March 23

Find your peak writing time in your busy schedule

    Last week, we had talked about what the reality of “full-time” writing looks like (you can read that article here), but what we essentially need to come to terms with is that it will always be difficult to find writing time — before you’re a published author and after.

    So, how do we find time to do our best writing, even when we’re busy?

    First, know your own rhythms.

    Reflect on when you typically have the most energy and do your best work. Morning, afternoon, or evening?

    You probably already have a sense of this, but it’s still worth spending a week or so, testing out and taking notes on when you have the most energy. Now, true, you might have a tiring life and think, “I never have extra energy!” But, relatively speaking, when are you most energetic.

    For a lot of people, their natural energy peaks about three hours after they wake up. For some people, they get a second-wind about three hours before they go to sleep. You might prefer the weekend when you can get a good night’s sleep or take a nap and then write.

    Try to figure out your peak energy time. If all the stars aligned, when would you love to be able to write?

    Second, look at the reality of your responsibilities.

    You probably have a job or kids or family members to take care of or responsibilities to your community. We all do! Look at your typical week, and see what pockets of free time there really are.

    More than likely, your free time will be first thing in the morning, lunch, before bed, or the weekend. And those times might not overlap perfectly with your peak energy times, so you’ll have to settle for a second best time, but that’s completely okay and normal.

    For me, my peak energy time is from 8 AM to 10 AM, but since I have four kids and run a business, those hours aren’t realistically available for me, right now. But I know that I work better in the morning than in the afternoon or evening. Solution? I write before the kids wake up, usually around 6 AM. I try to have exercised and gotten ready for the day before 6 AM so that I have a pocket of about 30 minutes to do some quick, efficient writing.

    Of course, this doesn’t always work. Just the other day, the baby was up half the night, and I was dragging through the morning. As I was finally sitting down to write, the two-year-old had snuck out of her room, pulled out all the crafts, and was making messy art in the playroom. So, yeah, I spent the next the 30 minutes putting away sparkly pom-poms and scissors that had been glued shut.

    Writing didn’t happen that morning, but that’s life! I did a short writing session later that afternoon, and then I got up the next morning to do a full writing session. It’s okay, just keep pressing on.

    Third, think of how you can optimize your realistic writing time.

    So, you’ve figured out your peak energy time. (For me, this is 8 AM to 10 AM). And then you figured out your realistic writing time because you have a life. (For me, this is 5:30 AM to 6:30 AM.)

    Now, let’s think about ways to optimize your realistic writing time. What can you do to set up that time to make writing more likely and more efficient?

    If you’re writing in the morning, going to bed early is key. If you’re writing at night, you might plan a short nap or downtime beforehand. If you’re writing on the weekend, don’t fill your Saturday with social activities.

    Also, consider your diet and exercise, since these pieces play a huge part in your energy levels. Most people feel more energetic when they drink less caffeine and more water, eat more fruits and vegetables, and avoid sugar. Most people also do better when they exercise nearly every day. So, I know those are big lifestyle changes, but just keep that in mind. You’ll do your best work even more quickly if you’re eating well and exercising.

    Since I get up early (usually 4:30 AM to feed the baby, then exercise, get ready, writing around 6:00 AM), it’s incredibly important for me to go to bed around 8:30 PM and be asleep by 9:00 PM. I know that’s early. I know I miss all the funny TV shows. I’m okay with that. My writing is so much more important than the Late Show. And the best replays show up on social media, anyway, so I’m not really missing out on much!

    Finally, think about how you can ruthlessly streamline your life. If being an author is truly your dream, a lot of other things are going to have to be trimmed back. Can you spend less time on domestic chores, either by hiring out tasks (cleaning, grocery shopping) or by simply doing less (cooking simple meals)? Can you automate financial tasks (bill paying and bringing on a bookkeeper)? Can you cut any volunteer or social activities? Truly think about what’s most important in your life, and either outsource or cut anything else. It’s ruthless but so worthwhile.

    I have childcare 30 hours per week, a lovely lady who delivers groceries weekly, everything on auto-pay, I batch sort my mail and inbox once a week, and I only do a couple of extra activities per week (church small group Wednesday evenings, a playdate with another family one afternoon, and sometimes a solo outing with a friend on the weekend). That’s it. My life has become remarkably simple and streamlined, which makes my writing possible.

    How about you? What’s your peak energy time and your realistic writing time? How can you optimize your realistic writing time? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


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