Lesson 4

Scheduling and routines are sexy – no really!

Zadie Smith - protect your time quote

You’re desperate to write, but your life is crammed full of things you want to do – plus a bunch of tedious tasks you have to do. So how do you find the time and what else is going to give? According to science, the answer is to plan your writing time and make it a non-negotiable fixture in your diary – it’s only then that you’ll start to write unthinkingly.

One of the most soul-destroying parts of the writing process is having to spend time every day trying to find the time to write. Routines and schedules are hugely important in the creative process because they help you do things on autopilot – so you don’t have to try so hard. Although we admit 'have a schedule' isn't the sexiest creative advice ever doled out, research tells us that they work and that many of the most productive creatives are also the most regimented and rigorous in their behaviors.

ACTION: Use our traffic light scheduling technique

When you’re scheduling, it’s just as important to find out the times you can’t write as those you can. So, we've come up with a simple traffic light technique to help you identify the best (and worst) times to write.

  1. Go through your diary and work out which periods of time in your week are totally out of bounds for writing. These are your red times, and they could be times when you’re at work or college or times you might have to do all the childcare. Now, forget about these times. Don’t even try to write in them until their status changes.

  2. Next, look at the times in your week which are possible writing times. These are your amber times. You might have a few distractions during these time slots, or you might be little tired, but there’s probably something you can do in those times – like editing, research, plotting or character development. Think about what you can do in these times.

  3. Lastly, find your green times. These are your go-for-your-life no-holds-barred writing times – times in your week which are clear for writing and that you can always commit to.  Crucially, though, don’t keep your green times secret. Tell family and friends that green times are writing times – help them to understand that these times are precious to you and need to be respected. No interruptions!

So there we go – scheduling and planning can be sexy! (honest) You just need to find the good, bad and possible writing times and make sure other people know your writing time is precious.

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