A 7 Step Journey from Time Poor to Productive Writer
Did you know that only 3% of aspiring authors finish their manuscript?
Now, of course, there are potentially plenty of reasons for why this is, from maintaining the desire to write to having the information you need to write a novel…but I’m going to take a guess here that one of the prevailing reasons is time.
This is actually more than a guess, this is based on my research into the pain points of aspiring authors online.
Time to write is vital. Writing a novel takes persistence, writing knowledge, a thick skin, hard work, the list goes on and on, but the thing writing a novel really requires? More time.
So, what if I told you that the answer to this issue was as simple as creating a writing routine that actually works with your life? Whatever your reaction is to that, surely it’s worth a shot.
If you’re ready to go from time poor to productive writer, read on!
My Experience of Time
Years ago I was in a high-pressure time sensitive situation all the time.
I was working two jobs alongside completing my full-time Creative Writing PhD. Time was precious, and I felt overwhelmed and tired.
Then, I developed a way to cope and followed the techniques I’m about to present for your reading pleasure in this blog post. After this, I thrived in each of my roles. I had a waiting list of students trying to get onto my creative writing classes, and full mark observations of my teaching. I won business excellence awards at a national level in my part-time office job. I completed my PhD in four years with minor corrections.
Since then, I’ve put my routine building skills to good use, planning my wedding for four months from the day my partner proposed, writing two novels in one year with time for querying, and more.
So, come in a little closer writer, I’m about to tell you my secrets of productivity!
1. Pinpointing Your Time Wasters
We all waste time in our week, and that’s absolutely fine.
After all, life is not just a series of work tasks to be completed – sometimes there is pleasure to be had in sitting on the sofa, switching on the television, and delighting in a little bit of time wasting.
But when this delightful time wasting turns into a daily habit, it often stops becoming enjoyable and can turn into a negative practice.
The first step of building your writing habit is to pinpoint those time wasters in your week. How much time do you spend mindlessly scrolling, for example?
Once you understand what tasks fill up your week, and which ones you feel you can do without, you can start to understand where space exists for your writing.
2. Weekly Goals over Daily Goals
Setting daily goals can often be an inflexible way of planning, meaning that there is no space for movement.
This in turn can lead to stress – after all, inflexibility in a routine means that the routine is most likely not sustainable.
Instead, weekly goals can help you achieve your writing ambitions.
Ask yourself what you would like to achieve this time next month, and then break down your goal into weekly easy to digest chunks.
For example, now you know that you would like to have written ten thousand words in one month, how will that fit into each week?
3. Your Creative Data
‘What on earth is creative data?!’ I hear you ask.
Well, it’s the time it takes you to write.
Next time you are writing, keep an eye on the clock and check how many words it takes you to write in one hour. Don’t race or hurry yourself along, because this is not realistic. Your data should be honest in order to work for you.
Once you know how many words you can write in one hour, on a normal day, you can understand how many words you can fit into a week.
4. Overestimating Your Time
Always overestimate how long it will take you to complete a task.
You might be able to write five hundred words in fifteen minutes on a good day when the work is planned, the sun is shining, and the house is quiet – but how many words can you write realistically in one hour?
For example, I write ninety words a minute, but when I’m writing creatively it can be more like ten words a minute. My personal best is 714 words in fifteen minutes…but on some days it takes me two hours to write 1000 words!
Overestimating how long it will take based on my creative data ensures a space in my calendar for the actual amount of words I’d like to get written.
5. Planning Flexibility
Life happens, and sometimes there is nothing we can do to stop it.
We can balance our writing routines by ensuring that there is space for some movement and flexibility.
For example, time blocking back to back and squeezing writing in where we can is one thing, but leaving small gaps in between tasks in the day will mean that there is movement for something to change.
This also means ensuring that if one writing session is missed, another one won’t be too hard to find.
For example, I don’t usually write on the weekend unless I missed a session in the week. Having that option means that my writing routine doesn’t get thrown out if life throws a spanner into my washing machine.
6. Building a Habit
Building a habit is something that I talk about often because it is a powerful way of keeping yourself writing.
It takes three weeks to build a habit into your life, and three weeks to lose one. So, once you have your writing routine ready, try it for at least three weeks to really give it a shot.
Building a habit requires the following:
Cue – An alert to remind you the habit is about to start.
Craving – Imagining the action. Inspire yourself by thinking of how wonderful it will be to write, how it will feel to have the finished product.
Response – The act of writing.
Reward – The incentive to write, whether it’s a cup of tea, an hour of your favourite show, or a pat on the back.
So, once you know what your time wasters are, you have set yourself your weekly goals based on your creativity data, you’ve overestimated your time and ensured that you have movement for flexibility in your week it’s time to start this writing habit by setting alerts into your calendar.
Once the alarm goes off, don’t ignore it, pay attention and imagine the action of writing. See yourself completing the task.
7. Holding Yourself Accountable
This is key! No one can tell this story but you, so it’s time to keep yourself accountable.
Use rewards, be clear and realistic in your planning, and set yourself up for success!
If you struggle with holding yourself to account it might be a good idea to find an accountability partner who can support you.
This is exactly where a writing coach comes in useful! Through my work with my clients, I hold them accountable to action points they set themselves and investigate any issues that stop them from achieving.
Complete these seven steps and see how your writing routine grows beneath you – try it out for three weeks, and you’ll have a word count to be proud of.
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