How to Maximize Your Writing Time Like a Pro (tips + tricks for every writer)
“Ugh, another post about time management.”
I know. I get it. No matter where you look, you're bound to find a blog post, video, ebook, etc. that's all too eager to sell you the NUMBER ONE TIME TIP THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOREVER. You know, the tip that will magically give you more hours in the day, make you more motivated, and turn you into a writing machine.
I don’t have that tip, but mostly because that tip doesn’t exist. I’ve certainly been a proponent of certain time-saving and time-maximizing tips in the past (Have I told you how much I love my daily writing routine?), but let’s get this straight: there is no magical time-saving tip that will work for every human being.
Time is constant. Life is not.
Our lives are ever changing, and we're all different anyhow. That means certain tips, techniques, and tutorials are going to work brilliantly for some people while dragging others down.
That’s why this post is not going to try to convince you of some perfect ~magical~ technique for making the most of your time. I do, however, believe that recognizing, managing, and maximizing your time as a writer is possible, which is exactly what this post is all about.
So if you’re at all frustrated with the productivity and efficiency of your writing sessions or the progress you're making towards your writing dreams, this is the post for you.
How are we gonna work this?
I’m breaking down various tips and techniques by level of experience, meaning I have advice to offer beginner, amateur, and professional writers. You can read through them all or scroll down to the section that best fits your current status. The choice is up to you!
But don’t forget to also visit the bottom of our post, where I’m sharing a few broad but important tips for maximizing your writing time that apply to writers of all degrees. Sound like a plan? Let's go!
Beginners: Making a commitment to your writing life.
Are you new to writing? Or maybe you’re jumping back into the writing game after years of sitting on the sidelines? No worries. Here are some pretty universal tips for helping you find the time to write–and write well.
(P.S. They work to your best advantage if you follow them in order. Cool?)
1. Make Writing A Priority. Nobody likes the word “priority”. It’s directly tied to “responsibility” and “work”, which are two things most of us try to avoid heaping onto our already-busy lifestyles.
So instead, let me rephrase this step and say that it's time to make writing a passion.
People give time to the things they’re passionate about. Those things are important to them. So even if it means sacrificing some of their other interests, writers make the time to write...even when they don’t necessarily feel like it.
Creators become better creators by creating, and creating takes time. So your first step towards maximizing your writing time is to ask yourself if you’re willing to make the time to make it happen.
2. Discover Your Process. Not all writers work according to the same process. Some advice articles will tell you to sneak in writing time whenever you can find the chance, but short bursts of writing energy don’t always work for everyone.
That’s why you need to find YOUR creative process.
Can you write here or there, or do you need to carve out longer blocks of time in order to find a groove? Can you write in any setting–regardless of your surroundings–or is there a certain place that you like to call your writing home?
When does your creative energy peak throughout the day? Do you like to listen to anything while you write? What inspires and motivates you to get work done?
Consider all of these things as you work to find your creative process, and don’t be afraid to explore as many different circumstances and scenarios as you can. It’s in exploring that you make discoveries, right?
3. Find Your Routine. Once you’ve discovered your process, it’s time to find your routine. What's the difference, you ask? Discovering your creative process is like uncovering a hidden talent. The journey doesn’t stop with knowing that your talent exists. In fact, your journey has only just begun!
So now’s the time to take your creative process and figure out how to harness it to your best ability.
What does that look like? Well, I recommend checking out this blog post I wrote waaay back in the day. It’ll help you further discover your process and create a writing routine that will leave you feeling free!
4. Identify and Break Down Your Goals. Once you’ve figured out your creative process and routine, it’s time to think about what you want from your writing life. Do you want to write for fun? Do you hope to publish someday? Do want to forge a living from your work?
I know it’s tempting to dream big right off the bat (and you should give it some thought), but as a new writer, it’s more helpful to narrow your focus to the coming year.
Start by asking yourself where you want to be in 12 months. Do you want to have a first draft written? Or spend a lot of time learning about your craft? Or maybe you want to brush up on your skills before actually diving into a full-length novel project?
Identify exactly what it is you want from your next year in writing, then break that goal down into a few big steps you can take to reach it. Then take those big steps and break them down again and again until you have a list of daily or weekly actions you can take to work towards achieving your one-year goal.
I know it's a lot to think about, but learning how to build an action plan for success is what will help you achieve your writing dreams and make the most of each and every one of your writing sessions.
Amateurs: Learning to Write With Purpose & Precision.
Are you in the middle of your writing journey? Maybe you’re preparing to publish your first novel or you’re looking to make a career out of your writing? If that’s the case, here are a few universal step-by-step tips you can use to help make the most of this crazy time in your writing life.
1. Back to Basics. Before you can up your writing game, you need to make sure you’ve laid a strong foundation. What does that look like?
I recommend popping back up to the beginners section of this post and working through those tips. If you can proudly say that you've already made writing a priority in your life, that you know your creative process and have a routine that works for you, and that you have solid goals you chase down every day, you’re good to move on to step two. Way to go, champ!
But if you can't say yes to all of those things, take the time to go back to the basics. Hash out your routine. Recommit to your passion for writing. Figure out what you want from your writing life. Because without a strong foundation, you’re never going to see your writing dreams come true. You’ll crumble before you get there.
2. Write with Purpose. If you’re keeping a writing routine but you often find yourself procrastinating or floundering about in your writing sessions, you have a problem on your hands.
No worries, though. It’s an easy problem to fix. You’re simply lacking a bit of purpose.
When you sit down to write, you need to understand why you’re sitting down to write. I’m not just talking about remembering your passion or knowing that you want to finish your draft by a certain deadline. I’m talking about having a specific purpose laid out for your writing session.
For example, your session purpose might be to finish up chapter 12, in which x, y, and z happens.
The more you know what and why you’re about to write, the easier it will be to truly maximize your writing time. Remember, purpose breeds progress. So before each session, ask yourself what you're planning to accomplish. It can truly help you stay focused as you write.
3. Writing vs. Writing Well. You can write a thousand words in a session, but if you don’t write them with intention, they won’t be worth a dime. What do I mean? I'm talking about purposeless progress.
As writers, we sometimes get so wrapped up in our self-imposed goals and deadlines that we write and write and write, even when we know that the work we’re creating isn’t quality.
Just this July I set the goal to draft 40,000 words for my new novel project. About 13,000 words in, I realized that I just didn’t know my protagonist very well, and as a result, my work wasn't ringing true.
I could easily have decided to keep pushing for my goal, but instead I took a step back. I took a little over a week to get to know my protagonist better, even though it meant pushing back my project goal, because I knew that if I kept writing I was only going to produce more work for myself during edits, and that's no fun.
So know your work, and don’t write without purpose. You can still set goals and deadlines, but don’t let them dictate the quality of your progress. Write well, and your writing sessions will always be more productive.
4. Create a Drafting Cycle. One of my favorite ways to maximize your time on a larger scale is to create a drafting cycle. I actually have a full-length breakdown of drafting cycles in this post, but here’s a quick rundown:
You probably know that it’s good to take a few weeks or months off from working on your novel in between each draft in order to gain a little perspective. So what should you do with your time during those breaks? You have two options.
First, you can use that time to read extra books, catch up on your favorite writing blogs, and practice writing techniques via prompts or flash fiction. Or, you can use that time to dig into a draft of a different writing project.
When you finish your second project's draft, you can go back and work on the next draft of your first project. Continue switching between the two until you've finished a manuscript, then add a new project to the mix. And voila! You have yourself your very own drafting cycle. Look at you go!
5. Recognize the Signs of Burnout. Nothing will kill the quality of your work and your writing efficiency faster than writing burnout.
Burnout usually begins as doubt, fear, or stress, or a combination of all three. The longer you let these elements wreak havoc on your writing life, the more and more likely it is that your daily writing sessions will begin to feel like a chore–or even a source of overwhelm and shame–rather than the joy they should be.
When this happens, you’ve become burned out. Which means it’s time to take a writing vacation and focus on overcoming your doubts and fears and restoring your creative passion.
If you don’t, you may lose interest in your writing forever–which is obviously no good.
So take care of yourself. Nurture your creative spirit and mend your little writer’s heart. Learn to recognize the signs of burnout before they progress, and you’ll do a better job of staying on top of your writing game.
Professionals: Make the most of your writing career.
Hey, you! Have you already published a book? Is it making you some sort of income? Are you actually J.K. Rowling in disguise? Congratulations on your success!
But just because you’ve published doesn’t mean you’re immune to writing troubles–especially when it comes to managing your time. Because Lord knows you only get MORE responsibility when you become a published author, right? (Looking at you, marketing!)
So let’s hop to it with these tips, shall we?
1. Prioritize and Batch. Okay, let’s talk about those 27,000 things you have to juggle now that you’re a published author. Signing books? Check. Promoting your books on social media? Check. Emailing your blog subscribers? Check. Rocking that author website? Check. Doing some in-person marketing? Check. Answering emails/fan mail? Check.
Oh, and let’s not forget ACTUALLY WRITING THE NEXT BOOK. Ch-ch-check.
There’s no doubt that being a published author is tough stuff. You have a million different jobs to do and all of them seem pretty darn important. So where do you start? How do you juggle it all? How do you feel like you aren’t flailing your arms and wishing there were twelve extra hours in the day?
Ah, there’s that word again. But when you have so much on your plate, you have to prioritize and batch if you want to make the most of your time. What does that look like?
First, write down a list of all of the weekly tasks you need to complete. Then, begin to list out these things by order of importance. Obviously, writing and editing come first. But when it comes to marketing, think about which promotion streams you prefer and where your audience hangs out. Also consider which tasks take the longest or are most pressing.
Once you have your list, it’s time to batch. So instead of answering social media notifications as a means of procrastinating your writing, schedule out 10 or 15 minutes to do it twice a day. You can do the same with other tasks, too.
Are you writing full-time? I suggest splitting up your work days into two halves. Use one half to work steady on your manuscript, then assign a specific task to the other half–a different task for each day of the week.
So for example, you might write from 10am - 2pm every day, then use 3pm - 6pm to schedule social media posts on Mondays, write a new blog post on Tuesdays, send a new newsletter to your email list on Wednesdays, and so on.
I use this prioritize-and-batch system to help me juggle all of my work for She’s Novel, and it works like a dream. And while this process may not work for everyone, it is super customizable, so feel free to tweak it according to your schedule and needs.
2. Reassess Your Writing Life. If figuring out a work balance doesn’t seem to help you do a better job of managing your time, you likely have a deeper problem. I recommend scrolling back through the tips and tricks in the two previous sections of this post to see where you might be struggling.
Has your weekly schedule shifted and thrown off your routine? Have you lost sight of your priorities? Is your drafting cycle all out of whack or are you trading quality for productivity?
There’s no shame in looking back. Every foundation needs to be shored up now and again. So go give those tips and tricks a look!
3. Create New Goals. Chances are that becoming a published author was your goal for years and years, but now you’ve done it. You’re published. You’ve achieved your dream. So what comes next? That’s up to you!
Life doesn’t stop the moment you get published, so don’t stop dreaming now. It’s time to strive for new heights and reach for new goals. So what is it you want to do? Do you want to win an award? Do you want to write a book series? Do you want to hit a certain number of sales?
Maybe you want to land a bigger book deal or get your book translated into other languages or try out a new genre? The choice is up to you.
You have a whole world of dreams just sitting at your feet, so take the first step. Learning to strive for bigger and better heights is what will keep you inspired and motivated during your writing sessions, so hop to it!
4. Put Passion First. If you no longer enjoy working on your novels or your writing sessions seem fruitless, you might feel a bit lost. And usually, this feeling stems from expectation.
You have thousands of adoring readers. They love your books, and they grovel for the chance to meet you. So naturally, you feel beholden to them for your success. You want to give them want they want, but your passion for writing is just gone.
Let’s get something straight: You do not owe your readers anything.
I know that’s a scary statement, but hear me out...
Writing is deeply personal. It’s you–your thoughts, your voice, your soul–laid out on the page for the whole world to see. And that should leave you feeling vulnerable and humbled and grateful, especially if sharing your soul has gained you a number of passionate fans.
But no matter how successful you are as a writer, you are not a publicly-traded company. Your readers do not own a piece of your creative output. When they purchase a copy of your latest book, they do not also buy stock in you and your success.
They do not own a piece of your soul.
So please, be 100% grateful for your readers. They are absolutely amazing people who love and support you, but don't forget that if you don’t write first and foremost for the simple love of writing, you are sharing a false voice with your readers.
You are, in essence, betraying them. Even if they enjoy the final product.
Besides, your true fans–the ones who admire your work and want you to continue writing stories that you are passionate about–will respect your decision if you choose to take your writing in a new direction.
So if you’re not maximizing your writing time because you hate what you’re writing, STOP.
Stop writing stories you despise. Stop trudging through the muck for your readers. Stop wasting your talent on dishonest stories. Try out that new genre instead, or start writing that epic poem. Begin dabbling in children’s lit or sappy vampire romances or motivational how-to’s or whatever the heck it is YOU are passionate about.
Because you can manage your schedule like clockwork, but if you aren’t writing for the simple love of writing, you are wasting your time. And one day you will regret it, no matter how big your success or how ardent your readership.
Hello, writers all! No matter where you are in your writing journey, I have a few universal tips and tricks to help you manage your time like a boss. Check 'em out:
1. Be Self-Aware. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of your goals and routines. A missed day of writing becomes a week. A week off becomes a month. The months bleed into one another and before you know it, a year's passed and you’ve hardly written a word.
It can happen so quickly, which is exactly why periodic writing check-ups are so important.
Just like you would check up with your doctor to make sure you’re still healthy and strong, scheduling a few writing check-ups into your weekly or monthly calendar will help you stay self-aware and on top of those goals and routines you’ve set to help you rock your writing. So go pencil them in!
2. Don’t Flounder. It’s easy to put off making a plan, especially when you are soooo not the planner type. I won’t pretend to be that person (I’ll take all the pretty planners I can get!), but I can say this: even a little planning can go a loooong way.
I’ve seen far too many writers floundering about in their writing lives, trying to make things happen without having any sort of structure or plan in place to help them succeed. You know what happens to 99% of those people? They never finish their first draft, let alone achieve their writing dream.
Please, don’t be that person. Choose just ONE of the tips from today’s post and put it into place. Master it. Become a ninja. Learn what it means to manage your writing time well, and if you feel comfortable, come back for more.
But promise me that you won’t just stand there while your dreams pass you by. Okay?
3. Make Your Plans Manifest. Just this morning, I was feeling pretty crappy about myself. There wasn’t anything wrong necessarily, I was just feeling entirely unmotivated. So what did I do? Like a nerd, I looked myself in the mirror and said, “Come on, Kristen. Get your crap together. You’ve got amazing work to do today.”
And you know what? It worked!
Those three simple sentences challenged me to be better and work harder, and boy do I love a good challenge. So what’s my point here? When you make your thoughts manifest–when you give them some sort of physical form or voice–you’re far more likely to actually put them into action.
That’s exactly why keeping a planner is so important to me. I use my planner religiously, writing down daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals to help me work towards achieving my dreams.
By making my action steps manifest by writing them down in my planner, I motivate myself to actually get them done. I begin to view them as priorities in my life, and remember what I said earlier? Purpose breeds progress.
Which leads me write into some exciting news I'd like to share...
If you’ve been a long-time She’s Novel fan, I'd first like to say thank you. You rock my world. Truly!
But secondly, you might remember that last August I launched a daily planner that I designed specifically with authors in mind. Since that time, I’ve gained a lot of valuable insight on how writers are using the planner, so I thought there was no better way to celebrate the planner's anniversary then to create a brand new second edition.
So, friends. Today I am SO excited to introduce you to the newly re-designed The Novel Planner. I've been keeping the update secret for about a month now, and it’s been absolutely killing me not to tell you about it, but I wanted it to be a surprise!
Are you as excited as I am?!
I won't launch into complete planner-breakdown craziness here, but I will tell you that The Novel Planner has been completely redesigned with a cleaner, sleeker look and a more effective set-up. I've also created two new versions of the cover, because who doesn't like pretty options–am I right?
If you're interested in manifesting your plans and maximizing your time, The Novel Planner is an excellent tool to help you make it happen. You can now get a printed version of the planner with either a dark grey or bright blue cover or you can pick up the PDF printable version with both cover options!
Simply use the links below to learn more and grab your copy today!
Hollaaaa! I hope you’ve enjoyed this time management breakdown, friends. If you have any other super awesome tips to share, I’d love to hear ‘em. Come on, spill your ninja-skill secrets in the comments below! You know you want to. *nudge nudge*
Okay, no pressure. I’ll see you next time, friends. Now go write your fingers off!