I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until a couple years ago. I get it — I’m a late bloomer. I was fine being a beginner, but I wanted to make it a habit.
When I first started, it was easy to run to this new, shiny experience that brought me joy. What terrified me, like many of my other habits, would be that the initial excitement would fade and I’d dread showing up.
With a little hard work, and a desire to make progress toward my writing goals, I found some effective ways to build a writing habit and keep that excitement flowing. Not only that, the more I write, the more ideas and creativity I have. If you want to increase your writing productivity, here’s how.
Set your writing MIT
We all have lists of a million things we have to do in our day, and adding a writing habit can be another time suck if you don’t have the right perspective. Your MIT, most important task, is the task above all others that you must complete during the day. When you start your day, you start with your highest priority — and why not start with writing. If you want writing to have an impact on your life, you have to put it first.
Read up on the benefits of setting daily priorities and how you can apply it to other priorities in your life.
If you really want to kickstart your writing the next day, plan out your topic ahead of time. If you’ve already picked the subject or made a plan for what you will work on, you’ll be able to start your project faster and get more done.
Make writing a self-care meeting with yourself that you can’t cancel on. Block out a time where you know you won’t be distracted so you can write. When you physically schedule writing into your calendar, you’re less likely to cancel or take on other commitments during that time. Use a calendar app to mark yourself as busy, close your door or tell others not to bother you, and get to work.
Break your writing goals apart
Often, our main source of procrastinating writing is because we get overwhelmed. For example, I made my 2020 goal the “writing year” which involved a 52-week challenge, self-publishing my second novel, writing another book, and starting a coaching business. Those four sub-goals are still quite large, but I’ve also broken each of those apart.
The 52-week challenge simplified is one article a week on Medium — something I’m doing fine on. Self-publishing my second novel was broken down into smaller steps (editing a minimum of five chapters a week, entering information on Amazon KDP, third round editing a minimum of five chapters a week, building a cover, writing a blurb, etc.). Each day, I focused on a new goal rather than try to tackle them all at once.
Writing another book happens in November when I take on NaNoWriMo for the third year. That broken apart means 1,667 words a day. Finally, my coaching website has been built slowly by breaking each page into manageable chunks, writing blog posts to get better traction, and writing great resources for people to use.
When I break it apart, each one seems much more manageable. I don’t have to worry about finishing the entire project when I can focus on one small piece at a time.
Use writing triggers
There are small moments throughout our day that are underutilized. How often do you use your entire lunch? How much time are you spending on social media? How often are you not productive and find time wasters?
Use these events as triggers. When it comes to writing any of my projects, I use my “standing hour” notifications on my watch to also write a few sentences, paragraphs, or work toward a writing goal. I know that every hour I am going to get that notification and make progress.
You can also set reminders on your phone to notify you when you reach certain locations. My phone reminds me to write five minutes after I arrive at work (hey, my higher priority is putting my lunch in the fridge and going to the bathroom). Because I arrive early to work, I can use that time to catch up on my writing. Besides, I’m prone to get distracted by work emails or events if I don’t make it a habit.
Writing doesn’t have to solely exist with a computer screen and keyboard. Carry a notebook wherever you go (and don’t forget a pen) and find little moments to write. Sitting at the DMV? Write. Taking public transportation? Write. Got caught in a line? Waiting for the rain to lighten up before you run to your car? Just want to look cool wherever you are?
If you totally want to impress everyone around you, treat yourself with an amazingly cool notebook, find cool stickers that scream “I’m a writer!”, and get comfortable jotting down your work in public. It’s always a great conversation starter, especially when you’re trying to market your work naturally.
Building your writing habit starts with changing your system, and these tips will help you build a structure that works for you. You’ll accomplish your writing goals faster, learn and develop your skills, and practice writing on the go. And you don’t even have to write on your goals every single time. Even if you just write observations, journal, or doodle, you’re creating something. And the more we create, the better we get at it.