Finding Time to Write: 2 Solutions When You Can’t Focus

by | Jun 28, 2018 | academic writing, time management

One of the cornerstones to how I teach academic women to write and publish more is the concept of using your “tiger time.” The basic principle is this: You will write more, and feel better about your writing, if you write during your highest-energy, most-focused times of day (your tiger time–roaaarrrr!).

But what if you feel like you don’t have a tiger time? Like you never have energy and focus–or not as much as you used to have, or you wish you had?

What if because of some life-changing event (like becoming a mother), you truly can’t write during what used to be your tiger time? Or you’re so sleepy and worn out that you’re like, “Focus? What focus?”

Here are two solutions to help you find time to write when you can’t seem to find your focus (tiger time!).

Solution #1: Write first thing

One substitute for tiger time is the first hour or two of your work day. If sleep deprivation is your problem, then your first chance to sit down and get to work is your best bet. That is when you will naturally be most focused, and it is before other problems start to get in the way.

So yes, let me emphasize that “write first thing” means first thing. No email, no social media. You can check them after you write. Instead, your writing is the first thing you work on when you sit down in your workspace.

If you have trouble turning on the computer and not checking email immediately, you can try writing by hand (I know–just hear me out!). This is just an exercise to break the habit of turning on the computer and opening your email–you’re not going to do this forever.

How to create a write-first-thing habit

Before you leave your workspace for the day, leave an open notebook and a pen on top of your keyboard. When you come to work the next day, start by writing a paragraph by hand in your notebook. Then turn on the computer, type out paragraph, and keep going.

At the end of the day grab your notebook and write yourself a “breadcrumb”–a little clue directed at yourself so that you know what to start writing when you sit down the next day. Leave your notebook with the “breadcrumb” on top of your keyboard.

Try this habit-breaking exercise for 5 writing sessions in a row, and your email habit will be broken!

Solution #2: Write in community

Recently, I offered my signature course to help academic women write and publish more: The Academic Woman’s Writing Roadmap (get the free mini course here). Ten amazing academic women joined at the VIP level, which included co-writing sessions.

Co-writing sessions work like this: We open a zoom call, mute ourselves, put our goals in the chat, and get to work.

Co-writing sessions usually happen during my tiger time (cause I’m the leader!). But one of my VIPs was is Australia, and so I had to add another time that wouldn’t be in the middle of the night. So I added an evening co-writing session from 6:00-7:00 p.m. I would never, never consider even trying to write during that time. It goes against the whole tiger time philosophy!

And here’s what I discovered: when I write in community, I can make loads of progress outside of my tiger time.

Because I was writing alongside others, I felt focused. I felt connected. I felt like I had to make progress, because we were in this together!

So if you can’t find your tiger time, try writing in community. Grab a friend and go to a coffee shop (or an empty classroom, or library cubicle) and sit together to write. You’ll get energy and focus from writing together!

How to find a writing community

I’m so excited by the idea of writing in community that I decided to build a whole membership site around the concept: The Academic Women’s Writing Collective.

Co-writing will be the cornerstone of this women’s academic writing community. And that’s the key: community. It’s nurturing our writing together with the support that so many of us are lacking in our institutions.

The Academic Women’s Writing Collective will build community and support your writing through:

    • Weekly co-writing sessions. Don’t just say you’re going to write, actually do it, with us! We’ll jump on Zoom for an hour to get the warm fuzzy feelings of accomplishing our goals together. I turn on my camera, ask you to put your writing goal in the chat, and we get down to it.
    • Monthly take-action workshops: 30-minute writing and time management workshops with an additional 30 minute Q&A. It’s like a webinar + group coaching call and it will be the MOST inspiring hour of your month.
    • Once-a-semester day-long writing retreat. Your writing deserves your attention for at least one full day per semester. We’ll meet virtually for a six-hour session of pomodoro-style writing bursts and breaks. Then we’ll debrief together at the end.
    • Writing partners. If you want a writing partner, you’ll just fill out a survey and I’ll match you up with someone.
  • Supportive, private Facebook group for goals and accountability. I’ll be asking you to check in at least weekly and tell us how you’re doing. Find others who have goals like yours and become accountability buddies. Network, connect, get cross-disciplinary feedback on your writing ideas. Most of all, discover that you are not alone and feel supported by other amazing academic women like you.

Click here to join The Academic Women’s Writing Collective now!


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