How to Start Writing a Book: Use This Trick to Find the Time

How to Start Writing a Book: Use This Trick to Find the Time

Anita’s giving away one copy of her new book, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing and Finishing a Novel. Comment on this post for your chance to win — after two weeks, we’ll randomly choose a winner to receive a free physical or ebook copy. Must be in the U.S. or Canada to receive a physical copy of the book. Update: Congratulations to Joanna B.!

Many people want to write, but can’t seem to find the time to do it.

Of course, you’re probably not one of those people, since you’re reading this article. But whether you’re writing a novel, nonfiction or magazine articles, it’s important to designate a considerable amount of your time to work on your craft.

There are lots of little things you can do to make time to write.

For example, you can create a writing routine and stick to it by putting writing on your schedule. You can join a writing sprint or a writing support group.

To find time to write, you’ll need to learn how to say no to doing a lot of other things. You can set a minimum word count goal or write in short bursts or on the go.

These and other similar strategies can make a real difference in your ability to put words on paper. But what if you’re looking for something simpler?

The one productivity tip that will change your life

How can you remember, day in and day out, how to increase the time you spend writing?

I’m so glad you asked.

To make it all easier for you, I have one tip for you that may change your life. By the way, this applies to all of your activities and not just writing. Are you ready for the tip? Here it is:

[bctt tweet=”You have to differentiate between the urgent and important and do the important things first.”]

It’s simple, isn’t it? Before you work on a new task, you should understand whether you’re working on something urgent or something important. Few tasks fall in both categories.

Even President Eisenhower used this

The idea of differentiating between urgent and important things is not new. Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower organized his workload and priorities in the following order:

  1.      Urgent and important
  2.      Important but not urgent
  3.      Not important but urgent
  4.      Not important and not urgent

The concept was later made popular by Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Of course, anything that’s neither important nor urgent is generally a time-waster, such as most emails. You should avoid doing these types of tasks as much as you can by eliminating them, outsourcing them and practicing selective ignorance.

Selective ignorance is not a new concept by any means. However, it’s gained popularity in recent years thanks to Tim Ferriss’ bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek. Selectively ignoring irrelevant information — emails, news reports, or other distractions — can boost your productivity.

Urgent tasks that aren’t important need to be scrutinized further. Can you delegate them or get rid of them? The thing about urgent tasks is that they always get done because they have to be completed.

For example, you’re going to do your job because your boss is breathing down your neck. But you don’t necessarily have to answer every work-related email. And you need to do grocery shopping because the kids are hungry for dinner. But some days you can ask your partner to take care of the shopping — or even call on a delivery service, in a pinch.

Don’t let urgent tasks run your life

We spend so much time taking care of seemingly urgent tasks that we don’t do what’s truly important to us. Let’s illustrate with an example.

You’re out of milk and eggs and other groceries you deem essential. Instead of running off to the grocery store right away (urgent), you should spend some time on doing the important thing first: creating a menu for the week and a shopping list.

Technically, you don’t need a menu or a list to go grocery shopping, but having them will make your trip much easier and more efficient. Plus, you’ll probably eliminate additional trips to the store for the rest of the week.

Label your to-do list

It’s going to take you some time to recognize the difference between urgent and important activities. You won’t always be able to do the important ones first, especially if some activities are truly urgent.

To use your time effectively, prepare a list of things you need to get done before you start your day. You can even prepare that list the evening beforehand.

After you’ve finished writing your to-do list, go through it and mark each item as either important or urgent.

Just knowing which items are truly important will make you pay more attention to them that day. Eventually, you’ll get into the habit of writing before you get overwhelmed with “urgent” tasks.

Stop frequently to ask yourself one question

Another strategy you should follow throughout the day is to stop and ask yourself the following question:

Is what I’m doing urgent or important?

Again, you won’t be able to ignore all of the urgent things on your to-do list. But you shouldn’t overestimate the importance of the things you’re doing. Just because something is urgent, doesn’t mean it’s worth spending a lot of your time on.

The good news is you don’t need to free several hours of your day in order to do the things you want to do. It only takes 15 minutes a day to write a book.

If you use this tip throughout the day, you’re more likely to accomplish the things you want to do, including writing. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to write!

Has Eisenhower’s method helped you get more done? What other tips would you offer for finding more time to write?

Filed Under: Craft


  • Shannon Lambert says:

    I’ve been practicing this for a few days now and it’s brilliant! Yesterday, during my writing time, it suddenly became very important to scrub the floor. I have three little kids – the floor was a mess! It was definitely urgent to scrub the floor, but not important. I reminded myself that it could wait, and stuck to my writing schedule. I then enlisted the help of my kids to scrub the floor with me yesterday evening. They thought that was a blast! (One year old twins) I got the floor done, my writing done, and entertained the kids all in one day! Thank you!

    • Anita Evensen says:

      Awesome. If your one-year old twins can do it, I should have my kids doing that, too. 🙂 That’s brilliant. I like including the kids with chores. The earlier you start, the better, because they won’t have preconceived ideas about being a chore and not fun.

  • Christine Peets says:

    I’ve seen something like this where you “categorize” your lists of things you want to get done in a day, but haven’t seen it explained this well. Thanks for this new way of looking at Important and Urgent things, because sometimes everything seems to be one or the other.