As a marketer and author with a busy professional and personal life, I’m often asked how I find the time to write.
Finding the time to write (producing new content for email campaigns, blog posts, presentations, associated marketing collateral and even books) can be a real challenge for many marketers, and as a result they limit their output, outsource their content production (which can be expensive and/or produce low-quality content) or simply leave their content marketing efforts on the shelf (a lost opportunity).
I have two answers to this very real problem depending on who is asking the question. If it’s a fellow marketer, genuinely struggling to find the hours to dedicate to his or her craft because life gets in the way, I explain my simple book writing formula, which is shared at the end of this blog. If someone is just looking for an excuse not to put pen to paper, I tell him or her that I find the time to write in the same way that others find the time to watch an entire season of House of Cards over a weekend. This second answer isn’t so far from the truth.
The fact is that you make the time.
For example, I’m writing this blog post on a train. In the three hours it takes me to get to London, I could be sleeping, playing Candy Crush on my iPhone or watching a rerun of the British TV series Top Gear like virtually everyone else in my carriage. I prefer to be more productive with what I call my “dead time.”
Dead time is time during which you cannot do most productive activities. On my train journey down the east coast of England, the Internet connection is flaky (at best), and because the train enters multiple tunnels, conversations via cell phone can be difficult. Writing is perhaps the only productive thing I can do during this time.
Productive Time Management
Identifying periods of dead time and getting down to work is just one way of freeing up your schedule and dedicating more time to content production. There are many other strategies you can adopt to help you find the time to be creative. For example:
- The Analytics Trap: Do you ever find yourself staring at your analytics software with your finger hovering over the refresh button moments after you’ve sent an email campaign or published a blog? Analytics is the marketer’s friend but they can also suck you in and completely waste your day. Set aside a specific time in your schedule to monitor your marketing analytics and remember, a watched pot never boils.
- Unproductive Meetings: How often do you attend meetings with no set agenda or time frame? How productive are these meetings? Do they run over the allotted time? Are you just meeting for the sake of meeting? You’ll be a lot more productive if you just don’t go. Demand to see an agenda before you commit to attending any future meetings, and if your attendance doesn’t add value, decline the offer. Don’t worry about missing out on vital information; you can always read the minutes. What do you mean — there are no minutes? It might be time to re-evaluate why your organization is so focused on meetings.
- Email Management: Don’t become a slave to your inbox. Check your emails at a set time every day, and don’t feel too bad about not responding to emails that don’t warrant an answer. You might want to set up an autoresponder explaining your new email policy and urging people to pick up the phone if the matter is urgent (most won’t). If you are one of those people who insist on getting your inbox down to zero, you’re just creating (unproductive) work for yourself.
- Get Out More: I’m lucky in the fact that I work remotely and so am rarely distracted by office politics and other distractions. Some of my most productive days have been spent in a café, fueled by a constant supply of coffee, with my cell phone turned off. Sometimes you need a bit of space to find your creative mojo. Speak to your boss about the possibility of working from home occasionally. When you do work from home, try not to get distracted by housework or the television, and always try to over-deliver on your promises.
- Collect Ideas: How many hours do you waste brainstorming new ideas that go nowhere? A productive writer will always have a bank of content ideas that they can turn to when they find the time to write. Whenever you speak to colleagues, clients or prospects, you should always take notes and highlight any ideas that can be turned into useful blog posts, email campaigns, white papers, eBooks, etc. Check out this post for more great tips about capturing content ideas, and remember, you will never find inspiration staring at a blank screen.
My Book Writing Formula
For those of you hoping to expand your writing careers beyond the occasional blog post and email campaign and become fully fledged authors, my book writing formula is pretty simple.
Commit to writing a minimum of 250 words every single day before you go to bed. Sometimes you will write much more, and the content will be great. At other times you’ll struggle to reach the minimum word count, and you’ll delete everything the next day. It doesn’t matter; you’ll be in the habit of writing. If you commit to this formula every single day, you’ll find yourself in possession of a 70,000-word book in around nine months. Hey, nobody said it was quick and easy.
How do you find the time to write? Share your comments below:
This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.