In a perfect world, you’d wake up in the early hours of the morning in your clean, well-lit apartment, a mild breeze blowing through the windows as your S.O. served up breakfast and you flipped through the notes from yesterday’s three-hour writing workshop.
You’d slide into your robe and sip tea as you contemplate the completion of another brilliant published piece, sighing a happy sigh of relief.
You’d water your plants (none of which are perishing because you’re a brilliant plant mom), meditate, take a walk to the coffee shop, and soak it all in for another hour before returning to your spotlessly clean desk to tap out another masterpiece.
*ahem* Oh, sorry—that’s just my perfect world.
Back to real life. You’re busy. Really busy.
You’ve got freelance projects to complete on deadline—and maybe you’re still in a full-time job! There’s a to-do list to handle, bills to pay, a body to keep in shape, pets and family members that are always hungry, friends who demand your presence at brunch, a messy kitchen counter, etc.
Everyone seems to be reeling in their own version of chaos these days.
Writing isn’t easy, and it gets harder when your schedule is chocked full of obligations. Sometimes it feels impossible to sit down and get some work done (let alone write for yourself).
Today we’re going to demystify a few ways super busy people get a ton of writing done, even when it feels impossible to stretch the clock any further.
I promise, you can do this! It just takes a fresh reality check, some planning, and perhaps a few apps.
Get honest with yourself
If you’re trying to become a full-time freelance writer but you’re currently doing the 9-5 (or just have a lot on your plate), you may only have a couple of hours to dedicate to writing each day.
If you try to cram in more than you have time for, discouragement and frustration will pounce.
Count up the hours you actually have and don’t forget to subtract ample time for your basic self-care routine, a decent meal, and quality time with the people—and things—you care about.
This will lessen your chances of burning out while creating a more realistic schedule.
Try this: Plan your week and get literal about how much time you have. Put it on paper (or on Google Calendar) so you don’t accidentally overestimate the hours at your disposal.
Not happy with the numbers? Try eliminating unfulfilling or unnecessary things from your week to increase writing time.
This is easier said than done, but keep things in perspective. If your priority is writing, you may need to sacrifice other activities to give yourself time to achieve your goals.
There’s an app for that
Are you wasting time on social media when you should be editing your client’s new landing page, sending our proposals, or working on your portfolio?
Most of us are guilty of this. It’s hard to keep your head straight when we’re living in the age of constant distraction.
There’s always a hit of instant gratification waiting somewhere in social media land—or a few minutes of mindless amusement to be had in one of the cute games on your phone.
If you want to check yourself, track your activity with RescueTime to get hyper-aware of your habits. Sometimes just knowing this little gadget is watching keeps me more focused.
There are more strict extensions that will block you from browsing the internet for up to eight hours at a time, and you can turn your computer into a writing machine with WriteRoom (Mac) or DarkRoom (Windows).
Try this: Download one of the apps or extensions above and work on a project you’ve been procrastinating on.
See how it removes the need for you to have all of the willpower! Sometimes it’s good to let tech do the heavy lifting.
Make writing irresistable
Some people have a harder time “tricking” themselves into being productive. I’m one of those people, actually. I find that creating an optimal writing environment is more helpful than any hacks or tricks when I need to prioritize writing.
There are a few ways I do this, from decluttering and surface-cleaning my desk to putting on some ambient music and lighting a favorite candle.
It might sound cheesy, but when I have these things in place, it’s far easier for my brain to slip into writer mode. Better ideas flow to me when I’m “in the zone”.
Timing also matters! I know I get more writing done at night and early in the morning than in the middle of the day, so I try to plan around that.
What can you do to create your own perfect writing zone? Maybe it’s about plants, fresh air, or the smell of coffee brewing? Specific music? A reward at the end of the project?
Try this: Create your ideal writing environment and see if you naturally make more time for writing. If you’re looking for a music recommendation, I highly recommend searching for lo-fi beats stations on YouTube.
Consider space, color, organization, music, aroma, and timing. All of these things can make a huge difference.
Get back in touch with your purpose
When life gets busy, sometimes we forget why we decided to challenge ourselves with writing goals in the first place. It helps to sit down and recall why writing is important to you, so you can justify finding more time for it.
Why are you writing? What are you trying to accomplish?
Are you writing blog posts to establish yourself in your niche and demand a higher rate for your work?
Are you honing your skills as a travel writer so you can see the world and share your unique point of view with others?
Are you writing marketing copy in order to promote brands and causes you believe in?
Whenever I feel “blah” about sitting down to write, I remember that I’ve chosen this path so I can have more freedom in my life. And I try to remember how blessed I am to be location-independent.
When you ask yourself “why”, try to go beyond “because I have to get this done” or “because I have to pay my rent” and get to the heart of why you’re writing in the first place.
Remembering your “why” can help bring you back to your center and get inspired again.
Try this: Write down the most immediate reason you’re writing this week.
Dive deeper into that answer to reveal the result of completing the task, and what that means to you in the long term.
Once you’ve got your “why”, pin it up on your wall in front of your desk so you can glance up at it anytime.
Use time hacks
As I mentioned above, this is not ideal for me, but I know writers who swear by these tactics to get stuff done.
The internet is overflowing with ideas on time management and “discovering” hidden time in your day. Here are a few to try:
Delegate. When you’re expending excessive energy on minutiae, it’s impossible to produce high-quality content. Do you really need to do everything yourself? Assign tasks to a virtual assistant or other writers and you’ll free up some time to focus.
Write a little each day. That novel might not get done if you try to write a chapter per week… but what if you instead focused on writing 500-1000 words each day? If that sounds like too much, just halve that. The trick is to do it each day so it becomes a habit.
Set alerts on your phone. When it’s writing time, it’s writing time. No excuses. Rig up alarms to sound off and keep you in check.
Try the Pomodoro technique. This division and hyper-utilizing of time are popular techniques with my biz mentors Jill & Josh. I’ve used this technique successfully as well, especially when I’m having trouble focusing.
Don’t waste a single minute. Commuting? Waiting for your food delivery or a friend who’s late for lunch? Bust out your phone or notebook and write! You can always type things properly later.
Finally, don’t forget that you’re human! You won’t always be motivated. There will be days where you just can’t find it in you to stare at the word processor or pick up a pen. Those days are okay—we all have them.
Sometimes you just have to step back, take a breath, and come back to the writing later. And you can always come back to this list again to experiment with new strategies.
Just don’t give up. Keep trying.
With a little practice and innovation, even the busiest among us can find ways to write more.
Did you try these tips for making more time to write? Got a tip to share? Drop a comment below and let’s talk about it.
You can also join the Freelance Writing Cafe Facebook group to continue the conversation about this and many other topics related to freelance writing success.