The best way to avoid burnout and increase productivity is to develop a daily writing habit.
Many people panic at this idea. Daily? As in every day? Every single day? Who has time for that?
Well, you do. Everyone does. It’s not a matter of carving out three hours, skipping meals, or waking up at 4:30 like some productivity hacks suggest. Instead, it’s a matter of finding your motivation, setting a goal, commiting to it, and adjusting as needed.
Stating your why
The first question to ask yourself is, Why do I want to write every day? What am I hoping to get out of it? Having a solid sense of your why provides the umbrella for developing the habit. Without defining your why, the process might become a chore.
Your answer to that question will depend in part on your relationship with writing. Do you write fan fiction to share with a community? Are you a freelancer grinding to make a living? Are you working on your next novel? Do you create scientific or technical documentation for a technology or manufacturing company? Do you develop posts for a blog? Or some combination of these?
As part of answering why, avoid focusing on the writing product.In other words, the goal shouldn’t be finishing the book, getting the manual done early, or writing six stories per week. That puts too much emphasis on product, not process.
Instead, look at the intangible benefits that the process might bring. The goal should be something like remove writer’s block, concentrate better, or enjoy the writing again.
Defining your goal
Once you have your why, your next step is to develop a daily goal. The goal should be something that you can measure and something that you can accomplish each day.
Examples of goals that you can measure include the following:
- Length of time
- Number of pages
- Number of words
Notice that none of these goals link to a final product, such as a story or a blog post. Again, the point is process, not product.
The goal also should be something that you can accomplish every day. Consider your weekly schedule. Pinpoint your busiest day. What is the minimum you might accomplish on this day? It doesn’t matter if that minimum is 50 words or five minutes. The point is to set a measurable goal that works every day.
Setting your schedule
The next step is to schedule when you are going to write toward your daily goal.
Some suggest starting first thing in the morning, but if you’re not a morning person, that might be a bad idea. Others suggest scheduling for the same time each day, but with kids, work, appointments, and errands, that option might not be feasible either.
The point here is to schedule the writing time in a way that works best for you and your life. If every day at 2 works, then go for it. If you need 8 a.m. one day and 7 p.m. the next day, do it. If your schedule gets thrown off and you have to write while waiting in a doctor’s office, that’s fine, too. The overall point is to meet your writing goal each day.
By scheduling you’re starting to commit to the process, but the schedule can and should flex as needed.
Herein lies the most challenging part: Showing up to your writing appointment and doing the work. For some, putting the appointment on the schedule is enough. If you’re like me, both the digital and paper calendars are easy to ignore.
This part of developing the habit should be the most enjoyable — you’re writing! It should be something that you look forward to each day. Here are some ways to encourage that joy:
- Use fun tools, such as a fancy pen, colored markers, nice paper, favorite device, or a useful app.
- Have a prompt that you think might be fun. Add that prompt to your calendar schedule notes to get your brain thinking ahead of time.
- Visit a comfortable space for your appointment, such as a coffee shop, the library, an office, a living room couch, or the bathroom if you need the privacy in a busy house.
Tracking your progress
Essential to making this habit stick is tracking it. Make the tracking as simple as possible:
- Print a calendar and put an X in the box for each completed day.
- Use an app like Goal Streaks.
- Set up a spreadsheet.
- Make a note in a planner.
Mark each session after you complete it. Seeing the number of sessions build over time offers another form of motivation to keep going.
What if you miss a day? That’s OK; life happens. Just commit to getting back on track, and try not to miss more than two days in a row.
For some, seeing the habit develop and the changes it brings is enough to motivate them to keep going. Others, though, need some kind of reward to encourage that motivation to continue.
Scale the reward frequency to however you need. If you need to celebrate a little for each day that you finish, go for it. Life should be about all the small joys anyway.
That said, do balance the reward with your accomplishments in a scalable and sustainable way. Finishing one day of 50 words might earn a coffee, but not a new car.
Regular reflection can help with affirming the new habit and ensuring it continues. When starting, schedule a time for reflect after two weeks or 30 days.
Think back about how you felt during the highs and lows. What worked well? What caused struggle? What needs to change in order for the process to be easier in the future? Adjust goals, habits, and rewards accordingly.
Thank you for reading! What has worked for you in developing good writing habits? Share your tips in the comments below.