Unless you’re a full-time writer, one of the most challenging aspects of writing is finding the time to do it.
There are many things we can do to be more efficient with our time, but at the end of the day, it all adds up to making it a priority to put aside time to write. Articles, blogs, and books don’t write themselves, although sometimes we wish they would! Where are the elves when you need them?
Making time for writing sounds deceptively simple. But, it can be difficult to do. Why? Because most writers aren’t only writers. They have other jobs and responsibilities vying for their time. Even the full-time writer usually juggles multiple projects.
How can you structure your life in a way that allows you to log the time necessary to turn that idea you have into a finished blog, article, or book? We’re going to look at three ways:
- Structure your writing time
- Be as productive as possible in that time
- Maximize your creativity
First, it’s helpful to choose a structure for finding time to write.
In his book Deep Work, author Cal Newport details three philosophies for structuring life around writing and other creative work.
Some writers can retreat for weeks and months at a time to pursue creative work and writing. This is called bimodal philosophy. It means retreating and cutting oneself off from other responsibilities for defined periods to focus extensively on a project or book.
Let’s say you work as a doctor or counselor, you might see patients for six months a year, and then you might retreat to a vacation home for the other six months and dedicate all of that time to writing.
This possibility isn’t practical for most people, but it is a time-honored tradition among writers and deserves mention. Perhaps, using abbreviated versions of this model can work for you. Maybe a week-long house-swap with a friend can kick-start your project and make it easier to keep the momentum while you switch over to another philosophy.
If you have a full-time job year-round, you might be better suited for the rhythmic philosophy, which entails more regularly structured periods of deep work.
This might look like carving out a few hours at the beginning or end of your workday for writing. The philosophy argues that the easiest way to do creative work consistently is to make it a habit, or a rhythm.
Every time you log the hours – even if the result wasn’t great – a habit is strengthened. Making writing habitual always serves the writer well. So, make a plan and stick to it for at least a few months. Soon, you’ll find yourself looking forward to these sessions.
The final approach we are offering is called journalistic philosophy. It works like this – just about any time you can find to devote to writing, you do it. This may mean ten minutes before dinner or the first thirty minutes you’re awake in the morning. It requires the ability to switch your mind on and off in an instant. For those who can do so, it can yield excellent results – free time = writing time!
Whatever philosophy works best for you, make sure you’re putting in the time and forming habits that support your goals.
Once you’ve chosen a structure for finding time to write, your next step is to optimize your available time as best you can.
Here are five ways to make the most of your time writing:
Set Your Hours
Most people aren’t capable of being productive for twelve hours straight. Some studies show that we’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.
Instead of writing off and on for a full day or dilly-dallying, set hours and then put your head down and write for the whole duration. Of course, if you are using the journalistic approach you’ll want to commit to writing whenever you can fit it in.
Don’t start working until the clock starts on your set time and be done entirely when your time is up. Focus and work hard during this time. You’ll find yourself writing much more effectively.
Be Done When Your Hours Are Up
When the end of your set session arrives, finish. Be completely done.
Your brain will thank you for the complete shutdown. Not carrying your writing or work into the rest of your day allows your brain to recharge. If there’s a chapter, article, or piece that you didn’t get to, that’s where you’ll pick up when you start working again.
Shut things down when you’re done. It will be worth it, and you’ll probably get more done in the long run.
Plan Every Bit of Your Writing Session
If you struggle to stay focused during your writing stretches, consider mapping out your session.
It may seem like an extreme measure, but having a plan like this will prevent you from wasting brainpower between each break. Know precisely what topics you’re covering or what chapters you’re tackling.
This may seem like it might kill your creativity, but most of us need some restraints to help us focus.
Spruce Up Your Workspace
Your workspace is everything. You are a product of your environment. And if your environment is dark or uninspiring, you won’t enjoy it. And if you don’t enjoy it, you’ll work slowly.
Work in a space you enjoy being in that allows you to do your absolute best writing. Here are some tips:
- Find some natural light in your home
- Purchase a desk/chair that allows for good posture
- Decorate a bit, consider adding some plants
- Put inspirational quotes on your desk or wall
Utilize Helpful Technology and Apps
Tools and technology can help us maintain our productivity to do our best writing.
Here are some tools and technology to consider to make you more productive:
- A tool like Freedom can help you stay focused
- weBoost to improve your phone signal if making calls for interviews
- Use a Pomodoro timer if you need to take occasional breaks
Tools are out there to help you be more productive and do your best writing; take advantage of them.
Once you’ve chosen when you’re going to write and are maximizing your productivity, it’s time to make sure your creative juices are flowing. If you can sit down and produce incredible writing without any effort, you can get way more writing done.
Here are a few things to consider to maximize your creativity.
Maintain Brain Space
Believe it or not, your mind is limited. The ability to consistently create excellent writing is only possible if you have the mental capacity to do so.
This means you must maintain brain space for your writing sessions. Spend all your brain’s energy and focus on other things, and you’ll fail to get all the writing done in the time you’ve allotted yourself.
Two things tend to steal away our brain power: things we can control and things we can’t control.
If you have a job, you can’t just quit. If you are married or have kids, these things require thought and mental attention. If you are dealing with a difficult circumstance like a sick parent – there’s not much you can do.
On the other hand, you may be spending time-wasting mental energy on things you can control. For example, if you waste hours scrolling through social media, you’re throwing away some of your day’s mental capacity. If you spend too much time watching the news and stressing over current events, you’re wasting brain energy.
So, for the things you can’t control, you must learn to manage.
If you have a bunch of energetic children, don’t try to write while taking care of them. Consider an occasional babysitter so you can carve out time to write.
If you find yourself regularly having draining conversations with family, try to limit these to only the most necessary on days you’re writing.
For the things you can control, you must be disciplined. It’s okay to check social media or watch the news, but limit your time spent on things that drain you.
Find Creative Inputs
Once you’re able to free up some brain space, fill it with things that inspire creativity. It’s hard to produce great writing when nothing is inspiring you. You’ll quickly find yourself writing about the same things day after day.
Find inputs that are challenging, inspiring, and relevant to what you’re working on. If you’re currently writing a short story on lions, head to the zoo. If doing a book set in another country, take a trip.
After you have an idea of what kinds of inputs you need, make a plan. Here’s an example of a good monthly plan:
- Find 6-8 podcasts to listen to during the month (ideally 3 or 4 are from podcasts that are new to you)
- Buy or borrow 2-3 new books
- Queue up a bunch of articles and websites to check out (using bookmarks, Feedly, or Notion)
- Plan a trip to somewhere you’ve never been – maybe the zoo if you want to keep it local or perhaps another country
Whatever you do, make sure you have fresh and creative inputs filling you up regularly.
Produce More Great Writing
Figure out when you can get writing in, make sure you’re as productive as possible, and maximize your creativity.
Do this, and you’ll get more writing done than you ever dreamed possible. Good luck!
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