Not everyone can find long blocks of time for writing because real life often gets in the way. If you are one of those writers who can set aside large chunks of time for your writing, that’s fantastic! Even if you’ve got tons of time on your hands (…and don’t tell us if you are because we might be jealous!), you can still benefit from learning to write in short bursts.
To get more writing done, you need to train yourself to squeeze your writing into small pockets of time. None of that “waiting for inspiration” or “warming yourself up” for a writing session. You have to learn to dive in, scribble down a few sentences, then get on with your life.
I’ve had to learn this technique the hard way. With a 3-month-old son at home, life has become one big series of Pomodoro sessions, only instead of 25 minutes for each spurt of productivity, I never know how much time I’ll have before he starts crying and wanting attention. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s 2 minutes. Sometimes it’s no minutes at all. Regardless, I have had to learn to make every minute count. Here are five pockets of time I’ve discovered, pockets of time I never knew I had.
1) Standing in Line
How often do we wait in line for things? At the post office or the bank. At the cafe while we wait for our lattes and cappuccinos. At the supermarket or the drug store. In those moments, I pull out my pocket notebook and scribble a few thoughts. Maybe all I get is a sentence, but it’s still one sentence more than what I had before.
2) Waiting in Doctor’s Offices
One of the things you do a lot of when you have a newborn is wait around in doctor’s offices. I used to dread those long waits but now I look forward to them. With the little guy asleep in his stroller or carrier, I can enjoy those moments as prime writing time. Parents with older kids probably have similar pockets of time available while they sit through a piano lesson or soccer practice, or they’re waiting to pick their kids up at school.
3) Public Transportation
I love riding buses and subways because they always give me a solid chunk of time either for reading or writing. I’m especially a fan of subways because they’re underground and there’s no internet so I can’t be tempted to check Twitter or log onto email. Sometimes I’ll even take the long way home so that I have extra commute time during which to write.
4) First and Last 15 Minutes of Your Day
One great way to sneak in an extra half hour of writing each day is to squeeze fifteen minutes in first thing in the morning and last thing before you turn out the light. You always hear writers talk about waking up at 5am or working until the wee hours of the next day. Frankly, I find both those scenarios unappealing; I don’t know about you but I like my sleep. On the other hand, squeezing in an extra 15 minutes at the beginning and end of my day is manageable. Even though it’s just 15 minutes, those little chunks of time can add up. By the end of a week, I’ve logged in an extra 3 and a half hours of writing.
5) Writing Dates
I periodically take myself out on very short writing dates. I’ll grab a quick lunch and while I hold my sandwich with one hand, I scribble a few sentences with the other. When I’ve finished the sandwich, writing time is over. I’ll do the same by going to a cafe and ordering a cup of coffee. I have only the time it takes to consume that drink to write. It’s not enough to cut into my day in a major way, but still lets me jot down a few paragraphs. Consider using your lunchtime to do this or take a short coffee break. Even if you can’t do this every day, if you can sneak in two half-hour writing breaks throughout the week, that’s a whole extra hour you gained right there.
You never know when you’ll get a pocket of writing time, so be prepared and always carry a notebook. I have a pocket-sized notebook and a pen with me at all times.