10 Life Hacks For The Efficient Writer

Life Hacks

Do you ever need just five more minutes in your day? Maybe you want to edit another post, or write a short, or a piece of flash for a competition. But you just don’t seem to have enough time. I’m writing this post, because I always need more time. I’m pretty good at being efficient. But I could be better. I know I could squeeze another half hour out my day. But how when I’m a busy worker bee, mother, wife, friend, chef, cleaner…. Etc etc?!

Cheat – thats how!

Find work arounds, life hacks, and quick fixes. For the sake of simplicity I am going to break this down into three categories. Work – because lets face it, most of our day is spent there, Home because that’s where the rest of it is spent and Technology, because that’s where your quick wins are. Snatching 2 minutes here, 4 minutes there, they all add up. I guarantee if you start thinking differently and use your time wisely, you can start churning out the words.

Work

There are lots of things you could be doing at work to squeeze a few extra minutes into your day. You need to stay switched on, mind. None of this taking a leisurely half hour to re read what you wrote last time (I do this). You need to be on top form for this to work. For the sake of ease I am using a typical office work environment, hopefully you can translate to your work environment.

1. How do you get to work? Drive? Walk? Bus? Cycle?

Walkings obvious, you can write notes, stories or pieces of flash on an iPad or phone. But what of the other methods – what happens if you drive? Ever thought of a Dictaphone? Can’t afford it? Ok, what about dragon dictation it’s free app, and as you talk it converts your speech to text.

2. Cars parked.You pick your bag up and walk into the office. But what do you do on your walk to your desk? Scratch your nose? Pick a wedgey out? Bimble around? Chat to co-workers? Or do the worst… check facebook, twitter or a number of other social media sites?

STOP.

Get your phone out yes, but have a notes app, a writing app or find a pen and piece of paper and write. Write notes, work out a character problem, write a piece of flash. Can’t write without reading what you wrote before? Fine, start a new chapter, write a character bio, do something different, damn, you could just think about your novel if you really wanted. But do something rather than nothing. Because nothing, doesn’t get your novel written.

3. What about when your laptop is loading? My work computer takes at least five mintues to load. How do you use those five minutes?

4. What about when you walk between meetings? Same principle applies. Focus, write. Walking to the toilet what do you do? What about sitting on the toilet… other than the obvious! Some people spend an age on the loo, why not use that time productively?

 5. Ever stand in the lunch queue? What do you do on your lunch break? Have a social? Catch up with friends? I’ve started taking my laptop, leaving my desk, finding a cubby hole, setting a timer and furiously writing for 25 minutes. If I don’t, I end up eating at my desk and working through lunch. Well, we all need a lunch break, it is allowed you know! I get between 300 and 750 words done in that time too. That’s a lot of words I might not have written if I didn’t take my lunch.

6. Ever sit and wait for people to turn up for a meeting? write notes, take a spare notebook, write a story. What about when you are in a meeting? I mean, ok, you need to pay attention to the work, but do you ever pay attention to the people? To the body language? What about a heated exchange at work? Use it. Steal ideas for characters or scenes from your coworkers.

Home

There are simply hundreds of ways to get more time at home.

7. Cook?

I’m, the chef in our house. But I find myself mindlessly stirring the cooking pot like a zombie. Why not put a note pad next to the oven, and use it. Yes you need to cook, but there’s no harm in writing the odd note here and there.

8. What about when you do the housework?

Are you mindful when you do it? What do you think about? Why not think about your novel, construct sentences and plot lines. Blue tac a piece of paper to the door of every room in your house. When you come out of the room having finished cleaning, challenge yourself to write 5 bullet points or a subplot, 3 dialogue sentences or maybe 3 straight sentences from your current story.

I talked about the loo earlier, why not remove the magazines and leave a note pad instead?

9. Own a dog? What do you do when you walk the dog?

If you have a phone why not write, spend time considering your next plot twist. Dogs basically walk themselves anyway right? :p

10. Wifi

Now here’s the biggest time waster for me. The bloody joyous procrastination tool that is, the internet. More specifically, social media. It’s fitting then, that I take my own advice and cut down. I have 30ish thousand words left of my first draft of my novel. I’ve decided to drop down to just 3 posts a week until the bloody thing is finished (well a first draft anyway). But more than that, I am taking another drastic move. I do solemnly swear to switch the wireless off on my laptop when I sit down to write, and only turn it back on for research purposes. I shudder to think the amount of time I have wasted on various social media sites when I could have been writing. Or worst when I went to research something and a notification came up which I thought ‘I’ll just check it quickly.’ The thing is, I’ve tried to be good before. But the only sure fire method of ensuring I don’t procrastinate is by switching it off.

Technology

I don’t need to list it all here, there are dozens of tech blogs that can do it better than me. I mentioned Dragon Dictation earlier. But there are lots of apps and programmes that sync up between phones and iPads and laptops, like Evernote.

Here’s The Top Ten Apps For Writers from the Huffington Post.

Here’s the 20+ top iPad apps for writers from the Daily Genius.

And because I’m not biased to iPhones (I am) here’s a list of the top android apps for writers.

And last but not least The Best Apps for Any Kind of Writing from Lifehacker.

Did I leave anything out? What are your most efficient tips and tricks for more writing?

29 comments

  1. Wow great post, Sacha! I can just feel your energy and enthusiasm leaping out of the screen at me! Sounds like you’ve had an epiphany! Mind you, if I wrote anything whilst walking anywhere, I would surely be dead by now lol! I love that your lunch time writing is turning out to be so successful, that’s quite amazing. I am very guilty of responding to notifications as they arise, I usually type with my phone by my side, and respond to them there… I should either switch it off, or leave it in the other room! I hate the amount of time social media drains from my life! You have inspired me to make more effort, thanks for that!

    1. Ha! Thanks yeh I have to say I’ve bumped into a few things walking and writing! Not always the most successful strategy but you never know where inspiration will strike. Well, it’s actually taking a break at work that I so often forget to do! But I’m trying. And I took a night off writing tonight – like a whole night… Shocking I know but it was kind of nice ? but now I feel bad for not upping my word count on my novel ?

  2. This is a very helpful post! I’m always complaining that I don’t have enough time in the day to do what I need to get done. Every night before I go to bed I make a to-do list for myself for the next day. My other problem is I try to plan too much for the day thinking I can do it all.

    I love the app links you gave us. I’m getting an iPad soon, so I will definitely be coming back to look at those apps!

    1. Glad you liked it. It’s so true I never have enough time in the day. Do you get annoyed if you don’t complete everything on your list? I do. I hate not completing a to do. So I write smaller lists for different parts of my life – less daunting that way. You could always do two list for the following two days might be easier to complete then?

      1. I do get annoyed. And as crazy as this may sound, I have a daily to do list and then I have a bigger one with absolutely everything with “categories.” Things I need to do for my blog, my writing, my Sunday school class, school, etc. Then for the daily list I pick and choose from the big one. I may be crazy, but I like to call it being super organized. 😉

  3. yep spot on; I did the laptop at work thing and got right royally teased for it but it added to my output. Once or twice, in a café where some people were having a conversation I recorded them as much to get the rhythms of dialogue right, the pauses, the repeats, the ums and you knows. Really useful if you think your dialogue is getting stilted.

    1. Brilliant ?glad I’m not the only one. I’m starting to take my iPad now these days carrying two laptops and all my girlie crap is breaking my back! Lol to recording people – surely there’s some kind of legal infringement there?! ?

    1. Lol. Wellllll I’ll let you off! Won’t work for everyone ?. I Do enjoy re reading my last few paragraphs too and I need to really, I was more trying to find ways of squeezing a few precious writing minutes out my day. Thanks for reading ?

  4. While I wish I had more time in the day, I also think it’s necessary to take it easy on ourselves, to provide lulls and thinking time, and time to do the proverbial ‘stop and smell the roses’. Striving to fill every second doesn’t necessary improve the quality of the output. We need time to reflect too. That’s not to say you don’t have some wonderful ideas there that are worth a try. 🙂

    1. I am not one of those people that copes very well with time out. If I take a break i tend to get very demotivated, and usually I catch a cold. It’s better than I keep going at 100mph. But I do know that some people need head space – it is also linked (I think) to intro or extroverted thinking. As an extroverted thinker i dont need headspace because I dont think inside my brain, but for introverts I can imagine even attempting this would be a total nightmare! Each to their own. This was just me outlining how I was getting so many challenges done! – usually written in corridors or between meetings! hehe 🙂

      1. Yes, and how much more I would get done if I could do as you do!
        I’m interested in your statement, “I don’t need headspace because I don’t think inside my brain”. I’d love to hear a little more clarification of that. Interesting that you mention colds. I have just had a week off and have ended up with the dreaded cold. It has knocked me out for a couple of days. Like you, I like to be busy, don’t like having nothing to do, but also value a little downtime, and thinking time.

        1. Ahh yes – did you ever get the chance to read the distributed cognition post? I think that will probably explain what I mean by think outside my head. Because I do – literally think with my mouth and hands and ‘things’ outside my mind in real time! Here’s the link if your interested: http://wp.me/p2tAaK-wX

          I get more exhausted and need space when I’ve spent time with lots of people I don’t know. I struggle with ‘new’ people so it’s hard work and I feel drained. That’s when I need the time out. Sorry u have a cold must be your annual winter cold maybe? At least you got it over and done with early in winter ? hope u feel better soon.

          1. Thanks Sacha. I enjoyed that article. I’m pleased you linked me to it. Meeting lots of new people can be draining, I agree. I’m not good on the small talk. I think that’s why I tend to listen more than I talk, unless you get me started . . .
            I think I’ve just about recovered from my cold. Thanks for your wishes.

  5. Thank you for this post. I have been feeling like I needed to find more time in my day, but this helped me to see that there are little snippets in my day when I could really be working on my writing even if only for a few minutes. Thanks!!

    1. Well, I am glad you found it hopeful – even if it only helps you squeeze another 5 minutes of writing out of your day its better than nothing. It’s so hard when we do lots of other things. But I always think penny pinching is the way forward – I cannot tell you how many pieces of flash fiction or character studies I have done in corridors, trains and toilet seats! lol thanks for stopping by 😀

Leave a Reply