Do you find yourself saying, “I’ll have plenty of time to write tomorrow, or this weekend, or on vacation”?
Do you tell yourself, “I meant to write today, but there just wasn’t any time”?
Are your writing goals going unfulfilled because you never seem to actually get around to writing?
Let me tell you…I can relate.
I have gone years feeling like time was just slipping away from me and I was never getting any actual writing done. I had a ton of ideas for what I wanted to write, but they always seemed to get stuck in my head. I never managed to get them out onto paper. There was more than one reason for this, but a big one was time management.
Since starting Milwordy, time management has become a huge factor in keeping up with a grueling word count goal. Writing one million words in a year is no easy feat, and you can’t do it if you don’t write regularly.
So, I decided to share some of my tips for how to get more writing in your day. All of these may not work for every person, but I’m betting there’s at least one thing here that can help you.
- Schedule a Dedicated Writing Block
The smoothest writing days for me are the days when I stick to my schedule. Now, I’m not much of a schedule person most of the time, but I can see why other people are. It works.
For me, waking up two hours earlier than I normally would means that I can get my words (or most of them) in before work. This is important for two reasons: First, it reduces the risk of some unplanned catastrophe preventing me from writing that day. Usually, 6am is too early for my day to fall apart. Second, though I don’t particularly like getting up early, I do find that I’m more productive in the morning. I generally spend more time writing the same number of words if I start in the evening than I do if I start in the morning.
Mornings may not be the best time for you to schedule a writing block. Try it, though, just to make sure. And try the evenings. Try the afternoon if you’re able. Figure out what time works for you and stick with it. Let the people you live with know that you’re writing time is yours and it is not to be interrupted beyond emergencies.
It’s also helpful to set a routine around your writing block. I like to make myself some coffee or tea. I start up my wax warmer. I read a little bit of what I wrote last time, just so I can get myself back in the write headspace. Then I put fingers to keys and get to work. These rituals, once formed, can signal to your brain that it’s time to write. It will become more of a habit rather than something you have to force yourself to do.
- Write in the Gaps
Okay, so now some of you are saying that you don’t have any open blocks of time to dedicate to writing. I get it. Some of you are parents. Some of you are taking care of aging parents. Some of you work two jobs and go to school. Life can be busy. So, sometimes you have to be a little unconventional when it comes to finding time to write.
Instead of blocking out specific times to write, you’re going to have to learn to jump on any opportunity that presents itself.
You can’t sleep? Write.
You’re in an hours-long line at the DMV? Write.
You’ve got 10 minutes before you have to leave the house? Write.
This method is going to take a lot more time and patience because you probably won’t be able to get as much writing done each day. But let’s say you were able to find 10 minutes each day to write. Most people—even very busy people—can find 10 minutes a day. I can write about 500 words (of a first draft) in 10 minutes. Not everyone writes that fast. I’ve worked my way up to that over many years. But let’s say you were able to do half that:250 words. That’s a whole page of writing. In a year, you could have a 365-page novel. And if you can’t hit 250, then just get what you can. It will take longer, but you will get there much faster than if you sit around and wait for magical free-time to appear.
I know that probably isn’t as fast as you’d like to go, but if you have very little time it may be what you have to do. And it will work if you stick with it.
Even for me, as someone who blocks off time to write, there are certain days where I have to use this method. Or some days, when I’m trying to get extra words, I do this in addition to my dedicated block of time. Learning to recognize opportune moments for writing, and to use them to your best advantage, is a vital skill for anyone that wants to write regularly.
- Try Dictation
I feel like I’ve been singing the praises of dictation a lot lately but it really has helped me. The nice thing about it is that you can write while doing other things.
I’ve written while cooking dinner.
I’ve written while doing laundry.
I’ve written while cleaning the house.
If you don’t have a lot of extra time, but you do have a lot of repetitive tasks during the day—like cooking and cleaning—you may be able to get a lot more writing done than you think.
Plus, in my experience, dictation is quite a bit faster than typing, so you may even find that you simply get more done during the same amount of writing time as you would if you were typing.
Dictation is probably not for everyone. A good dictation program is expensive, and there’s definitely a learning curve before you really get the hang of it. But if you’re able to try it, then I think you should. It’s worth a shot, especially for people who are having difficulties finding time to write regularly.
- Set a Timer
Let’s say you’ve got your time all blocked off, but you don’t seem to be getting a lot done. How can you learn to get more writing done in the time you’ve allotted?
I find that a ticking clock helps.
No, it doesn’t have to actually tick.
I like to use Write or Die because it has a progress bar that lets me know if I’m falling behind during a writing session. It also reminds me to keep writing when I’ve stopped. Having used this method for years, I can tell you that it has increased my writing speed by nearly 20 words per minute. And I have not seen a dip in the quality of my work. In fact, I’ve actually gotten better over the years.
You don’t have to use Write or Die, though I do think it’s worth it for the progress bar. Even setting a timer can help you speed up. There’s something about knowing that time is limited that gets those fingers flying!
- Be Honest with Yourself
Yes, like I said, there are some of you that really don’t have much extra time in your day. But there are some of you who only think you don’t have extra time in your day. I’ve been there. Time just seems to slip away sometimes, doesn’t it?
But let’s be honest with ourselves here. Check your screen time stats on your phone. How much time are you spending on the internet? On social media? How much time are you spending watching Netflix? How much time are you spending hitting that snooze button in the morning when you could be getting out of bed and writing?
I’m not saying that you should give up all your leisure time. In fact, you absolutely should not do that. We all need down time. But really look at your day and think of your priorities. Look at your non-essential activities and ask yourself if they’re more important than writing. The ones that are, can stay. The ones that aren’t…well, you might have to make some tough choices here. If you really love writing, some sacrifices will be worth it.
Again, this applies only to non-essential tasks. Do not make cuts to eating, sleeping, exercising, taking care of your dependents, etc.
Adjust your priorities so that writing fits in.
This honesty thing also applies to those of you who truly don’t have much time to dedicate to writing. You have to learn to accept that writing might be a slower process for you than it is for someone with more time on their hands. That’s okay. We all have to work within our own circumstances. Be honest about what you can manage and be kind to yourself when you’re comparing your progress to someone else’s.
I’ve thought about this a lot during the Milwordy challenge because I know that I have more time to write than many people. I have a full-time job and a husband, but—especially with the pandemic—I don’t have a lot else going on. I know plenty of you are parents or go to school as well as work or have any number of other obligations demanding your attention. It’s easy on the internet to only show people the best of your life and give people the impression that your life is perfect and that theirs doesn’t stack up. I don’t ever want to make people feel like they should be doing what I’m doing. I’m fortunate enough to have time in my day for this, but if you don’t, you absolutely shouldn’t feel bad for that.
If you’re doing your best, then that is always good enough.
These are the tips that have helped me find time for writing. Like I said, they may or may not help you, but I encourage you to give them a try if you’re struggling.
Let me know if you have any tips of your own that I’ve missed. I’m always looking for ways to improve this whole Milwordy experience!
If you’re enjoying my blog, please like, follow and share. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @RamblingRobinJ in both places.