Most of my clients are successful mid-career people who work at a job that isn’t writing. So, when they decide to write a book, they’ve got to fit writing into an already overstuffed schedule. That calls for a special kind of time management.
The usual rules for time management still apply. What’s different is that authors should pay attention to three specific areas. They must decide when they will write, how long their writing sessions will be, and how often they will schedule them.
Decide when to write.
You probably already know if you’re a morning person, a night person, or some other kind of person. Writing is an intense mental activity. You will write better if you’re rested and at the peak of your powers.
So, schedule your writing sessions for the times when you’re at your best. Ignore the advice to get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later. That will only make you tired and make your writing worse.
Decide how long to write.
The general rule is to write in large blocks of time. But what exactly is large?
Ninety minutes seems to be about the maximum time that most people can work without losing concentration or having their energy flag. Most of my clients do their best work when they go for about 50 minutes and then take a break.
If this is your first book and you haven’t completed any large writing projects in the past, you may not be able to go that long. That’s when the Pomodoro technique can come to your rescue.
Some of my clients use a version of the Pomodoro technique. They set a timer and then write for 20 to 30 minutes, after which they take a break. That may be the best pattern for you, or it may be where you start to build up your capacity to write for longer stretches.
Decide how often to write.
Some folks think you should write every day. The reality is that your schedule may not make that possible. Assess your life and obligations. Then, decide how often to write.
Some of my clients write every day. Some also set aside one day a week for writing or a plan to write on the weekends. One of my clients gathered research and made notes and outlines for months, then rented a condominium and cranked out his full manuscript in a week. He followed that same practice for successive revisions.
If you write every day, schedule the time in advance. Try to make it the same time every day. If you’re not writing every day, make sure your designated writing days are on the calendar. Schedule them before you schedule other things.
You may not be able to write every day, but you should spend a little time on your project daily. That keeps your momentum going and lets you collect ideas and bits of research between writing sessions. This shouldn’t take a lot of time. Fifteen minutes will do it.
Choose to write at a time of day when you are at your best. Work for the largest amount of uninterrupted time you can manage. Let the obligations of your life determine how often you write.
The trick is to find out what works best for you. When it comes to writing a book, there are many right answers about how to get it done.