Between work and family obligations, it can be difficult to find time in your busy schedule to work on your manuscript. Since your writing time is limited, you have to make the most of every minute. If you want to finish your nonfiction book on schedule, you can’t afford to go down research rabbit holes or get distracted by social media while writing. To help you maximize your productivity so you can finally become a published author, here are the most common time-wasting writing habits and tips on how to avoid them.

Editing While Writing

Editing while writing can seem like a great way to save time and kill two birds with one stone. If you polish your manuscript while you’re drafting it, you may think that the editing process won’t take as long. However, editing and writing require different mindsets, which makes it difficult to polish your manuscript while drafting it. 

When you’re in the middle of the book writing process, you don’t have enough distance from your work to edit it properly. You’re usually too far in the weeds to see what you’ve written objectively. That’s why it’s best to finish writing your manuscript and put it away for at least a few weeks before you edit it. This allows you to revisit your book with fresh eyes and a new perspective, which will result in a better finished product. 

Allowing your inner editor to take over while writing will also slow you down and stall the creative process. In order to get your best thoughts and ideas down on paper, you have to give yourself permission to write imperfectly. All you should worry about while completing your first draft is communicating your book’s core message to your readers. You can clean up mistakes like poor word choice or improper sentence structure later. 

Even if you know that editing while writing is a waste of time, you may struggle to silence your inner critic. Instead of working on the computer, try drafting your manuscript the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. Since there’s no delete key, you won’t be able to go back and correct your mistakes easily, which will force you to write without stopping.

Procrastinating Due to Self-Doubt

Even if you’ve dreamed of becoming an author for years, the thought of actually sitting down and writing your book may fill you with dread. Facing a blank page can feel pretty daunting and scary! You may worry that your writing isn’t good enough and readers won’t enjoy your book. If you’re writing a memoir full of personal stories, you might be afraid to make yourself vulnerable and share your deepest truths with the world. 

However, procrastinating to avoid facing these insecurities isn’t the answer. You’ll feel worse in the long run if you allow months or years to go by without making progress toward your goal of publishing a book. The only solution to procrastination and writer’s block is to acknowledge your fears and write anyway. 

Instead of keeping your worries bottled up inside, it may help to journal about your insecurities before you sit down to write. Getting your worries off your chest will prevent you from being distracted by negative self-talk while you’re trying to concentrate on your book. Confiding in a trusted friend or family member and getting a quick pep talk can also reduce your self-doubt and make it easier to tackle your manuscript.

Writing in Fits and Starts

Authors who write in fits and starts tend to be less productive and take longer to finish their manuscripts. Your writing output will be higher if you make steady, consistent progress on your book instead of working in sporadic bursts. 

Although knocking out 5,000 words in a single writing session is an impressive feat, you’ll probably feel burned out afterward and need a break to recover your creative energy. You’ll complete your manuscript faster if you consistently write 500 words per day rather than having marathon writing sessions once or twice a month.

If you’re struggling to find room in your busy schedule to write on a daily basis, blocking your time can help you fit your book around your other responsibilities. Time blocking involves dividing your day up into hour-long chunks of time and assigning a specific task to each time block. 

Believe it or not, the average person wastes nearly two hours per day. Time blocking can help you reclaim those lost hours and spend them on more productive tasks like finishing your manuscript. Check out our blog post on time blocking if you want to learn how to implement this useful time management strategy.

Letting Friends and Family Distract You During Writing Time

Spending time with friends and family is important, but so is honoring your commitment to yourself to work on your manuscript. With careful planning and time blocking, you can find room in your packed schedule to do both. However, you’ll have to set boundaries with your loved ones and let them know you’ll be unavailable during your designated writing time. 

You won’t be able to finish your manuscript if you allow family commitments to encroach on your writing sessions, so stand firm. When your family disturbs you while you’re trying to concentrate on your book, gently remind them that you’re busy and need peace and quiet. If you feel guilty turning friends and family away to work on your book, remember that you deserve time to yourself to work toward your goals.

If the household distractions continue after several reminders, it may be necessary to go somewhere quiet like the library where you can work uninterrupted. You could also try scheduling your writing time early in the morning or late in the evening when everyone else is in bed.

Doing Too Much Research

Another time-wasting habit authors should avoid is doing too much research. The internet is an endless source of information, which makes it easy to fall down research rabbit holes and waste hours reading about subtopics that stray from your book’s main message. 

As you research, remember that you can only fit so much content into a 200-page manuscript. You won’t have room to explore your book’s topic from every angle, so it makes sense to limit the scope of your internet searches.

Be realistic about how many studies, statistics, and expert quotes you can include in your manuscript and set a reasonable timeframe for the research phase. You won’t finish your manuscript on schedule if you spend months planning and researching your book, so try to start writing your first draft as soon as possible.

Checking Email and Social Media

You probably do all of your writing on the computer, which makes it easy to give in to digital distractions, especially if you’re feeling creatively blocked. Writing is fun when you’re on a roll, so you won’t feel tempted to browse Facebook when your words are flowing freely. But if you’re stuck and unsure what to write next, it can take a lot of willpower to resist checking your email or opening Instagram.

Although going on social media for a few minutes may seem harmless, it can severely hamper your writing progress. Studies have shown that it takes over 20 minutes to regain focus on a task after you get distracted. So every time your attention wanders to social media during a writing session, you’ll lose 20 minutes worth of productivity. No wonder it takes many aspiring authors years to finish their manuscript!

If you want to make the most of your limited writing time, it’s important to turn off your phone and block any apps and websites that are stealing your focus. Website blockers like Freedom and StayFocused can prevent you from procrastinating on social media, enabling you to get more done. 

If you hit a wall and need to take a break from writing, it’s better to do something that will help spark creativity instead of scrolling on your phone. Studies have shown that getting outside increases creative performance, so try taking a walk the next time writer’s block strikes rather than logging in to Facebook.

Writing Your Book Without an Outline

Writing a book without a plan is like trying to drive somewhere you’ve never been without consulting a map—you’ll just end up lost and frustrated! If you skip the book planning process, you may develop a bad case of writer’s block. Without a book blueprint to guide you, you’ll waste time wondering what to write next and how to move your story forward. It will be much easier to craft a compelling, cohesive narrative if you map out the content and structure of your book in advance.

If you’ve never made a book outline before, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. If you need some extra help and support, reach out to The Book Professor®. As your book coach, Nancy will teach you how to create a BookMAP, which is a visual representation of all the lessons, anecdotes, and key points you want to include in your book. Your BookMAP will help you beat writer’s block and produce a more polished manuscript that will stand shoulder to shoulder with the best nonfiction books on the market.

Ready to stop wasting time and start making real progress on your manuscript? Contact The Book Professor® today!