My first book, Laddering, began shipping last week and along with it have come questions from my colleagues about "how I did it"--that is, how I juggled writing a book with running a business and all of the other demands of day-to-day life.
It takes a change from "business as usual" to get big, important projects completed. The strategies I followed are the same ones I use anytime I need to get a major milestone task completed. Here's how I do it.
1) Dedicate Block Time
Dedicating block time to spend on the manuscript was one of the key factors to my success. Look at your business and purposefully pick a time that few will notice your absence and block it off. I selected weeks that included a holiday because it was easier for me to "disappear" from the office. These weeks are typically down weeks because other people take vacation time and my customers rarely request meetings.
2) Work in a Third Place
Your home is your first place, your office is your second place. Choosing a third place to do your work keeps your creative juices flowing and prevents interruption temptations--a casual conversation with one of your coworkers or as the sudden desire to finish last night's dishes that are wallowing in the sink. These interruptions happen easily in your first second place.
A third place provides you with a needed change of scenery from your everyday routine and assists with thinking outside the box. My third place is often a coffee shop, but even so, I will purposefully change locations halfway through the day to give me a different perspective.
3) Go Into Isolation
I find that if I try to dedicate block time near my home or office it is tempting to allow myself to get sucked into a few meetings, a lunch or a quick coffee with someone. To get a really big project done, the most productive block time is when I am a couple of hours away from the office. At this distance, it is impossible for these kinds of interruptions to occur.
To get the manuscript done, my family left me in a state park for a week without a car to get the first half completed. For the second half, we went to the beach six hours away from my office during the coldest month of the year. The cost was minimal, but the time I had to really focus was priceless.
4) Take Advantage of Downtime
One of my favorite things about travel is that it provides stretches of downtime. I use it to get caught up on projects that require focus, especially my writing. If you find yourself with a long stretch of downtime, instead of catching up on the latest episode of Walking Dead or playing Angry Birds, view it as an opportunity to take a chunk out of that looming deadline.
5) Utilize Technology
Apps like Freedom and StayFocused help you create small to large amounts of block time by shutting down your access to the Internet and other distracting applications. It may sound heavy-handed, but these apps tap into the reward mindset that drives most of us--work for a period of time, get rewarded by getting your Internet back.
6) Reward Yourself
Writing a book, putting together a business plan or finalizing your marketing strategy for the upcoming year can be a big, daunting task that seems insurmountable. As I moved through the manuscript, I doled out small rewards as I hit certain milestones. By breaking the larger project up into smaller chunks and providing yourself with little motivational prizes along the way--a pint of your favorite ice cream, for instance--you are more likely to meet your goal.