Going the Distance: How to Get Through an Over-Long Writing Day
Here’s the scenario: You’ve committed — maybe even over committed — to several large, important writing projects. Writing web content is your bread and butter; you simply have to get them done. Then life happens, and you find you’ve got several other, non-negotiable obligations on the horizon as well: a doctor’s appointment, jury duty, a family reunion, puppies! Now there’s no wiggle room. Projects you planned to write over the next several days must be completed in a single, one-day marathon.
Sound familiar? If so, here are a few tips that may help you soldier through when you’re facing a more-than-long day of writing.
- Start the night before – If time allows, look over your project specs the night before. Jot down any ideas that occur to you or sketch out a brief outline if one comes to mind. Then allow yourself a good night’s sleep. According to the article, “Why is Sleep Important?” published by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep enhances both your learning and problem-solving skills. Both of these will come in handy when you start to work in the morning.
- Make a schedule – If you’re up against a deadline, don’t plan on just trying to work your writing in when time allows. Block out the time you need for your writing. Plan to put in three or four hours after breakfast and a shower, for example, and another hour or two after lunch. Target your best writing time, as well, whether that’s first thing in the morning when your mind is sharp or late in the evening when the house is quiet. Don’t forget to schedule regular breaks. You’ll write more efficiently after a 15-minute power nap than if you simply try to power through when you’re feeling weary or unfocused.
- Face one thing at a time – If you look at all the work you’ve agreed to do, you may feel anxious and overwhelmed, negatively impacting your productivity. Take each task one at a time. Whether you’re working on a rough draft, a revision request, or that final proof read, focus on that alone until it’s done. Then pick your next task. Trying to climb a tall mountain may seem impossible; simply putting one foot in front of the other is easy.
- Remember to eat – Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed with demands, we decide that eating simply doesn’t matter. But, your brain needs fuel to function at its peak efficiency. Feed it high-quality snacks while you work, including both carbohydrates and protein. Yogurt, energy bars or fruit and string cheese are all good choices.
- Ask for help – Today is not the day to prove that you are super human. Your plate is full. Reach out to the people around you and ask for help if you need it. Has a neighbor ever offered to watch your kids? Take him up on it. Can your spouse take over cooking duties tonight? Let her. Reach out to your colleagues, as well — either in person or online. Writers are a generous bunch. If you need last-minute help with phrasing, research, or idea generation, they’re the ones to turn to.
Kate C wrote this post during a self-imposed writing marathon. She shares her home with her husband of 27 years and a fat, sassy Boston terrier named Tess.