I love thinking of the new year as a fresh start – whether it’s resetting something I didn’t achieve in the year prior or an entirely new goal for the time ahead.
Problem is, a new year doesn’t mean suddenly our days are any different, and our schedules don’t miraculously become unpacked and free of the burdens and stress of life. And busyness is pretty much the easiest excuse we’ve got for why we’re not achieving those goals.
I work at a pretty hectic job, putting in 10-12 hour workdays. By the time I get home, I am physically, emotionally, and mentally spent. I don’t have extra time to workout. I don’t have extra time to cook dinner.
I don’t have extra time to write.
But when I step back and look closely, oddly, it seemed I had all the time to watch Real Housewives of any and every city. I never saw a happy hour invitation I didn’t jump on. And girl had plenty of time to check twitter and instagram. Could it be that “extra time” actually does exist in our lives and we just have to motivate ourselves to maximize and utilize it?
When I decided I wanted to start writing, it took months of failed attempts to set aside time to do so. I planned for the time after my day had settled: after work, after dinner, after walking the dogs, after catching the news, after scrolling online, after taking a shower, after crawling into bed. I opened up my laptop and either fell asleep, or closed it and planned to write twice as many words the next night to catch up.
It wasn’t working.
So I did something drastic. I decided not to make it my last priority of the day, but rather, make it my first. And if I had to get up to walk the dogs, get ready for work, eat breakfast, and head out for the day, I was going to WRITE before I did any of it. And that’s when I found #5amwritersclub on twitter. Having the accountability of “checking in” online, and a group of other writers doing the same, worked wonders.
I am not a morning person. But, I forced myself to try…for one month. They say it takes thirty days to build a habit. I set the alarm. Some days I woke up, opened my laptop, checked in, and ten minutes later fell asleep. But other days, I wrote. And when I looked up, an hour had passed and I had words on the page. And a few months later, I had my first finished draft.
Nothing else about my life had changed. I still had long work days. I still went to happy hour. I still watched Real Housewives. And lordy, I still scrolled my social media online. But, I also got writing done. I’d found and made the time.
I realize this morning method worked for me and may not work for you. But there are other ways to prioritize time, even small chunks, to commit to writing (or any other passion).
Here are some tips I’ve found can and have worked for me:
Be consistent: Build the habit, whether it’s #5amwritersclub, prime time writing, writing on your lunch hour, 500 words a day, whatever the goal, try to commit to it for 30 days and see if you can build the habit.
Break your time up to achievable chunks: There are some popular methods to do this (Pomodoro, #1k1hr [sprints]). But thinking of time in smaller, highly focused increments, makes the mental satisfaction of reaching a goal easier to achieve. This has proven effective in other areas (10 minute workouts, 15 minute meditation [Headspace], 30 minute meals [Rachel Ray]).
Schedule informal writers retreats or writing dates: This can be done online or in person. One of my favorite parts of NaNoWriMo is just knowing the sheer BRAIN POWER of all these people writing together for a month. Writing alongside other people is a great source of accountability.
My writing group once had an online writers retreat where, for one weekend, we all committed to working on drafting our current projects. We created a Slack channel and posted sprints, wordcount achievements, and cheered each other on. It was fantastic and I got 12k words in one weekend…a big win for me!
Meeting a writer friend for coffee? How about setting 20 minutes to catching up, then 20 minutes to sprint for words? Writing with someone else in the room doing the same can really help with motivation!
Set deadlines, goals, treats, and breaks: Gamify your writing time. Set a goal and if you reach it, give yourself a prize. I’ll sometimes tell myself that if I can finish this chapter, I can watch an episode of “This is Us”. Or if I write 1k words, I’ll allow myself a cookie. It may seem silly, but we crave rewards. So, make yourself work for them! The emotional satisfaction is also a big win!
So, writers, let’s get those words this year! Our stories need to be told, but they’re not going to write themselves. 🙂 We can do this!
Some interesting posts on productivity:
Susan Lee is a writer of quirky young adult romances. She gets inspiration for stories from her day job, working as a HR executive at tech startups, where the zaniest of scenarios unfold on a daily basis. She is a Round 3 Author Mentor Match alum and is currently a Pitch Wars ‘18 mentee. Susan is a San Diego native who has found her true home in New York City where she eats bagels & drops F-bombs with the best of them.