4 Ways to Make Time for Your Writing (Even if You Really, REALLY Don’t Have Any)

Make Time for Writing (even if you don't have any) - Makealivingwriting.comYou want to write … you really, really do.

You keep waiting for a good time to open up in your schedule, but it seems that every day you hit the sack wondering, “Where did the time go?”

I get that. Between our jobs, families, housekeeping chores, and other obligations, it seems like we have zero minutes left over to work on our passions.

And building our writing business takes a backseat to the rest of the tasks on our to-do lists.

I’ve coached many, many writers around this theme, and also wrote a book for women who want to do it all—including starting a side business—but don’t seem to have the time: How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie. (Though the book is aimed at women, the strategies apply to men, too!)

Ready to make the time to write more—and get your writing business off the ground? Here are the top tips from my research:

1. Remember, you do have the time

Before I get into the time-making strategies, I want you to consider that we all have 168 hours in a week. If we sleep eight hours per might and work eight-hour days five days a week, that leaves 72 hours free and clear for other things.

If your excuse is that your chores and childcare duties suck up the rest of that time, here’s a reality check: In her book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam analyzed time-use studies and discovered that people don’t spend as much time working, doing chores, or taking care of their kids as they think.

Many would-be writers complain that they work 60-hour weeks at their day jobs and spend 20 hours per week on household tasks, but this is rarely the case. Since we typically don’t track our hours, and so don’t have solid numbers to report, it’s simply easier, when approached by a pollster, to go along with the cultural narrative that we’re an overworked and underslept nation. That’s why the numbers are so skewed.

Though we do have more time than we think, the real problem comes when the time we do have is broken up so it seems we never have a big enough chunk of time to go after our writing goals. So even if we technically have 30 hours free per week to write, those come in bits and pieces throughout the week.

It’s hard to get a lot of writing done when you know you have only 15 minutes or an hour before you need to do something else!

If this is a problem you have, try examining your schedule and seeing where you can shuffle around obligations in order to create larger chunks of free time. For example, you can batch certain tasks like errands, cooking, housekeeping, and client calls to get them all done at once.

2. Sleep less

How much more writing and business building could you get done if you magically had an extra hour (or more) in the day? Well, you can make those magic hours happen—by sleeping less.

In 2014, the American Time Use Survey showed that on average, we’re sleeping 8.76 hours per day. That sure does sound like a lot of snooze time! In fact, for some people, it may be too much snooze time. Sleeping less may make you more productive.

A study in the Journal of Sleep concluded: “Only shorter than average sleepers (<7.5 h) spent more time socializing, relaxing, and engaging in leisure activities, while both short (<5.5 h) and long sleepers (≥8.5 h) watched more TV than the average sleeper.”

In other words, people who slept between 5.5 and 7.5 hours per night get more done.

Everyone’s sleep needs are different. But if you’re one of those people who can get by on less sleep than average, wouldn’t you like to use those hours to go after your writing goals?

To test whether this will work for you, experiment with your sleep time to see how much you really need, instead of simply going along with how long your body wants to lounge in bed because you’re feeling lazy, unmotivated, or anxious about the coming day.

Try cutting back by 15 minutes every few days. When you get to the point where you’re feeling sleepy during the day, bump your sleep time back up by 15 minutes and keep it there.

Fore example, if I let myself sleep as long as I want, I usually clock in at around 8.5 hours—but I know from experimenting that I still feel great with just seven hours.

Another tip: Google “sleep hacks” for tactics that will help you get higher quality sleep so you’ll need less of it—like good sleep hygiene habits, supplements like melatonin and magnesium, meditation techniques, exercise, and changes to your diet.

3. Analyze your schedule

We do certain things at certain times, right? The order must never vary: We get up, work out at the gym, shower, go to work for eight hours, commute home, eat dinner, socialize or relax, and save chores, errands, and fun for the weekends.

But this schedule leaves very little time for building your writing business. In fact, it takes up the entire day, from early in the morning until bedtime.

Why do we adhere to a schedule that doesn’t give us time to do what we really want? It’s because we develop habits, so that we don’t need to analyze every single decision in our days.

Take a hard look at your daily schedule. Write down everything you do, in order, from your first cup of coffee in the morning to brushing your teeth before bed.

Then take a look at each item. Does this task need to be done at the time you normally do it? Does it have to take as much time as it normally does? Do you have to do it at all?

For example, instead of hitting the gym in the a.m., would it make more sense to exercise during your lunch break? Is your dinner routine efficient? How about your kids’ bedtime routine?

Finally, brainstorm new ways of doing these things—and don’t worry about whether they’re normal. Writing for a living isn’t “normal” anyway, so who cares? You need to do what works for you and helps you go after your writing dreams.

4. Move faster

When you sort the laundry, can you will your hands to move faster than your usual speed to get the job done more quickly? Yes, you probably can. Can you do your hair more quickly? I’d say yes. Can you challenge yourself to read faster, type faster, move faster? Yes, indeed.

Many people think the natural speed they happen to work at is simply the best they can do. But you can make a deliberate decision to move faster when you do pretty much anything.

Guru-types out there sing the praises of slowing down, but slow isn’t always the best tactic when you have a whole lot you want to do, and not a lot of time to do it in.

Instead, brainstorm ways to take care of tasks more quickly, so you can cram more writing into your schedule. For example, if you’re a slow typist, take a free online typing class to pick up your speed. If it normally takes you half an hour to clean the kitchen after dinner, see if you can do it in half the time. Challenge yourself to get your writer website up in four hours. (Yes, it can be done!)

All of these strategies for making time in your life have one thing in common: They require you to take charge. Instead of going with the flow, and letting other people dictate your life, you decide how much you’ll sleep, how fast you’ll move, what you’ll do, and when you’ll do it.

Examine your life, take charge of your time — and get that writing business off the ground so you can do more of what you love every day.

What are your favorite tricks to get more writing time? Tell us in the comments below.

How to do it all -- Linda Formichelli Linda Formichelli is the author of How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie, available now. Join the email list and get an invite to the super-secret Facebook group for the book.

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58 comments on “4 Ways to Make Time for Your Writing (Even if You Really, REALLY Don’t Have Any)
  1. Hi, all! Greetings from Beijing…today is the final day of our 15-day trip.

    Thanks for all your comments. I see the suggestion to sleep less got a lot of attention…though I’m confused about how so many readers thought I was suggesting to sleep less than you need to be happy, healthy, and functional — which is of course not the case.

    Since there was so much interest in the sleep tip, I ended up writing a FULL guest post on this for the Work At Home Wife blog, with links to relevant research, if anyone is interested:

    Sleep Less, Do More: The Shocking Way to Get More Work (and Fun!) Done Every Day
    http://www.theworkathomewife.com/sleep-less/

    I hope it helps, and that you all enjoy it!

  2. Kabria says:

    I read this article and the comments offer more insight than the actual article. It shows me that there is no science. If you want to write, you simply have to do it. Of course, try to be methodical but that will vary greatly from writer to writer and the only way to be truly effective is to get to know yourself. Which based on many of the comments below usually takes the most time. You have to learn yourself professionally. How much you need to sleep? How slow and steady you need to work personally I’m a turtle. Beyond that you have to adapt constantly and be okay with that. I truly appreciate the discussion.

  3. Time management is almost an “evergreen” topic in the writing world. I had to work my way through school and spent far too long working and studying so I did all the things Linda suggests. Then when I wanted to start writing articles and get a website up while working full time, I had to do it again. I’m now under doctor’s orders to not cut back on my sleep. LOL! The point is though how bad do you want it? How strong is your motivation? Many writers, myself included, are obsessive and if you want it bad enough you will find a way. I think Linda’s point is you can find a way.

    In retrospect, if I had to do it all over again and if circumstances were ideal, which let’s face it they often aren’t, I’d put more emphasis on 1. Remember You Do Have the Time and 3. Analyze Your Schedule.

    Under #1, I’d add to ask what you could delegate to others in your household. Also, if someone can do it for less than what you earn per hour, it might make sense to hire someone to help out.

    Under #3, I found that what worked best for me was remembering that writing is iterative. In other words, there’s no writing just re-writing. As such, I always carry a little notebook to catch ideas anyway so I started using it to write outlines and drafts, too. If you carry a personal digital device, you can use that instead of the paper notebook and that saves you a step. The notebook technique helped me work from the time I got up until I returned home from work. Then when I had an hour or two in the late evening I could re-write.

    In November 2013, I took the plunge and participated in NaNoWriMo, the annual event where writers spend 30 days writing a 50,000-word novel. I finished and I’m still working on re-writing my novel, which I wrote in long hand each day on my train ride to and from work. At the end of the event, I wondered why it took me so long to realize this just-get-it-down-on-paper-then-rewrite process was the critical success factor I’d been missing while needlessly worrying.

    So my advice is to worry less, get a good night’s sleep, keep reading and writing, delegate, slow down and go with the flow of the day using your notebook. Besides, brushing your teeth and the laundry have to get done. However, you can always toss the laundry aside for a sec and write in your notebook that great idea or paragraph or whatever, and then pick up with the laundry again.

    I like the advice from the author, Patricia Cornwell. She advises writers to think of their writing like a relationship. Turning to your writing is like visiting a friend. When we miss somebody we keep that connection established. If we do that with our writing, then we stay in that moment, and we don’t forget what we’re doing. Using the notebook method throughout the day, helps you keep the connection.

  4. The “Sleep Less” tip really kicked up some dust.

    I’ve known a couple of people who only slept 2-3 hours a night. It’s mind boggling, but then they told me that their whole family are like that.

    Winston Churchill slept a lot, worked in bed every morning and achieved a lot in life.

    I think it really depends on the person. Age makes a difference. I used to be able to do 5 days with cat-naps while on patrol in the army. The cat nap was about 25 or 45 minutes and then you get a kick in the head to get going again for six or seven hours. It didn’t bother me.
    The kick in the head wasn’t necessary,though.

    I’d love to be able to write like I used to do patrols, but I think the body and mind want the 7.5 hours sleep these days.

    Fitness and good nutrition will certainly give you more bounce first thing in the morning. For me, if the day starts with energy, that’s the way it stays. So, a good sleep and a feeling of having done a good days work contribute to sound sleep and renewed energy.

  5. Lindsay says:

    I’ve found I can’t cut down on my sleep, otherwise it just creates a knock-on effect and my productivity gets worse and worse until I crash and recover over the weekend. But what has helped is changing my schedule around. I worked in the evening for three years, when I was exhausted after a day of taking care of a young kid. A couple of months ago I started getting up at 5 am and working before my son wakes up. That means I get all my brain work in first, then I am free to get tired from there. It’s also better for quality sleep because I’m not staring at a computer screen until minutes before I go to bed.

    I’ve also found ways to cut down on tasks, like taking a handful of things upstairs to put away every time I go up for any reason, and the trick of only handling something once. (If you pick it up to use it, put it away as soon as you finish with it rather than dumping it somewhere to deal with later. This also saves on clutter and sanity!) Regular domestic chores are worked into my routine with my son during the day. I can even get an hour of light work time in during the day (admin, emails, etc.) during the hour my son spends on his tablet in the afternoon. Child bedtime is finally optimized as well – child is now big enough to do most of it himself, and the rest of it is mainly done by Daddy while I wash the dinner dishes.

    Most of this took a lot of stressful trial and error and holding out for my kid to get more independent, but I’m really pleased with where we are now! Till I get tired of getting up early, that is. 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      Good for you for tweaking this, Lindsay — our schedule needs definitely do change over time.

      For years, I was the ‘midnight filer,’ always working after kids went to bed. But as I got older, that just didn’t fly anymore. As you say, I found I couldn’t fall asleep 5 minutes after working!

      Now I’m starting to experiment with getting up early, especially this time of year when it’s already light where I live very early on. 😉

  6. Mandy Buffington says:

    I think really it all depends what you want to do and what you are dealing with. I know this is Linda’s article and there’s some good overall advice within some stuff if you look into it, however, I believe there should be another side written to it for those that are writers that deal with health issues. Those especially should not lessen sleep and need to be very careful how they change or do anything to their schedule. Just to get anything creative is even more of a hardship than working because when you are constantly dealing with health everyday you get no breaks at all its 24/7 there are no breaks vacations or anything else. I believe that sort of side should be covered.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Mandy, I know Linda isn’t telling people who’re sick to short themselves on sleep here. If you need 8 hours, sick or well, then you need it. That isn’t the point.

      The point is to experiment and optimize your schedule. If you need 8 hours, you might do better if it were 6 at night and 2 in the afternoon, for instance. Or if you sleep earlier, or later. That’s all.

      • Mandy Buffington says:

        It’s more than “sick@ when you have a chronic illness Carol that’s a bit insensitive. And I wish I could play around with sleep like that it isn’t that simple especially if someone has a health issue like fibromyalgia which one of the symptoms is constant fatigue and sometimes you also deal with fatigue. That’s why I said health issues more meaning stuff that’s long term not short term like a cold. When I think health issues for me I’m a chronic health survivor someone who has many chronic illnesses that’s not something that is easy to just make changes to a schedule or do certain things like this post would like you to do. That’s why I suggested another side a way to write when you feel no time due to other problems there are writers who are disabled which are also those with chronic health issues.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Mandy, as I think we’ve said, if you can’t tweak your sleep due to illness, then don’t. Every tip isn’t for every reader. As always, bring your trash can and discard anything that doesn’t resonate for your situation. But for the vast majority of people, I think there are some gains to be had by looking at number of hours and/or WHEN you are sleeping.

        • Mandy, you might like the February 6 post from BeAFreelanceBlogger. (Incidentally, Linda published a similar post to this one on THAT site last week, and so far no one there has complained about the advocation of sleep deprivation!)

  7. If you sleep even less, you can also do a PhD at the same time while training to be an astronaut. Just move faster!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, maybe YOU can…I can’t. Linda’s not telling us to stay up around the clock — just to see if perhaps we’d do just as well on a bit less sleep, and it would give us more productive time.

      It’s been fascinating to see how many people were freaked out by this tip!

  8. Idellah Ashlie says:

    These are great general suggestions on how one might make more time their your schedule for writing. I am pretty sure no one is suggesting we make ourselves sleep deprived!

    I personally find when I am taking better care of myself (getting some exercise, decent meals, etc) I do well on 5-6 hours of sleep per night.

    My secret weapon has been an excellent ‘bioavailable’ multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement. Not something with speed-like herbs in it, but just a good nutritional supplement. It gives my cells a boost and
    I feel much more energized upon awakening in the morning.

    Better self-care has been a key part of making more time and improving the quality of it – because I don’t nod out by 7pm anymore!

    I’m working a habit/ritual around writing time – to help protect/preserve the time. When writing knows you love it enough to do that, sitting down to do it makes it so much easier!

  9. Shari says:

    I’m totally with Linda on this one. For many years I slept less (5.5-6). I loved being a morning person but I was definitely tired. For the last two years, I followed the movement that said we need more sleep (8.5-9). I was feeling so unproductive and actually more tired. Recently, I’ve pushed back to 7 hours a night. I have my mornings back and I feel great. I have more energy and I’m getting more done than I have in two years! Sooo . . . just echoing the fact that you may not need as much sleep as you thing. Go ahead, try it out.

  10. Barry says:

    Nice article Carol,

    I would recommend to note down points for your next topic while you are free like during traveling. If you have points ready with you it takes a very less time as per my experience.

    Sorry to say but I am disagree with sleep less point. 🙂

  11. Rob says:

    Everyone has to prioritize. Maybe some people don’t find time for writing because it’s not really high enough on their list of priorities. If trying to force writing to the top of the list makes you neglect more important things, I think it’s a problem. If you turn off the TV and do some writing, that’s another thing. The average person spends four hours a day in front of the TV. That’s a lot of potentially productive time lost.

  12. Amy Butcher says:

    To me, it seems what some commenters are missing here is the big picture. Like others have said, the post isn’t really about sleep or batching tasks. The question is: Do you want to do it all? A lot of society tells us that this is impossible and that we shouldn’t even try. For me, Linda’s book really hit home when she talked about how we over-achievers have a problem when it comes to plans because we get caught up in other people’s visions of what we’re supposed to do. I personally got a lot of flak throughout school. I always belonged to too many clubs and did too many things while my grade point average was through the roof. People just didn’t like that, and over time, I gave into a lot of that attitude and made myself smaller than I needed to be. This book is about making yourself big and, hot dang, doing it all if you freakin’ feel like it. ‘Cause man, I often just feel like taking this damn world by the horns and doing every single thing I want to. Kids or no. Mortgage or no. And Linda tells you how this is possible. So if you don’t ever have those feelings, then you probably will get caught up in the advice of sleeping X number of hours. Just really not the point. Otherwise, loved the book, Linda!

    • Wow, thanks, Amy! I’m glad you liked the book.

      I also love how you used the phrase “Keeping yourself small” because I just used it when being interviewed for a podcast the other day. We women are either wired or socially conditioned to keep ourselves small in order to not make other people feel bad about themselves, or to feel jealous.

      That’s part of the reason why, when a friend says, “I had a fight with my partner,” even if WE have a great relationship with our spouse, we dig into our memories for some negative anecdote about our spouse. (Not that you should flaunt your successes; just an example of how the process works. (And the other part of the reason is that this is our way of connecting with others…by showing commonality!)

  13. Boon Ong says:

    Sleep is one of the most important thing because we required to rest well and recover our tiredness.

    There are people who love to sleep longer than usual, and that is a good thing to change the habit.

    By sleeping less, we can look at 30min to 1hr earlier. It is nice to see break dawn in the morning, don’t we all? Of course, make it as a good habit than forcing yourself to it.

    I have time, but I do not know to use it properly, that is really poor managed. =)

  14. Lisa says:

    Lots on sleep. I think it makes sense. I’m fairly certain I could do with an hour less, because I linger.

    I’m wondering about the schedule thing. I have habits that probably could go, or be arranged differently.
    I read somewhere that we should calendar all our time, by the hour. I feel that’s so… well… it feels so… planned… and ….structured… so it’ll probably work. I’m going to attempt to schedule all my hours next week with tasks and see if it improves my productivity. (Of course it will, but I’m curious by how much!)

    • Carol Tice says:

      I do that, Lisa — not that I use my calendar schedule like a straitjacket, but it tells me everything that needs to get done today, or get recalendared to another day. I’ve found it’s better for making sure things don’t fall OFF my to-do list altogether!

      And I’m a big fan of looking at what time of day you do things — I’ve seen some big gains that way.

  15. Abby says:

    Moving faster, sleeping less, and doing more sounds like an incredible burden in the abstract, but it’s actually quite nice once it’s part of your life. I think it’s smart to keep in mind that this advice wasn’t designed to make you kill yourself for no reason – it’s designed to help you achieve the most fulfilling version of your life.

    I have been following this advice of Linda’s for a few weeks since I’ve been reading about the launch of her new book. Linda sounds like a straight-up supermom, just like mine was. Meanwhile 24-year-old me can barely balance work and basic grooming/housekeeping.

    So after reading some of Linda’s do-it-all articles, I decided to try moving faster and batching my tasks for efficiency. The results for me have been awesome. I’m usually one of those people who’s standing in the corner looking haunted by the ghosts of to-do lists past, but now that I sat down and blocked out my schedule the way Linda suggested, I’m able to free up my mind. Moving faster gave me time this week to go to a Zumba class, have drinks with friends, and work on my play so I genuinely feel less stressed having moved faster all week.

    You don’t have to get hung up on the sleep thing, but it’s not exactly a death sentence to try to sleep less. I used to sleep more like 8-10 hours a night, but after my cousin wrote an article about it, I did some experiments and found that 7-7.5 hours makes me feel more refreshed.

    • Thank you, Ava! Well, my kid thinks I’m supermom but that’s because he’s 7. Give it a few years and I’ll be dethroned! 🙂

      I’m so thrilled you’ve been having good results from the tips in How to Do It All! I agree — don’t get hung up on the details. i stress time and time again in the book that you need to experiment to find out what works for YOU, and offer a few ideas to try.

  16. Tanya says:

    Personally I found the article fairly helpful in that it identifies different ways that we “can” find more time to write I don’t think the author was suggesting that we do ALL of them. That being said I usually find that sleeping between six and seven hours works for me.
    What I do to get some writing in is to use Siri while doing something else, I can “write ” by talking into my phone. I can later copy and paste what I “wrote” into a more formal document.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Oh, you’re in good company with the recorded-notes technique, Tanya.

      Long ago, I got a chance to do some secretarial work for the great humorist and talk-show host Steve Allen — and he kept a recorder with him at all times, to capture ideas whenever they occurred.

  17. Emilio says:

    Instead of surfing on Facebook while on the toilet, scribble on a notepad.

  18. Sandy in St Louis says:

    My mother did everything for everybody – and before a lot of the modern conveniences were even invented. She complained she worked from morning until night and never had a minute to relax. That’s true. She had the attitude of “it’s faster to do it myself than to let you do it and have to do it over” because we couldn’t do it the way she wanted it done and her perfectionism kept her from enjoying her life.
    So rather than argue about folding laundry faster or sleeping fifteen minutes less, maybe we should all see if we’re holding on to tasks that could be delegated. Are there 20 minutes where you can tell kids you’re off limits? Not always but surely sometimes. Linda’s just suggesting ways of making changes based on what she’s done herself. Your mileage may vary as the commercials say.

    • Carol Tice says:

      GREAT additional tip, Sandy — I actually had a guest post from someone who found a TON of more productive time by making her teen get his license or take the bus, and such.

      And I love this comment, because in my bedroom, on top of my bookcase, I have the washboard my grandmother used to hand-wash clothing, and her wringer-bucket. Even after the washing machine came, sometimes she would still use that because the machine didn’t get clothes as clean. 😉

      We live in a unique age where modern conveniences make it possible for us to get SO MUCH done, so much faster than it used to happen.

  19. Thanks for your comments!

    I do have a young child (7), and I also recently interviewed a woman who has seven kids and has optimized their bedtime routine. If something seems implausible or impossible for you, that doesn’t mean it is implausible or impossible for other people, or that it causes them stress or angst of any sort. It’s all about experimenting to see what works for you.

    For example, as I stress in this paragraph:

    “To test whether this will work for you, experiment with your sleep time to see how much you really need, instead of simply going along with how long your body wants to lounge in bed because you’re feeling lazy, unmotivated, or anxious about the coming day.”

    Appreciate the comments!!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I also was on the 6.5 hour sleep schedule when I had two toddlers who were 16 months apart…just to say.

      As Linda says, I think the point of this post is to not assume your life parameters are set in stone, and to experiment and see what you might optimize.

      I know people who are useless without their 8 hours, and as an old TV shirt my mom used to have said, “I have 2 speeds, and if you don’t like this one, you really won’t like the other one.” 😉

      But…ask yourself WHAT IF? And see what happens. Try a little experimentation. For me, melatonin at bedtime has also resulted in better QUALITY sleep that allows me to do fine on less sleep hours.

  20. Sarah says:

    And any of these responses are more thoughtful and better written than the original blog. It’s poor click bait tactics to say you have realistic tips for increasing writing time and then gloss over nuanced useful strategies like look at your sleep cycles and see if setting your alarm to sync with your REM buys you a 30 minute chunk of alert writing time. THATs a good tip. But it also might setting it 30 minutes LATER and being more alert and ready to write rather groggily waiting for the second cup of coffee to kick in. It’s the utter lack of nuance and condescension that rankles- moving my hands faster is dumb. Trying to load laundry and accidentally dripping wet underwear on the basement floor and having me to rehash because I rushed wastes time. It goes against all actual scientific evidence for mindfulness and time management as it relates to choices about our time.

    Watching less tv and actually Becoming aware of where those 15 minute chunks of Time lie so I can put them together is a Good suggestion.

  21. Robert says:

    This is some wonderful advice. It is truly amazing how much time writers lose on a daily basis with things that are normal and pull us from writing. Thank you for such a great, thought provoking post.

  22. Hannah Mann says:

    Interjecting a possible explanation for Point #2 and why it’s not as careless as it seems…

    I remember reading somewhere that REM sleep cycles in 90-minute intervals, so that’s why 6, 7.5, or 9-hour stretches are ideal for feeling rested after waking. Waking up in the middle of a REM cycle results in that groggy overslept feeling, or a zombie-like trance from not sleeping enough. I don’t recall the exact details, but that may help explain why some people don’t feel tired on fewer hours. It’s not necessarily about “less” sleep, but more about timing your sleep so that you wake up when your body’s ready to go.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, that’s interesting! I feel like bing, after 6.5 hours I wake up, so maybe I’m completing a sleep cycle. And at this time of year, birds are singing loudly…and I wake up.

  23. Wow, lot’s of controversy about the sleep tip! I know many people who function their best at less than 8 hours—unfortunately, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. If I don’t get at least 9, my brain won’t turn on the next day. :/

    In general this is good advice, though the tip about moving faster could be construed the wrong way and is also dependent on personality type. If I rush to get something done, I tend to whip myself into a panicked frenzy where I’m not thinking clearly, not doing my best work, and am experiencing more stress. Gurus or not, some of us really do have to slow down to be our most efficient/productive selves! (And this is coming from someone who’s built a freelance writing biz during the 15 hours per week that her toddler naps—I’m a big fan of finding hidden time!)

  24. As someone who needs a solid 9 hours of sleep, and homeschools, I think Linda is right on with this post (and her book)- we really DO have more time than we think.

    I love her suggestion to “batch” errands. It’s a trick I had to learn the hard way when I had an infant and a toddler, but has served me well now when trying to get in those precious 3 hours a day of writing time.

    I read that the average American watches close to 4 hours of TV a day…I don’t watch any. That’s a big chunk of time right there.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m with you on all this, Vanessa — my husband refuses to batch errands, and I’m like fine, go waste your time! When I was the main errand-runner, I grocery shopped once a week, period. And planned.

      And for me, 1 hour of TV is a ton. Honestly! Way too much self-medicating with entertainment out there, instead of acting on our dreams.

  25. Sarah says:

    Optimize you kids bedtime routine. Only someone without young children would offer this as advice. Also, if the national average of sleep is 8.5 hours that doesn’t mean most of us who are finishing dissertations and raising small kids and working a job are getting that. My retired parents and childfree friends might absolutely be able to get 30 hours less. I can’t squeeze another 30 minutes off my 5.5 that is already interrupted multiple times to nurse and soothe small people. If your point is SOME people could get less sleep fine. But why would you lead with this and double down on advocating everyone try it?

    • Margie says:

      I’ve been there with the whole nursing a baby while freelancing thing and I’ve had to learn what I’m realistically capable of accomplishing during the day with kids and saving the heavy lifting/deeper thinking for when they’re either sleeping or under someone else’s care because really, you can’t focus on two all-consuming things at once 🙂

      During the day, the most I could do would be simple internet research or sending quick emails. I’d *maybe* be able to have some interview notes printed out and highlight them and jot notes down while watching them play, but that’s about it.

      During naptime, I’d squeeze in phone interviews and some writing.

      At night, I’d do most of my writing. Once my work required more time, I had to get childcare and gradually increased it from there.

      I had to stop working at night eventually because I’d be so pooped by then. I also went through a good 18-20 months of severe chronic sleep deprivation after my second child was born because I was still getting woken up multiple times at night, so staying up late wasn’t getting me anywhere, just more exhausted.

      • Margie, I love the way you go with the flow, and do what you need to do to make it work! You work during nap time while the kids are at home until you can’t…then you get childcare. You work at night until that no longer works, and then scale back. I’m all about that…which is why in my book I have a chapter called “Inconsistency Is A-OK.” We look negatively at inconsistency, but I think doing what doesn’t work for you just so people won’t call you inconsistent is a good way to get burned out.

        • And just because something always worked for you before your kids were born, or when you were under 30, doesn’t mean you can necessarily count on that approach for life. Experimenting with what works is a lifelong process!

          • Carol Tice says:

            Boy, that really resonates for me. Right now, I’m really overhauling my vision for my life — we’re getting rid of TONS of possessions, and I’m moving on from being the person who singlehandedly keeps up our .6-acre garden, which I used to love. Now, I’d like to do other things! We all need to keep challenging the status quo and asking, “Is this still working for me?” If not, it’s time to experiment.

  26. Elke Feuer says:

    Thanks for the recommendations in this post! I’ve experimented with my own sleep needs and found that 7 hours works best for me. Any more or less for more than 2 days and I struggle.

    Yes, I feel we can train ourselves to do things faster. I think it depends on how it’s done and the individual. I trained myself to shift from writing 1k words in an hour to 2k or more without stressing myself.

    Ana-I think this post is meant as recommendations only and each person should do their own trial and error to determine what works best for them-like everything in life. Learning to do something fast can challenge one person, but cause stress in another. It doesn’t mean its wrong or right, just a recommendation. For instance, telling a type A person to slow down would likely cause them stress. 😀

    • Carol Tice says:

      Agree — that’s exactly what Linda is saying here. Challenge your notions about the parameters of your life, and you may discover some productivity opportunities you didn’t know you had.

      • I think you’ve put your finger on a problem common to many writers (and other entrepreneurs, and students, and full-time employees trying to move up…): we don’t want to go to the trouble of experimenting with our needs as unique individuals, we just want some expert to tell us EXACTLY how to succeed with minimal effort, at least where it comes to finding the straightest and quickest line forward. But, really, one mark of a true entrepreneur is the willingness to embrace our own uniqueness and be confident enough in our own calling to navigate around many a setback.

        I have much experience with the problems that can be generated by a “get things done faster” lifestyle, and I can testify: it’s not speeding up per se that gets you into trouble, it’s combining the physical speeding-up with a desperate ATTITUDE that ties one’s whole self-worth to quantity of tasks (largely irrespective of quality) crossed off.

  27. subrata says:

    Hi Linda,

    ahh..this is what actually I was searching for. Currently working on a day job and trying to build my freelance writer portfolio as well. So Sometime I do feel , perhaps I need 72 hours day. Thank you for the post 🙂 🙂

  28. Rup says:

    Leah, thank you for all that you do for writers everywhere. I am a big fan of your site and learn a lot from it. But this post is disappointing. “Sleep less” is a dangerous proposition when sleep deprivation is a nationally recognized problem and how much time do you think driving quickly can save? If you commute 60 miles and drive at 70 miles per hour (instead of your usual speed of 60 miles per hour) you save 10 minutes only. Over a week you do save 50 minutes but you increase your chances of an accident or getting pulled over for speeding. Surely there are less irresponsible/dangerous pieces of advice.

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s Linda, actually — and she’s calling out hard data that sleeping a bit less makes you more productive. It works for me! No one’s telling you to be underslept — just that you may not need as much sleep as you THINK you do.

  29. Ana says:

    I’m sorry, but I find this post irresponsible. Sleeping less and hurrying through tasks is detrimental to our health. So maybe some people can get by on less sleep. That doesn’t mean everyone does. Most people need at least 7 hours (not 5.5). If people who sleep between 5.5 and 7.5 hours “get more done,” it’s probably only because they’re already so busy “getting things done” that they can only sleep that little. Correlation, not causation. Hurrying through tasks can also have negative consequences. I don’t think any doctor would tell you to do things faster. It increases blood pressure and overall stress response. Why would anyone want to live as though they’re always in a hurry just to, at best, carve out a few more minutes each day? I mean, really….putting laundry in the washing machine faster? What will that buy you, 30 seconds? Should we start driving faster? Talking faster? I think most of us know that doing things more quickly results in careless mistakes, anyway. Sorry, I was hoping for better advice.

    • Carol Sheppard says:

      I absolutely agree. Telling us to “will our hands to go faster” and sleep less is ridiculous. Can I cut wasted time, like TV binging and inrernet surfing? Avsolutely, but I’m usually too drained from the lack of sleep and rushing through my day.

      • Carol Tice says:

        As an older dog, I can’t will my hands to go much faster on some tasks, Carol. 😉

        As I said above, we’re not talking ‘lack of sleep’ — Linda is talking about OPTIMIZING your sleep so that you get enough, but experiment to see if you don’t necessarily need 8.5 hours. I found 6.5 works fine for me.

        I once saw an incredible interview with Martha Stewart, who apparently is one of those people who get by on 4-5 hours a night and are perfectly OK with it. They asked her how much sleep she gets…and there was this long pause, while you could see she was calculating what to say without freaking people out about how little she sleeps. That’s all that data is saying.

        I personally only fold laundry while I watch TV, so that it takes up NO additional time. 😉

    • Carol Tice says:

      Ana, Linda has a personal emergency today so she’ll be with us later…but as someone who sleeps typically 6.5 hours a night and gets a lot more done as a result, I have to say don’t dismiss that tip until you’ve tried it!

      Over the years, I’ve found that 6-6.5 hours at night and a 15-minute nap later are my optimal pattern. I get about 2 days’ work done in one that way, and honestly, at this point I just wake up after about 6.5 hours anyway!

      I’m also someone who types 120 wpm, and that has been a HUGE advantage in the writing game. I agree with you — maybe sorting laundry faster doesn’t do much. And definitely don’t drive faster!

      Linda’s advice may seem contrarian, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. 😉

      • Ana Casado says:

        I have slept less, just as a result of a busy life…and it doesn’t make me more productive. Again, I think there’s a correlation here between being busy and sleeping less; it’s not necessarily that sleeping less CAUSES one to be more productive.

    • Margie says:

      Maybe instead of getting less sleep, tweak your schedule to see how it makes you more productive, like going to bed earlier at night so you can wake up earlier and get a good hour of undisturbed work done before everyone else gets up. You may find that you feel more rested and are more effective at what you do with one simple change.

      I used to go to bed after midnight, but going to sleep by 11 pm helps me get more of that much-needed REM sleep. I’m not as groggy in the morning and can capitalize on my creative morning hours.

      • Carol Tice says:

        Ooh, I’m a big fan of the chronobiology tweaks — figuring out when your best sleep hours are, when your most productive writing time is. Fiddle with that and you can get WAY more productive. I know if I go to bed at 10:45 pm, that’s about optimal, and if it’s getting to be midnight, I’m screwed.

    • Niwitha says:

      I totally agree with your points Ana, you exactly said what was going through my mind after reading the article.