Time boxers schedule writing sessions across a week or two. These super-organised writers take a pragmatic approach to prioritising writing and making it happen. Find out how to find and make time in your busy schedule with our traffic light system. Learn the benefits, the downsides and how make the most of time boxing.
The 4 approaches for making time to write
This post takes a deep dive into time boxing an approach that schedules time for writing. There are four other approaches that writers use to make time for writing. Based on our survey with over 3,500 writers, these are:
- Time boxer: schedules time to write across a week
- Spontaneous writer: grabs any opportunity to write
- Deep worker: has rare sessions to binge write
- Daily doer: has a daily writing routine
While you might prefer one approach, remember to keep flexible. How you write will change over your current writing project, between different types and genres of writing and across your writing life. Keep experimenting – it’s only by trying different approaches that you find what works.
A time boxer schedules time to write
Time boxers take a realistic and practical approach to planning and getting their writing done. They look ahead a week or two and block time into their calendar for writing sessions.
By compartmentalising writing alongside their other commitments, time boxers are pragmatic and avoid feeling overwhelmed by following a ready-made schedule.
“A organised writer who takes a practical approach to scheduling writing.”
Benefits of scheduling writing time
Like daily doers these super-organised schedulers avoid tussles with willpower by having a system. Rather than wondering when to write, they just need to turn up at the allotted time. While most research on writing productivity has favoured a daily routine, the scheduled approach appears to be gaining traction – no doubt in response to the current distraction-heavy environment we operate in.
Author and academic Cal Newport is an advocate for time blocking, taking a rigorous and systematic approach for planning his day in advance. The purpose isn’t to create a perfect immutable schedule, but Newport says, to: “make sure that I am intentional about what I do with my time, and don’t allow myself to drift along in a haze of reactive, inbox-driven busyness tempered with mindless surfing.”
This reduces distraction, enables him to keep on task and work towards his priorities – all of which lead to sustained progress – essential when you are working on a writing project.
Downsides of being a time boxer
While compartmentalising writing time helps keep people on track, schedules change. It can be hard when things don’t go to plan and life gets in the way – and it will get in the way! When a writing appointment gets cancelled, reschedule it as soon as possible.
Also, some time boxers can be too rigid and miss opportunities outside of their appointed writing times. Keep alert for top up sessions.
Finally, if there are big gaps between sessions some writers lose momentum and waste time getting back up to speed. Be prepared – knowing what to do in the next session will save time and effort – set a step, leave a note and allocate a short amount of time for getting back into the flow.
How to become a super organised time boxer
Writing is only one priority in your life, and you need to decide how important it is relative to other activities. Scheduling writing helps writers to better spend time as parents, partners and friends, on work and hobbies, and all the things that make life fulfilling and fun.
Before you can create a realistic writing schedule you need to consider your own writing style and situation. Ask yourself:
- What priority does writing take alongside the other activities in your life?
- How long do you want to write for each week?
- What length of time is the ideal writing session for you?
- When is the best time for you to write?
Answering these questions might take some self-exploration. If you are already writing, note how long you wrote for, at what time, and how effective that session was by looking at your energy level and concentration at that time of day and over the writing session. This will help you understand your best time to write and length of session.
By understanding your optimal writing style, you can schedule different writing activities accordingly.
To figure when is the best time to write, and what tasks are suited to different times of the day, try our traffic light approach to understand when you won’t be able to write, when you might be able to write and when you can most certainly can write.
Think of your schedule as a traffic light.
Red light: stop
There will red times in your day that you’ll never be able to write. You might be at work or college or need dedicated family time. There will be others time when you’re just exhausted or asleep! Accept that you won’t be able to write at these times and don’t beat yourself up about it.
Amber light: be prepared
There will be amber times in your day that might not be ideal for writing – you might have distractions or be feeling a little tired – but you can still do some useful work at those times. You’re probably not firing on all cylinders but you might be able to plan, research, edit, or free write to generate ideas.
Green light: go, go, go!
There will be green times in your day when you are on tip top form and have clear time to write. You might not have many of these times but importantly, you need to guard these slots like a hawk. If you really truly want to write, these green times are your sacred writing times and need to be protected at all costs.
- Block out all the times you definitely cannot write – colour them red. Now forget about these times – you’ll never be able to write in them so stop feeling bad.
- Find the slots that you might be able to write in – these are your amber times, so highlight them in yellow. Remember, these won’t be perfect times but you will be able to achieve something.
- Now, find your ‘go for your life’ green times, however brief they are. Go through the scheduler and colour these in green. These are times you definitely will be able to write.
“The thing about writing is that if you have the impulse, you will find the time.” Seamus Heaney
Finally, remember to be flexible
Make a schedule and stick to it. Review how it goes and notice your best writing times – use this to implement a red, amber green approach to time boxing.
Pay attention to when you feel most productive, alert and creative and make sure you schedule writing appointments at those times. If that doesn’t always work, schedule different writing activities so you can make progress on research or editing when you’re not at your peak writing time.
Keep flexible as things don’t always go to plan. It might feel difficult, but it’s OK to cancel a writing session if it’s not working for you and you can also grab opportunities when they arise unexpectedly.
Be kind to yourself and others when life gets in the way and turn any negative feelings into motivation and commitment to keep going.