Episode 45: Adding Minutes to your Day for Writing
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Episode 45 Transcript
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00:00 [JT Pledger] Welcome everyone to episode 45. Today, I want to talk a little more about productivity, but this week, instead of hocking my new downloadable PDF “How to Get Organized and Stay Productive,” I want to dive into the smaller things that we do during our day that push us to be our most creative selves. And more importantly, how we can harness those smaller things to propel us even farther forward. Stick around, this should be fun!
What is Productivity?
01:00 [JT] When we think about productivity, we get mental images of being busy, scurrying about in a cloud of dust, accomplishing task after task. If you’ve followed along with my methods, you know that I make a lot of lists. One of my favorite things is to see the items on my lists getting crossed off as I go through my day or week.
01:24 What you may not know is that a lot of trial and error goes into my productivity. There are a lot of little things that I test out. Most of them turn up empty, of course. But some of them work out well. Even if I gain an extra hour of production a day, that is a huge win. What could you do with an extra hour per day?
Trial an Error are Key
01:53 That’s what I want to focus on in today’s episode. I want to cover some of the things I have tried that ended up working well for me. What I can tell you is that 5 years ago, I had a run-of-the-mill day job working 8 to 10 hours a day, some nights and weekends included. I lived alone (mostly) and I wrote when I could.
02:15 That “when I could” was any time I wasn’t working, or sleeping, eating or taking the dog for a walk. It was any time I wasn’t also completely physically or mentally drained. What I know is that I made myself write and I averaged about 1 to 2 solid hours a week.
How Much Time Can You Add?
02:42 Let’s fast forward to today. I work less hours, so that is some of it, of course, though I still work 50 to 60 hours per week. When it comes to my writing, the words I do for myself, I can now find 3 to 4 hours per day. That is a marked improvement, wouldn’t you say?
03:05 Now, I know some of you out there may already have more writing hours per day than that, maybe you don’t. But just for a minute, think about what you could accomplish with an extra 30 minutes or an hour per day to just write. Would that be worth it to you?
03:25 I thought so. One of the first things I tried was waking up earlier. If I could start my day faster, I could end it faster and I could write in the evenings. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a morning person. I don’t like early morning wake ups. One of my favorite sayings is that “5 am is for being up, not waking up.” I also like to say that “I wake up at the crack of noon.”
When the Going Gets Tough…
04:00 When I first tried getting up earlier, I knew it would be tough. Any change you are going to make is going to be tough. If you are out there and taking notes, remember that you need to do more than give it the old college try. You have to commit until it either works or fails miserably. Now, like anything else, before you spring into action you need a plan, a goal. My goal was to have 2 hours per day that were free and open for me to work on my words. That was the goal. Anything less was a failure, anything more was a bonus.
04:48 So back to this early morning bull shit. I set an alarm for two hours earlier than I had to be up. At first, I just turned the alarm off and ended up sleeping later than I should have. After about a week, I started actually getting up.
It Will be Rough
05:05 Remember, I said you really have to try to change? I meant it. The first week of actually getting up with the alarm did nothing except make me groggy and frustrated. I spent two hours trying to wake up. I would make my coffee, have my banana or yogurt and sit at the computer trying to keep my eyes open.
05:30 By the start of the third week, I was able to eek out a meager 20 to 50 words. I was writing for two hours, by they weren’t quality hours. I read somewhere sometime ago that for a new habit to form it needs to be done consistently for 21 days.
05:52 I gave the early rising thing 37 days. Then I said screw it and I stayed in bed. If the time isn’t quality, I don’t want it. 20 to 50 words is progress, but hell, I could do that on the note pad on my phone while I was dropping a deuce in the bathroom on a lunch break.
I Gave Up on That Idea
06:12 I went back to my normal sleeping habits. I slept better, I woke up faster and I was able to remain wide-eyed throughout the day, evening and night, once again. So, back to square one. I went the other route. Since I am a night person, why not make the nights longer? Seems logical, right?
06:35 Now, I will interject here and tell you that I know a lot of people that can get up early and be productive. I am not one of them. I also know people that can stay up late and be productive. I am not one of those either. My normal day starts between 11 am and 1 pm and goes until about 4 or 5 am. After 5 am, I can force myself to stay up until 8, 9 or even 10 am, but I am not coherent. My mind shuts down, like it has a 5 am curfew.
07:15 So sleep alterations weren’t the answer for me. Perhaps they will be for you. If you can find your hour in the early morning or the late night, then by all means, do it, I applaud you the whole way.
Then I Remembered Something
07:30 From that point on, I was about 3 months into this trying to find more time to write thing and I was still at square zero. So, I took another approach. I had attended a class once that covered proper note taking. The instructor wanted us to practice with our budgets or something. We were to get a notebook and write down every time we made or spent money. The idea was, by the end of a few weeks we would recognize a pattern.
08:02 We would see that perhaps we shouldn’t be going to Taco Bell 6 days a week, or grabbing that morning coffee at the cafe across town every day of the week. If, according to the instructor, you had a written record of where you spent your money, you would know where you could afford to make cuts.
Maybe I Could Make it Work for Me
08:23 If it worked for budgeting money, it could work for budgeting time, right? So that’s what I did. I got a notebook and I wrote down every little thing I did for a few weeks. If I got up to go pee, I wrote it down. If I answered the phone, I wrote it down, then I wrote down when I hung up the phone. I was anal retentive about it. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to cut out bathroom breaks. Not entirely, at least.
08:55 One of the things I found out was that I spent a great deal of time in there on my phone. Even if I was “done,” I would finish the round of cards I was playing, or I would spin the casino game until I reached a certain dollar amount. Let me tell you, those few extra minutes add up. So, there was one change I could make right there. I stopped taking my phone into the bathroom with me. I went in, did what I had to do and I got out.
It’s Funny What You Can Find
09:23 I started to notice other habits that took up more time than they should. One of the things was music. I love my records. I love classical and I have dozens of Hayden and Tchaikovsky and Bach. I listen to them for hours when I am able. But do you know how much time during the day it takes to stop what you’re doing, go to the stereo and flip a record over? Apparently, in my case, it was about 27 minutes a day. Yeah, who knew?
10:02 So, I made digital copies of my albums. I missed some of the hisses and pops, but I still had the music. Now I have an endless playlist that is on repeat and I never have to move to change a record over. Don’t get me wrong, I still put my records on, just not on writing days.
How the Idea Works
10:28 I will give you another surprising example in a second. But, I first want you to understand what I was doing. I knew that whatever minute here or few seconds there I could shave off my day to add to my writing time was going to add up. I also know that even when I am in full-on writing mode, I don’t pound the keyboard non-stop.
10:54 The idea isn’t to be continually moving. Instead, it is to find those extra minutes that you are able to open up for you to have the time to write. Does that make sense? Just because I have 3 hours to write my novels today, doesn’t mean I am going to write my novel for three solid hours. But I have the ability to do so. That’s what it is all about. Giving yourself the opportunity to be productive.
I Love Coffee
11:28 Here is another example that may surprise you. I love my coffee. I drink it morning, noon and night. Okay, not morning because I am not awake, but you know what I mean. If I am drinking something, it is coffee. I brew my own because I can’t stand Starbucks. I think their coffee taste like shit. As do most others. I am spoiled with my coffee and I am now able to have my beans flown in from Hawaii so I can have 100% Kona coffee all day long. The best coffee in the world. But I digress.
12:10 To make a pot of coffee (and for the record I go through 3 or 4 pots a day). I have to get up, grind the beans, wash out the pot, change out the filter, add new water, add the grounds, brew the pot, then go back, pour a cup, then walk back to my desk. Every time I need a refill, I have to walk to the coffee pot and pour, walk back, etc.
12:43 As I was writing all of this down, I made a realization. I keep my beans in the freezer. I go through them fast enough, even ground they are still fresh. If I grind the entire bag all at once, I save about an hour per week. I also purchased a reusable filter and got rid of the paper ones. Much faster.
It Gets Better
13:09 Then, you will love this, I moved my coffee pot to the other side of the kitchen, so it is closer to my office. Less steps, you see? All in all, I was able to add 45 minutes per day to my writing time. Just from changing how I made my coffee. Who the hell would have ever thought of that? I told you I was anal retentive about it.
13:38 You see, kids, I didn’t give up anything. I made small changes. I still go to the bathroom when ever I need to. I still drink my coffee all day long. I still get my dose of Rachmaninoff. But changing how I do those things freed up a lot of time in my day. Those, along with some other minor changes gave me an additional 3 to 4 hours per day to sit and write.
You Have Homework This Week
14:05 So, your homework assignment is to do the same. You don’t need to go all out and be as detailed as I was (though you can!). Instead, I want you to find a few minutes today and write down a goal. How much time do you want to add to your day or to your week to be able to sit and write your words? It doesn’t matter how much or how little, this is all personal stuff. But think about it, come up with a number and write it down.
14:36 Then, for the next week I want you to take notes on the things you do every day. Don’t change anything yet, just start taking notes. How many times did you hit the snooze button? How far did you park from the office? Do you take the stairs or the elevator?
14:54 Write down as much as you can for the entire next week. Then, take a look at your notes. Do you notice any patterns? Maybe you can find a small change that can later be added to your writing time and help you reach that goal.
It Can Take Time to Add Minutes
15:20 Don’t expect miracles in a week, but you need to start. Hit snooze one less time before you get up. A 5-minute snooze button 1 less time a week (I meant night). That’s 25 minutes a week right there. Maybe you wait until after your morning shower to get your clothes for the day out. Why don’t you multi-task and get them out the night before while you are brushing your teeth before bed? Can you find little changes that will eventually add up to extra hours in the day? I know you can.
15:55 When you find some extra time, come by the forum and tell us about it. What crazy thing did you do to add 5 minutes towards your writing goal? Next week we will be on another topic, but I will come back to this one and ask how you are doing.
16:11 Maybe even in a couple of months you can come back to your original comment on the blog and add to it. Just imagine, an extra hour a day to write your words. You can do it! I know you can! Now go make it happen!
16:30 Until next week, have fun; write words.