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How To Determine When and How Much You Can Write

Throughout each one of my books and the majority of my posts, whenever a set of steps is provided, or advice is given it is followed or preceded by a disclaimer that strongly suggests readers should be adjusting this instruction to meet their own personal needs.

Too often we listen to podcasts, read books, watch interviews where some “expert” tells us what we should be doing. Now I’m not saying that we should be closed off to these opinions but we must first recognize them as an opinion based on one particular person’s experience. He or she does not live our life and therefore is not qualified to tell us what to do and when to do it without knowing all of the variables that exist within our daily lives.

Therefore, rather than tell you or even suggest how much time you should be devoting to writing. The goal here is to equip you with a set of steps you can take to properly analyze your week and assess when and where you can fit in some writing time.

Step 1: Identify any repeated tasks or responsibilities that you have for each day of the week (i.e. Work from 9 to 5, bring the kids to and from school, etc.).

Step 2: Draw 7 columns (or use a spreadsheet) and label each column a day of the week (Monday through Sunday).

Step 3: Begin writing down your day to day actions for each day of the week and write down the times. Note: it is appropriate for times to be approximate and to be wide ranges because you want to include everything you do from going to work to watching television.

Step 4: Look for gaps in your day where you could fit in at least 15 minutes of writing (preferably 30 minutes or more if possible). If it is a location other than your home, identify a method to ensure you have your computer or whatever equipment you may need.

Step 5: Based on this schedule insert your writing sessions with specific times and desired durations. Time ranges are appropriate as well. In other words, if you know you have at least 30 minutes sometime between 5PM and 7PM, but the specific start and end time for your writing session will not be consistent, then just write 5PM to 7PM for 30 minutes. Highlight each writing session.

Step 6: Bonus Step – Based on the time and days, if you have a smartphone, set reminders for each of the times to prompt your writing session.

Notice that at no point during any of the steps provided was there a minimum amount of sessions suggested. Personally, I have four to five each week and each ranges from 30 minutes to an hour. This works for my life but it may not work for yours. Maybe you can fit in more or less. It doesn’t matter as long as you identify times in your life when you can realistically sit down and write.

Once you have these times, outside of staying disciplined and sticking to each writing session, your next focus is going to be calculating how many words per hour you can typically produce.

To calculate your word output rate you need to track your time and your total words produced per session. Do this for at least two weeks.

To clarify for every writing session you should be tracking the exact amount of time you’re actually writing and how many words you’ve produced within that specific amount of time.

Note: this is easier to calculate if you have a session for an amount of minutes of which 60 is a multiple (i.e. 15, 20, 30, and 60-minute sessions are ideal).

For the purposes of clarity let us take a look at a hypothetical example.

Joe Smith can fit three writing sessions within his week. One session is 30 minutes while two sessions are each an hour. For the next two weeks, Joe is going to track how many words within each of those writing sessions he can produce.

Week 1

Session 1 (30 minutes) – 402 words

Session 2 (60 minutes) – 943 words

Session 3 (60 minutes) – 928 words

Week 2

Session 1 – 463 words

Session 2 – 1002 words

Session 3 – 917 words

Now for the number crunching. First, calculate your hourly rate for each session. In this case Joe would just double his amount of words for each of his first weekly sessions. Second, now that all  sessions are equated to an hourly input amount, we add up all of the hourly word count numbers and divide by the number of sessions (in this example, 6).

More specifically…

804+943+928+926+1002+917 = 5520 (total words produced in 6 hourly sessions)

5520/6 = 920 (total hourly word rate for Joe Smith is 920)

Why do you want to know this number?

Put simply, knowing this information can help you determine how long it is going to take you to chip away at your book. When you’re equipped with this information you can plan more effectively. The combination of your hourly word output rate and your book outline will position you to stay motivated as you tackle each section in an objective, manageable way as opposed to the perspective of writing one daunting book.

Lastly, if you truly want to ensure the accuracy of your hourly word output rate then continue to track your words written for each session and keep a spreadsheet documenting this information.

Over time as you write more consistently you’ll notice this number will likely increase.

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How To Write Consistently

I used to become discouraged if I was unable to write on a particular day. Such a feeling kills momentum. I noticed that I would put myself down for not being a writer simply because I missed a day here or there. Since then I have adjusted expectations for myself. Now instead of trying to write everyday I focus on a certain amount of words each week.

Every Sunday, I review my upcoming week ahead. If I have a particularly significant amount of non-writing responsibilities I might specify a lower amount of words to be completed for that week. I typically aim for 2000 to 5000 words per week.

This works for me because I have found a system to hold myself accountable in a realistic way that suits my schedule. This enables me to write consistently without writing everyday.

Arriving at this point for me was not quick and certainly not easy, which brings me to my point.

Give yourself time to reflect on your writing process. Your life will inevitably throw unanticipated variables at you and it might require you to adjust your process. Regular reflection makes this possible.

Moreover, your writing process will evolve and change over time. This is a positive thing because it shows your adjusting and adapting to sustain consistency.

As you reflect I encourage you to focus on a few specific components of your writing process:

1. Setting
2. Timing
3. Days
4. Challenges
5. Successful writing sessions

Setting

People have different preferences as to the setting that they write in. As you determine your preferred setting I recommend you make your assessment based on which setting yields the greatest amount of quality and word output.

As you sit down to write make a note of the where you are, the volume, what you hear, what distractions exist, what distractions don’t exist. Try to be as detail oriented as you determine your ideal setting for writing.

If you have multiple settings, make a habit of tracking the word output for each setting. This provides you with a quantitative metric to assess how conducive each setting is to your writing.

Timing

In addition to the setting where your writing occurs, reflect on the timing. Do you write more words in the morning, afternoon, or at night? What is the quality like during each time.

Understanding the time of day that you are best able to maximize a writing session will help you schedule the rest of your life around your writing times. Likewise, knowing that the time of the day doesn’t make a difference for you then you know that your writing schedule can be a bit more flexible.

Be aware that if there is a particular time of day that for whatever reason you can hammer out high quality words at an exorbitant rate during a time but is unfortunately often interrupted then you may want to consider a different time that has less interruptions.

Days

Are there days of the week that you seem to be a more effective writer? For me, it is earlier in the week. I personally prefer to complete the majority of my writing on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. I believe what happens is by Thursday I’m exhausted both physically and mentally so though I still try to write on these days I typically shoot for less as result.

Challenges

As you reflect on your writing process and make neccessary adjustments, I can’t overstate how important it is to think about the challenges you have encountered along the way. These include both internal and external challenges.

For example, I’m not a great writer at night for a few reasons. First, an internal challenge I encounter is increased exhaustion so my brain is functioning on suboptimal levels. Second, an external challenge is presented when I have to choose between writing time and the limited time I have to spend with my wife once my little ones are asleep. As a result, I complete the strong majority of my writing in the morning before I start work.

You should be identifying the external and internal challenges that each writing session brings and try to write during a time where those challenges are eliminated or at least minimized.

Successful Writing Sessions

When a writing session goes well make a note of it. Identify the specifics mentioned above. Focus on figuring out how to duplicate these details. You want to identify why it was successful and shoot for that whenever possible Additionally, you can gain great momentum from celebrating a small success which can lead to further success.

So the next time you finish a writing session take a few minutes to reflect on the level of productivity. It will help you maximize you effectiveness of each writing session and it will increase likelihood of making yourself write more consistently.

Happy writing!

 

 

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7 Ways To Make More Time For Writing

If you’ve read my previous article that helps you determine the amount of time you each week you should devote to writing then it is possible, depending on your schedule, that you’re unhappy with the amount of time you have to write.

Or if you’re happy with your weekly word output but want to find ways to increase it then check out the strategies offered below.

Before we delve into each strategy a disclaimer must be provided just so we can move forward together on the same page.

I believe that the majority of people are relatively busy. Before my children were born I remember feeling busy all the time but now I look back on that period of my life and wonder what I did with all the time.

Moral of the story, we all have 24 hours per day. So if you are unable to make time for writing then it is likely that your “full schedule” is a result of poor prioritization.

The key is to make small subtle changes. Over time, the accumulation of said changes will be significant.

Below is a list of 7 possible changes you can make to increase your writing time. Do not limit yourself to these changes exclusively. Keep your eyes open for additional, creative ways to maximize productivity without increasing your stress level.

Subtle change #1: Wake up 20 minutes earlier. This allows you five minutes to use the restroom, grab a glass of water, then start writing. Before you dismiss this idea because you already wake up “early” or you aren’t a “morning person” consider easing into this. Start by setting your alarm five minutes before you normal wake up time. Do this for a week then go five minutes earlier. In four weeks, you’ll have slowly transitioned into waking up 20 minutes earlier. If it went easily for you continue this pattern until you’ve created an additional hour of writing time.

Quick Tip: To maximize the 15-minute writing window, be sure that you have an outline on your computer ready so that all you have to do is pick a predetermined topic and start writing. 

Subtle change #2: Use your smartphone to record  yourself during your commute. Choose a topic, hit record (before you begin driving), and start talking about all the things you would be writing about within that topic. Do not worry about saying things perfectly. For each recording, you can save them and have them transcribed. Look up transcription services on fiverr.com, look into your dictation capabilities that come standard with most macs, or check out rev.com. This will produce a written document that only requires your review and edits (which could be for your 15-minute window from above).

Subtle change #3: If you’re a reader, consider Audible.com. This enables you to multi-task thus freeing up the time you would be reading. I personally listen to audio books when I exercise. Outside of my bedtime reading session, this pretty much all the reading I need for the day and affords me greater opportunity to focus on my writing without ignoring the need to absorb information.

Subtle change #4: Go to a library for a writing session. This may not be a great solution if you do not live near one because the time it takes to commute the library might eat away at the increased time margins, however, if you can get to one quickly it might be worth trying.  When I go to a library I sit with my headphones on in one of those desks that have three walls around it. In other words, I eliminate all the distractions that exist in my home or a coffee shop. Do not underestimate how many more words you can write when you’ve set such a distraction-less environment.

Subtle change #5: Partner with another writer. If you are truly strapped for time why not co-author a book with another author. You will most likely lose half of the royalty potential but you’re exchanging one currency for another, time for potential earnings. Moreover, you’ll likely double your word output. If you’re looking to find a writing partner then I recommend you check out writing clubs via meetup.com or join a writing facebook group (my favorite is Authority Self-Publishing).

Subtle change #6: Eliminate a show from your life. Many experts recommend that you eliminate television from your life and though I would agree that it is often a distraction that hinders productivity, I’m going to suggest a more subtle approach. List the shows that you regularly watch. Pick your least favorite and stop watching it. If you don’t watch regular shows and just channel surf then you need to control the amount of time you do this. Set a timer on your phone and stop watching once the time is up. I recommend no more than a half hour.

Subtle change #7: Read The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch and start analyzing how you prioritize your daily actions. As stated prior to this list I believe people who claim they don’t have any time are really just struggling to prioritize effectively. To subtly address this start by learning about a different approach to help you adjust your own mindset.  Note: In the spirit of third subtle change suggested, I recommend you check out the audiobook. 

So there they are, seven subtle changes you can make to help maximize your word output. Remember, do not limit yourself to these changes and also do not feel obligated to try all of them at once. Instead, choose one or two that makes sense for you and start taking action.