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[Breakfast with the Muse] Don't Have Enough Time To Write? This 4-Step Process Will Get You on Track
Written by
Jill Jepson
October 2014
Written by
Jill Jepson
October 2014

Finding the time to write. What do you do? There are so many options! You can neglect your family. Cut back on sleep. Stop exercising. Eat at your desk.

Or you can take four do-able steps that will help you create time by reducing distractions, eliminating time-wasters, and getting you into writing mode quickly. I’ve worked with dozens of coaching clients who were struggling to find time to write, and this four-step process has never failed.

1. Compartmentalize. Yourdictionary.com defines “compartment” as a separate section, part, division, or category. I use the term compartmentalize to mean creating a distinct part of your life for writing. A compartment is a place in which some things belong and others don’t. When you create a compartment for your writing, you put your writing in it and leave everything else out.

To compartmentalize your writing, create a specific time to write, a specific place to write, and a mindset that says, “This is not time to help my kids with their homework or check my Facebook page. This is writing time.”

Sit down with a datebook and plan writing time and space. Write down them down—then stick to them. Make your writing compartment inviolable.  

2. Prioritize. Kath was a client of mine who found her days too full of tasks and errands to fulfill her dream of writing a novel. Something always seemed to come up when she sat down to write: Her daughter needed something from the store, she had to get dinner started, her mother called to chat.

Here was my question for Kath: If she were working at a “regular” job—i.e. with an employer, for pay—would she have missed work for those things? If you wouldn’t come in an hour late for work because you had to pick up your dry-cleaning, why would you set aside your writing to do  it? Isn’t your writing as important as that job?

Prioritize your writing the same way you would prioritize a job in which a boss and coworkers were depending on you. Make the same commitment to it. Pay it the same respect.

3.Simplify. Most of us lead unnecessarily complicated lives with too many activities, goals, and commitments. “It takes a bit of conscious effort to simplify, but it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever learned to do,” writes blogger Leo Babauta.

Take note of what you spend time doing. Ask yourself: Which of these activities truly mean something to me? Which are important? Which are necessary?

You will find you do a lot of things not because you have to or even want to, but because you’re used to doing them. Do you really need to dust the furniture every week? Is it truly essential that you make a dessert from scratch for the potluck? Do you absolutely have to check email four times an hour? If not, don’t.

4. Optimize your environment. “There’s just one way to radically change your behavior,” writes Stanford psychologist Dr. B.J. Fogg. “Radically change your environment.” 

Research by Fogg and others has shown that even small changes in our work space can help us create time and eliminate distractions.

Set up your writing space so that it is easy to get to your writing and stay there. Make if a place you want to go to. If your space is noisy, cramped, or messy you may find yourself avoiding writing for reasons that have nothing to do with writing itself.

Make distractions difficult to access from your writing space. If you keep checking text messages, put your phone some place that’s inconvenient to get to, like the basement or garage. If you check Facebook every five minutes, turn off your router. If you interrupt your writing to play with your dog, put Rover in another room—and give him your full attention after you’ve written.

If possible, pick a space you only write in. If you do nothing at your desk but write, you’ll go into writing mode the minute you sit down. If you can’t set aside a writing-only space, use other triggers. Get a lap desk, a notebook, or other tools that you use for writing and nothing else. Those triggers will set your writing in motion quickly, so you don’t waste time trying to get focused or warmed up.   

If writing is your calling and your goal, you’ve almost certainly struggled at some point with the issue of time. How have you faced the challenge of too little time to write? What techniques have you used to create time for your dream?


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  • Jill Jepson

    Sounds like a good way to do things, Karen. Thanks for sharing your technique for finding time.

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Thank you for this important list to consider. Writing around home-schooling, which I am both passionate about, is my challenge. Once in a while, we have "unschooling" days, which are light on work and big on play. She gets extra outside time while I have carved out significant pockets of time to write. ~:0)

  • Jill Jepson

    I love the fact that, with such a demanding schedule, you experimented until you found a time that worked for you. Thank you for sharing your way of dealing with the challenge of finding time!

  • Pat Roa-Perez

    After trying different ways/times, I found that 4 a.m. is the best time for me to write.

    Between caring for my elderly mother and my thirteen year old, my daily schedule is constantly changing. Trying to control it was not possible so I found that regardless of what the day brings on, I'm always able to write every day, including weekends, at 4 a.m.

    I've always been a morning person so moving my wake-up time back a little each day was not a big deal. After a few days I developed the habit and have been doing it now for almost a year. Even on busy days when there's not much time to write, by 7 a.m. I'm done with my daily writing goal.

    Something else that's helping me and which you mention is prioritizing. Whenever I feel tempted to do laundry or pay bills or load up the dishwasher, I remind myself that if I were working somewhere else, I would not be able to do these things. I've gone as far as "train" my family not to call me until "lunch" time (noon). 

    Interestingly, when I began to take my writing seriously and give the respect and priority it deserves, I began to find more time to do it and in a more efficient manner.

    Thank you, Jill, for your post!