As an author who consistently writes 4+ books per year, one of the most common questions I get from fellow writers is: How do you find the time?
But the truth is, it’s not about finding extra time in your day. It’s about how you use and prioritize the time you already have. It’s about a little life hack I’ve discovered called Focus Management. It changed my life and it will change yours too.
This is a guest post from Jessica Brody, best-selling author of more than 15 books and teacher of “Productivity Hacks for Writers”—a course that has helped 4,000+ authors write more in less time.
Why we sabotage our creative minds
Let me ask you a question: When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you do? Do you look at your phone? Check email and social media? Turn on the TV? Read the news? Do you start your day obsessing about what everyone else in the world is doing?
If you’re like I used to be, your answer to at least one of these is yes.
I used to sleep with my phone plugged in next to my bed. The very first thing I did when I woke up was look at my phone.
My morning “writing” routine went something like this:
- Check Email
- Check Instagram and Twitter
- Look at my email again
- Respond to some of the emails
- Check Amazon sales rank
- Look at Twitter again
- Check Email for responses to my responses
- Check Facebook, leave comments on Facebook
- Refresh Amazon sales rank
- Finally get out of bed
- Make breakfast/coffee
- Check email
- Check Facebook for comments on my comments
- Slowly make my way into the office
You get the picture.
Needless to say, it was not a routine conducive to productive writing.
Do you remember when you first bought your current computer? Do you remember how fast and efficiently it ran when you first took it out of the box?
Well, your brain is like a computer. And every morning, you wake up with a brand-new, fresh-out-of-the-box device that’s ready to write.
Yet, with every separate task that you do in the morning, you’re essentially opening a new “program” in your brain computer. And we all know what happens when we open too many programs: our computer runs way slower than it should.
With this old morning routine of mine, by the time I finally started writing each day, I had so many “programs” running in my brain computer, it took me forever to get my head into my story.
I kept thinking about the emails I hadn’t yet replied to or all the authors I’d seen on Instagram who were seemingly doing so much better than me. I thought about that one tweet I retweeted and about my Amazon sales rank on my latest novel and why it wasn’t better? Or I thought about the news I was expecting from my agent and why I hadn’t received it yet.
Geez! It’s exhausting just thinking about it. I’m surprised I got any writing done at all.
My brain was so overloaded with stuff that really didn’t matter—or at least didn’t matter right that second—there was barely any room or focus left for what was important: My story. My writing.
How to optimize every day for writing
Looking back on my old routine and comparing it with how I approach my mornings now, I can see why my writing and my productivity severely suffered in the past.
The first “brain program” you open every morning, is the program that’s going to run the smoothest, the fastest and the most efficiently.
So the choice is yours. What is most important to you? What is your priority? Do you want to be the best emailer? The best Facebooker? The best Amazon sales rank checker?
Or do you want to be the best writer you can be?
If you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you want to be the best writer you can be. So why would you put writing so far down your list of priorities?
What you prioritize—what you put first in your morning—is what you declare to yourself and the universe as the most important thing to you. (And responding to your high school boyfriend’s post about his back surgery should not be what you tell the universe is most important to you.)
After having this epiphany about my brain as a computer and realizing how many other programs I was opening in the morning that were slowing down my processing speed, I decided to make a very important change to my morning routine.
And after doing so, I not only wrote more, I wrote better, I wrote faster, and I was overall more inspired to write every day. I wrote and completed four books and one screenplay in a year and I owe most of that to this one simple shift in my routine.
Now, my morning routine looks something like this:
- Wake up
- Take a short walk
- Eat Breakfast/Make Coffee
- Write for 2-3 hours
- Check email and social media
I don’t even look at my phone until after my daily word count is complete.
In fact, I don’t keep my phone by my bed anymore. It’s plugged in in an entirely different room. Until that word count is in, I don’t open any programs in my brain except those that help support my writing, my creativity, and my productivity.
I have created a morning routine for myself that is built around my writing. As opposed to trying to cram my writing into a cacophony of all sorts of other meaningless noise.
This simple shift changed everything for me. Now, I consistently write 4+ books a year, writing only 2-3 hours a day. That’s it.
When I started prioritizing writing—when it was the only program running in my brain each morning—I was able to write more in less time. And the writing that I did output in that time was better and required fewer revisions and edits in the long run.
Create a habit around focus and the writing will follow
Experts say it takes 21 days to create a new habit. So, for the next three weeks, I challenge you to try this simple yet powerful hack.
Write first. Prioritize your writing. Resist the temptation to check your phone. Sleep with it in another room if you can! Wake up 2 hours earlier than you normally would if that’s what it will take for you to avoid your emails first thing in the morning.
And then, sit back and watch the magic of the morning unfold for you the way it has for me.
Lead photo by Brian Braff.