Greetings, programs!  Last week, we talked about thinking through your plans for coping with NaNoWriMo in November.  This week, we’re going to discuss putting some of those plans into action.  I would move on to exactly how you’re going to schedule in those 1667 words per day, but that’ll be next week.  I figure we need to get today’s topic out of the way as early as possible, so you have more time to get through what needs to be done.

So, let’s get into your standard of living.

Of that mental assessment of your time budget from last week, how much of it went into housework, errands, chores, and so on?  I’m guessing probably a lot of it.  Cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping… it all adds up to a pretty huge chunk of your week.  This is one of those places that seems non-negotiable, but taking advantage of the time you still have, you can temporarily free up at least a little of that with some preparation and planning.

Set your baseline

Honest, icky question: How bad are you willing to let it get?  If you were to entirely cut out a certain task for a month, would you be able to live like that?  How long do you think you could put off that task before it reached a danger zone?  (Realistically, you’re probably going to be cutting a little bit here and there rather than just ignoring one thing for the whole month.  We’re still in thought exercise territory for now.)

Obviously, a bachelor living alone is going to draw the line in different places than a mother of four hosting Thanksgiving, and things probably aren’t going to hit rock bottom in the relatively short span of thirty days.  But you may find that there are chores that you’d be comfortable with putting off entirely, and it’s very likely you’ll find things that you can do less often (like yard work or laundry) and still keep the place acceptable.  Prioritize what stuff absolutely has to get done and where you’d be okay cutting corners, so you have a better idea of where you can be flexible, especially when you need to make such decisions on the fly.

Work in advance

Even if there are places where you can’t really cut corners during November, like keeping yourself and your family fed, you can still free up time then by preparing now.

Making meals ahead of time is key.  I’m a big fan of cooking up a big casserole, then portioning it out into individual bags and freezing those.  It’s a lot healthier than relying on the processed frozen foods, but requires about the same effort come mealtime.  (Unless you decided that a month of only processed foods fell into the acceptable range, in which case, shine on, you crazy diamond.)  You can also mix up sauces and stocks in advance, and freeze them into ice cube trays, making it easier to defrost only what you need while preserving the rest.  Sides are also good for preparing in big batches and resurrecting later.

If you don’t have a crockpot or slow cooker, consider investing in one or seeing if you can borrow one.  There are tons of recipes out there that let you toss in some ingredients in the morning and come home to deliciousness that’s ready to serve.

One of the things that makes November suck is its proximity to the holidays, and all the decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, and other insanity that those entail.  If you can get any of your Christmahanukkwaanzikahstice stuff out of the way now, it can help take some of the heat off going into December.

No matter where you set your baselines for cleanliness, if you can get things looking their best now, you can buy yourself some time in November.  Maybe a big load of laundry right before kickoff means you can cut out a laundry day later, or maybe if you get your bathroom sparkling clean it can survive most of the month without a revisit.  Even if you aren’t willing or able to cut down on the frequency of certain chores, starting from a clean slate can make them easier and faster, which is time that can be spent writing.

Use your resources

NaNoWriMo is a pretty awesome thing, and chances are that your friends, neighbors, and loved ones will think that you’re pretty awesome for doing it–and will want to help.

Maybe your spouse or kids would be willing to take over certain tasks just for a few weeks.  (Unless they’re participating as well, in which case the other prep stuff is going to be even more necessary!  Yeah, learned that one the hard way.)  Would you be willing to bribe or barter with friends to help out with things like daycare or cooking?  You could maybe offer to watch their kids before or after NaNo if they’ll take them off your hands a time or two during the month, or use your particular talents in thingmakery in exchange for a couple of meals.

If it’s in your budget, there are things you can do to create a cushion while you’re busy writing.  Perhaps planning on having a professional come in and get your house back into tiptop shape will make it easier to cope with the prospect of it getting messy, or can keep it from getting there in the first place.  (Groupon and other social deal sites frequently offer discounts on such services, so keep an eye out.)  The cost of dining out or grabbing takeout can add up quickly, but the time you’re not in the kitchen might be worth it.  Paying for some additional childcare or a night away from home might be a splurge, but can give you a very valuable writing session.

None of these suggestions need be all or nothing propositions, and you certainly don’t have to resign yourself to living in squalor.  But skipping a chore here and outsourcing a meal there can all add up to a significant time savings, and every minute you can clear for writing gets you a few words closer to the finish line.  We’re still 18 days out, so that’s a lot of time for you to pave the way to making your life slightly less crazy in November.

Next week, we’ll be looking at other places where you can free up some time for writing, from the common ones to things you might not have considered.  In the meantime, got some tips of your own for keeping the place acceptable while your head is buried in your word processor?  Some fabulous go-to recipes that can be prepared in bulk or in advance?  Share in the comments below!

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