Time Management Secrets
There’s not a writer alive who feels they have all the time in the world to get their next piece written. It’s a constant battle between the need to put in the hours on the one hand, and the fact that you can only be creative for so long on the other. The secret is to really make the most of every single minute of the day and make the smart choices that allow the words to flow effortlessly onto the page.
Let’s take a look at a few of the secrets the very best writers use and then see how to put them into action.
1) Embrace the art of ‘deep work’
‘Deep work’ is the term for any cognitively demanding task that requires intense focus — writing be a great example. If you want to be able to write, then that’s exactly what you need to do. That means no checking Twitter every 10 minutes, no chatting to your friends whilst you brainstorm, and no editing in front of the TV. If you want to get the most out of your day, follow these 3 simple tips:
- Note down all of the possible distractions that surround you when you write
- Commit to developing your concentration by treating it as a skill
- Record how long you’re able to go deep each day and try and beat yesterday’s score
2) Keep your phone in a different room
The prime suspect that’s responsible for distracting you will likely be your phone. It’s a constant source of stimulation and it’s primed to grab your attention at every waking hour. The moment you glance at it to check a message you’re breaking your concentration. You may think it was only a couple of seconds, but it can take minutes for your brain to get fully back on task. Ignore the productivity apps that are out there and go back to basics by leaving it in a different room.
3) Make sure you’re working solo
When you’re writing you need to be nothing other than focusing on your thoughts. Don’t meet up with friends to chat. Don’t see it as a chance to catch up over a coffee. Don’t work in groups.
If you want to really put in those hard creative yards you’re going to have to isolate yourself for a couple of hours and really get down to it. You’ll probably find it a little intimidating at first, but the results will be more than worth it.
4) Plan more, edit less
You can’t just decide to write a novel and cruise through with no plan. The secret to improving writing productivity lies in planning. Put the work in before the writing starts so that each session has a clear focus. It’s what will enable you to make the most of every minute. It’ll also give you a well-defined direction and way forward. MORE: Why Planning Beats Seat-of-Your-Pants Every Time
5) Take time off when you’re not writing
Every writer thinks they don’t spend enough time putting pen to paper, but often that’s just not true. Spending 10 hours a day at your desk isn’t the way to get creative, it’s the way to burn yourself out.
If you want to be as productive and creative as possible when you’re working you need to make smart choices outside work:
- Take a break from your phone this evening — read a book instead
- Leave the TV off and go for a walk with the dog
- Go to the gym and then meet a friend in town for a coffee after work
Activities like these will allow your brain to recover from the day’s mental exertions so that you’re full of new ideas tomorrow. Ideal if you want to make more progress than you ever thought possible.
6) Find a place and stick to it
Finding the perfect place to write can be a tricky process, but it’s certainly worth it when you consider the upturn in productivity and creative output. Coffee shops are the clichéd place to find a writer, but the open-plan nature can be just a great way to drain your ability to concentrate.
Ideally, you want a room on a quiet street, plenty of natural light, and quiet neighbors. There’s no real secret here, you just need somewhere with the absolute minimum of distractions.
7) Establish a natural daily rhythm
There’s a lot to be said for a routine, and rhythmic working is perhaps the best example. If you get used to writing at the same time each and every day, you’ll soon fall into a pattern of subconsciously gearing your entire day around it. This instantly removes the constant overthinking about when and where you should write today. You can then use all of that spare mental energy to focus on finding the words that bring your script to life.
8) Understand where your time is going
Ask any of the world’s most successful professional writers how they manage their time and they’ll tell you to first understand where your time is going. It’s a great point because if you don’t know where the waste is, how are you going to correct it? Here’s how you can easily figure out what’s going on:
- Work a standard day just as you always have done
- Time block your activities in 15-minute intervals
- Add up the wasted time and productive time at the end of the day
9) Set a daily word count to aim for
Having a target to aim for is important. There will be days when you don’t meet it, but the point is you need to have something to focus on. Start off with a modest goal you can easily accomplish, and then gradually increase the difficulty level. You’ll find that you naturally discover ways to adjust your approach to scheduling and freeing yourself of distractions so you can meet the harder word counts.
Managing your time as a writer is really about managing your attention and focus. If you’re constantly distracted during work it doesn’t matter how long you sit there for. Work on freeing yourself from the distractions that reduce your creative output. Your phone is the easiest place to start, so try leaving it in a different room and let the creativity flow.
BIO: Amanda Sparks, pro writer and editor at Essay Supply, lifestyle writer at Huffington Post. I am fancy doing perfect things for this perfect world, and help people make their life easier with my lifestyle tips. Connect me via LinkedIn!