Many people believe they don’t have enough time to write.
Almost always they’re wrong, and if you dislike writing, you won’t be particularly motivated to make more time for it.
Here are seven ways you can portion off time to write, no matter how busy you might be, and make the best use of your allotment:
1. Don’t find time; make it. This might seem like nothing more than a linguist trick, but it’s not. The concept of “finding” time leaves you helpless against the demands of daily life. Making time, on the other hand, puts you squarely in the driver’s seat. If writing is important to you, then make the time for it. Reserve time for it in your schedule, and give it the same deference you do for meetings.
2. Stop thinking about time as money. Writing is a time-consuming activity, especially at the thinking and planning stage. You can’t rush it. American artist and writer Jenny Odell, who teaches at Stanford, says she gives the same advice to her students every quarter: “Leave yourself twice as much time as you think you need for a project, knowing that half of that may not look like “making” anything at all,” she says. “There is no Soylent version of thought and reflection—creativity is unpredictable, and it simply takes time.” This holds true for corporate communicators as well as fiction writers.
3. Look for novel experiences in your life. As we age, our lives tend to “speed up,” going faster and faster until months and then years pass by in a blur. Neuroscientists believe this occurs because, by the time we’re 40, we’ve had so many life experiences they start to seem repetitive. Different seasons? Christmas? School plays? Been there done that 40 times (or more). Our perception of time slows only when we have new experiences. Look for those new experiences—a different venue of time window from your usual routine. This can makes your writing feel slower and more relaxed—yet you might actually be writing faster than usual.
4. Shut down your distractions. The unholy trinity of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube regularly entices many of us away from our writing. We feel stalled or momentarily confused in our work and rather than “sit” with those uncomfortable feelings, we’d much rather be entertained. (It’s also likely we’re also unconsciously seeking easy “novelty” with social media apps.) In any case, don’t let distractions get the better of you. Either use some software to block yourself from social media (Cold Turkey and Focus are two such apps) or do what one of my clients does: She gets her sister to set passwords to her social media accounts and tells her sister to reveal the passwords only on the weekend. While you’re shutting down your distractions, also consider your vocabulary. Instead of saying, “I can’t look at Facebook until I’ve done my writing,” tell yourself, “I don’t look at Facebook until I’ve done my writing.” The difference between can’t and don’t is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug (as Mark Twain used to say).
5. Don’t multitask. Is there anyone who still thinks multitasking is a good idea? It’s not. It makes you less efficient and less effective. Focus on one job at a time, and give it your full attention before you move on to the next task.
6. Move more. Your best thinking is likely to occur when you’re away from your desk, moving. We breathe more deeply when we’re in motion, and exercise helps our brains to work better. Brains are oxygen hogs, taking up only 2% of our body weight, yet using 20% of the oxygen we take in. Try walking for a good 30 minutes before writing anything.
7. Consider meditating. Some friends and clients regard meditating as an oddball habit. In fact, it’s one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for writing. It will help most people relax, ease their anxiety and stop judging themselves as successes or failures. If the idea daunts you, or you’ve tried it before and it made you feel uncomfortable, do what one client does: Establish a mini-meditation habit. Instead of trying to “empty your mind,” spend 60 seconds doing deep breathing before you write. Over time, this might morph into a full-blown meditation habit. In any case, the slow, deep breaths will calm your autonomic nervous system and give your body the signal to make time for writing. You have 60 seconds to spare, don’t you?
This post first appeared on The Publication Coach blog.