Are you desperate to finish your screenplay, but for the life of you can’t make the time? Here are six simple ways to get yourself in shape to finish it! What are solutions to this if you’re working 5+ days a week, dating someone, have side hustles, are struggling to even find time to wash your dishes, your clothes, yourself?
Batching is typically something freelancers or task-oriented jobs employ. It’s basically to help you stop wasting your time and get work done in shorter bursts. It’s all about dedicating blocks of time to similar tasks in order to save time overall and increase productivity. Sounds boring, right? But it’s great. When you "batch" tasks, it means you cram a whole bunch of the same 'type' of thing into one big block of time - freeing up all of the additional days you spend spreading it out and cutting into quality (writing!) time.
Here’s how it works in life-related situations (aka ones you can use to find time to write):
Things you can batch:
Chores and errands that don't need to be date-specific (ex: cleaning, laundering, shopping).
Cooking! Meal-planning - which is essentially “batching” your cooking - can really open up your schedule. Of course, this is a lot easier for single folks that don’t have bay-bays to feed - but even if you’ve got kids - is there a way you can prep some of your meals for the week in one day? Can you free up enough time in even one evening, or one day - so that you can just focus on writing.
Miscellaneous internet crap. Even if you're not online 24/7, do you need to check your email, Facebook, Twitter as many times a day as you do? Can you just read and respond to emails once a day? Can you respond to Facebook messages once a day? Preferably in the same block of time. You'd be surprised at how much time you can free up, and also how much less stressed you'll feel.
Social stuff. If you have a coffee date on Monday, a night out on Saturday, and a lunch date on Sunday - could you conceivably cram them all into one day? Pick your one 'social' day and let people have at it. If not, see Low Priority Tasks below.
Do you work from home? Can you double-down one day a week to create an extra day off that you could devote solely to writing?
How much can you compress into one day or one chunk of time, so that it frees up an evening, a morning, or even an entire Saturday?
What are your current priorities? When you want to write, what tasks will override writing time? Is it: chores, social obligations, stuff you could put off ‘til next week?
Let‘s get real on how much time you could better spend writing by identifying your time-sucking, low priority tasks.
What is a low priority task?
Doesn't make you money (free work - as in "opportunities for exposure" that probably won't lead anywhere).
Paid work that oversteps its boundaries. If you're a freelancer or work in a job that allows people to email, text, call at all hours - it's hard not to "take your work home with you." Be protective of your time. The world won't end if you set boundaries. Create office hours. Turn off alerts.
Social obligations that aren’t really obligations. Do you go out for drinks after work a few times a week to let off steam? Do you really need to chat on the phone to your bestie for 2 hours a day? How much time (including commute and making yourself presentable) does socializing actually carve out of your week? Imagine if you could allot half of that to writing.
Random busy work. Do you have a useless hobby that you could give up for a month? Maybe you spend waaay too much time in the kitchen baking for other people.
“Letting off steam” time: Netflix-binging, happy puppy videos on Youtube, drinking yourself into a coma on the couch each night. This is designed to make you happier. Would you be happier at the end of the month if you realized you’d spent 80 hours re-watching shows you’ve already seen, or 80 hours improving your writing and maybe finishing something.
Out of those things can you choose ONE thing you won’t sacrifice your writing for? Learn to say ‘no’ - it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.
3. Cut your non-essential internet time in half
”But I don’t spend that much time online.”
Side eye. We all spend too much time on the internet.
I'm talking Facebooking. Compulsive email-checking. Daily astrology forecasts. Spending 2 hours every day reading crap on Jezebel, TMZ, (insert online addiction of choice). The world won't end if you take a break.
Say it with me now: FUCK FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The only thing you're missing out on is WRITING TIME.
Set a timer. Cut yourself off. For every 25 minutes you spend online, spend another 25 writing. Not only will you get more writing done, but you’ll also feel better about yourself because you’re not constantly comparing yourself to others on social media and spending a huge chunk of your day reading depressing news.
4. Break your writing goal into small, actionable chunks
If you sit in front of your computer and stare at the blank page - then suddenly realize that you need to wax your back or you totally forgot to clean the kitchen - it could be you’re suffering from overwhelm. If just reading that gave you an anti-boner and the cold sweats, you’re in the right place.
Breaking up the size of writing tasks you have to do it will make finishing your screenplay easier. Writing one act or writing 5 pages is more doable than writing an entire screenplay.
If your goal is to write a screenplay, you can:
Set your goals by page count.
Daily/small page count: If you're aiming for 20 - 25 pages for the first quarter of your script, you could write 3-4 pages per day. Higher page counts, less days. If you work better with more hours to play, this is a better strategy.
Give yourself a weekly page count goal. If you don’t have tons of free time, can you make 5 pages happen over 7 days?
Set your goals by time.
- How much free time do you have to work with during your week? Once you figure that out, divide the pages or beats up and see how much you can write / hour.
Write in bursts. Give yourself 30 or 60 minutes to just go bananas. See how far you get.
If trying to hit a page count in a specific amount of time is too much pressure, then give yourself a specific amount of time to just play around with your writing.
If you're stretched for time, then just focus on getting the pages written instead of making it super awesome.
Set your goals by beat/scene/sequence.
If writing to a page count or time count is boring, maybe writing to a specific sene, beat, or sequence will get you excited, then write until said specific scene or sequence is finished.
Want to go bigger? Set yourself goals to each Act of your screenplay.
However feels the most natural and underwhelming to you - start there. Once you get on top of your shit, expand. Baby steps are the gateway drug to Olympian triple-jumps of screenwriting. Or something.
5. Maximize mindless time
You've heard it - or maybe you haven't - but multi-tasking is baaaaad. It's bad for stress levels, and bad for productivity. Baaaad. Except when multi-tasking is great! When it comes to mindless shit that you have to do every day, could you be writing or brainstorming? How can you multi-task on top of could-do-it-in-my-sleep tasks and activities? Simple: Keep a notepad on you, keep a note-taking app on your phone (like Evernote), verbally record your thoughts on your phone or computer.
Here are some top essential tasks that you could technically multi-task-write during.
Commuting / traveling (unless you’re driving!)
If you ride the subway/bus/street car, even if it's only for 20 minutes, you could write on your smartphone or in a notebook. Come up with ideas. Work out a scene you're stumped on. This is the best time to work through your writing problems. If you get your grandest ideas in the shower or as you're trying to fall asleep, this might be right up your alley.
Exercising / walking your dog
If you have to take your pooch for a lengthy bladder-drainage and you wish there was a way to use that time productively, simply hit record on your smartphone. Pretty sure even the shittiest of smartphones (and yes, I'd know) has the function to record audio. Do this while doing low-impact exercises. Write out loud. Talk out your ideas. You could technically do this while driving, but you didn't hear that from me.
Lunch breaks at work
Free time at work
Talking on the phone with someone really long-winded
Appointments (they always make you wait)
Waiting for your movie to start
Going to a boring social function (writing in a notebook will make you look thoughtful and sexy)
And last but not least --
6. Mindset shift
Maybe you know you have time, but you’re kinda scared to actually sit down and force yourself to write those first words. So don’t.
Don’t force yourself. If none of the things above will help you because it makes writing feel like a chore, like work, like a whole lot of pressure you just don’t need right now - then it’s the wrong approach.
If you're not used to making time to write, use the time to free-write, brainstorm your idea, do some research on your idea if necessary and get in the habit of making 'you' time. Knowing how long it takes you to 'get in the zone' will really help you figure out if you're the type of person who can write for an hour every day or if you need one day off to focus.
Reconnect with why you love writing. Ask yourself why you want to write. Is it because you just simply enjoy it? Is finishing a screenplay less about the result and more about the process, the joy of just fucking writing and creating worlds and living in someone else’s skin? Then do that. Enjoy getting tangled up with your muse the same way you enjoy having sex, drinking wine, watching TV, driving around late at night, reading books, eating greasy food.
There will always be something that you have to do besides writing. Always. Something will always feel more urgent, more important--
You make writing a priority.
If you don't make writing a priority - it won't be a priority. Stating the obvious, but also not really. When I realized how I was spending most of my time, it dawned on me that I had to start saying 'no'. I didn't 'find' time in my schedule, I made time. If you think creating boundaries will make you an asshole, think about how much bigger of an asshole you'll be if you never make the time to actually give your screenwriting dreams a shot. Hint: A big, gigantic, jumbo-sized one.