A writer hunches over a laptop. She’s got a whole morning ahead of her, but she just can’t seem to get started. Maybe she’ll check her email first. After all, she’s got plenty of time…hasn’t she?
Across town, another writer pings from task to task. Making up lunchboxes for her children. Calling the garage to see if her car is ready. Trying to manage the steady flow of chores to be done. How will she ever fit her writing time in?
If you recognise yourself in these sketch, then you’ll know how easy it is for time to run away with you. Or how difficult it is to carve out time for your writing.
Luckily, there’s an answer.
I recently bought a copy of Monica Leonelle’s The 8-Minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit That Works With Your Busy Lifestyle. In it, Leonelle lists a range of strategies you can use to boost your productivity. I won’t recount them all here because the book is well worth a read.
But I will discuss the first strategy, that of the 8-minute burst.
Write for less time more often
Very few people can sit down at a keyboard and work solidly for three or four hours at a time.
After all, unless you’re being paid to write, you probably don’t have time for that.
But chances are that you do have random pockets of time scattered throughout your day.
Writing for just 8 minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but it soon mounts up. If you wrote for 8 minutes at a time at 4 intervals throughout the day then you’d have built up 32 minutes of writing.
It’s easier to snatch time in bursts than it is to block out larger time periods.
Plus, knowing you only have 8 minutes to write forces you to actually get something done. If you have half an hour, you’ll probably spend 20 minutes on Facebook.
8 minutes a day for 8 days
Leonelle recommends that you try building just 8 minutes of writing into your day for 8 days.
If you want to do more than one burst per day that’s fine, but you need to do at least one. I gave it a go to see how I’d get on!
Day 1: Two 8 minute bursts, a total of 925 words.
Day 2: One 8 minute slot, 383 words.
Day 3: 448 words.
Day 4: 484 words.
Day 5: 256 words but my Bluetooth keyboard stopped working so I had to use the onscreen keyboard which is a lot slower to type on!
Day 6: 376 words. While my momentum may have slowed slightly, the urge to keep going after my 8 minutes was up was certainly strong.
Day 7: 514 words.
Day 8: 524 words!
In total, that’s 3,910 words in just 8 days – or 1 hour and 12 minutes, to be exact. I can live with an average of 434 words per burst.
Is it worth trying to write in bursts?
In a short word, yes.
I doubt I’d have found the time to sit down and write for an hour. I don’t think I could have churned out almost 4000 words in one go if I had.
You might not necessarily write for eight minutes but just making the commitment to will see a massive boost in your productivity.
Does it only work for fiction?
Not at all. The bursts method also works for blog posts, social media, or any other project that requires writing.
Some people believe you won’t get a lot done in 8 minutes. You don’t get the opportunity to enter the ‘flow’ state where time runs away with you. Total immersion in your project won’t happen in 8 minutes.
But if you need to fit writing in around other things, working towards 8 minute bursts helps you carve out time in more manageable chunks.