How many times have you told yourself you could finish your novel/screenplay/article by now if only you had more time? I know I used to be a master procrastinator. I was always going to write “someday” — someday when there was more time, when I had the perfect idea, when I wasn’t so tired, when the kids were older….blah, blah, blah. I didn’t complete my first book until I was almost 50. I shouldn’t have put it off so long.
Want to know a secret? There will never be a perfect time or a perfect idea. Life is filled with distractions and if you are looking for excuses, they will always be close at hand. If you want to write, you have to make the time.
Sometimes that task is easier than others. If you are working full-time, have 2 little kids running around and no one to help with chores, it’s going to be way tougher than if you are single with no kids and an easy work schedule.
No matter your circumstance, it is likely you can still make some time for writing. (As inspiration — single mom J.K. Rowling often wrote in a cafe with her infant in a stroller next to her. Less than ideal circumstances, I’m sure!) In this article, I am going to offer a few tips to creating more time in your schedule, even if it is just about shifting your mindset.
Understand that any chunk of time is better than no time.
Many of us are perfectionists. If we can’t carve out the ideal amount of time for our writing, say, at least one hour, then we don’t do it at all. If the conditions are not perfect, we don’t do it. It is time to let go of that thinking! If you can grab 20 minutes by getting up a little early or going to bed a little late, do it! In three days, you will have your hour of writing in, which is 60 minutes more than if you decide not to do any writing at all.
You don’t have to be in the mood. Just write.
This goes along with the previous tip. Many of us writers seem to think we need to be in the perfect mood to write. We think we don’t have the time, but often, lack of time is the excuse we give ourselves when we just don’t feel like doing it.
Facing our writing can be challenging, but watching Netflix isn’t. So we choose the easier of the options. Stop taking the easy course of action. Skip the 22- minute comedy you would like to watch on TV, sit down at your computer and write. Once you get started, your mood might actually change. Taking action will increase your confidence and help motivate you.
As Organizational Psychologist, Benjamin Hardy points out, “If you’ve been resisting doing something for a while, everything else in your life will suffer.” Take action, and things are likely to shift for the better, not just in regards to your writing, but in other areas of your life, as well.
Group similar tasks together.
Be sure to combine tasks such as household cleaning, cooking and running errands. Habits such as cooking dinner, then checking on work emails, coming back to do the dishes and wipe the counter, then paying the bills, and shortly after making the kids’s lunches for the next day causes a lot of context switching, which wastes a lot of time and brain-power.
Instead, make dinner and the lunches at the same time, clean everything in the kitchen, then go do your computer work — emails and bill paying. Run all your outside-of-the-home errands together whenever possible. The American Psychological Association has an interesting article on this topic if you’d like ot learn more: Multitasking: Switching Costs.
Turn off notifications on your phone and computer.
These constant interruptions cause you to lose focus and become distracted. You may tell yourself you don’t even notice those, but chances are, some part of your brain does, and it slows you down.
You probably don’t need to know rain will be starting in 15 minutes, the latest status update on your favorite game, or that someone liked a post. If there are updates you truly need, keep those, or look for the information manually at a time you decide is convenient for you. For instance, instead of getting notifications about news events, turn them off and check on the news at 6:00 every evening.
Make your writing goals a priority.
Many people feel like everyone and everything else in life is more important than writing. That’s not true. Think of your favorite book. Some of us have a book that changed our lives. What if that author had never made writing a priority? How tragic would that be?
Your goals are important not only for you but for future readers. They are also important for your family. If you are pursuing your goals you will be a happier, more fulfilled person, and that will make you a better spouse, mom, sister…etc. Yes, feeding your kids and going to work is important, but so is writing. If you give yourself permission to make your writing goals a priority, you are more likely to come up with creative ways to find time. If your boss suddenly required you to work an extra hour every day, you would figure it out right? Well, you are your own boss. How will you figure it out?
I know it is easy to read an article, nod your head in agreement, and then forget what you just read. I do it myself all the time. I suggest you look at this list, consider what resonates with you, and try implementing even one of these tasks into your life. In order for the amount of time you have to write to change, something has to change. You can be that something.
Are you a master procrastinator? Want to overcome your habits so you can become the writer you’ve always dreamed of being?
(This article originally appeared in my Medium.com publication, Words for Writers.)