Is time management a challenge for you? Over the past couple of months, several writers contacted me asking for tips to help them get more done when working from home. Although they had more time, they were less productive.
Time management: the more time you have, the less productive you are
On the face of it, this seems silly, but the idea that you have “lots of time” is a trap. In the morning you decide you’ll write this afternoon; then you tell yourself you’ll write after dinner. Before you know it, you’ve procrastinated the day away.
Here’s a solution: give yourself less time. Use writing sprints: they can be a powerful aid to writing more in less time.
What’s a writing sprint? It’s timed writing. You set a time limit for your sprint, using a timer; you also keep track of how many words you wrote during each sprint.
Sprinting forces you to focus. It’s at the heart of the popular Pomodoro technique.
Your sprints can be any length: ten minutes, 25 minutes, 50 minutes. Avoid sprinting for longer than 50 minutes because stress overpowers your creativity.
Let’s look at some tips to help you to produce more with writing sprints.
1. Practice: the more you sprint, the better you get
How many words can you write in an hour? Let’s say that you can manage 500 words an hour. Using sprints, you may be able to double your word count within a week or two.
That said, when you’re starting out:
- Avoid tension. Keep your sprints short initially, because tension is destructive to creativity, and to your health in general. Tight muscles lead to RSI.
- Plan a little before you set your timer. If you’re writing nonfiction, write a quick list outline. When writing fiction, write a one-sentence summary of what happens in the scene.
Alternatively, try free writing or free talking.
2. Before you sprint, try free writing or “free talking”
Try warming up before you sprint. I like free writing; it’s also is a timed writing exercise. With this strategy, you write spontaneously, whatever words come to mind, without editing for five, ten or 15 minutes. (More on this in the Easy-Write Process.)
“Free talking” is similar to free writing. You muse aloud about your topic (nonfiction) and scene or character (fiction.) Chat, using a voice recorder, for five or ten minutes.
Evernote is handy for storing your voice notes; you can record right within the app.
Like talking? Consider using an app like Otter to transcribe your voice notes.
3. Take a break between sprints, even if you don’t feel like it
Once you’re in the zone, you don’t want to stop writing. You need to get the words out. Tempting as it is to keep writing, stop for a break at least every half hour.
Not only will breaks keep you healthier, they help you to write for longer before you get too tired and your brain turns to mush.
4. Set word count goals for each sprint
Finally, once you’re used to sprinting, try setting a word count goal for each sprint. (Avoid setting word counts until you’re comfortable with sprints.)
Your goals, your choice. Let’s say that you’re comfortable writing 200 words in 15 minutes. Your goal: sprinting to write 200 words in ten minutes.
If you’re finding time management a challenge, even though you seem to have more time, please share tips you’ve found useful.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.