Spring Conference Blog: Managing your Time

Posted on April 5, 2019 in News & Reviews, Scotland

Chaired by Peggy Hughes, Programme Director, National Centre for Writing Norwich


Cinzia DuBois, Freelance Creative Digital Copywriter and Editor

Kirstyn Smith, Journalist and Founder, Marbles

Suzanne Collier, Founder, Bookcareers and Author, How to Job Search in Book Publishing


During ‘The Trick is to Keep Breathing’, the panel discussed their tips and tricks for freelancing, and managing your time with a busy schedule, while prioritising your well-being and mental health.

Cinzia DuBois’s top tips for managing your time were to block out your time and to ‘be essentialist’ – i.e. doing the essential things first. It’s not about working harder – it’s about working smarter, having a ritual and being organised. She also stressed standing up for yourself and learning to say no. Kirstyn Smith writes a to-do list for the next day every evening, and Suzanne Collier similarly suggests planning out your day in the morning, focusing not only on what needs done but also how long it will take. She explains that lists are as important as brain dumps, meaning you don’t have to carry everything around in your head. Both Smith and Collier are fans of blocking out 20 minutes for very focused work, followed by a 5 minute break.

If you realise that you are working too much it is time to prioritise, the panel agreed. DuBois said one of her signs is a sinking feeling and asking herself ‘why am I doing this? What do I gain?’ This is when to be essentialist: if a project is not giving you joy, you need to prioritise, and cut it out. Collier suggests identifying the 20% that produces 80% of the results and protect those things. The 80% that only produce 20% shouldn’t be prioritised.

All panellists found it important to have hobbies that are not work. Smith has found it helpful to have other, non-work-related goals, for example going to the gym and lifting heavier each week. Collier is a fully qualified aerobics teacher and for her, going to the gym is a way to fully switch off. DuBois does hip hop dance in her free time, which is purely for fun, as it can’t possibly turn into anything professional.

Smith says it’s important to have a good support network and an accountability buddy that you trust. Her partner tells her off when she’s being ‘an arse because you’re working too hard’ – otherwise, she’d work too much. DuBois has recently started doing meditation, which helps her identify what she is worrying about, and what might need re-prioritising. For Collier it’s simple: have self-discipline, and be strict when your working day ends. She also finds it important to take time off social media, and during a recent holiday gave her phone to another person so that she would be unable to check it.

Finally, the panellists were asked what their top trick to keep breathing is:

Collier – Be true to yourself and be authentic.

Smith – Keep sleeping.

DuBois – Limit the f*s you give in life.

Blog by Mimmi Rönning, SYP Scotland Conference Committee