Learning to Budget Writing Time

In the UK, January is the month when everyone talks about tightening their belts. Our calendar is geared firmly towards Christmas. The gap between paydays is the longest in January, and the press is focused on budgeting.

This January, I learned a different kind of budgeting. I learned how to budget my energy.

When I worked in an office, I used to leave work with enough energy to spend an hour or so writing after work. Now that my day job is more demanding, I’m lucky if I successfully make dinner before I fall asleep.

The only way to get any writing done—for me, at least—is to do it first thing in the morning. The only thing stopping that is my attachment to the snooze button.

I’m sure this isn’t just a problem for me. Exhaustion is a constant state for many of us, but the exhausted brain can’t write.

A colleague told me about an app called sleepyti.me. You put in the time you need to get up and it calculates what time you need to go to bed to get the perfect amount of sleep. It’s based on the idea that good sleep consists of 5-6 90-minute cycles.

I was skeptical, but I was also desperate. I needed to break the sleep-work rut I was in and tap in to more energy.

To get up at 5:30 AM, I needed to fall asleep at 10 PM. The first time I tried this, I was amazed that I even heard the alarm, given my tendency to sleep through. As I stumbled to my computer, I had to admit that I felt less tired than normal. Still tired, still cold, still reasonably unwilling—but I was up.

With only a limited number of hours in the day and a long list of things I want to do, I have to accept that spending time writing during the week will always entail some sacrifice. By tapping in to a tool that works with my energy rather than against it, I’ve found a way to make it easier.

It’s a simple fact that we need energy to complete tasks well. And, sometimes, we need to budget that energy well, to cut back on some energy splurges to cover the essentials. Just like tightening the money belt after Christmas, I’m tightening my energy belt.

It won’t make you a better writer, but it will make you a healthier writer.


Helen Dring is a fiction writer from Liverpool, England. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing and is currently writing her first novel. She likes fairy tales, ghost stories and modern history.

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