How to find more time to write
When many writers start out, they seem to struggle with fitting writing into an already-hectic schedule. Family commitments, social engagements, work, cleaning the house, watching TV, getting a good night’s sleep…there is an endless list of things to do and writing is often bringing up the rear.
But if you want to pursue a writing career, you need to make it a priority. No one is going to grant you more time or tell you to turn off the mind-numbing tele and get to work. It’s all up to you.
Here are 3 tactics that have helped me focus on my writing:
Smart phones, YouTube, TV, video games, blogs, news sites, iPods, iPhones, Angry Birds…it’s so easy to plug in and tune out these days. While technology can help writers work more efficiently, most apps and games and online tools are major time wasters.
Let’s assume you watch 2 hours of TV a night (a conservative figure). Add it up and that’s more than 700 hours spent in front of the box each year. I’m not suggesting you throw your TV out (heck, I love watching The Voice as much as any Aussie), but try to reduce your TV-watching time. Sit down for your favourite shows and then switch off the box, find a quiet spot away from distractions and get writing. Or better yet, write first and then reward yourself with an hour on the couch.
Of course, many distractions are online. I used to have dozens of tabs and browsers open while I worked, clicking over to Facebook every few minutes or reading a bunch of blog posts I’d bookmarked the day before. But I soon realised I was spending more time surfing than writing! Not only that, but I wasn’t able to focus fully on my writing, because there were little tabs calling to me: ‘Kaaaat, cliiiick on uuuuus!’
To get back on track, I kept a log of how I spent every minute of every day. Not surprisingly, my Facebook wall and the Sydney Morning Herald site seemed to get more love than a high-paying website rewrite job with a looming deadline. That was enough to pull my focus back to my work. I now have scheduled ‘free time’ each Friday afternoon for visiting my favourite blogs, browsing Twitter and watching YouTube clips. That way, I can surf guilt-free and know I’m not doing it at the expense of paid projects.
There are many online tools that can help curb distractions – from full-screen writing programs to internet blockers. I haven’t tried any, but let me know if you find one that works for you.
The ever-insightful Krissy Brady from Krissy Media Ink recently posted about the power of saying no. She writes, “No means you’re taking your writing seriously. No means you’re living on your own terms. No means you’re doing what you know you’re meant to do with your life: you’re becoming a successful writer.”
Saying no to draining commitments and endless social engagements allows you to make your writing a higher priority and shows others you’re serious about your craft. More time spent writing is more time spent honing your skills and becoming a better writer.
I’ve found that having something marked in my diary, in permanent pen, makes it more official. I’m more likely to complete a task if it’s written down and I’ve set the intention to do it. Whether you use a diary, an online calendar, a ‘to do’ list or a whiteboard, set aside time to write each week and then stick to it.
If you have an extremely tight schedule, you may need to schedule shorter blocks. Even ten minutes here and twenty minutes there can help you tick off your writing tasks and move closer to completion.
What are your top tips for prioritising your work?