Yes, you read that correctly. One of my main success tips for not losing your mind with all of the teensy-weensy to-do items an author maintains is to ensure you’re making the most of each ten-minute time slot you have in the day.
We each waste many ten-minute blocks of time each day. Of course you can’t reduce or reuse (or recycle) all of them — but think of what you can do by replacing just two or three a day with productivity! One or two of these blocks go by in the morning as we stumble around after rising (maybe you keep those, depending on your morning personality). We waste five or ten minutes switching gears between meals and work, reading snippets of articles or following silly links through social media. Watching one show on TV equates to three of these blocks, and one drama on Netflix adds up to four.
If you make those minutes work for you, it adds up significantly over time, and prevents wasting big blocks of time on working out those tiny to-dos. This is about working smarter….and a little harder. 🙂 The following lists will vary based on the specifics of your writing career. Mine are geared toward a publishing fiction writer.
What can I do with ten minutes? Hehe, here we go! This is where the rubber meets the road.
In ten minutes, I can:
- Write 200-250 words. This is the best choice for those ten minutes, by far!!! I can’t emphasize this enough!
- Format a short story
- Start a blog post
- Edit a blog post
- Add links and images to a blog post
- Update a page on my website
- Add a link or image to Facebook (which feeds through to Twitter)
- Add images on Pinterest (my graphics or images related to my series count as work…but Pinterest is fun for playing, too, so don’t get lost and count that!)
- Add content to Wattpad — the first three chapters of a new book, or a new free short story
- Update a product description
- Update my read books on Goodreads
- Review what’s selling in my genre (types of books, prices)
- Read a blog post or article about the business — one that matters, not a dramatic one. What “matters” is up to you, of course. 🙂
At those golden times when I can find three of these sweet little blocks together (that’s 30 minutes, people), I can:
- Write 500-700 words. Again, writing new content is by far the best choice for a writer!!
- Publish a book (provided I have pre-determined product description, keywords, and everything organized)
- Format a book
- Add a Table of Contents to a book
- Write a book description
- Write a blog post
- Format and schedule pre-written blog posts
- Implement a larger change to my website
- Update a book’s information (or price) across sites
- Schedule or organize a promotion
- Make a short story cover
- Outline a story I’m working on
- Research for a story I’m working on
- Look into a business tip or strategy I’m considering
You might notice a couple of things about the above lists. First — there’s a lot that I could have put on there that I didn’t. These are just examples. Also, there are a lot of non-writing things on that list! And I’m a non-marketing type, right? I populated this with the stuff that I do…but every author is different. There are so many possibilities for promotion and getting your books out there that I am certainly not wading into all of them. Again, do your research. And once you determine a strategy, keep reading and keep tweaking it…forever. This type of to-do list will always be part of the author gig. No matter how you publish, keeping your book in view is your deal. The harder you work at it, the more visible you’ll be. What I’ve added here is my minimalist approach. There are many, many other ways to spend these ten-minute blocks of time…
Which brings me to the last point I’ll make about the lists above. I bolded the most important item in the ten minute list, and the thirty minute list — WRITING. You may have noticed that the math between the ten minute writing sprint and the thirty minute writing block doesn’t work. If I can get 200-250 in ten minutes, shouldn’t it be 600-750 for the thirty minute increment? I haven’t found this to be the case. In fact, I am the most productive minute by minute in shorter stretches of time. A ten to twenty minute writing spring is my best amount of productivity before taking a break. Adding several of these with short five or ten minute breaks to stretch and let my mind wander gives me my best word count days.
Conveniently, I’ve found that the perfect thing to do between writing sprints is something mindless like a household chore. Doing the dishes or folding laundry will drive me back to my writing chair pretty quickly (surprise, surprise!). I also manage to connect the dots in these short breaks — like what exactly I’m trying to do with a scene, what’s missing from a scene, or where I’m headed next. That makes me even more productive when I return to the writing chair.
Why does all of this matter? Why should you use each of those ten minute blocks of time you can recover productively? Because some writer things take much longer blocks than that. I need my longer blocks of time to figure out major story problems and move a stuck story forward, to outline entire series, to edit large books, and even to edit for the author friends I trade editing with. If I let all of those ten minute things sit until I have a block of time to work on writing related stuff, I am drowning in to-do items that “won’t take much time!” — But cumulatively, they can suck up a large block of time if you’re not careful. So, to protect those large blocks of time to work on deep-thought creative aspects or editing, or whatever it is that works best for your brain in large chunks of time, you must check off these smaller to-do items whenever you can.
When you decide to make all of these ten-minute increments of time add up to more productivity, you’ll see results! A productive writer is a happy writer. And you’ll hardly miss that TV show, or those games you might have played on Facebook. I promise. 🙂
For a full list of Own Your Writing Career posts in the order they were written, visit my Writers page. I’ll be back with another Own Your Writing Career post next Thursday. Until then, happy writing!!
“Own Your Writing Career: Make Every 10 Minute Block Count” copyright © 2015 by J.R. Pearse Nelson