Exploring “When?”

The last post focused on optimizing writing sessions. We discussed strategies like identifying the task you’ll complete during the session and setting a timer. However, there’s another element to “optimizing” that needs discussion. When. When do you write?

You may already have a good sense of your most preferred writing time. Mine is the first thing in the morning. Ideally, I write before my family gets up. This works well for us. I’m a natural early-bird and wake with a lot of ideas, energy and focus. I can write for 30-60 minutes, un-interrupted, and still make them breakfast!  You may prefer a very different time of the day. Do what you can to find and maximize that preferred time.

In Dan Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, he argues that the task actually influences the optimal time of day. Depending on your chronotype, you generally do better with analytic tasks during one window of time within the day and insight tasks during another window of time. For me, as a Lark, I’m better with analytic tasks in the morning and insight tasks in the late afternoon. The alignment of cronotypes with tasks and time complicates matters a bit, but it can also be very liberating. I’ve learned that I don’t have to write first thing in the morning. But, I do better with complex, intricate arguments, detailed analyses and heavy referencing at that time. Later in the day, I do well with busting through a communications challenge, brainstorming a new example or envisioning a figure that helps simplify the understanding of the methods. In other words, you may find that different writing tasks fit better in different parts of your day.

To that end, self-monitoring may yield some interesting insights. For a few days, consider making notes of when you wrote, how your felt and the type of writing work you completed. Are different writing tasks (e.g. brainstorming, outlining, data presentation, drafting, revising) better at different times of the day?  Chances are, you’ll find that you can push through many tasks at their non-optimal time. It’s just slower or more frustrating. Aligning the right task with the right time can yield more productive and more enjoyable writing.

What’s your best time for writing? How did you discover what worked and what didn’t? Please share with us on Twitter at #RxWritingChallenge.

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