Here’s a safe bet:
You’re struggling to find enough time to write.
Virtually every blogger and entrepreneur has the same problem.
Maybe you want to write great content to build your business – but there are so many other things you have to do too.
I know first-hand how much of a challenge this can be. I started out writing around a full-time day job; today, I juggle work around my two year old daughter and baby son.
I don’t know your personal situation. But I can take some guesses:
- You have a lot on your plate – sometimes you feel overwhelmed.
- Big writing projects get shunted to the end of your to-do list.
- When you do have some time to write, you never seem to get far.
Here’s how to turn things around, in six straightforward steps:
Step #1: Come Up With a Bunch of Ideas for Your Blog
Since you’re reading ProBlogger, it’s a pretty safe bet that you have a blog (or you’re about to start one). Do you ever find it hard to come up with enough ideas for it? Maybe you’re managing to keep up a regularly posting schedule – but you know you should be doing some guest posting, and you never seem to get round to it.
The easiest way to make faster progress on any writing project is to set aside dedicated brainstorming (or, if you like, daydreaming) time.
Grab a notebook or a bit of scrap paper, and jot down as many ideas as you can in fifteen minutes. Don’t judge your ideas, just write everything down.
Schedule 15 minutes, once per week, for brainstorming. You’ll soon have a stockpile of ideas that you can turn to whenever you need one.
How to Consistently Come Up With Great Post Ideas for Your Blog, Stacey Roberts, ProBlogger
Step #2: Create a Clear Plan Before You Start Writing
When you don’t have much time to write, you don’t want to waste a single minute.
If you find yourself getting stuck and giving up part-way, or if you often have to scrap huge chunks of your blog posts because you went off on a long tangent, then you need to get to grips with planning.
Your plan doesn’t need to be complicated. A few bullet points jotted on the back of an envelope is fine. For maximum effect, though, set aside dedicated time to plan out several posts at once.
Your plan helps you spot any problems before you spend hours writing, and it helps you shape your material into a logical structure: easier for you to write, and easier for your audience to read.
It’s also a great way to blast through any blank page wobbles at the start of a writing session. If you’ve got a plan, you can just copy or type it into your document … and you’re already part-way there.
Give different planning methods a go – you don’t have to stick with a linear outline each time. Maybe a mindmap, a set of ideas on index cards, or even a spreadsheet would suit your project better.
A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write, Ali Luke, Copyblogger
Step #3: Use the First Hour of Your Day for Your Main Writing Project
Sometimes, the real problem with finding time to write isn’t that there’s no time at all – it’s that our writing time is scheduled for the wrong part of the day.
If your aim is to “finish the ten things on this list then work on the ebook” … it’s all too easy to let those ten things fill your day. Even if you have a little time left at the end of the day, you’ll probably be creatively frazzled.
The best solution I’ve found is to put writing first. Ideally, set aside an hour – but if that’s just not practical, 15 minutes is fine.
Putting writing first could mean:
- You use the first hour of your work day for your project … trust me, Twitter and Facebook can wait for an hour.
- You get up an hour earlier (not my favorite solution – but I did it for eight months when I had a day job, and it let me build my career to the point where I could quit and write full time).
- You shuffle around some other activities: if you currently head to the gym at 6am, could you go at lunchtime or in the evening instead?
For this week only, commit to spending the first 15 minutes of your day (either when you get up or when you start work) on your current writing project. Put a check on the calendar each day you manage it. Next week, aim for 20 minutes per day, and/or more checks.
Why You Should Get Serious About Your Writing Schedule, Kari, Men with Pens
Step #4: Cut Out or Cut Back
Your time is full already, but at least some of your activities could go in a pinch. This is always going to be a personal decision – something that I might consider essential could be on your list for ditching when life gets hectic, and vice versa.
Here are just a few ideas you might want to consider.
- Voluntary commitments you don’t enjoy and wish you’d never signed up for. Resign in writing, and don’t leave any room for ambiguity or argument.
- Time-wasting activities that don’t add much to your life – do you really need to take another Buzzfeed quiz? Try RescueTime to track your computer activity.
- TV watching. Of course, keep up any must-sees (mine are Game of Thrones and Doctor Who) … but if you’re binging on whole seasons of shows on Netflix, cut back to an hour every evening.
- Even if money’s tight, can you get a maid service once or twice a month? If that’s not an option, can you delegate to your spouse or kids?
Look at your non-writing activities and save some time there too:
- 10 minutes per day on Twitter and Facebook, instead of 30, could well get you the same results.
- Template emails will save you time answering common questions, dealing with routine enquiries, and so on.
Why You Should Flush 90% of Your To-Do List Down the Toilet, Michael Hyatt, MichaelHyatt.com
Step #5: Keep a Time Log
If you’re still struggling, keep a time diary for a week to find out exactly where your time goes.
(If you’ve ever kept a food diary while on a diet, or a spending diary while getting out of debt, you’ll have some idea of how powerful this can be.)
You could use a spreadsheet, a physical notebook, or an app like Toggl. While entering data manually can be a pain, it does make you very aware of how you’re using your time.
Be prepared for your time log to throw up some negative emotions – maybe you’re not working as efficiently as you thought. Go easy on yourself, and look for ways to win back just 5 or 10 minutes of productive time each day.
Why You Really Don’t Have a Time Management Problem, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing
Step #6: When You’re Writing, Write!
If you’ve set aside 30 minutes to work on a post for your blog, you need to actually write.
That means not stopping after five minutes to check if anything new’s happening on Facebook. It means jotting down any distracting thoughts like “Email John” rather than stopping writing to do them straight away.
When you’re writing (or engaged in any creative activity), you can get into a state of “flow” – you might describe it as “being on a roll” or even “losing track of time”. This is what you’re aiming for, and constantly interrupting yourself will stop you getting there.
Work in short bursts. I find that 20 – 45 minutes is about right. If you know you only have to write for another 15 minutes, not for another hour, it’s easier to push yourself to keep going.
How to Maintain Focus when Writing, Mary Jaksch, Write to Done
You won’t miraculously “find” a few spare hours to write.
You need to make that time – by finding more efficient ways to work and by restructuring other elements of your life to allow your writing to be a priority.
So here’s your first step again: find fifteen minutes, either today or tomorrow, to brainstorm some ideas for one of your current projects.
Get up early, use the ad breaks on TV, write in your notebook on the bus, or whatever it takes. Drop a comment below to tell us what you’ll be doing, and when.
Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for all bloggers and writers, with monthly seminars, in-depth ecourses, supportive forums, and more. It’s only open for new members until Friday June 12th, and we’re about to start a new Summer Challenge for accountability (and prizes)! If you think you might be interested, check it out now.