Forming a Routine in 2014

The goal of forming a routine is to better utilize your time to write the most books possible in the year.  To do this, you will need a lot of discipline.  Yes, it takes a lot of discipline to stick to a routine, and there will be times when you don’t feel like doing it.  But if you keep at it, it gets easier.

This post will (hopefully) give you useful ideas on how to get the most out of your writing time by following these steps…

1.  Find out what you’re doing with your time

My suggestion is to find out what you’re doing during your week.  List out all the days of the week.  Then break up each day into 15 or 30 minute blocks.  Now keep track of everything you do for each 15 minute segment.  Work, watching TV, cooking, cleaning, etc.  Once the week is finished, take a look at the time when you didn’t do anything necessary.  You will probably find some 15 minute blocks where you could write instead.

Here’s a sample of a Monday to demonstrate my point  (note for the longer times when I’m doing the same activity, I use longer blocks of time):

  • 7-7:15: keep hitting snooze on the alarm
  • 7:15-7:30: take a shower
  • 7:30-7:45: get dressed, fix hair
  • 7:45-8:00: eat breakfast
  • 8:00-8:30: drive to work
  • 8:30-12:30: work
  • 12:30-1:00: lunch break (half of this time was fiddling around with Facebook and looking at cute cat pictures)
  • 1:00-3:00: work
  • 3:00-3:15: break (looked up yahoo news stories)
  • 3:15-6:00: work
  • 6:00-6:30: drive home
  • 6:30-7:00: make dinner
  • 7:00-7:15: eat dinner
  • 7:15-7:30: clean up, feed the cat, empty the litter box, take out trash
  • 7:30-8:30: wind down and watch TV
  • 8:30-8:45: check emails, get caught up looking at a you tube video someone sent that had to do with a funny commercial
  • 8:45-9:00: grab some tea, realize the counters are a mess and tidy up the kitchen
  • 9:00-9:15: answer an email that came in at 8:56
  • 9:15-9:30: pull up the current work in progress and read back a few pages to remind myself what is going on in the story
  • 9:30-9:45: write 100 words and realize, “I am exhausted”
  • 9:45: decide to close down the computer
  • 9:45-10:00: brush teeth and get ready for bed
  • 10-10:30: do some reading
  • 10:30: to to sleep

I’m hoping that you’ve spotted some “wasted time” moments in this day.  And you’ve probably noticed that this person is single with no kids.  But it really doesn’t matter if you’re married/divorced/have kids/whatever.  There are always blocks of time you can move things around or write.

So taking the above sample, here’s a possible way to find a better use of that time:

  • 7:00-7:15: get up and take a shower (no more hitting that snooze button)
  • 7:15-7:30: get dressed, fix hair
  • 7:30-7:45: eat breakfast
  • 7:45-8:00: answer emails (stop at 8:00)
  • 8:00-8:30: drive to work
  • 8:30-12:30: work
  • 12:30-1:00: lunch break (half of this time is spent answering more emails)
  • 1:00-3:00: work
  • 3:00-3:15: break (spend time on Facebook social networking; if you alternate days between Facebook and Twitter, this can help knock out all your social networking goals if you designated 3 times a week for Facebook and 2 times a week for Twitter; or you can do this in another social networking site; your choice)
  • 3:15-6:00: work
  • 6:00-6:30: drive home
  • 6:30-7:00: make dinner
  • 7:00-7:15: eat dinner
  • 7:15-7:30: clean up, feed the cat, empty the litter box, take out trash
  • 7:30-7:45: open your work in progress, read over the notes you made from last time you were writing, do a free writing exercise if you need it to warm up to writing; DO NOT go on the Internet)
  • 7:45-8:45: write
  • 8:45-9:00: check emails and answer any or answer blog posts or friends’ blog posts
  • 9:00-9:15: make tea, get ready for bed
  • 9:15-10:30: read or watch TV to relax
  • go to sleep

All that’s really happened is that you got up earlier so you could clean out some of your inbox, used the breaks during work for marketing, and made writing the priority in the evening.  Writing is better if it comes before things like Watching TV, reading, or even talking to someone on the phone.  If you write first, you will be a lot more relaxed to enjoy the non-writing activities.

2. Keep to the routine despite the distractions.

The above sample looks easy to someone like me who has four kids and a husband.  Granted, when you have other people living with you, it is harder to find time to write.  But it’s not impossible.  You can write in a 15 minute block if you need to.  That is what I’ve been doing since 2007.  Until all of my kids were in school, I wrote even at 5 or 10 minutes at a time.  On weekends or summer vacation, it’s the same thing.  I revert back to that old routine.

So how does the hectic person write in 5 or 10 minute blocks?  The key is to always be thinking of the story so you can come back to the computer and pick up where you left off.  That’s why I love laptops.  You can carry it with you to another room and finish your sentence or mark down a note to remind yourself where you were going in the scene.  There are times when my kids are fighting and someone cries.  I carry my laptop upstairs and see what’s going on.  Then I write down my sentence and then referee the whole fight with the kids.  (This happens a lot in my house.)  After a while, you learn to work around the distractions.

Another thing that helps is to put boundaries down with your loved ones.  (This works better when they are grown up.)  It’s important to have time for your loved ones, but you need to have the time scheduled.  For example, on Saturday from 12-3pm, the family will go out somewhere to enjoy the day.  When you come home, everyone does their own thing and you write for an hour before making dinner.

Naturally, if an emergency comes up, you drop your writing to deal with it.  But if someone just wants to go out to lunch or chat or show you something they found on the internet, you will have to kindly tell them you’re working but can call them, email them, or chat with them at 3pm later that day.  I realize a lot of people we know don’t see writing as “work” but we need to treat it as work.

3.  When your schedule changes, make a new list to accommodate for it.

Your routine might vary every month or every few months, depending on your situation.  If so, you can still write down what you’re doing for the first week of that month and plan out a routine to best fit that month.  Say you work nights for one month and days for another.  Mark down your routine for both of these months.  I understand it takes at least a couple days to get used to the new routine, but some pre-planning might help ease the transition.

4.  Go in Baby Steps

The important thing is that the routine is something you can easily do.  If you’re only used to writing 2 times a week for 1 hour at a time, planning out a goal to write 7 days a week for 3 hours might be too much.  Maybe that is where you want to eventually get to.  And there’s nothing wrong with that if the other things in life allow for it.  You don’t want to push yourself so hard that you end up getting burned out.  It’s much better to go slow and steady.  I typically write 2000 words 5 days a week.  That doesn’t seem like much, but I’m able to average 6-7 full-length (50,000 to 70,000 word) novels a year doing that.  This includes taking a vacation with the family in the summer, going to at least one writer’s conference, working with editors/proofreaders on my books, marketing, cleaning, cooking, etc.  I don’t work outside the home, so things are different if a second job were added the equation.

But my point to all of the paragraph above is that if you pace yourself, the routine might be a lot more manageable.  You want this thing to be a blessing.  Some of us write faster than others.  Maybe after a certain time or word count, your mind shuts down.  If you are starting at 2 times a week for 1 hour at a time, I suggest starting with 3 times a week with 1 hour at a time or 2 times a week with 1.5 hours at a time.  When that becomes comfortable, add another hour or day.

Then you can adjust your goals and routine to accommodate your progress.  In the next post, I’ll talk about evaluating the routine and goals once in a while to gauge how things are going.

11 Comments

  1. allrighters says:

    Great stuff. Start writing at six for an hour. Read for an hour before going to sleep. Being semi retired I have the luxury of being able to strike out the work time and lay in for too long although writing seems to have taken over and often seems harder than work … especially all the marketing …. and I am now much slower anyway. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments during the year. Alexander of Allrighters and Ywnwab!

    1. I agree. This business of writing and marketing is hard. I think a lot of people don’t appreciate how much work goes into it.

  2. The best advice in this post is treat writing like work. Too many people treat it like a hobby. It can be fun, like a hobby, but it needs to be factored into life. So much time is wasted watching tv, or spent on facebook, Twitter, etc. It also helps to use social network browsing as a post-writing reward and then limit the time. Say, one hour of facebook for one hour of writing.

    1. It’s too bad people assume work can’t be fun. Writing should be viewed as fun work. I love your idea to use browsing on the Internet as a post-writing reward. That’s a great way to handle it.

  3. I promise I will make a good schedule for the New Year as I HAVE been managing my time backwards. I write after I’ve done everything else, at which time I’m worn out and empty. Thanks for the kick in the pants. Seems to me, writing down everything you do is something like writing everything you eat so you can track your weaknesses. 😀

    1. It’s way too easy to do everything else first and then write. I’m guilty of this too. When I’m doing the other stuff, I think it’ll free me up to relax when I write, but when I sit down at the computer, I end up too tired to be creative. It’s hard to put writing first.

      And that is so true about eating. 😀

      1. Yep, :-Dt me all right.

  4. I can see where I could get a lot done if I could just eliminate the day job. LOL

    I actually used some time today. Hubby had to stay at the hospital overnight, and we didn’t bring chargers. This morning, I went out to the car to charge our phones on the car charger. I happened to have pen and paper out there, so I actually did a bit of writing while I was waiting. I NEVER write with pen and paper, always on the computer, but I did it this time. I had to stop because it hurts my hands too bad, but I have that many extra words now. Win!

    I think we’ll all find where we waste time if we’re honest.

    1. I don’t have a day job, and I find plenty of distractions. I have to stop the little busy things (like doing laundry, cleaning up a room, sorting through files) and before I know it, I have lost a lot of writing time. I have the time. I just don’t use it as effectively as I could. I’m hoping when I start tracking down what I’m doing starting on January 1, that I’ll find places where I can do the busy work after I finish writing.

      I hate handwriting anything because my hand hurts. After a while, my handwriting is hard to read, too. 😀

      I don’t know how you can write anything with everything you have going on, but then I kind of understand it because when you’re going through that much stress, you need a form of escape.

  5. Eric Alagan says:

    I write everyday – some days longer hours than others. My secret – which works for me but perhaps not for others – is to stop while I’m still fired up. This compels me to return to writing again and again – and without fail.

    I’ve not consciously wasted time during my “writing period” – if not writing, I’m reading or even watching TV (pick up tips on dialogue and body language). Having fun while learning.

    1. That’s an interesting idea. I never tried to stop while I was still fired up, but I can see that it would compel you to want to get back to it. I’m going to try it and see if it works for me.

      I also love how you make reading and watching TV purposeful. I love watching how one scene transitions to another and watching the way actors react to things that happen.

Comments are closed.