Writing when there is too much going on

I have been trying to be a routine writer: not dropping it when other things come along, and committing to it without distractions. I persevered, but it is not easy. Sometimes, there is just too much going on.

When life gets a bit too intense, it is really hard to find the practical and mental space to write. Not only there is very little time to write, but when I do sit down my mind wanders off to all the things on my too list. It feels like a no-win situation: if I don’t write, I resent whatever else is keeping me from writing; but if I do, I feel very anxious about all the other things that need my attention. So, I found a compromise.

When I am overwhelmed with demands on my time (er… like now!) I manage to stay focused on writing with the following two tips:

1. I give myself a limit of 25 minutes writing time. It doesn’t matter how busy or tired I am, I can always carve 25 minutes out of my day for writing. This ensures that the project stays fresh in my mind and is progressing, even if very slowly. Not only that, but I will stop writing when the time comes to an end, not matter what. This may seems counter-productive, but it has the advantage of forcing me to focus on the task at hand because I know that I can only afford a new minutes, and because I know that I will get back to the other tasks in less than 30 minutes, it helps me feel less anxious / guilty about writing.

2. I do something that is not writing, but that is related to writing. If I am really struggling with a concept or explaining a point in the paper because, for instance, I am too tired or too preoccupied with something else, then I will work on a task that does not require much concentration but that still helps the writing project progress. For instance, I may format the document according to the requirements of the journal I am going to submit it to, or create a figure or table to display some findings, or check my references… you get the idea.

What are your tips to keep writing during very busy times?

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2 thoughts on “Writing when there is too much going on

  1. […] My priority for October is to go back to routine and purposeful writing (as opposed to binge writing), even when there is too much going on. […]

  2. This sounds a lot like mindfulness – setting the time aside – and I love it.
    I don’t have a formula yet, so am interested in figuring out one, but I’d say it’s more to do with mindset – accepting you need to take the time to do this (and nurture yourself in this way) to gain time through becoming more productive and energised as a consequence.

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