Reading time: About 4 minutes
Time is precious. If you want to make time to write, it’s not hard. But you’re going to have be persistent and dedicated about it.
My schedule is jam-packed. Each day I race between writing projects, meetings and necessary admin work that only I can do. I’m not complaining. I find this level of intensity exhilarating. And fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have an assistant who helps me with lots of stuff.
And, despite the time crunch, I never work after dinner. And I always spend a daily hour exercising and working on my French. And I read a book a week. How do I fit in these extra tasks?
I make time for them.
Even though you might be incredibly busy, you can also make time for writing. I wrote a blog post about 17 months ago on the topic how to make time to write. Since then, I’ve come up with even more hacks.
Here’s the list of all 10 of them:
- On working days, block your day from start to finish. Your schedule belongs to you, not to other people. Each morning decide how you are going to spend your day by making a detailed plan, hour-by-hour (or half-hour-by-half-hour). I know. This sounds neurotic and time consuming. But it’s not. It’s fast and simple. First, block off your meetings. Then in the available remaining slots of time, schedule in all the other tasks you want to accomplish. I started time-blocking several years ago and found this simple action more than doubled my productivity. Download the free time-blocking form I offer in this post.
- Eat your frogs first. Don’t let yourself check email — or do anything else other than attend unavoidable meetings — until you’ve done your major task (writing), first. I call that task eating your frog. Such a diet starts your morning with a sense of major accomplishment, and leaves you with a much more relaxing feeling for the rest of the day.
- Cut back on email. How often do you check email? And how much time do you spend composing emails? A study by Adobe Systems shows the average person spends more than five hours a day checking email. This is crazy! And a gigantic time suck. Where possible, be efficient and speak with people in the flesh. (Harder during the pandemic, I know. But you can always pick up the phone.) At the very least, batch your email so that you check it only a couple of times a day.
- Figure out your time-wasters. What do you do that simply wastes time? Maybe it’s watching Netflix, scrolling through Facebook or taking photos for Instagram. I’m not saying you need to eliminate these tasks from your life. I’m just suggesting you be mindful of them and understand that they may be keeping you from doing other things that are actually more important to you. For example, during the beginning of the pandemic, I’d gotten into the bad habit of watching way too much Netflix after dinner. Now I make sure to read for at least 30 minutes before I watch anything, and my reading habit has returned.
- Say ‘no’ to more people. If you learn how to say ‘no’ more often, you’ll turn yourself into a more successful writer. I’ve already written a blog post on the subject, but here I’ll highlight what should become your go-to phrase upon hearing any requests for your time: “That sounds interesting. Can you give me a couple of days to think it over and make sure I have the necessary time to devote to it?” Make that phrase your mantra and you’ll preserve a whole bunch more time for writing.
- Challenge yourself to move faster. Many people think the natural speed at which they work is the best they can do. But, alternatively, you can make a deliberate decision to try to move faster. For example, if you’re a slow typist, take a free online typing class to increase your speed. (I recommend ratatype.) And turn more of your working life into a game of beat-the-clock, by using the pomodoro method with a timer. To me, this is a way of game-ifying work that makes it more fun and more satisfying.
- Schedule less for each day. I used to have the bad habit of making my daily to do list more aspirational than realistic. I had always thought this would help me accomplish more but, in fact, it usually led to me accomplishing less. If you put fewer items on your schedule, you’ll be able to focus without feeling overextended. (Blocking your day, tip 1, will also help you achieve this goal.)
- Reconfigure your smartphone. Did you know that the average American checks his or her phone 80 times a day? We automatically go on our phones and get sucked in. To combat this problem, rearrange your phone. I’ve removed many apps from my phone (no social media on it at all) and I’ve moved my email to the second page of my screen, so I have to do a little bit of extra work to get to it. If you’re really addicted to your phone, you might want to consider changing it to ugly greyscale so it doesn’t look so attractive.
- Get better organized. The typical person spends about 2.5 days each year looking for lost stuff. And if that doesn’t sound like a lot of time to you, consider the problem in terms of money. Americans collectively spend $2.7 billion each year replacing “lost” items, and there are social costs as well. More than half of the population is regularly late for work or school as a result of frustrating searches. Do whatever it takes to get yourself better organized so you don’t waste so much time looking for stuff.
- Write better to-do-lists. Most of our task or “to do” lists are bland, vague, and uninspiring. To solve this problem, and develop a to do list that will inspire you, here are three steps you can take: (A) Divide your to-dos based on the emotional pay off they’re going to give you. For example, you might have one category called Supremely Satisfying and another called Massively Helpful. Doesn’t that make you feel more like doing those tasks? (B) Use a great verb for each task, trying hard to make it precise and inspiring. Don’t say, “XYZ report.” Instead write: finish XYZ report or knock XYZ report out of the park. The verb is the action work of the sentence. Make it inspire you. (C) Make sure your lists are immediately actionable. Don’t say “start XYZ report” if the first action required is an interview. Instead write: Interview vice-president of marketing.
These 10 hacks won’t work equally well for everyone but I bet you’ll find two or three on this list that could free up at least 30 minutes for you every day.
Last week’s post on how to become a great storyteller generated a lot of comments on my blog. If you’re an academic, please let us know whether you’ve ever tried storytelling in your academic writing. Learn how to comment on my blog here.
Need some help developing a sustainable writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. The group is now full but there is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.
My video podcast last week addressed the question of word counts — for book, blog or academic writers. Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.
How do you make enough time to write? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by April 30/21 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!