I first wrote this post years ago, and needless to say, a lot has happened since then! New types of social media, the rise of video shorts. Bookstagram, BookTok, etc. That said, the basics remain the same.
How do you find time to write and promote?
I haven’t perfected the system. (I don’t think anyone ever does.,, it’s an ongoing, iterative process.)
When I started this approach, I was juggling building a platform, running a coaching business, writing books, and riding herd on a rambunctous five-year-old. Here are the keystone principles that allowed me to do that.
1. Be systematic.
Promotion is crucial: pushing sucks. The key is to be connected without being selfish… to be social, contributing and entertaining, rather than simply pushing sales.
At this point, I’ve chosen two primary social media sources: Instagram and Facebook. On Facebook, I post on my page, and in my private group, Cathy Yardley’s Crew.
I started by posting erratically on both. It was time consuming because I was trying to come up with ideas on the fly, and then writing content and building graphics. I’d then do the same thing in a few days. There was no graphic cohesion, no sense of branding, nothing for a reader to hang on to.
It actually saves time and energy to batch create these things. I took a weekend and planned out the topics for every weekday I’d be posting (I take weekends off — there’s less reader engagement on those days.) I keep the posts short. I create graphics in Canva that I can then size for Instagram or Facebook. Then I save them in separate folders. You can schedule them if you’re technologically comfortable, or just post them in the morning. But it’s easy.
Writing is similar. Just saying “I’m going to write every day!” isn’t necessarily helpful if you don’t have a goal for what you want to get done, or by when… or why. I’ve found it helpful to have a yearly goal for what I’d like to get written: say, a traditional book and an indie book, or two novellas and a manuscript, or whatever. I calculate out how much I can realistically write in a year, with my current circumstances. Then I can adjust as I go, but the foundational system is there.
2. Make it a routine.
The first time I drove a stick shift car, I thought my head would explode. Or that the engine would. I was already frazzled trying to simply get the gas vs. brake thing down while steering and paying attention to my surroundings. Then I had to add a clutch and shifting while the engine’s whining and the gears are grinding? Seriously?
Fortunately, my instructor had me learn the basics on an automatic first. When it was time to switch to stick, I stuck to parking lots where I could go slowly and I wouldn’t need to shift up too often. Little steps. It became second nature… in steps.
Finding time to write and promote works on the exact same principles. Small steps. For one whole month, time permitting, write with a regular routine. Just one page, if necessary. Mark it on a calendar or keep track some other way.
Once you start doing that every day for at least a month, add one social media thing. Post on your media of choice, maybe once a week. Once you’ve mastered that? Work up to three times a week, then five, if you feel that’s most effective. Or try a different social media: you’ve got Instagram down, now try TikTok.
Or, you can choose to interact with one, or two, or five different accounts daily. This will add up, until it’s as unconscious as, say, brushing your teeth. (Note: if you’re neurodivergent, I know that building any routines is a challenge. We will discuss it in a different post.)
They call your creative self your “inner child.” I am learning the hard way: children need, and secretly crave, routine.
3. Look at what you’ve got.
This absolutely sucks rocks, but I hate to admit, it’s the only way I know that actually works.
Do a time audit.
Write down what you do every day for a week. I mean everything. Start with the time you wake up, then document everything you do while you do it. Don’t wait until the end of the night and try to remember it — that never works!
Do this for a week, and you’ll see where your time is really going. I fought against this kicking and screaming, but when I finally broke down and gave in to doing it, I was amazed at seeing how I actually spent my time. I had a lot more of it than I thought — but I was also basically draining my battery in ways I hadn’t realized with activities that were unnecessary, and not even all that fun.
Once I saw what I had to work with, both from a time and an energy standpoint, I was able to make better choices.
4. Put replenishment first.
If you’re carving out time but not refilling the well, then you’re trying to run a marathon on a Hershey bar. That wall comes up fast and you hit it hard. Worse, you’re probably going to berate yourself for not meeting your goals.
When you look at the time you have, and you’re looking at building your routines, make sure that self-care is the first routine on the list. Before the page-a-day, before the tweets and posts, pick one small but effective energy pick-up.
Keep in mind: you need to see if it’s really sustaining. That one-week documenting practice will show you what you’re trying to do to pick yourself up vs. what actually works. If you’re getting your ass kicked on a day job, and then you’re coming home and unwinding by diving head first into a pint of mint chip ice cream and a streaming binge, perhaps you might wonder why you continue to feel exhausted despite two hours on your couch.
Your small step might be a fifteen minute walk. Or a big glass of water. Or — God forbid — meditation. Something that is possibly irritating going in, but you know in your gut will actually fuel the engine rather than simply let it cruise on fumes.
I fought against this, too. But especially as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that even small blocks of time, and deliberate choices, have made a game-changing difference.
Simple, but not easy.
These steps are not glamorous, not sexy, and not fun. They seem painfully simple, and probably stuff you’ve read before.
But think of it this way. All you need is an average of fifteen minutes a day to start building your platform. You can write a page a day, six days a week (with one day to rest!) and have a 78,000 word draft by the end of the year. Little things add up.
And a bonus tip:
5. Get an accountability buddy.
You can’t do this alone. I have the most supportive friends in the world, but I still feel guilty when I have to tell them I didn’t do what I told them I would. (It’s amazing how motivating this is for some of us.) It’s also helpful when there are more of you who are struggling, so you can all help each other get back on track.
It can be a challenge. But if you follow these steps, it can make all the difference.