Sometimes you don’t have much choice about when you can write.
If you work two jobs and are a single parent and have to schlep three kids around to after-school events every night, you’re going to squeeze in your snippets of prose wherever you can. If that means dictating into your cell phone while you wait for soccer practice to finish, so be it.
But most people, in most circumstances, have some options. And when you do, make the most of them by fitting your activities to your mood and “flow.”
Peak Times Mean Better Production
It may sound mystical, but it’s an observable fact that we’re better at certain activities during certain times of the day.
Many people are most creative early in the morning, says Kevan Lee at Buffer.
And the capacity for physical work and athletic performance generally peaks in the late afternoon or early evening, according to Professor Michael Smolensky at the University of Texas (Austin), via an article in the Wall Street Journal.
Assuming you have some flexibility in your schedule, make the most of your talents by matching your peak times with the activities you have planned.
If you write fiction, for example, try cranking out your daily word count before lunch and save your busy work for after dinner. It’s much easier to answer emails and Tweet about your book when your attention is broken by the cheer of a crowd or whooping 10-year-olds than it would be to write a short story under the same circumstances.
Finding Your Own Peak Times
If you’re not sure when your peak times are, you can make some guesses and then inch your way toward what works best for you. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Start with the standard ideas by scheduling your creative work during the early morning hours.
- Measure your performance at each session:
- Jot down when you started writing and when you stopped.
- Tally the number of words you wrote during the session.
- If you have a longish session, note how many breaks you took.
- Later on, edit your work from each session and make general observations about the quality of your writing — how were punctuation, grammar, word choices, sentence constructs, overall flow?
- Continue writing at the set time for a number of days — a week is probably a good first target.
- Once your week is up, pick a different time of day to write and repeat the process.
- Do all this for each time block that you regularly have available to you.
- When you have worked through all possible session times, evaluate the results and figure out which slots are your most productive
This exercise can take some work and might take a month or more to complete, but it has (at least) two benefits:
- It reinforces the habit of daily writing.
- It will help you find your most productive writing times.
Both of these will pay big word-count dividends over the long haul.
And if you already know your peak writing times? Well, then you’re all set!
All you have to do is dig in and use your golden windows to get more writing done than you ever thought possible.
What are your peak times for writing? Let me know in the comments below.