My favorite things in life don't cost any money. It's really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time. - Steve Jobs
Time is scarce because it is finite, and we only have so much of it in a day. It makes developing a writing habit difficult when there are too many competing alternatives.
How can we make it easier?
3 Steps for Finding Time
Regardless of what habit you're interested in developing, it takes determination to start and dedication to keep going. Before we can hack time, the time has to exist. Scheduling time comes in 3 parts: making the time, scheduling the time, and taking action.
Making the Time
Whether it's 5 minutes or 30 minutes, the first step is establishing some amount of time to dedicate to writing. Consider why you want to write and how regularly you want to write. Let this guide how much time you want to dedicate to writing.
Consider these questions:
- Are you working towards a novel? A blog post? A daily tweet?
- When do you want this done by?
- How frequently do you want to write? (it doesn't have to be daily!)
As long as the time is set aside, it's time you can use to focus on distraction-free writing.
Schedule the Time
Choose a time that works best for your schedule. Maybe it's before you end your workday. Maybe it's during your lunch break. Maybe it's in the evening, right before bed. Experiment and see what time works best for your schedule. Maybe some days will be different than others due to personal obligations. If that's the case, then set a different time for those days, or you can even skip those days. Not everyday needs to be a writing day. It's important to choose a time that will set you up for success. This may take some experimentation.
Set a reoccurring calendar reminder, and make sure to block off that time on your calendar as 'busy'. Send a notification to remind yourself the time is arriving and/or has arrived. When the notification arrives, wrap up your current task and commit to dedicating that moment to writing. If things aren't working, reflect and understand why. Make adjustments as needed. There are plenty of reminder apps for this, but I find most of them don't always work. It's too easy to dismiss the notification. That's why it's important to find ways to reinforce it.
Hacking Time with Habit Stacking
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, suggests Habit Stacking as a technique to help build new habits. It is the action of adding a simple new habit after an established habit. Some common daily habits include making a cup of tea/coffee in the morning, taking a shower, watching the daily news, etc.
Try filling in this template, where parentheses are blanks that need to be filled in:
After I **__**(some regular routine action)********__********, I will write **_**(frequency: daily, weekly, every Sunday)**__** for **_**(amount of time: 5 mins, 30 mins, until I finish 500 words)__.
The above may look like this:
After I finished brewing a cup of coffee, I will bring the coffee to my desk, open my laptop, and write every Saturday for 5 minutes.
Reward can also play a part. You can continue to stack the habit with another task that adds some level of reward.
After I finish writing, I will make the Saturday breakfast special.
Keeping a writing habit takes discipline. An easy way to develop the habit is to make it easy and to gradually add on to it as it gets easier. Scale back as your life requires. Scale-up as you gain more confidence.
What habits will you stack with writing?