How I free up my Time to Write

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I’m not one of those writers you admire who determinedly sits down in front of their desks every day and writes for hours on end. My writing happens in spurts and waves and usually involves me clearing some of my busy schedule out so I can devote some to write. And if you’re someone like that, then perhaps this article can help you.

I own two and half a businesses, so a lot of my time is spent on various business activities I need to perform in order for those businesses to be successful. Additionally I’m married, with kids, which means some of my time goes toward those special people in my life and I’m part of an active spiritual community as well. Ironically writing is part of all of my businesses, but finding time to do the writing isn’t as simple as sitting down in front of the desk at a given time and writing.

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I need to balance my writing with the other activities and obligations in my life, and while the writing plays an important role in my businesses and in how I get in front of my ideal clients, if I were to only do writing, I wouldn’t be serving my clients.

The thing is…I love to write.

When I write and the words flow smoothly, it feels like every hair is standing on end on my body, every moment is intimately experienced and transmitted into the writing. And on the days I struggle with writing, where I’m sweating over every word and feeling frustration because it just won’t come easily, when I finish writing, it’s a triumph, because I have written something, because I didn’t give up writing, and because I know I’m going to come back and do it again.

But to reach those moments when I can just write, without focusing on anything or anyone else, involves clearing out the work that will otherwise be on my mind. I’m not going to change my schedule with my family or community because they enrich my life and inspire so much of the writing I do. So the only option is to clear the work away.

I decided, at the beginning of August, that I wanted to finish writing the current non-fiction book I’m working on. I just wanted to have time to sit down and bang the chapters out on my keyboard. Yet to have the luxury of that time I needed to come up with a plan, where I could clear away everything else and just write. So here’s my process for doing that:

1. List everything you need to work on, in order to clear your schedule. I recommend doing this on a white board, so you don’t lose it, but if, unlike me, you love your technology, you might look into Trello instead. When I list everything I need to work on, I also list the current step in the work that needs to be done. I don’t list anything else other than that step, because while I want to get clarity on what needs to be done, I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too much information.

Courtesy of Giphy

2. Work the list until the list is done. With everything listed, I can get started working. I’ll usually focus on the easy work first and just get it cleared away. It may or may not be high priority, but the whole point of this approach isn’t to necessarily prioritize the work. I just want it done and out of my way. Working on the easier work helps me build momentum, so that when I get to the harder tasks. I can just keep rolling and get them finished. If I have projects with multiple steps, I’ll evaluate how important the next step is to the work. Can it be put off until after I write or do I need to get it done now? If I can put it off, then I’ll create a separate column for that work and box it off from the rest. If it can’t be put off, then the previous step is erased and the next step is added to the list and it’s worked.

3. Recognize some activities can’t be put off. I hate to write it, but there are some activities that simply can’t be put off, not matter how much you want to. I have some activities schedule throughout the week and they are purposely scheduled on specific days because that’s the best time to do those activities. What I do with those activities is arrange to get them out of the way at the beginning of my work day. They get done and then I get back to the writing.

4. Turn off your phone notifications and internet. When I want to write, the last thing I need are distractions, so I’ll turn my phone notifications and internet off. I only turn them on if I give myself a break (which I do on the days I struggle with writing). By reducing the possible distractions that can get in my way, I can then focus on the writing and give it my undivided attention. I’ve put all this effort into freeing up my schedule, so I want to limit anything else that can mess up my writing time.

5. Pick some music to write to (optional) and then write! I don’t know about you, but I find I write better, when I have music on. The music blocks out potential distractions and keeps the ol’ monkey mind engaged so I can focus my thoughts and write. I recommend picking music that doesn’t distract you. In my case, that’s mostly jazz or techno with little to no words. I want the only words I hear or read to be the ones I’m crafting into writing.

Now I’m self-employed so that helps because I have more control over my schedule than someone working at a job, but when I used to work for other people I still did a variation on this process. When I came home from work I would meditate to help me clear out the thoughts and issues of the day. I would also devote specific days to business activities to get those activities cleared out and then once the work for the businesses was done, I’d block the next few evenings to write until I couldn’t think straight. It helped a lot.

What are your strategies for clearing your schedule so you can write, paint, or do other creative work?

Taylor Ellwood is the mad scientist and magical experimenter of Magical Experiments, and the business wizard for eccentric entrepreneurs at Imagine Your Reality. When he’s not working on his latest writing or running his businesses, Taylor enjoys the Pacific Northwest with his family.

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