Home » The Writing Habit » Making Time to Write: Not-So-Obvious Time Wasters

Making Time to Write: Not-So-Obvious Time Wasters

Making Time to WriteNot long ago, we had a post discussing the biggest time wasters titled called Let’s Get Serious About Time Wasters, so this time we’ll talk about the less obvious ways we lose time. This is true for everyone, not just writers and artists.

One serious time robber is lack of routine. Having structure to our day helps improve efficiency and the fitting in of several tasks to make the most of our available time and let us spend it where it matters most. There’s nothing wrong with applying a little schedule to your days.

Another less obvious time sink is lack of organization. Again, organizing ourselves and streamlining repetitive tasks gives us back the gift of time. One obvious example (cliché but true) is selecting an outfit in the morning. How much time do we lose standing in our closet? One way to combat that time loss (which always meant I ended up skipping breakfast, which is bad to do) is to select your outfit the night before and put all the accessories with it. Voila, time for at least some toast. Applying organization to all areas of your life gives you time.

The same is true in other areas. Knowing where things go makes it easier to put them away and find them later. Knowing you will vacuum on Saturday frees up time on Friday.

(I once knew a lady who, on laundry day, did laundry and nothing else. No joke. She sat at the table until it was time to switch the load).

I’m a scatter-brained adult with ADD. Organization and routine are vital.

Another hidden time waster is over-commitment.  If you are trying to establish a lifestyle that includes time to write, an over-packed calendar doesn’t help.  I don’t make a secret of my advocacy for simple living because I learned lessons the hard way. If you are young, learn it now. Commit yourself to the things that matter most, whether that’s volunteering once a week or being active in your children’s school, but beware filling your schedule with things that don’t feed your soul or match your values. The same is true for your children. Studies in childhood stress indicate that a full schedule for kids is as hard on them as a full schedule is on adults.

In short, schedule “down time.” It’s good for your creativity.

The final less obvious time waster for today is the work commute. People have good reasons for living an hour or two away from their jobs, whether it’s affordability or wanting to be in a particular neighborhood. The key in that situation is to use the commute to benefit the writing. If you’re on a bus or train, jot notes in a notebook or tablet or plan and flesh out your scenes. If you drive, consider using a digital recorder and speak your material so you can type it up later (or send it out to be transcribed if you like). Another option is to move closer to work or find a job closer to where you live.

If you are serious about finding more time, keep a time log for two weeks. Write down what you are doing in every 15 minute increment of time. It will help you identify tasks that can be combined, times you are distracted, and time you might choose to spend differently.

What do you think are the hidden time wasters in your writing life?


Making Time to Write

Not-So-Obvious Time Wasters

Finding Hidden Time

Becoming Portable

Forming the Write Habits

The Job vs No Job Myth

12 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Time

25 thoughts on “Making Time to Write: Not-So-Obvious Time Wasters

  1. Oh yes, the dreaded over-commitment. I do pretty well on the schedule and organization front, but over-commitment is another story entirely. In a sense, a schedule is sometimes a necessary evil just to find any chance of fitting all my obligations into a day. And then, it’s not so much the time that is lacking (because I do put in time for writing also). Rather, it is the lack of energy that leaves me unmotivated. Simplify is one word I could definitely adopt for the better in my life, thanks Robyn 😉

    • One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn is the art of saying no (and dealing with the guilt), but so worth it in the long run.

  2. Umm….oh boy, I can resist the covert time suckers, but I am horrible at making use of the smaller pockets of time efficiently!

    But I have started listening to podcasts during dog walks – hey, better than listening to the same songs that blare out of my speakers at home! 😉

    Thanks Robyn – your posts keep me going #HUGS

  3. Oh the dreaded commute… what a time suck in my life. 3 hours per day wasted. I started listening to podcasts on writing, publishing etc while driving. I have been learning a lot from those. One commute I tried the digital recorder to capture development ideas for a story, but I noticed that on occasion I would go into deep thought (leading me to “space out”). Not the best thing to do while driving.

    Routines are not something that I am very good at establishing. I plan routines in my head, but starting them is killer. If you have any suggestions on how to start a routine, I am all ears!

    • Not everyone can use the digital recorder while driving. For some it works great. For others, not so much. Some days I could talk about plot and character. On other days, I used to just dump my brain into the recorder, listing all the tasks I had to do, reminders, etc, and that helped clear my head for writing later. Podcasts and audiobooks are a good way to make use of commute time as well, so you’re on the right road.

      Routines (I think) are best created if you work with your own natural inclinations. I’m doing my annual time study right now to figure out what’s changed. You might consider a time study for two weeks to identify times you need to relax, times you could do something different, etc, and see if that helps you build a new routine.

  4. Good post.

    I have a full time job, and it’s hard to fit in writing after family time, home chores – and keeping up my blog. I’m seriously considering setting aside Wednesday through Saturdays only for writing – that means no blogging and no reading of blogs on those days. Sunday – Monday would be set aside for blogging. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t schedule ahead of time blog posts on Weds – Saturday, but it does mean I wouldn’t do any reading or writing on social media on those days. Can you tell I’m still looking for that happy medium between writing and social media? 🙂

    • Kate, that’s very similar to what I’ve done. I have days for social media, days for blogging, and days for revision/edits. Usually it helps to read my task for that day when I wake up and set my mind in that groove. Sometimes it gets thrown out the window when I’m feeling the urge to be productive in one area, but I’ll just switch days and get back on track. thanks for the reblog. 🙂

  5. Great suggestions! Since I do work full-time, I lay my work clothes out the night before. It really does save time in the morning. Also, being half-awake is not the best state to be in when choosing an outfit 😉 As much as I wish I was already retired, I do recognize the value of having a schedule. On weekends, I have a very difficult time getting my errands out of the way first thing in the morning, although I know that unless I do, there’ll be no reading or writing done. Being on the computer is very distracting, especially since I have several social media accounts. Which brings me to the other part of your post: over-commitment. That is SO easy to do, especially with social media. I think the key for me will be actually schedule specific days for specific accounts. Since my goal in social media is to actually engage with people, making a schedule will probably more beneficial than just mindlessly sending out retweets 🙂

    • Social media is a huge time sink for me as is Youtube. I was scared to scale back (I’m building an author platform after all lol), but I haven’t noticed a big difference in limiting social media time. I think it’s been helpful.

    • I think it’s actually harder to develop a good routine when we don’t have structure to our days. At least it has been for me. Toward the end of this series, I’ll post regarding the work/no work myth for folks like us. 🙂

  6. I consider myself very organized in all areas of my life, except when it comes to my writing time. I work full-time, outside the home. I prepare my wardrobe for the week and my lunch is made the night before. I have a strict running routine, that I never miss. My blog keeps me busy, and I only post once a week. Between responding to comments and reading all of the other blogs, “my” writing time falls by the wayside. I’m going to take your suggestion and actually schedule my writing time and just show up. Thanks!

  7. I used to like commuting because it gave me the excuse to read a lot and also took care of the exercising thing–running from bus to subway to work. My family loves to make excuses for not using their creative gifts. Once I realized that I didn’t need to wait for vast amounts of time and inspiration to write and just made sure to squeeze in 20 minutes a day, I naturally began to shed some of my time wasters–just because I was finally enjoying my writing.

    I do struggle with blogging though. I like it but have noticed less actual writing getting done. I watched what days got the highest hits and eliminated blogging on the others– Fri-Sun. (I do comment sometimes like today :)).

  8. My worst time waster isn’t hidden. I don’t feel as comfortable writing with other people around. Trying to find that block of time when I have “the computer room” to myself can be exasperating. Invariably, I’ll be typing away and my husband comes in to play a computer game, check his email, or offer to get me a mug of coffee. Sure, I could tell him to bug off but this is his house too. I’ve tried scheduling time and putting the schedule on the wall. It works — sometimes. I wish we had a mother-in-law cottage.

    • That’s one of my issues these days, being in the same room with Hubs. He doesn’t mean to be disruptive, but . . . the laptop helps as I can take it to the living room. Mostly I’ve made myself write anyway, and am getting better doing that. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Making Time: The Job vs No Job Myth | The Sarcastic Muse

  10. Pingback: Making Time to Write: Forming the Write Habits | The Sarcastic Muse

  11. Pingback: Making Time to Write: Becoming Portable | The Sarcastic Muse

  12. Pingback: Making Time to Write: Finding Hidden Time | The Sarcastic Muse

  13. Pingback: Making Time to Write | The Sarcastic Muse

  14. Pingback: 12 Tips for Making the Most of Your Writing Time | The Sarcastic Muse

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