Trying to write a book or finish any other kind of writing project while working a full-time job is tough. You might be able to schedule an hour or two here and there to write, but life tends to encroach on even the best-laid plans.
The good news is that there are neglected pockets of time in just about every schedule that are perfect for squeezing out a few extra words.
Make good use of one more of the 10 “hidden” time blocks below, and you can add hundreds or thousands of words to your weekly word count.
Your Weekday Lunch Hour
Typical jobs in the United States allow employees to take anywhere from 30-60 minutes for lunch each day. Most workers take one of three approaches to their mid-day break:
- Eat a sack lunch at their desks and continue working.
- Eat a sack lunch in the breakroom.
- Go out for lunch, either alone or with co-workers.
If you fall into one of these buckets, you’re missing a golden opportunity to beef up your word count.
Why not grab your laptop or tablet, find a quiet corner, and spend your lunch hour writing while you eat instead? It’s a great way to add 2000-5000 words to your project each week.
How many hours do you “waste” traveling back and forth to work each day? According to a study done by WNYC, the average travel time in the US is more than 25 minutes — almost an hour of total commute time each day for every American.
Now, you can’t “write” while you drive, of course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on your book. One option is to use a hands-free setup and a dictation app to “speak” your book. Or, if you carpool, then you could actually type on the days you’re not driving.
Either way, the drive to and from work can net you several hundred or thousand words extra a week.
I can hear the objections now …
“Bathroom breaks are short … five minutes or so.”
“You can’t type while you’re walking back and forth.”
“You can’t write in the bathroom.”
All true, but there are a few things you can do to turn breaks at work into book breaks:
- Carry your phone and do some dictation
- Use the burst of exercise to work out plot points in your head
- Use your phone to read something about writing or the subject matter you’re writing about
Breaks from your desk at work won’t make or break your novel, but they can give you a nice shot of literary juice if you’re creative.
Your Son’s Soccer Practice
We all love our kids and support them in their endeavors, The time commitments involved can be overwhelming sometimes, though.
Between practice for sports, actual games, study sessions, musical performances, play rehearsals, and any of the other dozens of possible extracurricular activities, your entire week can be consumed with running the kids back and forth to their events.
The thing is, though, that there is a lot of downtime during these shindigs. Why not take your tablet or laptop and bang out a chapter or two while Timmy is waiting for his turn at-bat?
You don’t want to miss the good parts of your kids’ activities, of course, but there’s no reason you have to sit on your hands and watch paint dry when nothing’s happening.
Nightly TV Hour
According to a Nielsen report (via Recode), Americans watch more than four hours of television each day, on average. A lot of that time is spent with the family gathered around the tube.
If you don’t want to bust up this modern version of “family hour” — that’s a topic for another day — you can at least use it to get some writing done. Just pull out your laptop and clack away while the rest of the family watches the tripe.
They won’t even notice your “absence.”
Tuesday Night Poker
Everyone needs downtime, and that often entails getting together with friends for drinks, games, watching sports, or other diversions.
That’s all fun, but it can also amount to hours and hours when you could be writing.
Don’t neglect your friends all the time or forever, but sometimes you have to make a choice: are you committed to writing, or would you rather hang with the boys?
Spouse’s Night Out
It’s not just you who likes to spend time with friends and get away from the grind for a few hours.
Chances are, your spouse also has a standing date with friends. You may spend most of your evenings together, but there will be at least occasional nights when you’re on your own.
Rather than waste those hours watching TV or working on a home improvement project, why not buckle down for some bonus writing time? A dedicated three or four hours can get you a few thousand words closer to your finished novel
Sunday Morning Newspaper Hour
One of the social constructs from a simpler time that seems to have survived the onslaught of the digital age — so far, at least — are relaxing Sunday mornings at home.
Maybe we don’t lounge around reading the newspaper before church anymore, but there is almost always a lull in the weekly buzz.
At the risk of disrupting your chill time, this is another golden opportunity to get some writing done. While your spouse is sleeping in and the kids are watching cartoons, you can be upping your word count.
Waiting for the Doctor/Plumber/Car Repairman
Sometimes, it seems like life is all about waiting.
You sit in the doctor’s office waiting for your appointment.
You sit at home waiting for the plumber.
You sit at the car repair shop waiting for your wheels to get fixed.
Don’t waste those precious minutes and hours playing Candy Crush … write!
At the Gym
As with your commute, you can’t write during your workout. But you can work on your book during light cardio sessions.
Use a headset and dictation app to speak your story while you plod away on the treadmill or pedal on the stationary bike.
At the very least, you can work through plot points in your head while you workout, and the gym is a great place for e-reader use — a good opportunity to read about writing.
How about you? What are some “hidden” time blocks that you use to write more words in a week? Tell me about them in the comments.