For Writers Needing Some Fun, Try the Unschedule

I have a tight deadline, and I’m tired of working.

I could also use some fun in my life.

Can I have both? Yes!

Back to What Works!

Last year I tried the “Unschedule,” a technique for breaking through procrastination found in The Now Habit, a book by Neil Fiore. According to my notes in the book, the four days that I used Fiore’s “unschedule” turned out to be some of the most productive I’d had in a while. The one day I disregarded it (thinking I really don’t have time for these breaks–too much to do) I actually got less work accomplished!

This coming week is very full with writing deadlines and family events. Yet I feel so antsy. I want to do almost anything but sit here and write. But if I simply procrastinate, I’ll get precious little done and not even enjoy the time  off.

So…I filled out my Unschedule this morning before starting this blog.

What in heaven’s name is an Unschedule?

Hooked on Play

A clue is on the cover of the book. The full title of Fiore’s book includes the subtitle: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play. An unschedule is a way that incorporates play and leisure FIRST in your schedule. Yes, you actually put FUN on your schedule before your chores are listed. Each immediate and frequent reward follows a short (30-minute) period of work. (This is instead of delaying a reward until the whole project is done.)

For example, I have six scenes to outline today. Always in the past, I did the six scenes (about 4-6 hours) non-stop, then crashed with a bad neck ache and headache. Today I’ve scheduled it one scene at a time with rewards scheduled after each scene. I also have a phone call with a friend this afternoon on the schedule.

Why Fun First?

Fiore’s book is about overcoming–even preventing–procrastination.

“By starting with the scheduling of recreation, leisure, and quality time with friends,” Fiore says, “the Unschedule avoids one of the traps of typical programs for overcoming procrastination that begin with the scheduling of work–thereby generating an immediate image of a life devoid of fun and freedom. Instead, the Unschedule reverses this process, beginning with an image of play and guarantee of your leisure time.”

By the way, before scheduling the fun times, block out the chunks already committed elsewhere–taking kids to summer swimming lessons, a class you teach, dental appointments, lunch, commuting places, etc. It will encourage you to get started a bit quicker when you see how much free time you ACTUALLY have for your writing.

Tiny Work Loads

The other recommendation for the Unschedule is to keep work periods to thirty minutes. Thirty UNinterrupted minutes. Thirty minutes of work–use a timer to be sure–and it can’t include anything like checking email on a whim, or returning a phone call, or other distractions we procrastinators are famous for.

After your thirty minutes is up, you record the actual work done on your daily schedule somewhere, and then freely enjoy your reward. Believe it or not, those half hours add up by the end of the day. Fiore says, “Thirty minutes reduces work to small, manageable, rewardable chunks that lessen the likelihood that you will feel over-whelmed by the complexity and length of large or menacing projects.” And thirty minutes of concentrated work can mean a lot of pages piling up.

Time for me to go! I’m twenty-eight minutes into this blog, and I hoped to finish in thirty instead of my usual plodding hour-long pace. Guess what comes next? I plan to read a chapter in a new mystery set in England, my favorite kind of fun reading. 

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2 Responses to For Writers Needing Some Fun, Try the Unschedule

  1. Michelle says:

    My writer’s group has learned the trick of using a timer and setting it to 30 minutes. There’s something about that amount of time that works and keeps you focused.

    I think one of us wrote a post on our blog about the power of 30 minutes at It works!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Apparently that’s about as long as we can focus fully before we start to lose the ability. I will check out your blog. Thanks! (P.S. Later…I tried to leave a comment, but it wouldn’t let me. The five productivity ideas are very wise. Now, to be consistent daily in doing them!) :-)

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