Studies show that people who write down where and how a behavior will occur have a better chance of getting things done. In one study, women were asked to perform a breast self-exam. One group was asked to write down when and where they would do so, while the other was not. Both groups were narrowed down to the women who wanted to complete the task. Nearly 100 percent of those who wrote down when and where they would do the exam completed it. Only 53 percent of the second group did so.
Find your genius time. Genius time is when you feel energized, engaged, and ready to write. I write best in the morning, before checking email, Facebook, or Twitter. I have a client who writes best late at night, after her husband and children are tucked in bed. If possible, guard your genius time for your writing.
To discover your genius time, look back at your calendar for the last week. How was your energy for various kinds of activities (physical, social, intellectual) at different times of the day? When did you have the most energy for intellectual or creative tasks? This is most likely your genius time.
Schedule time. If possible, schedule your writing time for the whole month of November. If you cannot do that, at least schedule your writing for the next week. Treat your scheduled writing time like it is a shift at work or an airplane flight. You wouldn’t cancel either of those engagements lightly. Don’t cancel this one!
Make your writing time automatic. When I am writing a book—I set aside every morning to write. I never have to think about when I’m going to write—it is automatic. Psychologists call this automatic action a “good constraint”—a choice that is limited and good for us. Other examples might include: brushing our teeth before bed, going to the gym every morning, or having wine only on the weekends. One way to make writing automatic is to assign yourself writing sessions that work for you every week and make it non-negotiable.
Better it! You can up the chances of success if you link your writing time to something you already do each day such as having a morning cup of coffee or your afternoon cup of tea. (W.H. Auden paired his writing time with a dose of speed, but that’s another blog post!)
Need more help? In September, I did a webinar called, “Making Time to Write” for Writer’s Digest. When you buy my new book at Writer’s Digest, Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It), you get a free copy of the webinar! And don’t forget—send me your receipt, and I will send you an encouraging postcard during NaNo.
Your turn. What tips and tools do you have for scheduling writing time?