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How to Schedule Time for an Imaginative Process, Rather Than an E…

"You don’t have to convince anyone you’re working." – Stefanie Flaxman

I’m pretty happy with my current writing process.

Once you’ve accepted that you don’t need to convince anyone that your creative job is actually work, you’re free to focus on optimizing the processes that allow you to produce creativity on demand.

And that’s exactly what I’m up to right now … although my creative process enables me to publish content that is up to my standards, I’ve pinpointed a belief that adds stress to my workdays.

That belief is:

I know I can write a draft fairly quickly.

Although true, writing a draft quickly is only one part of the content equation. I’ve been giving that ability too much credit when scheduling creative time, which has caused me to make the same mistake over and over again.

“In theory” versus “in practice”

For example, I’ll think I need an hour-and-a-half to finish a draft. If I only schedule an hour-and-a-half for writing time that day, though, I ignore two things that frequently present themselves during that drafting task: unexpected high priorities and new ideas I want to research.

Unless I’m on a drop-deadline and the content is my absolute highest priority that day, it’s common for me to cancel my writing time to attend to another important work task that has come up.

Or, writing my draft spawns a new idea that doesn’t fit the current blog post I’m working on. I’ll then neglect the work I planned to finish that day to explore the new topic while it’s fresh in my mind. (It’s like getting a head start on future work — at the expense of my task at hand.)

I’ve come to refer to this as, “In theory, I only need an hour-and-a-half to finish this draft, but in practice that’s not really the case.”

Unfortunately, in theory has remained what I use to schedule my creative time.

Why I need to make a change

I’m dissatisfied with this habit for two main reasons.

  1. I often don’t finish the writing work I planned for a certain day.
  2. If I do finish the writing work I planned for a certain day, I have to move other tasks to the next day.

I embrace the value of remaining flexible, so I know rearranging your to-do list is sometimes helpful. But if you’re constantly rescheduling tasks, it feels stressful — like you can’t get your shit together.

And if you let a bit of self-doubt creep in, it’s a slippery slope toward wondering if you’re really the village idiot after all.

That’s unnecessary, because like I said at the beginning of this post, I do ultimately complete high-quality work before my final deadlines. I just don’t want to overlook this weak spot anymore.

What’s working for me: small chunks of writing time

Before I get to the remedy I’ve crafted, I want to highlight a practice I love.

Regardless of what else I have to do each day, I always schedule one to three 30-minute-or-less blocks of time to explore the topic I’m working on.

I call these my “small chunks of writing time.”

I’ll draft a headline and introduction … sometimes I’ll outline the points I want to make … sometimes I’ll research a specific concept I need to learn more about.

It’s space to develop my ideas, rather than complete a full rough draft.

These brief, but consistent, writing sessions enable me to eventually produce a finished piece of content.

What I’m aiming to improve: large chunks of writing time

This is where my problem lies: I don’t plan long enough chunks of time to finish writing and editing my content.

It’s because when I think I’m done, I’m not really done.

I’m always fine-tuning my language, adding more details, or removing excessive tangents.

Sometimes fact-checking the spelling of a name can lead to 20 minutes of research on that person because it’s relevant for future content.

From now on, I’m doubling the amount of time I put in my schedule for writing and editing drafts.

By giving myself more time, I address the reality that:

  1. Other work responsibilities will arise during the day.
  2. I’m always working on two to four different pieces of content.

This way, I’m planning for an imaginative process, giving myself time to complete unexpected tasks, and minimizing the need to move other work to the following day.

Anything you want to refine this year?

We’ve made it to the end of January. 🙂

Now that you’ve had some time to settle into the new year, have you noticed any outdated habits you can improve?

Try naming one in the comments below, and then commit to refining it over the next month.


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