Time, or the lack of, it is one of the biggest excuses we come up with for why there are no new pages on any given day. Whether you are writing to earn a living or writing as an avocation, searching to find the time to put your words into sentences that make sense is the universal challenge. I know, because I have done both. My first novel was written when I still held a demanding, corporate job. These days, I mix writing with coaching and call myself an entrepreneur.
I’m lucky in that I have a predisposition to being organized and a reputation for getting a lot accomplished. Plus I spent twenty-five years in a world that doesn’t know how to operate without structure. But even with these advantages, I need to employ tricks, lots of them, on a daily basis. If I didn’t, the only interaction I would have with my keyboard is dusting it.
Here are five ways that work for me.
#1. Give up trying to “find” the time.
This is not a search and rescue mission. This is about creating, not just a story, but time.
I assumed once I left the 9 to 5 “finding” the time to write would be easy. Theoretically it made sense. Not only did I have more time at my disposal, I was now in charge of parceling it out. How wrong I was!
In my corporate life, I knew exactly where the holes were in my schedule. That meant I often devoted big chunks of weekends to my craft or squeezed in a few pages by getting up at what some would consider an obscene hour of the morning. I thought of myself as a binge writer, stuffing myself full when no one was looking.
I had a tight schedule and a great desire to finish that first novel. Out of necessity, I worked with what I had. In hindsight I realize I was not “finding” time. I was “creating” it.
#2. Use an egg timer.
A good old-fashioned analog egg timer is an indispensable tool for time-management, especially if you are self-employed, especially if you are a writer. The egg timer aides in establishing the space through which you create the time to write.
You can’t hear it right now, but I’m using one as I type. The soft, ticking sound is my signal that I have created a space to write. To work. To get stuff done. It’s the only way this article will get written before Thursday’s deadline.
#3 Follow The Basic Egg Timer Rules.
In my book, It Takes an Egg Timer, A Guide to Creating the Time for Your Life, I offer these basic rules for using an egg timer:
1- Turn off your email. Someone asked me recently to clarify that statement. By turning it “off” I mean shutting down the program so those annoying little email pings cannot be heard.
2- Do not answer the phone unless you are awaiting a cure for cancer or some equivalent, high-level emergency. In fact, if you are really serious about creating time, turn off the ringers.
3- Set the timer. I advocate sixty-minute increments. There is lots of research out there to support that sitting still and focused for this amount of time is optimum. Longer and you lose focus. More important than the research, I’ve kitchen tested that number.
4- Do not get up until the timer rings. I like to pretend the egg timer is the boss down the hall that used to like to walk by my office and make sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Or else.
#4 Employ discipline.
Most people assume that discipline is too stringent a word for a creative process like writing. I don’t. I think it is necessary. Nothing great is accomplished without discipline. A distance runner does not improve their time if they don’t run every day. A soprano does not hit the high notes if she doesn’t sing every day.
The level of your discipline is going to be dependent on how big a part of your life writing is. If you need to churn out content five days a week, the number of hours you will turn on your egg timer will be far greater than someone who is writing as a hobby. But even if it is your avocation, if your desire is to write, you need to establish a number of hours a week you want to do that.
I never make it about how much I will write, just that I write. In sixty minute increments. But as any experienced writer knows, once you sit yourself down and allow yourself to do what you love best, which is to write, words have this magical way of flowing.
#5 Celebrate your accomplishment.
By turning on the timer, sitting down and doing something productive instead of agonizing over trying to “find” the time, a luxurious feeling of accomplishment sets in, whether you wrote ten sentences or a thousand words.
I acknowledge myself for having taken steps. Sometimes I’ll even take a little celebratory dance break before setting the timer again for whatever is next on the list. I find praising myself opens up even more time.
Finding the time to write is not a game of hide and go seek. It does not have to be a fruitless endeavor, like searching for that sock that went into the dryer and never came out. It’s about creating the time and the space just like you did to get this far reading this article. With an egg timer as your ally.
If you can do that, you can end your search for the time to write right here, right now and start working on creating it.
For more tips on how to get stuff done, like writing, as well as understanding when and how self-sabotage occurs, check out my book, It Takes An Egg Timer, A Guide to Creating the Time for Your Life on Amazon in paperbackand Kindle.
Official disclaimer: This article could not have been written without the aide of my favorite red apple egg timer.