Are you having a hard time figuring out how to add more writing time into your day? Do you have writing time planned out already, but you just don’t know how to use it wisely? Here’s how to manage your time as a writer, so you can get more done no matter how busy you [think you] are.
Figure out when you are most productive
There’s a pretty good reason why there is no “best” or “worst” time of day to write: everyone is different. Some people, once they get a little caffeine into their systems, can get all of their non-work-related writing for the day finished before 8:00 in the morning. Other people need to have everything crossed off their to-do list before they can write, and do their best work in the hours before they go to sleep. Maybe you are most productive in the middle of the day, and that’s how you spend your lunch hour.
It really doesn’t matter WHEN you write, as long as you do your best to do so when you’re known to produce your best work. If you really feel yourself dragging, maybe it’s just not the optimal time of day for you. Try another.
Block out that time for writing only
One major key to managing your writing time is not only figuring out the time of day you are going to schedule your writing time, but actually sticking to that time and using it wisely. When it’s time to write, it’s time to write. Not check Facebook or texting a friend or doing laundry. I would recommend you dedicate at least one hour of your day specifically for uninterrupted, productive writing time.
This means, of course, that you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. Honestly, if you really want to make writing a priority, you’ll be able to make those sacrifices without much consequence. You can watch that TV show later. Really.
Set daily, weekly and monthly writing goals
Managing your writing time also means staying on track. The best way to hold yourself accountable is to set daily (if you are able to write daily – it’s OK if you aren’t), weekly and monthly writing goals. For example, you might aim to write 1,000 words of fiction at least four days per week, and publish at least six blog posts per month. Something simple, achievable and measurable. Smart-y.
Goals can help motivate you to write even when you really don’t wanna. I work a little bit on my novel every day even though, most evenings, I’m exhausted and I don’t feel like it. But I know I need to finish it (write at least 10,000 more words) before November 1. So I do it anyway.
Give yourself permission to take a day off …
Adulting is hard. Some days, you just aren’t going to be able to write. Things are going to come up. You’re going to oversleep or traffic is going to suck or your train is going to stop. Sometimes, even though I work from home, I get to the end of the day, realize I haven’t written anything, and I just have to let it go. I don’t let myself do this often (though still more often than I’d like), but you have to learn to give yourself a break. You’re only human. You’re not a machine.
Don’t feel guilty about having to take a day off. Easier said than done – trust me, I know. But the quality of your writing, and plenty of other things, are going to suffer if you don’t take care of yourself. If you can’t, you can’t. Tomorrow is a new day.
… but don’t let your excuses take over
Be careful when giving yourself rest time, though. It’s very easy to let “I’ll get back to writing tomorrow” go for weeks on end without getting any writing done. I struggle with this, too, so you’re definitely not alone here. Today is Thursday. Let’s say you’re not feeling 100 percent and you want to spend the evening on the couch with a good book instead of trying to write your own. That’s fine; give yourself that time. But rest. Go to bed early and sleep in a little tomorrow if you can, whatever you need to do. Then make sure writing happens. Make it a priority. Don’t let yourself have more rest time until you’ve at least tried to get some writing done. I strongly advise against letting yourself “take time off” more than one or two days in a row.
Is that hard? Of course it is. But if you’re having this problem, where you just don’t feel like you have enough energy to write what you want to write, the issue might run a little deeper than you think. But that’s for another (tomorrow’s) post.
Time management is hard no matter who you are. For writers, it can be even more difficult. Writing is a hobby for many of you, and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, writing is still hard work. Writing isn’t relaxing in the same way watching something on TV is. Creativity is fun, but exhausting. So fitting it into your schedule isn’t easy. Hopefully these tips can help you start to squeeze more writing into your life.
What are your best time management strategies, if you have them? How to you get writing done even when you don’t feel there’s enough time? If this is something you struggle with, what’s your biggest roadblock?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.