I got an email today about this article where comedian Ali Wong talks about her secret to getting everything done: Hiring a nanny.
In her new special she raises the question of work-life balance and explains her secret. “I have a nanny,” she said. “That’s it.”
It infuriates her that more celebrities don’t acknowledge this. “It’s unfair to the hard-core stay-at-home moms to pretend you’re able to have an amazing body by chasing around your kids,” she told me. “I think one of the hardest things to talk about as a comic is having money because it’s so unrelatable. But this is such a big part of my life.”
Right. Money. And Nannies.
I thought it was pretty refreshing for someone to acknowledge that she gets shit done because she hires some of it out. I don’t have a nanny. Or a housekeeper. I need to get most of my shit done the old-fashioned way — on my own.
(Although, I do have an assistant for Ninja Writers. Zach. He’s a rockstar and you should go follow him.)
It never occurred to me until I started Ninja Writers that I have a tendency to get more stuff done than anyone else. But I do. I find myself toning things down a lot, when I write about starting a business or being a writer. I don’t want to send people running for the hills or a nice, cushy (or not so cushy) day job.
I think I just some how lucked into a one-two punch of knowing exactly what I want (to be a writer and a teacher) and a propensity toward systems. I need them, if my right-brained self is ever going to get anything done.
Systems keep me from spinning my wheels.
Anyway — my favorite system is a framework I call WRITER. It helps me stay focused and, even more important, balanced. I have so many balls in the air, it can be easy to get hyper-focused on one and let all the others fall.
If I do these six things everyday (each one takes about ten minutes, so an hour a day), my life is happier, I stay productive, and I get (most of) my shit done. I’ve been using this system informally forever. Years. It works. (Even better when you do it with intention!)
You can read here about how in the last couple of years I’ve changed my life drastically. I’ve lost 120 pounds, paid off debt, written a book that was bought by a major publisher, started a successful online business . . . This one hour a day was a huge part of it.
Five Steps to Changing Your Life (they boil down to one thing)
In the last three years, I’ve: lost 120 pounds, become debt free, earned an MFA, quadrupled my income, and sold a novel…
You can also download a little eBook about the WRITER Framework here.
Okay, now that’s all out of the way, let me introduce you to the WRITER Framework.
WRITE for 10 minutes a day.
This is a minimum. It’s not like I set a timer and force myself to stop if I want to keep going once I’ve hit my ten minutes. But having a long-term daily goal of writing fiction for ten minutes has been a life-changer for me.
The key is a goal so small that it’s harder to skip it than it is to just sit down and do it. Ten minutes works for me. Maybe you need to go smaller. If you do, that’s okay. If you can easily skip your goal for the day, your goal is too big.
READ for 10 minutes a day.
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. That’s Stephen King’s advice and it’s good. As an MFA student for the last two years, I generally read for well more than ten minutes a day, but it’s still a good baseline.
Ten minutes a day, no matter what.
Create ten IDEAS a day.
This one’s from James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. He talks about turning yourself into an idea machine by writing down ten ideas a day, everyday. It’s best daily practice I’ve ever heard of. And it’s changed my life.
TALK to someone I don’t live with for 10 minutes a day.
Writing is pretty solitary work and, especially if you’re living the dream without a day job, it can start to make you stir crazy. I need interaction with other human beings. I make it a goal to talk to someone who i don’t live with for at least ten minutes a day.
This is a great goal, because it forces me to be aware and pay attention. I need someone to talk to, so I notice the checker at the grocery store or the neighbor walking her dog by when I’m getting in the car. And I say hello — and see where that takes me.
EXERCISE for ten minutes a day.
Writing is solitary, sedentary work. A few years ago, I challenged myself to exercise for 10 minutes a day and it literally shifted my entire life trajectory. This is the one thing that keeps everything else balanced.
REGROUP at the end of every day.
At the end of the day, I spend ten minutes reviewing today and planning for tomorrow. I’m not big on fancy, artistic planning, but I love my paper planner and I use these daily dockets. I also, always, plan what I’m going to write tomorrow before I go to bed tonight.
That’s it. Six things, ten minutes a day each. Develop them as a daily practice and your life will change in the most amazing ways. Not because any one of them is particularly life altering — although they’re all pretty amazing. But because they center your focus.
Start using the WRITER Framework, and you’ll start to building a writing life.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nationand the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.
Do you have a writing question you’d like me to answer? Send it to email@example.com with DEAR SHAUNTA in the subject line.