The ‘Writing Prime Time’ System

Not long ago I wrote a post about a few great ways to get creative. One of the techniques I came across was called the ‘biological prime time’, developed by Sam Carpenter in his book Work the System. He decided to log his productivity, focus and motivation throughout the day so that he could work out his most ‘productive time’.

Credit: Chris Bailey

I like the idea of this because I have found that there are certain times of the day that I just cannot write. For example, evening times are full of distractions and sleepiness, yet I repeatedly stare at my laptop screen and try to force myself to write. (Just for the record, I almost never succeed at this.) So, I decided to develop this technique for my ‘writing prime time’, this is how I went about doing it…

First, I made a scale of writing:

1 – not writing
2 – thinking about writing
3 – writing but struggling
4 – writing steadily
5 – my writing is on fire!

Next, I made a list of the things I generally do on a daily basis:

[e] exercise
[d] driving
[c] cafe
[f] food
[w] work
[r] relax
[t] tasks

Then, over a period of 7 days, I logged when I found writing easiest:


Finally, like any devoted nerd, I put it into a graphs!

This is my writing productivity over the last 5 days:


This graph shows the median writing activity of my five days:


And finally, this graph shows what activities I was doing throughout my various ups and downs.


To be quite honest, I can see no logical pattern in the first graph. However, the second graph seems to show that I get more writing done towards midday. The third graph (which isn’t actually a graph, but an old school Microsoft Word table) seems to give the most results, as I can see what activities usually get me writing most.

Here were my discoveries:

– I write most in the middle of the day
– I’m most productive in the lead-up to lunch (possibly speeding up due to hunger?)
– I am completely uncreative in the late afternoon
– I get most my writing done at cafes
– I get more creative after exercise or driving in the morning
– However, driving in the afternoon sends me into a comatose state
– I didn’t need to make all the graphs to work this stuff out…
– But I enjoyed making the graphs and would recommend to any other writing nerds B-)

Although this project didn’t give me as many wonderful epiphanies as I had hoped, it did force me to concentrate on when I was writing, how often I was writing and what motivated me to write. Some of the discoveries, I already knew, others were a little more surprising, but overall I feel like I’ve got some solid evidence as to why I should go for long drives, hang out in cafes and relax all afternoon.

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