Clearing the Decks
How do busy professionals find the time to write their books? I recently spoke with Steve Bustin, a speaker colleague from Brighton in the United Kingdom. I learned from Facebook that he had written his book in one week, so I had to talk with him to learn his secrets.
While he used many of the same strategies that I outline in my book, On Your Mark (in fact, he had purchased a copy of my book beforehand), there was one central idea of his that stuck with me. He cleared the decks.
What does it mean to “clear the decks”? Outlined here are some of Steve’s techniques, but I’ve also added some of my own that help you to get focused and get it done.
If you’re going to write at the beginning of the next month, what will need to be done now to give you time to solely focus on your book? You likely have some commitments that must be attended to: client appointments, speaking engagements and revenue-generating activities. What can you do now to prepare in advance? Do you need to pull together your meeting materials? Print handouts? Get out those invoices? Determine what is essential and do it now.
Decide what can wait
Not everything on your plate is an A priority. What can be delayed a month? What can be eliminated entirely from your “to do” list? What can be delegated? Sometimes, when you prepare for a vacation, some items get put on hold; the same should be true for your writing project.
Turn off electronic notifications
Unplug your landline. Turn off your cell. Adjust your settings so that you don’t receive notifications when you have new mail. It can all wait. Your top priority is writing. Steve adds: “To remove distractions completely, I removed the mail app from my dock and used a desktop app called Rescue Time which blocks your most-visited websites for a set period of time…it’s stopped me sneaking off to waste time on Facebook!”
Notify friends and family
Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. Let friends and family that you are totally busy. You don’t have to say why; if they don’t understand the importance of your book, you only have to say that you are unavailable. You may need to define what constitutes an “emergency” with close friends and family.
Use noise-canceling headphones or white noise
To totally clear the decks, block out unwelcome noises and sounds. I can’t listen to music when I write (I’m a music lover, so I find it very distracting). Steve used noise-canceling headphones, then played white noise through them. You can get soundtracks of babbling brooks or gentle ocean waves—whatever puts you in that space ready to write.
Some of my clients and author friends find that the best way to “clear the decks” is to just escape for a few days, even a couple weeks. A writing vacation can be both fun and productive. I’ve often found that two hours of writing per day on vacation is like writing 8 hours at my desk in my home office. And on vacation, I have the added benefit of being rested and relaxed so that I do my best work for those couple of daily hours.