You aren’t 20 years old anymore even if you want to be. Speaking from experience – been there and crashed to being pulled from the workplace for 6 months with swollen brain treated with steroids (nightmare time what I can remember of it) and long term fibromyalgia as a result. This was validated with they had to hire 3 full time employees to do what I had been doing. 3 minute breaks are not long enough – 5 min/hr is the minimum recommended. Go outside, get fresh air and sunshine. Walk around even if it is around the house or yard. Get your mind away from what you are working on. Sleep – are you getting 8 hours a night regularly? If not, you are overtaxing the brain and no healing is happening.

    Suggestions with admiration and concern,

  16. Dan Allen Avatar

    Thank you for writing this. You have done what I would do; post the topic to my well-read blog. My blog is not well read yet, but I think letting people in on things that overwhelm is one of the mostly likely avenues to relief.

    I thought of something I can do that might help your situation and might accelerate my work. I think I can reduce the level of response I ask for in our correspondence. I know enough about my main objectives to just work on them and let you relax as they come to to life. Open threads of thought can wait awhile.

  17. amyst Avatar

    I know how you feel! I have a brain that goes 100 miles an hour and I am always working on a bunch of projects. I don’t know how you do what you currently do! If I hear you — you want to put the priority back on your fiction.
    The answer to that is easy but first let me say 2 things:
    1) Hiring interns won’t be as easy as you think. It’s a whole thing. You have to find them, interview them, train them and delegate. If you had someone recommended to you it might be easier. Also hiring online help is hit and miss (I’ve done it) and often not worth the effort when you could just get it done yourself. IF you are going to hire or have one volunteer (perfectly reasonable in exchange for something)– you should hire a personal assistant who will help you organize your schedule (imho).
    2) When you are building a website it’s very stressful. It’s extremely time consuming and detail driven. My advice would be to not try to get every little aspect perfect but to get it enough of what you want and then say GO. Also, I hired an inexpensive web designer but that became 10x more complicated than was necessary. AT the time, I didn’t understand WordPress and you really don’t need a web designer. There are hundreds of out-of-the-box themes ready to go (for those who are thinking of doing a website). Obvously, in your situation your site is more complicated so you need one but once you get it done, my guess is you’ll feel a lot less stressed.
    Now to make fiction your priority:
    Divide the above list into 3 sections:
    Fiction /Creative
    Then divide your day into 3 parts: Morning, afternoon evening. You can farm out some of the administrative to an intern (if you go that route). If you don’t, do the most important section first: Fiction.
    That’s it in a nutshell: start your day with what is most important to you.
    Or if daily division doesn’t work do weekly: M-W is fiction and Th&Fri are everything else. Leave low brain things like emails for later in the day. Go to bed without an iPhone and relax, read etc.
    If that doesn’t work, knock out the easiest and quickest to complete tasks first. That will give you momentum.
    Last not least there’s a simple method I call the Tomato Method but it has a name Pomodoro. You don’t need their timer you can use your phone. You set it for 20 minutes. Do a task in that 20 minutes and move on to the next 20 minutes. Hope this helps! I’m new to your website and emails and I love it. I have an MFA and I have found your tips really helpful. Thanks for engaging with your readers!

  18. Patricia Avatar

    Hi Holly. Long list probably close to 80 items. More if broken down into detail.

    Because it’s overwhelming you and you want to get these done, using the simplest of processes would be helpful and reduce the mental clutter.

    Those items that are recurring like blog posts and articles need to be scheduled and the schedule visible. They will become routine over the weeks and being consistent keeping the schedule works in your favour.

    The rest of the list, and dont laugh at its simplicity, write each item on a sticky note and post the whole batch on the wall or board.
    Each day you pluck a note and work on it (keeping your scheduled items honoured). When the task is complete, toss note. If the task is still incomplete put it back on the wall.

    Next day pull another sticky note at random and repeat above.

    Simple, effective and puts a dent into all the items.

    Sure maybe some items are priority however in the whole scheme of things they all need time.

    Good luck and of course have fun!


    PS. Add a break, laugh, water, stretching in the schedule and keep them routinely!

  19. Claudette Avatar

    Breathe, Holly. Breathe. That’s your first priority. Next, begin to delegate the small stuff. Copyediting and formatting can be outsourced. You taught us that. Use your resources.

    Cover copy is tiny flash fiction, an expanded pitch sentence. You can do those in your sleep and in a few minutes. Grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet corner, and drop that copy onto an index card. Think of it as a relaxing twenty-minute fiction break. Stop thinking of it as a chore and whip it out with a different attitude.

    Lori had a great suggestion about writing time and projects. You could take one hour every other day for a separate fiction project. Working multiple stories simultaneously is one of your habits anyway.

    The internship idea is a good one, too, especially on the proofreading, etc.

    For HTRYNE, have you thought about doing these two together? I’d assume so, but sometimes we think of needed tasks for a big project as being separate. In this case, are they really?

    Prioritizing is key to everything on this list. You’re not a robot or superwoman, though you’ve been working your way up to the latter. 😀

    Each project on your list has priorities of its own. Rank each item in each proj. group and then work from the top down.

    With everything you’ve got going on, I don’t doubt that migraines have begun to take over again. Step back. Breathe deep. And look at your list. Which item is screaming the loudest?

    You’ve already answered the question. It’s writing fiction. That’s what you’re stressed about. While all the rest is important, it all hangs on your writing fiction. Give yourself permission to do that most important job. Allow everything else to sort itself out as if will.

    Put your project groups on a round-robin schedule of work. Create a progression of activity for each one, and then begin.

    If any of us can help you in any way, ask us. It’s not like you don’t give us value each day. Reciprocity is how the world woks.


  20. Holly Avatar

    I’ve read every word posted to this point. And the first thing that jumps out at me is this:

    1.) How the hell did I never think of INTERNS?

    I didn’t want to ask for volunteers, but I will happily trade writing courses in exchange for things like bug hunting, copy editing, and help with reformatting courses.

    2.) Nobody writes my words but me. So ghostwriting is out.

    Having readers and writers contribute guest posts, tips, and discussion ideas is in, though. I like that idea.

    3.) The organizational tips are enormously helpful.

    As stuff piled up, Calendar (the Mac software) stopped being quite as useful as it initially was. The reminders are good, but getting everything ON the calendar is a mess.

    4.) Because of the migraines, I’ve been doing the relaxation, meditation, and exercise all along.

    At this point, my issues are in actually clearing the load. I see a light, though, in how I can do that.

    1. Cheri Avatar

      One last thing for the organization. A to-do list is a demon sitting on your computer and waiting to trip you up. The suggestion to assign a priority and an amount of time to each of your tasks (I’d do that only for the top-priority tasks for now) is a good one, but then put it into some kind of scheduling software.

      I use Evernote to keep my ‘to-do’ lists organized, and a wonderful online software called SmartSheets to schedule. SmartSheets has a template with calendaring and Gantt chart (dependencies) capability, so I know not only what I have scheduled for each week, but also what’s depending on it. I’ve got my whole year’s writing scheduled out, but I would suggest you do only three months, at most, for everything you’re doing. It gets dicey as you get further out, if the schedule slips because of illness, for example. On the other hand, it isn’t great for repeating tasks, so it may not be your best tool.

      That degree of management isn’t for everyone, but you’ve got a monumental list there. Bottom line, don’t just list the tasks, schedule them.

  21. Michelle Owings-Christian Avatar
    Michelle Owings-Christian

    I have nothing more to add to the “prioritize” ideas with your schedule. I do agree that delegating some of the admin tasks to your followers who are dead broke in exchange for class tuition. I WOULD BE AT THE FRONT OF THAT LINE!! I was an Executive Assistant in corporate America until my job was re-organized into oblivion. Since you can’t take anything away, it seems clear that prioritizing and delegating to people who are willing to trade work for training are your only options. (I also have a degree in English Lit, and do proofreading and editing.)

  22. Teresa Miller Avatar
    Teresa Miller

    Holly, I agree with some others about setting schedules and choosing a smaller number of daily tasks to focus on. A list like the one you have is WAY overwhelming! Break it into chunks and only focus on a chunk at a time.

    It also helps to do like tasks at the same time, for more speed and efficiency. Choose a day to focus on all of your non-fiction writing tasks, one for emails, blog posts, social media posts, newsletter content, etc. Do it all in batches instead of a little of everything, every day. And on days when you work on your fiction, do nothing else! Immerse yourself in fiction and shut all of the other things out of your mind.

    Something like Asana (free) can aid in setting up tasks by category; it allows you to set deadlines and assign tasks to team members. When you have your time scheduled and categorized, you get an extra benefit of not having it weigh on you constantly as a looming to-do list. You know when you’re supposed to do what.

    And finally, there are things on that list that it is NOT in your best interest to do yourself. Your talent and skills are better served by focusing on creative tasks rather than the mundane, technical stuff. As someone hinted at above, see what you can barter. Email your loyal followers, who surely have the talents to handle some of the things you don’t want to do, and offer them something (non-monetary) in exchange for taking on some of your tasks.

    Example: As I said, spend a day writing to your fans; write up your emails, blog posts, social media posts, newsletter content, etc. all at one time and then hand them off to someone else to post them and get them “out there.”

  23. N.R. Wick Avatar

    Hi Holly,
    I can only dream that I had this much writing/publishing material to work with, but it seems you and I have the same issue of taking on too many projects and getting overwhelmed.There are so many newsletters and groups and things that take up a lot of time, and are they really that important? My suggestion is first prioritize some of the things on your list. What’s the most important? Really important.

    I can’t tell by the list above what is most important to you, but for me, I would consider how close to publishing some of the projects are. Anything that is close to publishing, get them out there. It would be so much faster to get them out of the way and then you wouldn’t have to worry about them, AND you’d have those income streams. At the same time, block out time each day for emails and writing or every other day for some of the other tasks. For example, 1-2 hours for blogging/newsletters, 2-4 hours to writing something new, and 1-2 hours for personal emails. You can do the new book writing every day and alternate the other two things every other day.

    Also, consider dropping some things that aren’t working or that aren’t that important. For example, the copyedit for the courses and website sounds important, but is it really? I suggest waiting until you can hire someone to take care of it and then worry about it. Without the help of a full blown staff of people to help or without a couple of digital administrative assistants, you could be spreading yourself too thin. Do you need to contribute to so many newsletters? Can you pass the ball to someone else for some of these things? I know it’s hard to drop things, especially when you feel like people would be sad without them, but you are only one person.

    Okay, this turned out way longer than I had expected, but the last thing I’m going to say is to break up this list into the following sections: Closest to Publishing (things that need covers/interiors and submission), Marketing (for books/courses ready to publish), Finished Projects (for the ones that need editing, covers, and interiors but are otherwise done), Newsletters/Emails/Blogging, and Maintenance (stuff that isn’t as important and should have an assistant or three take care of). I also suggest having a section for things you should drop completely (or come back to one day when you have time).

    Good luck!
    N.R. Wick

  24. Kristyne Stephens Avatar
    Kristyne Stephens

    I think there are some fantastic ideas here. The only thing that I am going to add is that you are amazing. I know when I get overwhelmed I forget all the good that I do. YOU do FANTASTIC things. You help people and you bring joy. None of us would want you to be miserable.

    1. Dan Allen Avatar
      Dan Allen

      Kristyne, she sure is amazing, I am glad you said that. I think everyone participating with Holly is awesome when I get chance check each person out, but, it also comes out that Holly is not really all the way like the rest of us, in some really great way. How many people have you seen who draw the level of compliment, praise, appreciation, and desire to give back as Holly Lisle. Maybe some big time clergy, or movie star, but then how many with as wide a following as Holly, can you actually reach, communicate with in personal way that matters to so many. Holly is a star, and how often do we get a window into the life a star, to maybe help that star out? It sounds like a recipe for a cult, but I don’t see cult around here. We really are lucky to know. I am glad said something like there here.

      Meanwhile, I just got another idea about Holly’s workload and doing something about. I already am working on automation that will allow her to do more of what she does. I think I might have an idea abot what Holly does, what makes it special. What if that, the special quality of Holly that makes her so valuable to people, what if that quality to be put into words, so that people could look and say, “yes, that’s right, that is the special thing about Holly, right there. Those words say it.”

      I bet those words would be surprising, especially to Holly. I have a lot of about what those words might cause, if we had them.

      To me, I love that idea. But only about a quarter of the ideas I love are good ideas. Half suck. A few are good but I am not a good judge of which is which. So the idea I asking about is, would it be a good idea of see if the people participating here might be able to cobble a few words explaining the unique thing Holly is and does, so we could all focus on supporting that?

  25. Kathy Avatar

    I know you said hiring was out of the question – but what about bartering work that can be realistically outsourced for classes? Like – what has to be actually done re your unpublished fiction? Copyedits/cxns? or just formatting into epubs? Can any of that be bartered?

  26. Sara Marschand Avatar

    OH, Holly– that schedule is overwhelming. I have a migraine to match yours just reading it.

    My first thought to tackling a ridiculous workload is to take the
    “debt snowball” approach and knock of some of the smaller tasks first. Are there things you can complete quicker than others? Doing those first will give you the sense of progress, even though the big stuff remains. Don’t forget to break down bigger tasks into smaller, achievable goals, too.

    Next, I’d drop a blog post. While I do love your posts, I can’t honestly read so many. Go ahead and cut back the frequency.

    The next thing I would do is prioritize the things where someone is specifically waiting for you to provide something so that they can keep moving. Attach drop dead dates and work backward. I don’t see a ton of wiggle room for you here, but you need to combine related items.

    Combine newsletters too– start combining them and include category headings for people to skim to relevant info. You have WAY too many individual newsletters.

    As a former project manager, if you can’t crash the schedule by adding more resources, you must combine tasks and hit critical handoffs. If you don’t have a clear need/deadline for something– it doesn’t fit in the schedule for now.

  27. Chris Chelser Avatar

    I can’t shrink your list, but maybe this will help:

    A no-brainer that everyone who is swamped forgets out: prioritise. Not just in the overall picture, but down to detail. Here is how I stay organised while juggling writing, irregular part-time job, a family and a household :

    – Put everything you need/want to do in a spreadsheet (I use MS Excel, because I have that already). Start with the one-time stuff only for now.
    – When that list is complete, put them in order of importance: what needs to get done first at the top, what can wait further down, and what had least priority at the bottom.
    – Break down big projects into smaller steps: “Write Book 1 chapter 1 first draft”; “Book 1 chapter 1 rewrite”, “Book A, contact cover artist”. Whatever works for you, but they need to be managable steps.
    – Now add dates to these items. When do they need to be done, or when do you expect to have time to do them? One day. Multiple items on one day is fine, but only use one date for an item (so no period of time, because that is not specific enough).

    Now onto the recurring stuff:
    – Pick what comes first in time (this or that newsletter, tips, emails, etc) and determine when this has to be done. Again, pick on specific date.
    – Insert a new row in the list you created for the one-time stuff and write down the item and the date in that row.
    – Do this for all recurring items: you insert them in the existing list.

    When an item is completed, delete the corresponding row.
    If you like, you can add a third column that you can mark with an ‘x’ or something for items that have a fixed date (like newsletters). That helps to keep an overview of the workload over time.

    When you are done, you have a comprehensive overview of what needs to be done (by) when.


    This list is a living thing. Things change. Items take longer (or shorter). If deadline change or priorities shift, change the date on the list accordingly and use the spreadsheet’s sort function to rearrange them in the right order by date.
    New things come up, so add them. Keep it up to date like you would an agenda.
    And remember that you are human, so if the deadlines you initially set were too ambitious, change them to what is feasible. That way you will also learn how much you can do in a specific amount of time, rather than force yourself to just do everything right now.

    For a list like you have it will take some time to set up the list, but once you have it, you will have a comprehensible overview of what neesd to be done when, which will save you a lot of headache figuring out what of that immense to-do list to tackle next.

    I hope it helps you (or anyone who reads this and struggles with a similar problem). I know it helps me every day to set my priorities straight.! 🙂 Good luck with your plans!

  28. Alex F. Fayle Avatar

    I know you’re a huge fan of systems. You can either go for a productivity system (GTD – Getting Things Done is a popular one and quite simple to implement), or a more complex project management system (I don’t know much about these, but Lifehacker recommends Asana).

    Good luck and really looking forward to the writing system you are putting together!

  29. Carolyn Avatar

    Dear Holly,
    Wow, that is a lot of stuff. If I were you I’d learn mindfulness meditation and allow myself a little space in my head to refresh myself. If you’ve heard of ‘information overload’ you might be experiencing that and so eventually you become overwhelmed because there are only so many hours in one day, only so many days in one week . . . I’d work out my absolute priorities, the tasks that REALLY matter.I’d deal with one at a time to my satisfaction and I’d take one day at a time. The tasks that are of secondary importance can go on a ‘to do later’ list, not forgotten, just shelved for a while. You are only human (even with your amazing publishing record!) and you can only deal with a certain number of tasks at any one time. Be kind to yourself, be grateful for your skills, talent and creativity. Take a nice calming breath and think to yourself, actually, in a couple of hundred years, will any of this really matter?! Good luck though, I wish you all success . . .

  30. John M Avatar
    John M

    Ok, you don’t clear the schedule, you prioritize, estimate, divide, and revise. This should take you about 5-10 minutes each day after the initial passes. Why, because if your To Do list is longer than your Not To Do list, you have a priority problem, and you do.
    Step 1. Categorize all your tasks and projects as A, B, C. A = have to; B = want to; C = like to. At the top of the A list, put “A1. Revise This List For Today.”
    Step 2. For each of the tasks, estimate the time it would take you, uninterrupted to do it. Multiply it by 2.5 . This is your initial work estimate for planning.
    Step 3. Divide any task over 3 days to a set of “inchstones” that fit. So if you have “Read War and Peace.” Chop it into 20 page increments.
    Step 4. Sort each of the lists into sequence. What to do first, second, and so on. If there is a sequence, make sure you put them into order.

    Now you are ready to take on this Brobdignanigan life task list. BTW, if you plan for 24 hours rather than 8, add “eat lunch”, “play with dog”, etc. and remember to do it.

    Each task is “started”, “done”, “deferred”, or “canceled”. Once a task is started, it runs until the end of the day. Then it is deferred until a specified date. For example, I get my hair cut on Tuesday, but the barber is only in on Tuesday and Thursday, and I can’t do it on Tuesday, I defer it to Thursday and it drops off the schedule until Thursday.

    Ok, this is a kind of 10 cent version of my modification of the Franklin-Covey system that I used for 20 years to keep me from going off my nut when I had too much to do, couldn’t forget any of it, and everything had to be done yesterday. My suggestion is to get the Folio size version (mine has handles like a notebook/briefcase) of the Franklin-Covey system and take the one day seminar (as I remember, it was relatively cheap and is a valid business expense, and then become a devotee. Part of this course teaches you how to break down all the “God how can I do this” tasks into steps you can do. That is worth the cost, IMHO, itself. And No, I do not work for them, I am retired but did Computer Project / Program / Development Management for a looooooong time. Hope this helps, feel free to email me if you need any clarification or help.


    1. John M Avatar
      John M

      BTW, the A B C is used to make sure you do all your A tasks first, B second and C third. And, at the end of the day, ALL unfinished tasks are “deferred” to the next day, minimum, so the slate is all “handled” at the end of the day.
      You can “delegate” a task or tasks (this defers them until the expected completion day, and requires a “status check”) So if Cousin Bernie is going to set up the birthday party on Saturday, you delegate the party until Thursday (if you trust Bernie) and check on its status on Thursday. It is off the schedule until that.

  31. Diane Berry Avatar
    Diane Berry

    Some of those things don’t have to be done by you, personally. While you said you can’t hire someone, could you use a few volunteers from your classes and give them free classes in return? I’m thinking of things like the proofreading and corrections work and some of the administrative tasks.

    1. Dawn Avatar

      I had this same idea for Holly. I’m sure you could barter for additional help this way. Of course, in doing so you might be adding to the work load by having to review qualifications, keep track of services/products owed, etc.

  32. Nicola Lane Avatar
    Nicola Lane

    Barter and/or agree to pay in the future.

    For example I would love to take the think sideways course – but it is out of my afford ability range. But I can easily do grunt work such as format stuff for epublishing, non-skilled editing, and general “stuff”.

    So I would be really happy to whatever I could in return for getting a how to think sideways as soon as it returns. I am sure there are plenty of other people you could find who would either love to barter something similar – or who trust you enough to take a promise to pay in the future.

  33. Preston Sisk Avatar
    Preston Sisk

    Hi, Holly!

    You have eight works that are “sitting on your hard drive waiting to be published.” Start with the first, give it an hour a day, and publish it. Are you self-publishing or do you have a publisher working for you? The latter is easier, and will take some of your workload away. When you get the first one published, start on the second–or if you have a publisher, upload the whole eight to the publisher and let him handle it. Now you have eight more published works, and an extra hour a day to write.

    Use the same approach to the copyedits section, and before you know it you’ll have them taken care of.

    Spend three hours a day on the new (fiction) writing. Don’t argue, just do it.

    So far, we have used just five hours out of your day. Give yourself an hour for workshops and that makes six. Now take the rest, divide it into five task groups and give each group two hours once a week.

    That’s a forty hour week, and you still have time for a life!

    Sounds easier than it is, I know, but “a journey of a thousand words begins at the computer.”


  34. Ashlie Avatar

    I would pick the tasks that you are most willing to delegate and can be delegated with little or no training. Than offer free tuition for an aspiring writer who has not been able to invest in your more expensive courses yet but would love the opportunity – in exchange for taking some of the administrative tasks from your to do list. Win-Win.

  35. Tatiana K. Avatar
    Tatiana K.

    First, if you haven’t already, set up a calendar and schedule in everything. Including breakfast, lunch, dinner, grocery-shopping, etc. I’m reasonably sure one of your writing classes is what taught me to do that 🙂

    After that, maybe try alternative your fiction tasks (publish, then copyedits list, then new fiction, then revise-your-novel-expansion).

    You may want to do community posts every other day until you get some of the backlog done.

    For most of this, I don’t know how much time you need and how well you switch off form one task to another. But that’s why you should create yourself a calendar (google calendar is awesome since it can go to your smartphone) and once scheduled, set up reminders so that things don’t just slip from memory.

  36. RL Black Avatar

    Wow, and I thought I was busy! You have a lot on your plate. The very first thing I would do, is to mark off a certain amount of time every morning for writing. Don’t do anything until you’ve done your writing. Especially don’t go online until you’ve done it. You’ll just get sucked in. Second thing, I would delegate some of this stuff to helpers. I’d find some diligent, faithful people who could help and let them do what they can.

  37. Bonnie Brunish Avatar

    I agree with the exercise idea. Sometimes I get wonderful ideas when I’m running. You can also use a treadmill, and perhaps watch a DVD while running, especially if there’s something you need to see for your schedule. Don’t watch anything too funny as it’s hard to run when you’re falling down laughing.

    Get enough sleep. Eat healthy.

    Complete the shorter one-time tasks first and don’t take new ones on, thus gradually pruning your task tree.

    But–if creative juices are flowing for the first draft of something, do that first before the projects that can be done anytime.

    Keep a nice, slow, steady pace to your work, and don’t even think about how much you have left to do. It’s one thing at a time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


  38. Bianca Avatar

    My biggest suggestion to you would be to make sure you take on no new commitments because you are clearly overcommitted right now.

    Next step is going to be to pre-write a lot of the things that could be automatically scheduled – blog posts, newsletters, WP pages. It may take significant blocks of time to write but once they are scheduled, it is set-and-forget which will help free up your time in the future.

    Things like commenting or dealing with emails need to only be done at set times on a schedule, perhaps once or twice a day so that they do not suck you in.

    As for your book backlog, you have several items that appear to be very near completion, so get those done as quickly as possible, as completing them will reduce the lengthy look of your list, relieve the weight of undone things on your brain and help provide further momentum for other things.

    My next suggestion will be what I call productive procrastination, which is not really procrastination, but it means when you are working on something and either get stuck or hit a point of flagging energy, use something else on your list (ideally something that won’t take hours) to take a break. That way you are always making progress on your list.

    You didn’t mention exactly how you track all of these todos. I have used Trello for a while to keep track of various projects and tasks. The approach I settled on is to have the long backlog list with everything and about once a week I review to see which tasks fall into one of my time-based lists (This Month, Next Week, This Week, Today). The Today list is obviously my target for the day and as things get completed, they get dropped into my Done column (nice to see it filling up). I use checklists on several of my tasks so that even if they are not moving to Done just yet, I can still see how far a long I am.

    Hope some of these suggestions help.

  39. M.A. Kropp Avatar
    M.A. Kropp

    Wow! That’s a list (or two or three)! And, yes, at first look, it does look overwhelming. Here’s what I would do:

    First, go through each individual sub-list and prioritize. (Yes, I know- it’s ALL important, but I am sure if you sat there and really thought about it, you would find that some are more so than others.) Get those organized by importance.

    Second, again, in each sub-list, look at what could be done (relatively) quickly. Give those a notation of some sort in the priority list- star, highlight, something)

    Third, set yourself up a schedule. A real schedule.
    9-9:30 AM- emails
    9:30-10 AM- one of the easy to finish tasks
    10 AM- 12 PM- Write (pick one thing to work on)
    Noon- Lunch
    And so on. Figure out how you spend your time now, and where you are losing the battles. Stick to your schedule.

    This sort of thing has worked for me, because it does a few things. It helps you make sense out of what looks like a mountain of tasks. If you work on some of the easier to finish things first (maybe for your list- some of the cover text and artwork stuff? It takes time, I know, but it is something that can be probably finished in one session), you will see progress because you are crossing things off that list. That feels goood! And, if you have an actual schedule, you know what you are doing and when, and you are not just staring at a whole list of stuff, wondering what to do and how it is all going to get done.

    This sort of thing has worked for me in the past, and I still keep a daily schedule. You can do it. Just step back for a minute, and breathe.

    I hope some of this helps.

  40. Lenore Wolfe Avatar

    I was wondering how you managed all of this, and writing too. I’d finish the school pieces, and then narrow them down to one course a month. Work with your writers, but leave most of your time open for your own writing. It’s wonderful what you’re teaching us, but I don’t think it should come at the expense of your own writing. And I feel that we can still learn from you–even if you have to slow it down. We might even get more out of it if it were in smaller chunks anyway. Anyway, that’s just what I think. Perhaps we could all benefit from making it a learn as we all go along.

    You were a nurse for a reason, Holly. You’re a giver. Be sure you take care of your needs too k:) We all get a lot out of what you’re sharing with us.

    Just a thought.

  41. Murrday Avatar

    Delegate the copyedits. Use RMW and trade. I bet lots of people have the skills to swap you copyediting, for credit towards your courses.

    1. Nicole Avatar

      Ditto on the trade swaps. I was thinking the same thing. I’ll bet lots of folks (myself included!) would be willing to help in exchange for course credits, etc.

      1. Virginia Avatar

        Hey Holly,

        Wow. Just reading that list stresses me out. I’ll continue to think about random bits of efficiency, but for now how about this:

        Trade swaps seem like a good idea. In addition, for certain projects, how about hiring someone who is willing to work for a percentage of sales rather than get paid up front?

        For example, I would be willing to do the formatting for createspace, .mobi and .epub on the books that you’ve got the rights back for but still haven’t published on your own, and I would be willing to do so for a small percentage of their sales (even up to a cap if you’d like) rather than getting paid up front.

        Others might be willing to do the same for some of your other projects. Just a thought. If you’re interested please email me.

        Good luck! That really is an overwhelming work load. I’m sure you’ll be able to sort out something that works for you. I’m sorry I don’t have other ideas than that one. I’ll keep thinking about it.

        (Sorry for including this in a reply to this comment thread but my computer wasn’t letting me post a non-reply comment for some reason, and this was the most relevant thread I could find to reply to.)

    2. Robbin Avatar

      I have another suggestion. Have you considered offering an internship with a local college creative writing class. Have them sign a contract of non disclosure but maybe they can do edit work, as well as pull together notes into something cohesive that you can work with. It might cut down on at least an hour or so a day. But those hours will add up. One of them could also go through the list of questions you are getting and set up your video chat formats for you. Just an idea.

  42. Jess Wagstrom Avatar
    Jess Wagstrom

    As someone currently slogging her way through HTRYN, my gut instinct is to tell you to drop everything and focus on that step by step novel revision demo, because I would LOVE more examples on some of the lessons!

    As a non-selfish person with legitimate advice: This looks more like a list than a schedule to me. With lists and with life, you only have one option – take it one thing at a time.

    Everything on the list is important, but you physically cannot do everything at once. So every day, pick the three things that NEED to get done first, and do something toward them.

    That’s what I’d do – I get overwhelmed a LOT even though I’m not nearly this busy. So I make myself a to-do list of three – if I get them done, I call it a win. The stuff I have to do every day (answer e-mails, feed the cats, etc.) never ends up on that list because they’re automatic, but things I’m putting off and can’t organize go on it:

    -Design business cards
    -Work through 3 scenes in lesson 7 of HTRYN
    -Fill orders older than one week

    That would be a sample of my three things for the day. I keep them small so they don’t overwhelm me, but you know your workload and what you can handle in a day better than I do.

  43. Geraldine Avatar

    Start with the 2 things that will take the least time – maybe the commissioned artwork bookcovers, or the ‘new text’ ones? Clear them off your list.
    Maybe start a ‘blog favourites’ so you can just re-post an oldie but goodie now and then, maybe the more controversial ones that spark lots of comments. That would clear up a bit of time and energy for all the new things you’re working on.
    Question how much revision / correction is REALLY needed on your previously-published and highly-successful books: Is this just manic perfectionism rearing its head?
    Try a little meditation to stop your head from spinning, and take care of your head – Sumatriptan is the best thing ever for migraines, in my experience.
    Best wishes

    1. Geraldine Avatar

      PS Repetition is not a bad thing. How about repeating some of your tips? There are bound to be some we’ve missed, or could happily be reminded of. I’m not sure you have to be original with everything every day, when you have done so much that is of great use to so many people.

  44. Betty Widerski Avatar

    That first category, “Publish books and stories for which I own rights that are simply sitting on my hard drive”: I’m not sure what doing that entails, but if you don’t need to maintain total control over how it happens can it be something that you let someone(s) else do for either a cut of the results or as a training exercise (e.g., if there’s a fairly advanced, competent student who would like to learn how to do this but doesn’t have their own work ready to go out, can they intern doing this for you)?

  45. Michele Avatar

    I suggest creating a schedule like you would on any job. Calendar out slots of time based on how long you can work on a project before you need a break. For example, you might schedule 1-2 hours on Mondays and Wednesdays to format Talyn for epub, and when it’s done, start the next book on that list. Do the same for other tasks like writing new fiction. Schedule a half-hour morning and evening to scan through emails and respond to the most urgent ones and create email folders for easy sorting (that helps me tremendously when I’ve got limited time and need to find something specific). Schedule one morning a week to work on the newsletters and blogs. Make the blogs short, because people don’t expect posts to be lengthy these days, and short posts are quicker to write. And look for volunteers who are willing to help out, since you can’t hire anyone right now. Maybe a local school or college has students do internships in a tech or writing program. That could be a good fit for you and them. Good luck!

  46. A. A. Woods Avatar

    Hey Holly,

    First of all, love your blog. Yours are always the emails I read first when I get them.

    I was thinking: have you considered hiring a ghostwriter? Or asking for contributions from your readers? I know you say you can’t hire a web developer, but help with all that writing might be good, especially the fiction content. I mean, your readers are mostly writers who would (I’m sure) love to contribute blog posts, tips, advice, and bits of their own fiction. And a ghostwriter for some of the more stand-alone fiction stuff would get your stories out faster, meaning more income for you. You, of course, could monitor what goes out, but it would be a good way to have more content for your readers while also freeing up time for your own work and sanity.

    Thanks always and good luck opening space in your schedule. We all know that feeling!


  47. Gregory Miranda Avatar

    Hi Holly,

    Rule #1 for software development: when you run out of time, reduce the scope.

    Software is an iterative process, and usually is never done. Put the features that are must haves (minimum viable product), then start adding the nice to haves (more slowly), and delay anything that is ‘cool, but not necessary’. You can always come back to it later.

    The key to finishing software (especially web): set priorities, rush to get it working, add new features slowly.

    Also, any off the shelf packages you can find will speed you up some (but they are never perfect).

    As a customer of both your fiction and non-fiction, I vote for fiction!


  48. Lori L. Robinett Avatar

    If it were me, I’d pick one or two things off of each list that are the closest to completion and tackle those things first. It’ll give you a sense of accomplishment and will get the ball rolling quickly. For instance, the two projects that just need cover text would be my top priority. Another thing I’d do is schedule time to do the things that matter to you. Writing fiction is a biggie – so schedule at least a one hour block 3 days a week to do that. You may end up doing more, but at least you’ll KNOW that you’ll have those three hours to devote each week to doing what is a priority for YOU.

  49. Rod Burns Avatar
    Rod Burns

    I get overwhelmed with work all the time, and my to-do lists routinely look almost as bad. The only way I get through it is to just ignore all except one or two items – work on them and knock them out, then pick one or two more. I even make a separate to-do list with only the most urgent things on it, putting my full to-do list out of sight for a bit. Once I get a few things completed in that manner, I can go back to the original list and it’s not quite so overwhelming.

    Good luck! 🙂

  50. Jeff Avatar

    Hello, Holly!!

    Something that gets me thinking clearer is physical exercise. After a 3 mile run, I generally become able to do more work. And with much more focus!

    Sorry I didn’t give an answer that regards directly to your schedule, but I do believe that exercising will help!

    Thanks for all the nice work so far!!

    1. Holly Avatar

      Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I do three sets of squats, currently adding up to 126 squats per day. The number varies by week. I take three-minute breaks during work, and I don’t skip.

      Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, I do three sets of pushups. Real pushups, not girl pushups. My current daily number on those is 21, but I just added those about two months ago, and when I first started, I could do one.

      I’m with you on exercise helping. I don’t live in a neighborhood where it’s safe to run. But I do what I can indoors in the time I have.


      1. Jeff Avatar

        Very nice exercise sequence!

        I’m pretty sure you’ll clear the schedule and come out stronger!!

        Thanks for everything!!

        1. Walter Avatar

          Dear Holly,

          You sound somehow desperate – and to me as European – very American: I want it all!!! A-S-A-P!!!

          My suggestions:

          1. Prioritise & organise your list, your candy jobs come on top.
          2. Cut your workload from the bottom and give a flying sh… about the bottom of your list. Remember always, it is just the bottom.
          3. Get a new concept of “schedule”, which requires a new concept of “time”: Time does not go as you follow your schedule – no! Time comes! – and your schedule is no “headache schedule” anymore.

          Get it?

          Good luck!


        2. FeatheredFriend Avatar

          5 columns on a piece of paper

          1)Must Do Daily + allocate amt of time
          2)Want to Do, 1st Priorities + amt of time
          3)Can Delegate + to person’s name/type of exchange
          4)Can Wait for a bit + how long I can put off
          5)Really should PUT OFF- b/c too much on my plate- will get to it in time

          Post it near your coffee maker (or teapot). I use a cupboard.

          Migraines – used to get them.
          Drink lots of water, watch your sodium intake (fast food/processed food-avoid!), make a To Do List daily and check things off- so you can sleep! Bedtime routine – give yourself a bedtime and start winding down 1 hour before (bath, 1/2 glass of wine if you drink, read for pleasure, listen to soothing music), also, ck your blood pressure if you can. History- def buy a cuff! YOU NEED ME TIME! This is YOUR HOUR! 😉

          Let it go, knowing that your list is ready when you are rested and able to begin anew!

          I would love to exchange credit for writing courses and/or % off book purchase for help with copy editing etc. Never done another’s work, but I’m pretty good. (see my First Flash (Romance)) Two tiny typos – likely from cutting and pasting.

          This msg is chopped up to make it a quick read for you!

          Good Luck! (keep me in mind) I’d love to build my own resume! 🙂

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