I am asked on occasion, how do I go about finding time to write. Sometimes this is in the context of my research. Given how much reading goes on, making the time to actually write a meaningful contribution can be challenging. But more recently, it is in the context of the #100DaysToOffload challenge. How do I find the time to post everyday.
Sadly for the time starved, there is no silver bullet. In fact, perhaps the most irritating, though true, response I can give is habit.
One of the better, though perhaps too lengthy for the time starved, articles on the subject is Habits – A Repeat Performance. The TLDR is that ‘approximately 45% of everyday behaviours tended to be repeated in the same location almost every day.’ In other words, habit accounts for almost half of everything we do.
I find this to be liberating and have actively worked to increase the number of things I do out of habit. The reason is it saves on mental energy, energy which can be better employed thinking about writing and ultimately the act of writing itself.
This is particularly important if you are trying to write every day or do anything, for that matter, consistently. Having to rely on sheer will power to overcome the centrifugal forces of life which try and pull you away from your project means you will likely burn out. Thus to engage in a long term lifestyle of writing, training, playing an instrument, it needs to move from the willed to the habitual if the endeavour is to survive.
Time of Day
A common technique for finding time I have come across is to ‘do it early.’ While this has some benefits, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today, it can be impractical. While it would be nice to roll out of bed and guide my slippers studyward, I have commitments. Not the least of which is earning the money to funding my writing lifestyle.
To that end, other priorities crowd the day and if getting it done first thing is my only method, then I will more likely fail than succeed in my quest to write regularly. It also has the secondary problem of turning a pleasure into a chore.
Perhaps it is just me, but doing my maths homework was never top of my priorities as a child. My teacher said I should do my maths first, and save history as a treat for when my numbers work was done. All this did was create an enduring loathing of the subject, and it has only been in later life as I have discovered the beauty of numbers that my numeracy skills have flourished.
To that end, I find it better to pick a focused time of day than an early time. In other words, leverage the power of habit to be your guide to success.
The final tip is, you guessed it, also linked to habit. This is about creating a trigger to set yourself up for success.
A far less conspiratorial version of it can help with the writing process. For some, it is making a coffee or, after the sun is over the yardarm, pouring a glass of the Macallan. For others, it is taking a hot bath to find focus – a method my fiancée swears by as she ploughs through her thesis.
Whatever it may be, find a trigger which consistently helps you to get in the frame of mind for writing, leverage the power of habit and set your inner candidate to the task of finding time to write.
Good night and good luck.