Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It explores how to build a life of creativity, productivity and meaning when we have limited time available — and even less control over that time. I caught up with him to ask what that means for how we live and how we write.

Time and how to use it

Writing a weekly productivity column for The Guardian, self-confessed productivity geek, Oliver Burkeman likened himself to an alcoholic employed as a wine expert. He realised that getting more done just made him more stressed and unhappy so he turned to ancient and contemporary philosophers…

From punchy pep talks to solid science, I’ve been reading books about how to build better habits and keep going for over a decade. These are the ones I turn to again and again when I want a burst of inspiration or help answering a tricky coaching question. Read on for my recommendations to help build productive habits, develop creative persistence and the resilience to keep going.

Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon wrote this book because he needed it — and you’ll thank him for it. …

Every writer has a backstory. The hidden hours of practice that got them to their ‘overnight’ success. Whether you’re creating a tenure track publication pipeline, or a poet working towards a first collection, it takes years to gain expertise as a writer. Get the low-down on deliberate practice and the 10,000 Hours Rule.

Past theories of expertise range from the mystical to the downright dangerous. The Ancient Greeks appealed to the Muses for divine intervention while eminent Victorians concluded genius was an hereditary privilege. Modern research, thankfully, presents a more optimistic and equitable view of how talent develops. K. …

Lack of time is the often biggest barrier to making ideas happen. Find out how you can make time in busy schedules with these four approaches.

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Making ideas happen is tough — that’s why it’s a hustle. It involves time, effort and energy, often done as a side project alongside your other commitments.

Your life is full of important and urgent things to do. ‘Busy’ doesn’t even describe the demands on your time and attention. To fit a side project into your schedule you must make the time. …

Many things get in the way of writing — from the siren call of social media to children clamouring for attention. Find out what obstacles writers face and how to battle your writing baddies with obstacle thinking. Learn to WOOP with some help from video games.

The time is right, I’m primed and ready for action. My mission is clear. It’s what I’m trained for. All I have to do is bungee jump from the dam, infiltrate the secret chemical weapons facility, and save the world from global financial meltdown.

My first attempt at playing the classic Nintendo 64 game…

Feeling time-poor, burned out and unable to concentrate on your work in progress? Changing how you feel about the time you have can transform your writing practice. It all starts with noticing.

No time to write

The most common complaint we hear from writers is that they don’t have enough time to write. Over many years of surveying writers about their habits, routines and goals, 90% want more time to write (yes, there’s a lucky 10% with too much time, but they have different struggles — if that’s you, read this).

It’s all too common for us to feel time-starved, that we used to…

“Don’t fall in love with your idea,” is the advice I give most often to budding entrepreneurs. After a year that’s taught many of us difficult lessons about business resilience, I’ve watched an idea I love fail and had to consider my own advice.

The calls to follow your passion always left me bewildered. What was my passion? Did I have one, or many, and which one was best? …

‘How to build a writing habit’ is clickbait for writers. Habits are a magic bullet to kill procrastination and end struggles with willpower. But beware! Writing does not meet the scientific definition of a habit so striving for the gold standard will end in failure. However, understanding how habits are formed can you set up a routine that will keep you writing long term.

Ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus said that: “every habit and faculty is maintained and increased by the corresponding actions: the habit of walking by walking, the habit of running by running. …

Getting clarity on your writing dreams helps you take action to achieve them. From visualising a simple goal, to a story about the future, to getting creative with sticky tape and crayon, here are 8 expert exercises to help you visualise writing success.

1. From affirmations to identity

Affirmations are positive statements that challenge and overcome self-limiting beliefs. The theory is that by repeating them frequently, you begin to believe them, and can start to make positive changes in your life.

Often found at the hyperbolic end of the self-help spectrum, they have a bad rep. Yet there’s evidence they can prime us to change…

“I shall be a bestselling writer” wrote Octavia E Butler in 1988. She is not alone in fantasising about writing chart-topping books — I’d wager most writers have dreamed of such a thing.

Butler was a struggling writer when she wrote a private manifesto for success in the front cover of her spiral notebook, her childhood ambition to tell stories had been battered by years of rejection, setbacks and prejudice.

She went on to become the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur genius grant, receiving the PEN American Center lifetime achievement award in writing, multiple awards from Hugo…

Bec Evans

Author of How to Have a Happy Hustle, founder Prolifiko writes about innovation, creativity, philosophy, productivity & writing.

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