As entrepreneurs, we are busy people. We’re never going to “find” spare time to write our books. We have to take the time, and we do that by saying yes to writing the book and no (at least temporarily) to other obligations. Trying to write a book amidst a cluttered schedule is like trying to cook Thanksgiving dinner in a dirty kitchen. You clean the kitchen first; that way, you open the space to spread out and lovingly prepare that iconic meal that is the centerpiece of a special holiday. When we think of it that way, it only makes sense that we have to clean our schedule if we want to make space to lovingly prepare our book. How else can we expect to give it our best effort and deliver something truly memorable and delicious to our readers?
If you’re doing it right, a book project eventually gets finished. It’s not forever. So, if you put in place some short-term strategies, you can de-clutter your schedule—and, more importantly, de-clutter your mind—and get that book done. Here are a few ways to do that:
Carve out a dedicated time for writing.
Carve out a dedicated time for writing and get your family, clients, and colleagues on board. For a while, I reserved my mornings for writing, and didn’t start my workday until noon. I blocked out the time on my calendar so that I couldn’t schedule through it. Of course, if your schedule is affected by childcare needs, client appointments, or other obligations, you may have to negotiate your writing time with the important people in your life. That’s great. Have the conversation with them and negotiate a plan that won’t cause too much friction for either of you. When you get their buy-in, that creates at least two benefits: (a) you free up the time you need, and (b) their cooperation creates a personal contract that can help keep you accountable to effectively using that time that they helped you set aside.
Make your schedule official by communicating it.
When you’re writing a book that cements you as a thought-leader in your industry, your book is your business. Communicate that in your official business messaging. There are a lot of good ways to do this.
- A copywriter I’m friends with has an email signature that says something to the effect of “I do my best writing in the morning. Therefore, I don’t check email until the afternoon. Thanks for your patience.”
- A mindfulness coach I know has a permanent auto-response email set up. It says something to the effect of “I value work-life balance. Therefore, I only check email once a day in the afternoon, and I clear my inbox every Friday. If you can’t wait up to a week for a reply, you can call or text me.”
- Myself, I’ve used an out-of-office email during those times I need to focus intensely. I did this for each of the three books I’ve co-written. The two weeks leading up to the deadline, anyone who reached out would get an out-of-office reply saying, “I’m intensely focused on a project right now and am only lightly checking email through [insert date here]. Thanks for understanding, and I look forward to connecting with you.”
Communications like this are empowering. They set up an expectation that we’ll be unavailable for certain periods of time as we do the important business of focusing on writing the book. Once we’ve managed this expectation, it’s easier to be present and in flow with the writing process. Otherwise, it’s easy to imagine that our clients and prospects are tapping their feet, impatiently waiting for a reply.
Take a leave of absence from non-essential obligations.
Likely, in addition to your essential obligations in life, you’re involved with volunteer activities and community, social, and/or professional groups. Even if none of these takes up a huge amount of time, they DO add up to create a very full schedule. Which of these can you take a temporary leave of absence from? Once you identify them, make it official by formally letting them know.
Here’s a basic script you can riff on:
“I’m writing a book, and I’m temporarily trimming my schedule so that I can free up the time and energy to finish it this year. So, I’m taking a temporary leave of absence from [your organization, etc.]. I’m happy to help you transition my responsibilities to someone else, and I plan on rejoining when I’m done with the book.”
Granted, that’s pretty generic, but the general idea can be tweaked and made relevant to whatever obligation you’re putting on hold.
Added bonus! With these strategies, you not only set boundaries, you create supporters.
Not only will these strategies help you clear out the time and mental energy to focus on the book, but they create an opportunity for you to get the people in your life excited to read the finished product. When you set these healthy boundaries around dedicated writing time, you’ll likely find that family, clients, and colleagues will want to support you in maintaining them.