Create a schedule you can stick to (it's not as hard as you think!)

You might think it’d be easy for me to stick to writing schedules, mainly because if I don’t write, I don’t eat.

The truth is that while it’s easy to complete work for clients, making sure my own writing gets done is more of a challenge.  Client work has a clear deadline, and someone’s expecting it – two things that make ‘writer’s block’ fade into oblivion.

In amongst paid work, I’m writing and editing two books at the moment.  These books don’t have clear deadlines and nobody’s expecting them, meaning it’s sometimes unbelievably tempting to not work on them at all if I don’t feel like it, or if life gets too busy.   Not to mention that it can feel outrageously indulgent, sitting down to work on something for myself when there’s so much else waiting to be done.

So schedules come in handy for those times when your mind is on a mission to talk you out of getting things done.  I’ve tried all kinds of planning techniques for writing sessions, from buying huge year planners to stick on the wall, to simple calendar tick-offs on each day I managed to write (something Jerry Seinfeld apparently did!)

These methods failed.  The wall planners didn’t work because I faithfully wrote down all my sessions in advance and if I missed one I felt like a failure – so I wouldn’t do the next one, nor the next, and so on.  The calendar ticking was far too simple to actually hold me to account, so was quickly abandoned.

After plenty of trial and error, these days I’ve found a few sure-fire scheduling methods that have really been working for me.  If you’ve got something you’ve been trying to work on and keep abandoning, they might be well worth giving a go.

Plan around failure

Sounds weird, doesn’t it?  But you need a schedule you know you’re going to be able to stick to.  One that can fit easily into your life, not one that overwhelms you whenever you think about it.

For example, you could decide to devote an hour a day to something (seven hours a week).  That doesn’t sound too intimidating at first, but you probably won’t stick to it.  There will be some days when you just won’t feel like it, some days when it all seems far too difficult, and others when your plans are changed at the last minute.

So try five hours a week instead, so you’ve got some room to manoeuvre.

Be rigid with timing

Your five hours should, whenever possible, be spent at the same time on each day.  You’ll then start to see that hour as a habit you don’t really need to think about, making it far easier to stick to.

Make rituals

Writing for myself is different from writing for clients, so I need to create that sense of difference before I begin.  I work in a different room, I turn my phone off, I block the internet, and I always brew a pot of coffee before I start!  

Track progress

My writing schedules consist of four hours spent each week on each book.  I make a tally chart in my notebook to record the week and how many hours I complete as I go.  

It’s as simple as that, and it’s enough to generate a real sense of progress and reward as I make that eighth tally at the end of each week!

Have you got any scheduling tips?  I’d love to hear them if so - just get in contact!