Following the writings of John Resig - Write Code Every Day, I think it is an interesting strategy to apply the same philosophy to book writing. This post is a modified version of the original with the necessary changes applied to the world of literature.
If you have a side project that needs a lot of your time, it can be tough to keep up your productivity in your regular job. I've been there. I have a full-time job and a side project that requires a lot of time and energy to maintain. It can be difficult to keep up my productivity while meet other obligations.
There are several problems with how you are working on them. Primarily, you are working on weekends and sometimes weekly evenings. This is a strategy that doesn't work well for everyone. Trying to get quality work done on the weekend usually generates a great deal of stress and not getting it done can produce a sense of failure. This is a problem that is compounded by not being able to guarantee that every weekend you have free time or that you don't want to dedicate 2 days to writing (eliminating any possibility of relaxation or doing something more entertaining).
Besides, a week is enough time to forget where you were or what you left pending (even using notes). Not to mention again that missing a weekend creates a 2-week gap. In the context of several side projects, it can be deadly for them.
Following the idea completed by Jennifer Dewalt in which she set out to build 180 websites in 180 days, the alternative is to follow a similar strategy: write every day.
You have to set certain rules to complete it:
You must write something every day. It can be a page, a chapter, or anything else, but always related to what you have written.
It must be something meaningful. It can't be revision or text formatting. It is allowed, but it cannot be the exclusive work of one day.
Everything must be written before midnight.
These are arbitrary rules. It must not technically be before midnight but it is a way to avoid sloppy writing until too late. This is a way to force yourself to be aware of the usefulness of what you are writing.
By writing something every day, you are sticking to your goals and being accountable to yourself. You will improve in areas that you might not have thought about before, such as grammar or vocabulary.
Once applied, you will see several interesting things appear as a result of these habit changes:
- 1. Get a Minimum Viable Text
- 2. Writing as a habit
- 3. Fight anxiety
- 4. Weekends are yours
- 5. Internal changes
- 6. Accept context switching
- 7. Better time balance
1. Get a Minimum Viable Text
You are forced to write for no less than 30 minutes a day.
It is hard to get anything meaningful done in less time, especially if you have to remember where you left off yesterday. The solution is to commit to writing for no less than 30 minutes a day. This will give you the momentum and the motivation to continue writing without needing too much time for each individual session.
On weekdays it can be difficult to get anything more than an hour free, while on weekends it is possible to get a whole day.
2. Writing as a habit
Other people's perception of your progress isn't important, what matters is the change you make to yourself. Whether that's with weight loss or much needed exercise, if you're not focused on that goal then others opinions don't really matter.
The outside perception of your progress is not important. What is important is the change you are making in your life and not the perception that others have of your work. It's the same as dieting or exercising: if you don't worry about improving yourself, you will never succeed.
3. Fight anxiety
Before starting this experiment you may have frequently experienced high levels of anxiety about not completing enough work or not making enough progress (concepts which are relative in side projects without deadlines). The feeling of making progress is as important as making real progress.
Once you start making consistent progress each day the anxiety tends to disappear. You can end up feeling at peace with the amount of work accomplished and stop worrying about the frantic need to do anything.
4. Weekends are yours
Getting work done on the weekend seems to be absolutely critical to getting ahead (since it's usually the only time you have significant time to work).
This is no longer the case, and that's a good thing. Having high expectations about everything that will be accomplished during the weekend only ends up disappointing. It is very difficult to get all the proposed work done, and that may force you to turn down other weekend activities that you also enjoy (going out to eat, visiting a museum, going to the park, couple-time, etc.) in favor of getting more work done. Although important, side projects should not exclude other activities.
5. Internal changes
An interesting effect of working on side projects every day is that you keep moving forward in your mind more frequently. So when you go for a walk, take a bath, or any other daily "non-brain" activity, you may find yourself involuntarily thinking about what you will write about later or finding a good solution to a certain problem that might have come up. This does not happen when you work on a project once a week.
Normally, this time spent on other activities was wasted with anxiety about not getting any project done.
6. Accept context switching
There is always going to be a context switching cost when resuming work on a side project. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to rethink a project after a full week of work on another task. Daily work is more useful in this regard as the time period between work is much shorter, so it is easier to remember what I was working on.
7. Better time balance
One of the most important aspects of this change is learning how to better balance the work/side project/life relationship. Knowing that you are going to have to work on the project every day you have to take care of your time management. If you are planning to go out in the evening and not come back until late, then you may have to write during the morning, before you start on your conventional work.
It should be noted that you may find that following this rhythm, the time devoted to your hobbies is reduced, but it is a choice that you must make and decide if the change is worth it.