Let me ask you a quick question. Do you normally read in bed before falling asleep every night? If so, how long do you read for?
I certainly do. Yet, I only manage to put together five or six pages at most before abandoning myself into Morpheus’ arms. The whole process probably takes me 15-20 minutes every night and, as a positive side effect, I have noticed that the quality of my sleep is far better than if I tried to fall asleep without reading.
But I am digressing…
So, here is my point:
I have managed to read lots of books in my life, just by spending a few minutes every night reading only a few pages!
This is remarkable for me because all too often I have a strong tendency to wait for the perfect circumstances, the perfect settings, the perfect time, before actually getting a start on what I want or have to do.
Say, for example, I have to prepare a talk for a conference. I typically wait to have a whole half-day free from any other commitment before even thinking about making a start.
The perfect time never comes. I wait and wait and wait… and then I have to rush through preparing my talk at the very last minute when I cannot procrastinate anymore.
Sounds familiar? Maybe you do the same with your writing.
You wait for the right time, the right context, or the right inspiration.
The trouble with this approach is that we seldom get anything done and end up feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and guilty.
Admittedly, finding large chunks of time to devote to one single activity is often difficult in our busy lives. Yet, we can still accomplish a lot by using whatever 15 minutes we can find here and there. That’s how I have read hundreds of books. And that’s how I have written some of my papers.
More than that, setting aside just 15 minutes may be far more productive that setting aside 3 consecutive hours (assuming you have them!).
So, if you are struggling to find the time to do some writing, here is an excellent way to making a start:
- You schedule one 15-minute session in your diary (ideally at the same time every day, just to get into the right habit)
- You protect this time from external invasion (this is essential or you’ll let any excuse distract you)
- When the time comes, you set your timer (any timer would do!) and just write. For 15 minutes. Every single day. A few sentences a day. A figure. A table. However small, it’ll be more than you had yesterday. Just do it, day in day out.
After a few weeks (apparently it takes 21 days to establish a new habit) feel free to increase the time (not by much!) and keep going.
It does not matter if the quality of what you write is not good at first. You can always revise later once you have put together enough content. Your aim here is to get into the habit of writing and to stop procrastinating.
And remember: if you start today, even for as little as 15 minutes, you won’t have to start from scratch tomorrow. And writing tomorrow will just feel a bit easier.
I have done it. And it works.
Ok. Enough said. I’d better go and make a start with that talk of mine!