How to Get Your Writing Done When Life Gets in the Way

Too BusyHave you ever had one of those weeks when you were so busy you didn’t have time to write anything?

This was one of those weeks for me.

Every morning as I left for work, the sky was dark. Every evening, the cloak of night descended as I drove home.

When you spend what seems like every waking minute working, when you do have free time, all you want to do is sleep.

So when do you find time to write?

Here are three strategies that will move your pen no matter how busy you are.

First, decide what’s important.

The truth is, the time is there. It’s lurking in the shadows between your work shifts. It’s in the early morning when the world is at rest. It’s in the down time after dinner when you veg out in front of the TV before crawling into bed.

Take inventory of your time. You’ll find a lot of waste.

Distractions abound to suck you in:

  • Your friends’ endless Facebook status updates
  • Your favorite TV show’s latest episodes
  • Email alerts from the lists you subscribe to
  • 24/7 news coverage of what the President just said and did
  • Video games that give a momentary escape from reality

Those are just the obvious ones. Anything you do to put off writing is a distraction.

What’s the force behind this?

Do what matters. Dump distractions. That's the key to success when you're busy. Click To Tweet

It’s what Steven Pressfield calls the Resistance (in the War of Art). If you haven’t read that book, you really need to. I’m reading it this weekend to kick my butt back into gear.

Intentional habits take 21 days to form. Lazy habits can solidify in as little as 3 days.

Are you sabotaging yourself?

Here are a few ways to fight back:

  • Record the show and watch it later.
  • Check Facebook once a day.
  • Check email in the morning and the evening.
  • Limit your game play to ten minutes a day.

This will be hard at first. But you’ll be getting your writing done. Isn’t that what you want?

Decide what’s important. Only do what has the most value for your life. Leave the rest behind.

To Do List

Next, plan your week on Sunday.

By nature, I’m a terrible time manager.

I have a ton of ideas. I’m great at starting things, but not so great at finishing them. If left to myself, I’ll have a thousand plates spinning at once.

That’s why I have to plan my week on Sunday.

I use an app called Things to keep me on track. I create a to-do list of what I want to accomplish for the week. This gives me the flexibility to finish each item when I have the time.

Keep your list in front of you every day. It doesn’t matter if you use an app, an organizer, or a pen and paper. Have a plan and work it.

Otherwise, you’ll become part of other people’s plans.

Success comes by nudges, not giant leaps. Click To Tweet

Nudge yourself to success.

If you’ve gotten lazy, busy, or just plain tired, don’t try to change everything at once.

Have you ever watched a baby learn how to walk? It takes weeks, even months for him to master. He starts by crawling to get where he wants to go. Then little by little, he’ll lift his body up and drag the parts he hasn’t figured out how to use yet. With each effort, he adds new techniques, new discoveries, and new challenges.

Then after weeks of trying, he walks five feet on his own.

Then he looks around, takes in the beauty of the experience, and plops down on the floor.

It makes sense that a baby has to work to learn anything. So why do we want instant fixes to festering problems?

New Year’s resolutions fail because of this. You want a long-term struggle to go away – fast. “Now is the time,” you tell yourself. “There’s no turning back. I don’t care how hard it gets. I’ll never give up, never.”

By the second week, you’re asking yourself, “What was I thinking?”

You don’t eat a whole cake in one siting. You eat a slice at a time, or you get sick. Life is a process, a journey. You take one step, then another.

And you can’t cross the English Channel in one leap.

Each step is important because it leads you somewhere. Do you know your destination, or will you wander?

Don’t let life tell you where to go. You decide. Steer your own ship if you want to reach the port of your calling.

Do This Now

If your life is overwhelming, it’s okay. Things happen all the time. It’s up to you to protect what’s important from being consumed by what is worthless.

Take three steps this week:

  1. Read the War of Art.
  2. Make a list of the five most important things in your life, i.e. your family, your work, your writing, etc.
  3. Nudge yourself each day to get the important things done.

Share your struggles and victories in the comments. Let’s beat this together!

If you know someone who would benefit from this, please share it!

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Photo Credit: Debbieallendale Flickr via Compfight cc

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