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  • Writer's pictureMike Dineen

Side Hustle Author | Getting Shit Done Approaches That Worked for Me

Writing a book on top of having a full-time job will be a squeeze on your time. But, not as much of a squeeze as you might at first think.

Before I wrote a book, I believed that it would require me to sit in a chair and just write for hours and hours on end, in one sitting. I already do this for my full-time job, so the belief filled me with dread.

But I was wrong, and that belief prevented me from even trying.

Below, find three of the productivity tips and tricks I used to not only debunk myths holding me back, but get my first draft done in three months while working full-time.

Productivity Tip: Worry a Little But Not a Lot about Word Counts

Some experts say ignore word counts altogether while you're writing a first draft, while others post updates on how many words they wrote that week for their upcoming book.

I recommend measuring your productivity by doing a bit of both.

They say the average length of a novel is 80,000 words—which is a the novel length I generally aim for. It's not too long, and not too short. So doing some quick math: if your first draft is 80,000 words, and you write 2,000 words per day, that means you could conceivably write a first draft in 40 days.

And you absolutely could do this, no question.

The reality for me was a bit different—and it likely will be for you too. Though the finished product of your book might be 80,000 words, if you're like me, you will write way more words than that. Way, way more words. That's because a lot of it will be cut, or changed, or reworked. That's normal.

And it may feel like a waste of what little writing time you have, but it's not. All those chopped off words were your way of finding the story. I cut two chapters from the beginning of Latcher that weren't needed, but which still helped me get to know my character and really sink into who she was, which strengthened the rest of the book.

So you may write 10,000 words on your first draft in one week and end up cutting those words later—but again, those 10,000 words are time well spent. As such, glance down at your word count for the day and feel good about how much you've got done—but don't worry too much if you don't hit what you'd hoped for on that particular day.

Productivity Tip: Try the 1-Hour Writing Window Approach

I found the prospect of sitting for hours on end every day to write a book very daunting, especially since I already do that for my full-time job. Until I tried the 1-hour writing window approach which worked wonders for me.

Probably 70% of the first drafts of my books were written during 1-hour windows in the mornings before work, over a period of about three months. The remaining 30% of the drafts were written in longer sitting periods on occasional weekends and sometimes in the evenings.

This approach doesn't mean you have to write every morning either. There were many days I slept in or just didn't have the creative energy to put into writing or was busy with something else. There will also be plenty of days when you sit down to write and just come up against a wall.

The great thing about the 1-hour writing window schedule is that it fits pretty easily into your full-time schedule, and when you miss the odd day or two or seven, it's no big deal.

Productivity Tip: Consider Scheduling Your Submission Date

If you plan to work with an editor on your book (I'd recommend it), you might consider scheduling your draft 1 submission date in advance. This is not only because editors tend to need advance notice, but also because having this date on the horizon helped me to commit to finishing the draft on time.

There will be days when this submission deadline looms and gives you anxiety, and there will be days when you are thankful for the encouragement it provides you. On whether to book your submission date in advance, have an honest conversation with yourself about whether it's the right choice for you. You can also try it once as experiment to see if it's a good practice for you going forward.

Getting Shit Done Your Way

When it comes to productivity, at the end of the day you have to find what works for you. The internet is an ocean of "tips and tricks," of which probably 95% aren't a great fit for you. We are creatures of habit, and it's hard to change your habits—even if that change is entirely practical and intelligent. As such, keep trying different productivity habits until you find the ones that fit for you. As well, you may find that what works one month doesn't work the next, so changing things up from time to time may be warranted.

There's no one way to write a book—there's only your way.

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