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Want to find time to write? Try the kettle test!

Advanced tips for writers

What is the kettle test?

The kettle test is a form of time tracking – i.e. noting down what you do with your time – that I talk about in the Small Steps writing guide called Find Time to Write. Use it if you want to find more time to write during the day. I explain it briefly in this 30 sec video.

In order to do the kettle test, you need to leave a notebook next to your kettle and write in it each time you take a break and go to make a cuppa. I’m aware this may be a Brit thing, so bear with me.

The kettle test is named after one of the most used tools in our house – our hard-working electric kettle – because we use it when we’re between tasks to make tea or coffee. However, please substitute ‘kettle’ with ‘coffee machine’, ‘fridge’ or the source of your go-to beverage or snack of choice.

In fact, wherever you go when you’re on a quick five minute break, that’s where you put the notebook. (Even the bathroom might work, though I prefer the kettle myself!)

What do you write in the notebook?

The point of the kettle test is to write down what you were doing just before your break. A quick scribble is all you need. And it’s fine to use one or two word short hand: Cooking, writing, teaching, working, studying, watching TV, for example. You could also note down how you are feeling and how high or low your energy is – as that will give you extra information. I’ve creating a time tracker for you to use instead of a notebook if you want to. You can access it here.

How long should I spend on the kettle test?

One to three days should give you quite a bit of information on how you spend your time. Keep it up for seven days if you feel you need to.

Gentle version v. alarming version

I saw other people recommend this method of time tracking: setting an alarm for an hour each hour during your working day and writing down what you were doing every time the alarm goes off. That seemed too harsh to me. So I tried to come up with a gentler method. You can use the time tracker I’ve developed instead of a notebook if you like. It comes with boxes you can complete. There’s also a space for noting down your energy levels.

What do you do when you’ve completed the kettle test?

Look at the results and see if it gives you any clues to the following:

  1. Have you identified any time sucks that are taking longer than they need to?
  2. Is there anything you’re doing that’s not serving you any more?
  3. When is your energy highest / at a low ebb?
  4. When is the best time for you to build a writing habit?

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. Want more tips like these? Check out the Small Steps Writing Guides.


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