Five Ways To End Your Search For The Time To Write


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.

And if you are really serious about being held accountable to whatever it is you want to create, you might want to sign up for a coaching series with me. More information at



Official disclaimer: This article could not have been written without the aide of my favorite red apple egg timer.



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  • Jeanne Nicholas

    So far this egg timer method does seem to work. I set my hours from 6pm to 10pm weekdays to target fir my 1st week, since i work full time. Then i rotate 20 and then 60ins or on Tuesdays and Thursday's I start 60 to 20 mins. It's amazing how much I've written in one week. I have also completed my swimming twice last week, written a letter to a dear friend, kept up on FB, and completed my weekend honey-do's early. I found I had more time for other things. But I found I wasn't watching much TV and I did tend to get the bajeezus scared out of me when that little bell rang. Also my family wasnt used to seeing me so busy-like, so that may be an adjustment. I like the method but it's very demanding to keep you going, going, going. Jeanne

  • Of course, you're write about all the points, especially, that we creative types often think that discipline is too stringent. It's not, because by applying a little discipline for a few hours or whatever, when we relax, we don't have to feel guilty thinking that we should be writing, because we've already done it.  Thanks.

  • Joanne Tombrakos

    Agreed Beth. I make it very clear in my book that the suggestions and advice I offer should be adjusted to individual preferences.

  • Beth Goehring

    Isn't it important, too, to determine your most energized, productive, "awake" time of day? I'm a morning person, so I love to do just about anything (write, bake, read the paper, take a walk) when the rest of the world is only just stirring. I would be miserable if my writing time was forced into my lowest time of day. Why fight your natural body rhythm?

  • Joanne Tombrakos

    Carole, the egg timer can be applied to so much more than our writing time. Love that you will use it to help balance your social life too!

  • Carole Avila

    I've got the opposite problem. I write and write and become a hermit, forgetting all about life around me. My room is a mess, I'm forgetting to eat (which in my case is a plus), and I find that I have to force myself to accept invitations outside of the house to get away from my computer. I'm making great strides in the writing process but I have to put balance back in the real world. At least I found balance with reading blogs and posts; there I've managed to read just enough to be informed. So I'm using your egg timer idea, Joanne, and applying it to my social life. Thanks for the important information.

  • suzi banks baum

    Thank you for these clear ideas Joanne. I love how the egg timer word is spreading. Coming to the end of my social media brea! xo Love, S

  • Katherine Huether

    I use an ipad app occasionally, too - but I don't like it because I can't find one that makes that ticking sound. The egg timer ticking sound is very relaxing and helps me focus.

  • Katherine Huether

    Using a timer is one of my favorite things! This is especially helpful when I don't feel like doing something and am procrastinating. I convince myself that all I need to do is sit and do it for ten minutes. I often stay longer than that. It is the act of sitting and doing it that is tough.

  • Joanne Tombrakos

    Thanks again for all this great feedback!

    My preference for the analog egg timers is to enable you to shut out all the other technology. The texts, emails and phones. If you use a kitchen timer app and you are curious as to how much time you have left, you could easily get distracted with something else on your computer, iPad or iPhone. 

    There is lots more on time wasters and other ways to create time in my book :), available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle. 

  • Trisha Faye

    Excellent!! A perfect method for procrastinators. I'm going to try it tonight! THANKS!

  • Carrie

    I create plenty of time to research, just don't leave any to write! Thanks this was helpful, I can't wait to try it!  Except I am going to find a silent timer that doesn't tick to use because I have ADD and that Egg Timer ticking would drive me crazy!

  • Oh how times have changed! Carmen has "a kitchen timer app on my phone."


  • CeCe Harbor

    I love "create time"....guilty! Unless I do this I may end up just dusting my laptop as well.

  • Carmen Esposito

    I've heard of finding the time to write, getting up earlier, turning off the phone and not reading e-mails.  But I've never hear of the egg timer tool. I do have a kitchen timer app on my phone, but you insist on an analog timer.  Okay, I'll add it to my shopping list.  Thanks for the tip.

  • Jeanne Nicholas

    The part were you pretend your butt is glued to the so very difficult.  Great tips though.  I've struggled a bit to find my slice of the time pie.  I realized that if I just get up an hour earlier...I have that hour to brush my mind and spit out a few brilliant sentences each day.  JLNicky

    Fail not for sorrow, falter not for sin,
    But onward, upward, till the goal ye win.
    - Francis Anne Kemble (1809-1893)

  • Very clever strategy. I like the fact that it takes pressure off the writer to be productive.  Just keep working til the timer dings...

  • Sharon D. Dillon

    Thank you for the reminder to put "butt in chair." Great tips for keeping focused.

  • Joanne Tombrakos

    Thanks to all for these wonderful comments! I love when I can help others!!

    Yes, accountability is key as is discipline! An accountability partner is always a good idea and/or hiring a good coach.

    The main point is, the time exists, we just have to create the space for it. 

  • B. Lynn Goodwin

    I love these tips. They're simple, clear-cut, and practical. I use them whenever I can find the time. Oops. Perhaps I need to review Step One. <g>

    Accountability is key. I just lost my accountability partner, I think, so if you're looking for one, maybe we can work something out.


    Managing Editor of

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

  • Nissi Mutale

    The advice here is great. I am still working on developing some sort of writing discipline and routine.

  • Annice Brown

    Love this.  I'm gong to share with my writer's group. 

  • Joanne Tombrakos

    So glad you all like the advice!

    Maureen...I am a big fan of the analog timers for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the ticking sound helps to set the space. I am also an advocate of sixty minute windows and twenty minute rules, which I address in detail in the book as well as movement. Movement is key. 

  • Daphne Q

    Such good advice in here... I like the egg timer... I will try that... I find that making your writing a priority helps... set a time the day before and pretend it's a doctor's appointment... you wouldn't miss that, would you?

  • Maureen Dunphy

    I just started using a timer this year.  It's digital and not nearly as cute as yours, Joanne, but I got it at the Dollar Store for, well, a dollar.  I use it to enforce a 45 minute--15 minute program I read about. I'm sorry, I should be giving credit here to someone who designed this program, but I can't remember where I read about it.  How it works is you set the timer for 45 minutes and write like a crazy woman.  Then you set the timer for 15 minutes and do something physical:  take the garbage cans out to the curb, move the laundry around, wash dishes . . . (I'm also a corporate instructional designer, which is writing of a different sort than what I do at home) or you run  a "corporate" errand -- to the mailroom, to the cafeteria, for a walk around the parking lot, or you walk to a colleague's cube to discuss the next step of the project, instead of e-mailing her.  What you do during the 15-minute "break" must be physical.  And when the timer rings again, you reset it for 45 and write like a crazy woman.  Theory is in those 15-minute blocks, your subconscious keeps working on the writing you just left.  When you sit back down, you go deeper, faster.  And that has been my experience.