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Planning your writing time and the dangers of context switching

My top ten time management tips

I’m blogging about my top ten time management tips to celebrate the launch of the new edition of my book on goal setting and time management. You can catch up on the posts so far from here. In this post, I look at how both task switching and context switching when planning can affect your writing habits.

Task switching and writing habits

You may have noticed your mind taking a while to adapt when sitting down to write. It might take a few seconds – or a few minutes – to remember where you were at and to get back into it. The good news is that this isn’t a sign that you’re terrible at focusing! It’s simply your brain getting used to what it’s doing. So give yourself (and your brain) a break. Remember:

  • warming up (doing writing exercises or freewriting to get into the zone) may help. That’s why I self-published this book of writing prompts.
  • if we try to switch our focus between tasks during a writing session, our brains will also take time to adjust, and we’ll find writing much harder.

What is context switching?

Context switching is a version of task switching: I’m using it to mean switching from one part of our lives to another in our heads when we’re planning our time (switching, say, from scheduling work to writing a novel to the practical aspects of parenting) and therefore missing some of the ways in which these different aspects of our lives overlap with and impact on each other. For more, check out the previous post.

We tend to forget about space, other people and context – I’m shortening that to SOC – when either trying to overcome procrastination or when attempting turn up and write regularly – even when (or especially when) we sit down and plan our time. Red Dwarf fans will remember Rimmer’s revision timetable. In part, this is funny because the construction of the plan ignores all context.

Planning your writing time and context switching

Because of the above, context switching has implications when scheduling your writing. Consider how the various aspects of your life overlap when planning time to write. Where are the meeting points or the overlaps? How do they impact on one another?

Both procrastinating the writing of that tricky scene and failing to establish a writing habit in the first place are not personality flaws: they’re symptoms of our brains trying to context switch when planning, and therefore forgetting to consider space, humans and context. (Actually, there are many reasons for procrastination, and many tips that can help with habit formation – but space, humans and context are always in the mix!)

Resources

If you’re interested in a deeper dive, try:

Exercise

  1. Refer to the different life categories listed in the previous post and in the book and decide which apply to you.
  2. Circle three to start with.
  3. Break these down into subheadings to make them more specific. Start with three or four subheads, you don’t need to be exhaustive to experiment with this exercise.
  4. How do any or all of these parts of your life overlap with or impact on your writing?

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. Here’s the next post in the series.

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