INKSPILL Making Time to Write – Guest Writer William Gallagher

Standard

ticket 2014

Making Time to Write

I could talk all day about this. And I do. I run full-day workshops on how to make more time for your writing and it comes down to many, many things you can do to shove other work out of your way. I wrote the book on it too. (I have always wanted to say that, thank you for the chance.) The book is The Blank Screen: productivity for creative writers.

Id like to show you one thing that I think will help you the most, the quickest. Its just how to handle your email.

Now, that sounds a bit flat: handling email doesnt seem like a big deal. But you already know that it is and you know it is for two reasons. One is the overwhelming pressure of that gigantic inbox of yours and one is how email interruptions smash your concentration.

Fix the second one first. Switch the bloody bleep off. Turn off the notifications. Yes, there are going to be people whose emails you must see immediately and want to respond to right away. Many email systems let you nominate people as being VIPs and bleeps and notifications from them get through. Fine. But even if you can do that, resist.

Switch email off and make a vow. Some people vow to only check emails in the morning or only in the afternoon, but I suggest you just check it hourly. Theres no need to go cold turkey. But do it religiously hourly. If an email comes in at 9:01am, and I notice it, I still will not actually read it until 10:00am.

Because it makes exactly zero difference to the sender whether you reply in 59 minutes or 59 seconds yet it makes a massive difference to you. Read and reply only at the top of the hour and youve just got yourself a clear hours writing.

The overwhelming pressure problem is related. But cope by when you do read your emails, dealing with them. There and then. Dont leave them sitting in your inbox throbbing at you until they scroll off the bottom of the screen.

Actually, do specifically this. Create a new archive mailbox. (How you do this varies a lot but Google the name of your email software and the words create mailbox and youll see instructions.) Now select every email in your inbox and drag the lot into that archive. Promise yourself you will read them all some day and accept that no, you wont.

And accept that if its that important, youll remember to go looking or theyll email you again anyway. Notice that I say archive, not delete. Dont delete this stuff, Ill go pale if you do that and I get you into trouble.

But.

Having now got a nice, gorgeous, empty inbox, wait one second and youll have new email in there.

Do this. Read that email. At the top of the hour. If its something you can reply to immediately, reply to it immediately.

If its something that will take you a bit longer say because you need to ask someone about it then create another mailbox called Follow Up or Action or Get On With This, something like that. Drag that email to that Follow Up and swear for real this time that you will look at it and act on it.

If its anything else, think about deleting it. I do keep emails when theyre just nice or part of a conversation or really anything other than obviously deletable stuff. You are probably keeping emails around that you think you might like to read some day, like my own email newsletter. Even with mine, delete it if youre not going to read it now. Okay? Though, you know, have a glance at it first. (You can subscribe sign up here for my free weekly The Blank Screen newsletter full of productivity news and advice.)

Think of it this way. When an email comes in, ignore it to the top of the hour. And then when you do read it, decide right away: reply, postpone or trash it.

Do, defer or delete.

Just dont leave it in your mailbox throbbing. Never read an email twice. I promise both that it will make you feel massively productive but it will also lift that burden of the giant inbox from your shoulders.

William

Blank screen William G

AWF circle

 

Advertisements

6 responses »

  1. I remember attending The Blank screen Lecture William gave at the Book to the Future Festival, Birmingham University 2013, (Charlie Jordan was there too) – I was so inspired by this advice that for the first time in years my emails ran to 100s and not 1000s…. I can’t quite seem to file or delete everything, I have learnt the importance of keeping an inbox organised and clear now that I have got into my writing life stride…. could never have done it without William’s advice though.

    Better than my solution – which was to continually create new inboxes – ever tried to check in 4 before you can start writing?!

    Now – you all know the secret!

  2. Pingback: INKSPILL 2014 Links | awritersfountain

  3. Pingback: INKSPILL Programme 2015 | awritersfountain

  4. Pingback: INKSPILL Not Yet Ready for Sleep | awritersfountain

  5. Pingback: INKSPILL Exploring the Archives | awritersfountain

  6. Pingback: INKSPILL Library | awritersfountain

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s