Ok, so we have a plan for how to get all of this done. Simple steps for executing them, right? Sure. But actually finding the time to sit down and blast out a bunch of words? Who has the time?
We make time.
Set aside specific chunks of time to work on writing. Make it a priority. For example, my wife and I try and have a date night every week. We make it a priority to set aside one evening that we dedicate to only each other. Do the same for your writing. Set aside a specific evening or chunk of time to do nothing but writing. If you live with others, such as family or roommates, let them know about your writing schedule ahead of time so they can schedule around it as well. Just… good luck scheduling it around your pets. (Meow!)
When writing, turn off any other distractions. I’ll often keep my web browser closed and phone far away from me. Sometimes I open an incognito tab for research and looking up rules, but I don’t give myself any access to social media, email, or my phone. This helps to minimize your distractions so you can really focus on writing.
The sounds of the cats running around the apartment or my wife in the other room will distract me. I like to listen to non-lyrical music or even just white noise to block out any other distractions in the apartment. For music I have a playlist of nothing but video game and fantasy movie tracks with no lyrics whatsoever. This helps me get into a writing mood and drowns out other sounds. At times I need to remain hyper focused and not get distracted by my favorite Chrono Trigger track, so I’ll listen to just the sound of a storm on ambient-mixer.com. When I’ve got nothing but rain and thunder in my ears, the rest of the world vanishes and I’m left only with my work.
If you’ve been working for a while and start to feel like you’re slowing down, take a break. Give your brain a chance to relax for a moment while you get a drink of water, check on your loved ones, and reply to that text that’s been waiting for you. This gives you a chance to renew your energy before you get back to writing. If you’re on a roll, then skip the break and just type typing, but often a short 5-10 minute break will help relax your mind and allow you to be more productive overall.
My wife uses the Pomodoro Technique to remind her to take breaks when she’s writing, and it’s improved her productivity by at least double. The basics are you write for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break; after doing this 4 times, you take a 30 minute break. By knowing the break is coming, even subconsciously, you will be less distracted about checking your phone because you know it won’t be long until you can check it again. There are apps that will set the timers for you so you don’t have to keep going back and doing it yourself. I use a similar technique on the weekends, but I use laundry cycles. I write for the length of a load of laundry, then I get up to switch it and get a drink before I go back to writing. It helps keep me productive and I’ve got clean clothes!
Maximize Your Time
You can always find little times to write less intensive or time-consuming stuff. At my day-job I use my lunch breaks to create NPCs, build monsters, and research information I need to keep my work authentic. Need to know about archaeology in below zero temperatures? Research it while eating lunch. Need to build the best swashbuckler ever? Research builds while finishing your sandwich. By doing this I can get little components done here and there, then put them all together during a writing session. I’ve wanted to maximize my time working during lunch, and the best way to do that is to pack a lunch instead of going out and buying it. Not only am I more productive, but I save a few bucks by packing a lunch.
You can maximize other time in your life as well. If you’re on the elliptical or taking a jog, bring along something to do voice recording with. When you come up with an idea for your adventure, record a bit of it. When you’re done, you might have a few minutes of out-of-breath ideas to spur on your writing. Depending on where else you have a few minutes, you might also find those little palm sized notebooks useful for jotting down an idea or two.
What other ways can you think of to become more efficient? Feel free to share them below.