Taking a book from an idea to a finished tome can take years, and finding the time to regularly work on said book can be just as hard as getting those sentences right.
That’s when having a writing routine is your best bet, and finding one that works for you is invaluable.
I like to use routines because if I know what I need to do; I actually do it. I understand, however, that routines don’t work for everyone. Seeing your tasks laid out in black and white can be overwhelming, and the pressure to stick to the routine can cause anxiety. To counteract this, I find it’s best to keep any writing routine as simple as possible.
For the past few years, a writing routine that’s worked for me is splitting my book writing and blog writing into separate weeks. I call the first week Writing Week (real creative, right?) and the second, Authoring Week.
During my Writing Week, I’ll spend whatever creative time I have writing current works in progress. On the Authoring Week, I’ll write blogs and focus more on other authoring tasks (making graphics for social media, writing and posting book reviews, updating sales and royalty spreadsheets, etc.)
It does work, but I also found that I wasn’t making as much progress as I wanted on my MS, and spending more time than I should on necessary but time-stealing Authoring tasks, leading to writer guilt.
This prompted me to think hard about what tasks I needed to be spending most of any precious creative time on, and setting a limit/deadline for working on those tasks by using time blocking.
Time Blocking Your Writing Routine
Time blocking involves splitting the day’s tasks up into blocks of time where you will work on just one task, and that task only, for the allotted time.
It’s much easier to get a task done when you only have an hour to do it as opposed to “getting to it” during your day. I found that by not having that task allocated to a time block, I was just pushing it further back in my day, and then not getting it done at all.
Another reason to stick to allocated times is because of all the productivity you lose. How many times have you written a blog paragraph or finished a scene in your WIP and then stopped to check Instagram? Suddenly, it’s been half an hour and you’ve lost your momentum and that post that could have been finished by now is only half done.
If that sounds familiar and you want to break the habit of stop/start-ing your tasks and just get things done, this is how you can add time blocking to your writing routine.
How It Works:
Choose Your Tasks
I try to stick to a maximum of four tasks so I don’t get overwhelmed, but you could have more or less, depending on what they are and the time you have to complete the tasks.
To give you an idea, my main four tasks are:
- Social Media.
Depending on the week…
READING is the books I read to review for my monthly Blog Roundup.
SOCIAL MEDIA includes checking/reading Twitter, Insta, Facebook, and WordPress, leaving comments, scheduling posts, updating Pinterest, answering messages/DMs, etc.
Those are my current tasks, but in the past, as it might be for you depending on where you are in your writing journey, I’ve also worked on things like crafting query letters, researching agents/publishers, submissions, beta reading, etc.
Now, before you think these four simple tasks look too overwhelming, I don’t do every one of these tasks each day.
For example, I only answer emails and messages if they’re sent to me, which isn’t all the time. I only update sales/royalty spreadsheets once a month and only if I have something to update (most months I don’t), and some social media accounts (like Pinterest), I update once a week or only look at every few days (I.e. Facebook because I loathe the way their business suite functions).
As long as I get something done in each of these task areas a day, I stay on top of my writing and authoring goals.
Choose Your Type Of Time Blocking
This will be completely unique to you, and the time you have to work on your tasks. It might only be on a Sunday morning, your one day off during the week, a little every day, during your 45-minute train ride to work, or your lunch hour.
You can also time block multiple hours out of your day in either consecutive hours, such as 10 am—2 pm, or different blocks of hours, such as an hour in the morning before work, and two hours at night.
Once you have your times, work out your blocking type.
Set Length Of Time
You could go as simple as an hour for each task.
- Writing x 1 hour.
- Reading x 1 hour.
- Social Media x 1 hour.
- Authoring x 1 hour.
If you only have 1 hour, then you can split your tasks up evenly into minute blocks.
- Writing x 15 minutes.
- Reading x 15 minutes
- Social Media x 15 minutes.
- Authoring x 15 minutes.
If you think that’s not enough to get anything meaningful done, you’d be surprised how many words you can write, pages you can read, and quick authoring tasks you can achieve in as little as 15 minutes. That hard time limit also forces you to stay on task because you have little time to get things done.
You could also time block your priorities and give more time to writing and less to social media if that’s what suits you. I also recommend using a timer set to your time block time so that you stay on track with each task.
Set Times Of Day
When I have a whole day to write, this is the type of time-blocking routine I go with.
- 6 am – 6:15 am – Social Media (as much as I don’t want to start my day off by looking at SM, this is when I check in with the #6amAusWriters on Twitter, and post or confirm that my daily SM post has shown up on Insta, Facebook, and Twitter).
- 6:15 am – 7 am – Writing.
- 9 am – 12 pm – Writing.
- 1 pm – 1:45 pm – Social Media (reading blogs, SM feeds, replying to comments, sharing posts, etc).
- 1:45 pm – 2:20 pm – Authoring (If I don’t have any or a lot of authoring to do, I’ll write some more).
- 2:20 pm – 3:20 pm – Reading.
It works well with my current circumstances, but full disclosure, not once since I’ve been using this routine have I used that sweet 3-hour block of time between 9 am and 12 pm to just write. Things come up, and sometimes I’m lucky to get half an hour to an hour of writing done during that block.
If I can stick to these times and the tasks as much as possible, however, I consider it a successful day of progress in all areas. It also means I’m able to get non-writing responsibilities (exercise, errands, groceries, school runs, appointments) completed in between and after these time-blocking hours.
So, to sum up:
- Pick a writing/authoring task.
- Decide on a time block of how long you have to work on said task.
- Work on that task, and only that task, during your allocated time block.
The basics are that simple. It might be an adjustment at first, but the beauty of this writing routine is that you can select a few priority tasks and commit to focusing on each task for as little or as long as you can. The allocated part of time blocking also works as a mini deadline, which is sometimes all the motivation you might need to get a new scene written.
Try it if you think it’ll work for you, and you could have that book written in… years. It’ll still take years because that’s the nature of book writing, but hopefully, the hours spent will be productive, full of less writer guilt, and help you make the most of the time you have to craft your words.
— K.M. Allan