Whether writing is a full-time job or not, as writers, we still have to do other things. For Jahlene Crisele, it’s about balancing between being a parent to a toddler and being a professional writer. For me, it’s about combining school and writing.
I have been a student for as long as I can remember. As a student, it can be difficult to do anything other than be a student and do just student activities, which are mostly studying, doing assignments or assessments, and partaking in extra-curricular activities.
I enjoy being a student because I like learning new things and being around friends all aiming to succeed. Yet, I also love being a writer because having all my thoughts down helps me feel good—not to mention, I get to share those thoughts with someone else.
Whenever I share my non-school-related writing with people, I get questions like “How do you do it?,” “How do you find the time?,” “When do you write?”
But really, how do I do it?
This article will walk you through some of my tips and tricks for combining writing with other activities. The key is to be able to multitask as a writer, but multitasking must be done properly.
Multitasking is the act of doing more than one thing at the same time. If you are combining other tasks that are not closely related to writing—such as researching something you are writing about—you are considered to be multitasking.
It can be considered a talent. Doing just one thing can be a lot of work, and combining it with other things can be exhausting.
From my experience with doing many things simultaneously, it is more important to recognize that humans are not really built to multitask—a study shows that just 2.5% of people can multitask efficiently. If anything, multitasking adds to our daily stress and affects our productivity.
So if you think you are being productive by writing and at the same time reading, watching your new favorite show, or sitting in a meeting, you aren’t achieving much. As I have discovered, good writing requires one to sit down and get deep into thinking about the subject.
Getting ideas for what to write can come at any time, while you are doing anything. You can jot the ideas quickly somewhere to not lose them, then continue what you are doing.
And so, the first trick is to learn that you cannot multitask while writing the same way you would with other activities. This means you can’t write and at the same time do something else that is mentally taxing—in my case, studying.
So, if “traditional” multitasking isn’t the key to combining writing and other activities, how should you go about it? How can you multitask properly?
Let’s see with a few simple practices.
Single-tasking means doing one thing at a time. If you need to write, just write; if you want to study, just study; if you need to do chores, do just chores. You are more likely to be more productive, avoid mistakes, and reduce anxiety when you perform tasks one at a time.
As a creative, you need to write when your creativity flourishes. This can be at a different time for different people. So, discover when you’re at your most creative and assign that time to writing alone. For me, I perform highly creative tasks in the morning and take a break before embarking on another task. If not in the morning, it is the last thing I do before sleep.
In your everyday, hectic schedule, I am sure you have time for breaks to grab a bite or relax. The same way lunch breaks are taken, you can dedicate at least one hour to writing a few paragraphs of whatever you want to work on, and it should be just writing that should be done during that dedicated one hour. You have to be deliberate in adjusting your schedule to accommodate this practice.
This practice has increased my productivity. I am able to complete two to four articles in a month, as opposed to writing one or two, while still being able to have sufficient time to study and perform other tasks.
Thus, when using the one-hour dedication rule, you can assign one hour for your writing during whatever period of the day that works best for you, and you will see that you are doing more writing and nothing else suffers during the course.
As a student and a writer, keeping a to-do list is necessary to avoid missing out on pending tasks. Creating an efficient to-do list is a great step towards writing combined with other activities. It is a tool that effectively helps you manage time, save energy, and reduce anxiety.
I am a pen-to-paper to-do list keeper, but you could use other means to keep it—like the notes app on your phone. The resource you choose to use depends on your preference and needs. There are a variety of digital applications online that can help you effectively keep a to-do list—or, of course, you can be traditional and just stick with pen and paper.
To take your to-do list to the next level, I recommend using a timing system: delegating specific minutes or hours to a particular task and working towards completing the task within the allotted time. The method of using a timer works incredibly well because you can give your full attention to the task without the pressure of not getting enough done by constantly looking at your clock to stay on track.
Ticking off even just one task on your list brings so much joy, rather than doing so many things at the same time and finishing none.
When writing, it’s best to plan and separate your time for writing and doing other things. You can make a habit of being faithful to an allotted time. That way you can make the best use of your time and energy, while while both getting getting your best writing done and dealinging with the rest of what you may have to do.
Setting daily achievements is important to improve your daily commitment level: You should plan to make sure that you set aside time to write without interruption and then hold yourself to that time. Otherwise, if you ignore the schedule, you’ll miss the point and end up trying to do many things at the same time, whether you intended to or not, and, in most cases, failing to write.
It is also important to show commitment to a to-do list or timetable created. That is the only way to get the maximum result.
I used to write a lot in the past. Managing my blog and having to put out content at least once a week was quite exhausting. I then stopped writing for a long while, and here I am doing it again and, hopefully, for a longer time. I stopped only because, at some point, I was feeling overwhelmed about all I had to do. I then decided to break from something, and writing was sacrificed.
I always suggest taking a break because, as humans, we tend to keep going; to keep doing whatever we do because we are always too busy to take a break. We forget that we have to be fair to ourselves. We get our greatest bursts of creativity when we are not tired.
Taking a break can be in different forms. You do not need to stop writing for a long while like I did. Instead, you can take breaks during a single writing session. Your length of break depends on your needs, and it is really up to you to determine when you believe you need a break. You can be great at writing without being obsessive and not taking breaks.
From performing one task at a time to practicing the one-hour dedication rule, and from keeping a to-do list to being committed and faithful, all the points I mentioned above work hand in hand and will help you write better and more efficiently.
Tasks that are closely linked——such as brainstorming or researching a topic——can be performed simultaneously. But, if there are two or more completely different tasks, it is best to use the above tips to get a better job done.
I know it may seem easier said than done at first. Still, taking it one day at a time will turn it into a habit. You should make sure that, while practicing any or all of the tips given, you do not pressure yourself to stick to a particular form.
Most of us have experienced change at some point. We can’t always predict when changes like these are going to happen. That’s why flexibility is so important. When you’re flexible, you’re versatile, resilient, and responsive to change.
Rafiat is a law graduate, a culinary entrepreneur and a blogger on Raffiscuisine. She’s passionate about changing the world, one stomach at a time and is looking forward to making more discoveries about the endless possibilities in the world. She believes everyone should write as she finds writing therapeutic and a valuable use of time. Connect with Rafiat on Instagram or LinkedIn.