7 practical tips that will free you time to focus on what matters
Juggling a full-time job, family activities, and daily chores while writing a book can be challenging. So time management becomes an absolute necessity to increase productivity. The key is to find the organization that suits your life.
As a writer, I needed to find a way to be effective meaning being able to produce quality work, but also quantity in short amounts of time. As a mother and wife, I needed to make myself available to my family, so they didn’t suffer from me disappearing behind my computer whenever they were home. Let me tell you; it took a few trials and errors before I found something that worked for me. It may not be perfect, but I see this as a work in progress.
#1 – Write in the morning
Have you heard of writing early in the morning as a way of increasing productivity? On weekends, I find this to be true. I read somewhere that the best time to write is when your energy is at its best, and that’s why writing in the morning is usually best for productivity. With that said, night owls will tell you the contrary, but I like mornings best. For anyone considering implementing this into their writing habits, it is great!
The problem for me is that during the week I start working early, so writing in the morning is unfortunately not an option. So I needed to find a more fitting solution.
#2 – Outline early morning or at lunch (10 minutes) and write at night.
I read that outlining in the morning can also be the way to go. At night, when you have more time available, you simply need to fill in the blanks to reach your objectives.
However, this method does not work for me either. I have a demanding job and taking 10 minutes is, in reality, asking me to take 30 minutes. I would need to calm down, remind myself of what I want to write, get in the mood, and then write out the outline. I can’t take 30 minutes, and yes, unfortunately, it’s a reality.
Now a variation of this method turned out to be effective for me. If I am planning to write a post, I write down ideas when they come to me throughout the day. It takes me a minute top, and I can move on. At night, I gather my ideas and fill in the blanks. If I am working on a book, I focus on measured goals. I’m not truly a planner so outlining tends to kill it for me. After each writing session, I write down a word count and what I want to accomplish in my next writing session. This method seems to work best for me and keeps me focused.
#3 – Be Organized and set goals.
By the time, my kid falls asleep, and everything is ready for him for the following day, it’s usually already 9 or 10 pm. Again, I start working early, so I needed to re-organize a few things to make sure that by 9 pm I was done to ensure 1 to 2 hours of writing 4 to 5 days a week. I made this happen either by including my kid in the preparation or having someone else watch him. Also, I schedule time with my husband, so I know upfront that I can have 2 or 3 hours over the weekend on top of our regular family activities to focus solely on writing. All of this takes planning and determination.
Get someone to make you accountable for reaching these goals. If I don’t write a day, my husband will be sure to remind me to write the following day.
Sacrifices are sometimes in order. I used to watch 1 or 2 TV shows after work. I love them, but I love writing and reading more so I eliminated them for a while. It’s crazy how much you can get done in 45 minutes. It does free up time to write AND read.
Now don’t forget to spend some time with your family. It’s all about finding the right balance, the one that works for YOU. Obviously having an understanding family helps and I sure hope you have all the support you need at home.
#4 – Schedule your writing days.
Writing every day doesn’t work for me either. I want to though, and I have tried, but life happens. I firmly believe that writing every day is more about establishing a routine and I already have this down. Now as I said, life happens, and it’s also very easy to find your way to excuse town. So remind yourself why you’re doing this. You’ll reach a point where stopping would not make any sense, will get you frustrated, and will leave you filled with anxiety.
Having a schedule helps with primarily one thing – procrastination. Scheduling will keep you on track. It also helps making sure your work is being prioritized to meet deadlines/goals. Focus on one project at a time. Seeing which scenes you need to write or edit is a visual help your brain needs sometimes.
Whenever you feel tired or unmotivated, take a quick walk – then get back to writing.
#5 – Write more throughout the day.
Again, this is probably a great piece of advice if you don’t work. On weekends, I usually write once in the morning, then after lunch while my baby naps, and one more time at night. I feel more productive this way. On a regular weekday, as much as I would love to do that, I just can’t. I like this approach though because I believe it will make you more productive.
Our brain can focus on a topic only for short amounts of time. So it makes sense to either spread it out or take regular breaks. If you are not allowing your brain to take a well-deserved break when needed, you’ll just end up staring at the screen. Also, I believe the more you train your brain to stay focused, the more your productivity will increase. When you start playing chess, at first you can concentrate for only 10 minutes, and then it’s 12, then 15, and so on. It’s the same with writing. You need to train your body and mind to write for extended periods of time and be more productive.
Also, bring your work with you anywhere you go. You never know when you’ll have some downtime. Let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment and you have to wait for 30 minutes. Well, here you go, you just got yourself 30 minutes of writing. Again, I love Scrivener for this because I can write from my phone or laptop and it will sync at any times. (Nope! I’m still not paid to say that. I do love this software.) A notepad and pen will also do just fine.
#6 – Turn off all distractions.
The Internet is the number #1 distraction for all writers. You take your computer to write and all of a sudden you see a notification. You realize 30 minutes later you haven’t started to write at all. Ugh!
So the best way to tackle this obstacle is to either use a program that allows you to write distraction free. Scrivener is a great tool for this (yep! I said it again) or you can also simply turn off your Wi-Fi. Sometimes drastic measures are necessary.
#7 – Create your space.
Whether it’s a dedicated desk for writing or a ritual, do what’s necessary to get you into the right mindset. Some people will have a dedicated area; I don’t, but I do have one song that helps me. Every time I’m stuck on a scene, I listen to this song, and I’m right back in my book’s universe. It truly helps, and I get my best ideas like this. I daydream the scene while listening to this particular song. Then once I’m happy with it in my head, I write it. This isn’t always my process, but sometimes it helps with inspiration.
I also met an author who changes the background of her computer to an image of something that reminds her of her story. Whether it’s an image or a place, find what brings you back to your world.
All in all, everyone is different. At the end of the day, it’s always about what is best for you. Don’t let life get in the way of your writing. Make time and write your heart out!