I read an article a few years ago on how to keep your house clean in just 5 minutes each day. I laughed out loud at first, but after giving it a try I realized just how productive I could be in those few minutes. I’ve always enjoyed a good competition and sometimes there’s nothing better than being in competition with myself. The timer trick fires me up to complete a task, without distraction, before the timer buzzes to tell me to stop.
After feeling successful enough with cleaning my house in 5 minutes a day, I wondered if I could use the same concept when it came to my writing time. Instead of using 5 minutes, which would make my time writing too stressful, I set a timer for 30 minutes. I put my phone on DND, so I couldn’t be interrupted by notifications, and I did nothing but write for 30 minutes straight.
5 Tips for Your Timed Writing Experiment
Decide on your desired amount of time. The first time you experiment with timed writing, I’d suggest setting 15 or 30 minutes on the timer. These time blocks are neither too long, which can make you feel frustrated if you stall out after a few minutes, or too short, which can make you feel too much pressure to churn out words and you may crack. The first few attempts with timed writing should be about getting comfortable with the exercise and tracking your word count during the time you’ve determined. Once you adapt to timed writing blocks, you can then choose to increase or decrease your set time.
Use a kitchen timer. Your cell phone or an app on your computer, such as Pomodoro, are not the best timers to use for timed writing. Minimalism is best, which is why I highly recommend a good old-fashioned kitchen timer. You simply twist the knob to set your time and there are no other distractions associated with it.
Turn off all notifications. Put your phone on DND, and if you received iMessages on your computer—disable those as well. Turn on some white noise or my recent go-to playlist: Spa Sounds. Doing this allows you to tune out any and all distractions, which forces you to single out your focus to writing.
Use full-screen mode for writing. If you write in Microsoft Word or Pages, you can set your screen to either “Focus” or “Full-screen” view and it blocks out every thing else on your screen so all your brain sees is the words in your document. You can’t see the time, other documents, internet tabs, or your app dock. If you find it hard to focus and not wander around your computer when you should be writing, these view modes are great!
Turn the timer away from you. Here’s the deal, once you set your timer you have to turn it away from your line of view so you can’t see the time you’re losing. It can become easy to watch the timer tick away the seconds when you stall out, but you’ll end up focusing on the stress of not utilizing the time you set for yourself. When you don’t know how much time you have left, your brain won’t even focus on the parameters you’ve set, which will help you stay focused on simply putting words on paper.
Finding Confidence in the Data
If you use the timer trick as you work on your manuscript, always note your word count before you start your timer and then note your end word count once the timer buzzes. Then, keep a log that looks something like this:
Seeing Results in Your Word Count
Writers work best under pressure, or at least that’s what they tell themselves. But you don’t have to procrastinate away your time until you’re down to the wire on your deadline (self-given or not) to feel the heat and find inspiration that comes from stress. Instead, timed writing can provide the same feeling of necessity without the drama of missing a deadline.
The other benefit to timed writing—the more you do it the better you will become at writing in a timed environment. Three things will happen when you get comfortable with timed writing:
You’ll learn to get to your point faster.
You’ll learn to produce more words in the same amount of time.
You’ll have a log of data to use to up your competition with yourself.