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I have a confession to make. I love figuring out ways to squeeze more writing time into my day. Like everybody else I know, I’m very busy and so organizing my time to get more done—especially when it comes to writing—is worth every effort.

1) Stop checking email obsessively.
Ever feel at the mercy of your overactive email inbox? A couple of years back I removed email alerts from my email system because I was constantly being interrupted by incoming messages, which would cut into my writing time. Recently I’ve gone even further by only checking messages twice a day—at 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm. Tim Ferriss, author and entrepreneur put me onto this and I’ve never looked back. If you feel too scared to do this because you just want to see if that one person emailed you back, then you could set up a mailbox for that client so you don’t have to check all your messages. For instance, Apple’s Mail has the Smart Mailbox function, which serves this purpose really well.

2) Make lists the night before.
One thing I have been doing for years that seems to keep me focused is to write up to-do lists the night before, prioritizing between “must-dos” and “nice-tos.” A “must-do” might be completing the chapter you’ve been working on for a while, while a “nice-to” could be starting or mapping out the next one. Writing out my list the day before means that when I arrive at my computer the next morning I don’t waste time remembering what I’m there for.

Adding to this smart idea of lists, Yvelette Stines, writer and educator says to give each task a time frame, and put a check beside each one once it’s done. And Businesswoman Susan Burnstein uses what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which entails working in 25-minute bursts. She says it works like a charm for productivity boosts.

While we’re on the topic of time, are there certain times of the day when you are more productive?

3) Discover when you’re most creative.
Michelle Warner, entrepreneur, says to figure out what time of the day you’re most focused and creative and the schedule the work that requires the most creativity for those times. “I’m a morning person so I prioritize my day to do all of my creating in the morning,” she explains. “Then meetings, email, administration tasks and other things I don’t need to think about, get done in the afternoon when I’m more restless.”

I’m with Michelle. If I can be creative in the morning and do the heady stuff at that time, well, the afternoon pretty much takes care of itself.

4) Put a lid on social media.
Of course, one of my favourite time monsters is social media. I’m actually afraid to calculate how much time I spend tweeting, checking likes, and trolling my media feeds. Although I’m almost certain I’m not the only one who shares this obsession. Marsha Shandhur of Yes, Yes Marsha cites Amber McCue of NiceOps as helping her take control of her social media once and for all, and the simplicity of her approach might surprise you. “She taught me that taking social media off your phone could give you back hours,” says Marsha.

5) Eat healthy to keep up your energy.
Sometimes, we’re so busy looking for an app to boost our productivity we forget that what we eat makes a huge difference in how much energy we have to approach our tasks. Carla Golden, a massage therapist, nutritionist and educator says to eat for high-energy, which for her means, eating a low fat and high-fruit diet. “This keeps me going strong from 7 am to 10 pm with no afternoon slump,” she says, adding that she usually gets four more hours out of her day than other people she knows with a similar age and lifestyle.

6) Just say “no.”
The one big thing I’ve learned about being a writer is it’s not a profession per-se, but rather it’s a lifestyle, a vocation–an I-can’t-live-without-it kind of deal. I have many friends who go to their day jobs and then come home and put their work behind them, yet as a writer I could never do that.

Don’t worry about telling friends “no” you can’t come out and play because you’re writing. You will have many people who don’t understand and who think you’re selfish. Yes, they will get sick and tired of hearing you say the same thing over and over. Remember, that’s their problem not yours. The worst thing you can do is to feel guilty about what you love to do and must do, which is to write. Yet in order to write more, you do have to say “no” quite a bit to social invitations and other things that aren’t mandatory.

And finally…apply these rules so you can write every day.

Your job is to write every day. Not to write on the side of your desk or in between the more important stuff. Writing is the more important stuff and if you don’t write regularly then you won’t meet your writing goals.

So make a promise to yourself to write as much as you can. Before work, before the kids wake up, while at the dentist’s office, on the commute to work. Famous authors have written many books while at their place of work! You don’t need perfect conditions, you just need to commit to a few rules such as those I’ve outlined above, and stay the course. I know you can do it.


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106a-298x300Lissa M. Cowan is the author of Milk Fever, a novel, works of non-fiction and co-author of a poetry translation. She speaks and writes about storytelling, creativity, and writing. She is a Huffington Post blogger and writes regularly for Canadian and U.S. magazines and newspapers. She holds a Master of Arts degree in English Studies from l’Université de Montréal and lives in Toronto, Canada.