How to Find Writing Time When You’re a Busy Professional
When you have a thriving business, it’s always easy to put off that book you’ve been meaning to write. There are only so many hours in a day, and writing can seem like a low priority when you have presentations to prepare, hectic family schedules, a health and fitness routine, and maybe, just maybe, a social life. Sometimes you have to write in that thirty minutes of spare time between a client meeting and picking your kids up from school.
Here are a few tips and tricks for maximizing your writing productivity during whatever time you do have.
- Stop multitasking. In his book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel Levitin explains why multitasking is not an innate function of the human brain. When we “multitask” our brain is not doing two things at once as we perceive it to be, but rather rapidly switching focus back and forth between tasks. Not only is multitasking inefficient, it exhausts our mental capacities, leaving us drained by the end of the day. If you pride yourself on being a multitasker, you might be surprised to know that you may not be making the most of your time. So try to focus on the one task at hand: writing.
- Focus your energy. On the other hand, focusing on a single task is not always easy to do, which is why the Pomodoro technique can be helpful. A Pomodoro timer is set in twenty-five minute intervals with five- or ten-minute breaks. Assign yourself a task to complete within those twenty-five minutes (e.g. write three paragraphs), and when the timer rings, take a five-minute break — get up and walk around, look outside, make yourself a cup of tea, etc. And repeat! Giving yourself short breaks will help you sustain your energy, build your mental agility, and allow your ideas to flow more freely.
- Eliminate distractions. How often do you get distracted? Every twenty minutes—? Seven minutes—? Ten seconds—? We are bombarded with distractions constantly, not only from external sources but also by our own internal monologue reminding us to reply to a client email or turn on the washing machine. Luckily there are tons of strategies for blocking out noisy distractions. Apps like Self-Control or Freedom block incoming emails and social media sites for a certain period of time. Keeping a to-do list close by is also valuable for quickly jotting down pesky reminders, so you can carry on with the task at hand.
- Create a morning routine. Many of us are at our most creative and productive first thing in the morning. But if you’re like the majority of North Americans, you likely check your phone (text messages, emails, social media updates) within the first fifteen minutes of waking up. You might even do this again at night before bed. Could you replace these habits with a dedicated writing period every day?
- Take a client holiday. Many of our clients have taken a mini-sabbatical to write their books. Often they’ll block out a couple of months in their calendar where they take on fewer projects and appointments than normal, which frees up a few hours of their work days for writing. If this is possible for you, it’s a good way to write a manuscript quickly.
Writing a manuscript requires a phenomenal amount of effort, and it’s hard to find the time you need. Hopefully these ideas give you some inspiration for how to make it work.
[Photo credit: distelfliege]