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Writing 5 Minutes A Day – How Much Can You Really Get Done?

writing 5 minutes a day

About six weeks ago I grudgingly accepted a challenge from a friend to work on projects dear to my heart only five minutes a day because I was complaining I was too busy making money to work on those. After all, my reasoning (?) went, they won’t pay right away so I’d better not concentrate on them. I wrote about it in an article called Writing 5 Minutes a Day

I wanted to let you know how it’s been going – because I’m loving it and finding it effective for several reasons.

Getting started writing 5 minutes a day

I simply started the first day, with, as I recall, The Family Story. I found the file, started the free timer I use for many things at Toggl.com. It took me almost the full five minutes to figure out where I was in the story since I’d hand’t looked at it in months.

At first I had three projects I was working on. About four days in I realized that totaled all of 15 minutes! I realized I could push the time on each to ten minutes even on my busiest days. That’s worked well.

When I write

I literally do this now 10 minutes of writing on now six projects the very first thing in the morning. I don’t open my email, I don’t look at my calendar – the only thing that interrupts is feeding the cats and unlocking some doors I’m responsible for at the Zen Center. That takes maybe 4-7 minutes and acts as a break which I need in that particular hour of writing, which is pretty intense.

Each of these projects is dear to my heart and had spent a long time on what Paula Hendricks calls her Want To Do Lists. It’s writing down to the bone as Natalie Goldberg calls it.

Three tricks

I’ve figured out some tricks or techniques.

  • Obviously this is rough draft material, so I treat it as such. I don’t even always accept the spelling corrections Word suggests – I can get to them later and since they’re marked in red there’s little chance I’ll forget them.
  • Although it’s tempting to do research instead of write, I’ve discovered I can highlight whatever needs research in yellow and come back to it later. I’ll allow a bit of research if it clarifies my thinking, but only then.
  • I leave off each session knowing what I’m going to write about the next day. I mark the end of that with a triple xxx which I can find in moments with a search.

When it’s time to finish

So far, I’ve only finished one thing in this scheme, and that’s a post at WhenGrandmotherSpeaks.com called How Much Stuff Is In Storage? I hit a point where I knew I was almost finished so I took what turned out to be two hours to complete that post and redesign a newsletter and get it out. Which only means there are exceptions to my 10 minute rule and I’m learning when to make them.

The next project that will be finished is a query that needs a sample chapter. I’m almost through the front pages of the proposal and creating a detailed table of contents – a lot to do for a booklet, but I’m still collecting royalties on one I did ever so long ago so I know it can be worth it. And I have an alternate marketing plan. I suspect I’ll want to write the chapter in several 20 or 30 minute hunks… but maybe not. I’d like to get this query done and out the door.

I have no idea yet how I’ll approach the editing in this scheme. I suspect for the query I’ll ask for some help and take the time to do the final run through all in one or two sessions. For the book length projects I may to the same.

How much have I gotten done?

I’m surprised at how much writing I am doing on these projects. The query is almost 1,000 words long and that does include some research. The blog has been slow, partly because I started what I thought was one article and it’s turned out to be at least three.

I’ve got a real book proposal started that’s related to the query, but quite different actually. It now has 1,500 words and I’ve got a list of what needs to be included which begins to actually get the book written when the time comes.

I’ve been doing a money autobiography just for me and that’s complete… and helpful.

And I’ve added to the family story maybe another 1,000 or so words. What’s coming out of that, however, is what will be writing at least part of this in tandem with one of my sons! Or that’s the plan, and it never would have happened if I hadn’t started writing five minutes at a time.

I’m far enough along on the 5 or 10 minutes at a time project to recommend it to anyone who has stuff they want to write and can’t seem to get going on because they’re too busy earning a living. I think this might have even worked when I had a full time job – maybe.

Keep in mind that I’m also keeping up with work that pays now, from clients. I’m no longer locked into the lie that I have to spend too much time making a living to do the work I really want to do.

Maybe the biggest benefit

One of the benefits I didn’t expect was a clarity about what’s really important to me to write about. Those now six projects have been high on a priority list but I couldn’t see any way to actually get them done. Now that I see how important they are to me, the 10 minute a day scheme is both giving me a way to work on each and helping me get ever clearer about what I want to say and write about. Not bad for a suggested experiment I almost turned down.


Would love to hear your thinking on this in comments.

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Write well and often,




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