This post about time management for writers originally appeared on my very first blog ‘Stubborn World’. It tackles the thorny issue of how to find time to write in a busy life, something that so many of us struggle with. I do hope that you find some of these ideas inspiring.
1. Set aside a regular time each week for your writing and make it sacred. Even if you can only find a single time slot, for example Sunday evening, put it in the diary and make it A FIXTURE. Tell everybody you know that you’re busy and honour this time. It may seem a small step, but it’s a way to signal to yourself and others that you are committed.
2. Write only what you love. Nothing is going to make you write if you are not passionate about what you are doing. When considering a writing project, ensure it is something you really WANT to write about. If you can find the passion, you are halfway there. Your desk will draw you like a magnet.
3. Perfect your writing space. Make sure that the place where you write is conducive to your work. It’s difficult for anyone to work at a desk that’s strewn with bills or work-related reports. Think carefully about what kind of space you would like to create for your writing. Does it include a pin-board covered in inspirational post-cards? A vase of flowers? A perfectly clear space? Or, if you can’t manage a desk, might it involve an early night curled up in bed with a journal? Make this a space you long to return to. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!
4. Just ‘open the file’. Every day. I learned this one from time management coach Mark Forster. The biggest excuse for not writing is that we ‘don’t have time’. We believe we must have huge swathes of uninterrupted time if we are to be truly inspired. Thus, we often don’t write at all. But what would happen if you made a true commitment to just ‘opening the file’ every day. You go to your computer or desk, you open the document you are working on and you commit to writing for five minutes. Try it. Five minutes can become ten, fifteen… suddenly an hour has passed. Trick yourself into working. Daily.
5. Simplify your life. This one is essential. And it goes deeper than you may think. What are you so busy with that you don’t have time to write? Is there any way in which you could simplify your life? What could you let go of in order to find time to write? What would happen if you decided to say no more often and set up stronger boundaries about yourself? Could you resign from a committee? Get your shopping delivered? Stop wasting time surfing the Internet? List ten ways now in which you are complicating your life. And commit to taking three actions to create more time to write.
6. Carry notebooks wherever you go. You know this, right? But do you do it? First, it’s about the notebooks being there, when you’re inspired. But it’s also a way of allowing a thought to develop over the course of a day or a week. Get down the initial inspiration and watch the idea twist and change. If you don’t record it, you may lose it. A notebook encourages you to ‘write when you’re not writing’; to be constantly musing on the development of your work.
7. Find a place you can escape to. Maybe it’s a nearby café or the reading room of an art gallery. Again, make this a regular date. When you are outside your normal environment, away from distractions, it is easier to focus on the task in hand. It doesn’t matter where you write, it just matters that you do it. Many of my clients write on the train, or in their lunch hour. One writes for the first hour after her toddler is dropped off at nursery. Don’t assume you must be at your desk. What matters most is momentum.
8. Make a game of it. Set yourself a weekly target in terms of word count and make yourself accountable to somebody else for reaching that target. Set up a reward for yourself, if you hit your weekly target. It’s amazing what you can do when you have an incentive. Remember, if you only write 500 words every day, you’ll have a draft of a book within 6 months.
9. Use the ‘mosaic’ method. It occurs to me that mosaics, like novels, are built from tiny fragments, that, taken alone, are not a work of art – yet when they are assembled, formed into patterns, they become something entirely different. Don’t make the mistake of believing you need to see the entire picture before you begin. Think of it as laying down single tiles (single words). Each day, you lay a few tiles; you’ll see your pattern build. You don’t have to have a template. You simply have faith that a pattern will emerge. But you have to put those tiles down, even if it’s just a few.
10. Don’t let the well get empty. If you find yourself lacking in inspiration, it’s possible you’re pushing yourself too hard. Working all hours? Sitting at your desk in the evening, staring at a blank screen? Too much pandering to screaming children? Not enough time to just stare at the sky? If you don’t make time for creative play, you’ll have nothing to write about. It’s SO important to fill that creative well. What small thing can you do today to ensure your creativity will flow? Visit an art gallery? Dig the garden? Read a fascinating book about the Russian Revolution? It doesn’t matter how you recharge your creativity, but if you don’t have ‘input’ you won’t have ‘output’. It’s that simple!
What time management tips can you pass on to other writers? How do you fit writing into your schedule?