by Greta Boris
Whether writers have a deadline or a dream, freeing up time to write is a problem for most. I just found an old blog post of mine entitled 5 Things to do Less of. It contained some pretty good advice and made me think about how I could apply the same principals to this problem.
I have a lot of projects on my plate, and I bet you do too. Many of you have jobs other than writing, or you have children still living at home, or both. You want to work on your poetry, or memoir, or novel, but writing keeps getting pushed to the back burner.
The tyranny of the urgent wins over the desires of our hearts too much of the time.
And it will keep winning, if we don’t do something about it. Someone asked this question recently, “Are you a thermostat, or a thermometer?” A thermometer is controlled by its environment. A thermostat changes its environment. If I’m being honest, I have to admit I’m a thermometer too much of the time.
In our culture, we laud the level playing field. But as much as we embrace the concept, it’s rarely a reality—except for when it comes to time. We’re all given the same twenty-four hours a day. Some people achieve incredible things in theirs.
How do they do it?
They don’t do something else. In order to free up time to write, they unplug things currently occupying that space. Here are five ways you might carve more time out of your schedule.
Way #1: Limit your social media, email answering, phone talking time
I made the HUGE mistake of reading my email in the middle of a concert recently. One of the messages happened to be upsetting. It ruined the rest of my evening out. I couldn’t wait to get home to pout in peace. The next day I had an epiphany. I don’t have to be available to anyone but my family 24/7.
Many successful people create blocks of time once or twice a day to check email and social media. I personally schedule phone calls to coincide with a walk, so I can get fresh air and exercise while I talk. Some people even (hold on to your hats) take their email accounts off their phones. It’s radical, I know.
Way #2: Work less, but work smarter
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes the 80/20 rule. It goes something like this: 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. In other words, 80 percent of your finances, fitness, and friendships come from only 20 percent of your efforts. The other 80 percent of your efforts are yielding, at best, the remaining 20 percent. At worst, you’re farting in the wind.
Of course, in order to work smarter you might have to do some research, track your progress, and experiment. It may take more time on the front end to free up time to write on the back end. For example, I found that interval, or HIT, workouts instead of long, cardio sessions, saves me tons of time and my fitness level has increased. But it took me a while to come up with a few good routines. I’ve also found prepping food on Sunday afternoons for a week’s worth of cooking saves time during the week. Most writers agree if you take time to plot your story, you’ll write less wasted words.
Way #3: Substitute a Protein Shake for a Meal
This may not be popular with some of you, but I’m throwing it out there anyway. Prepping and eating food takes time. I enjoy the process when I’m sitting down with friends or family. It can be very celebratory. But that’s not what most meals are about. I’ve found a quick protein shake in the middle of the day only takes about fifteen minutes, instead of forty-five, out of my schedule.
Way #4: Stand more
I know, I know, Stephen King spouts the butt-in-chair success principal. Who am I to disagree? But sitting for hours on end isn’t the best thing for our health or sanity. We have better blood flow to our brains when we stand, and blood flow equals more creativity. Here are a few ways to stand more and still get things accomplished:
- Writers must read. It’s part of our job description. But it’s difficult to sit and read a print book after sitting and writing at the computer all day. Audio books are a great solution. You can sign up for a monthly subscription with Audible.com, or if you’re really cheap (like me) download OverDrive, the library’s electronic book app. Listening to books has improved my writer’s ear for language as well as helping me multitask.
- Write in sprints. Some days I create a chore list and set it next to my lap top. I set my timer for 25 minutes, write until it goes off, and then do one of my chores. While I do the chore, I think about my writing project. When I get back to the laptop, I’m ready to write again. Some of my most productive days, both for word count and for getting things done around the house, are accomplished this way.
- Create a standing desk. I made my own with a laptop stand from Amazon, an external keyboard, and some flat baskets. I find I write faster and better when I’m standing.
- Try dictation. I’ve used the dictation feature of my gmail account to brainstorm my story plots while walking my dog. Then I send the notes to myself, and copy and past them into Scrivener, the software I use to write and organize my projects. Some authors actually dictate the scenes and chapters using Dragon software.
Way #5: Be more cheerful
Cheerful, grateful, optimistic people get more done. Study after study has shown it to be true. Depression, anxiety, worry, bitterness, and anger are exhausting, debilitating emotions. If I could have all the hours I’ve spent agonizing over something that never happened back, I’d have time to write War and Peace. I’m not being flippant. If you struggle with a negative outlook, I strongly suggest getting help of some kind whether it’s from a book, a church, a yoga class, or a fun outing with a good friend.
How have you freed up time for your writing? Share your tips in the comments below.
She’s published articles on culture, health, and entertainment for a variety of national magazines including Victorian Homes, Zombies, 50 Scariest Movies, Exodus, and Women of the Bible. She’s also the author of the Amazon Kindle Bestseller The Wine and Chocolate Workout – Sip, Savor, and Strengthen for a Healthier Life.
You can visit her at http://gretaboris.com. She describes her work (and her life) as an O.C. housewife meets Dante’s Inferno.
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