The Best Christmas Gift a Writer Can Receive

This time of year is filled with joy, hope, and eggnog. We gather with loved ones to exchange presents, but the best gift a writer can receive won’t be sitting under a tree.

The Best Christmas Gift a Writer Can Receive

For years, I dreamed of becoming a writer, and it seemed the one thing I needed most to make this happen was the thing I had the greatest lack of. 

Time. I needed more hours in the day to work on my book, to write on my blog, and even think about what I would write in the first place. But this is a gift no one can give. 

There is no more time. Time is the one thing we never have and never own. Time has us. It is always moving forward and carrying us along with it. We are beholden to its whims — we are slaves to time.

Time is the one thing we never have and never own. Time has us.

Jeff Goins

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I wish I could tell you to give yourself more time. But I can’t. That would be a lie. All I can say is to try to see the time that is already there.

The best gift you can give yourself this year is the gift of appreciating and using the time you have.

Time is like love. Sometimes, we fail to notice it until it’s too late. We keep wanting more of it and feel starved by the lack of it. But then something happens — a loved one dies or a friend moves away — and we realized we had more of something than we ever thought we did. 

So, this is my Christmas wish for you: to find more time in the day to do your work. To write just a little more. To work on that side business. To recognize the gift you already have.

Here are a few strategies for finding more time:

1. Do an honest audit of your week

Write down everything you do each day and ask yourself, “Was this necessary?” and, “Did this have to take so long?”

I am often embarrassed by how long I take doing simple tasks, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. Why is this? Because I let myself get interrupted. I tell myself that texting someone or checking my email three times in five minutes is somehow more productive, when in fact it’s getting in the way.

If I would just say “no” temporarily to certain tasks and instead be fully attentive to whatever I’m working on at the time, each thing wouldn’t take nearly as long. Intentionally tracking my time has helped reveal the truth about how much time I actually have.

Time is like money. If you don’t track it, you’ll always run out.

Time is like money. If you don’t track it, you’ll always run out.

Jeff Goins

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2. Start setting tiny goals

My friend Shaunta taught me this when she told me that she started setting a goal of writing for only ten minutes a day.

“It’s such a short amount of time,” she told me, “that it’s silly to put it off. I might as well just do it and move on with my day.”

But something interesting happens when she does this: many days, she ends up writing more than ten minutes.

The tiny goal is just a way to trick her brain into starting an activity she might otherwise procrastinate. But on the days when she only writes ten minutes, she celebrates the achievement and moves on.

Even writing for as little as ten minutes a day can lead to a tremendous amount of output. Small amounts of effort add up over time. 

3. Learn to work faster

Some writers say things like, “I am a slow writer,” and I think that’s interesting.

Do runners say they are slow runners? Are some people slow eaters? The obvious answer is yes. But anyone can improve their performance in any activity.

So, whether you’re winning races or not, you can probably improve the speed of your running. 

Speaking from experience, you can certainly learn to eat faster. When I was a traveling musician and sometimes only had five minutes to scarf down a large meal, my band and I learned the art of quick consumption.

The same is true of writing and all creative work: you can get faster. And the faster you get, the better you will become.

How? By practicing. And as you do this, you just might see the quality of your work increase with the speed.

Appreciate the gift you already have

As my friend Shauna Niequist once wrote in the foreword to one of my books, “What we have is time. And what we do with it is waste it.”

But we don’t have to do that. We can learn to appreciate the gift of time we already have and learn how to better use it. We can become stewards of our time, taking better care of this nonrenewable resource we all have access to.

As we do this, we just might be able to better share our gifts with the world.

Do you have “enough” time to write? How can you give yourself the gift of time this year? Share in the comments.

36 thoughts on “The Best Christmas Gift a Writer Can Receive

  1. Thank you for your gift, Jeff. I’ll open it, for I still got some time before the new year launches.

    My biggest gift, this year, was getting out of the city into the country side…much less time in stressful traffic (5 minutes away from work)…having decent lunch hours for power naps…much more time after work with my husband and my son.

    It’s difficult between work and family to find the time to write, but between these most important things in my life I’ve realized something: I just shouldn’t give up.

    While I cannot sit down to put my thoughts down on paper, I should try to keep on refining the thoughts in my mind until I can.

    Then, when I get the break to write it down, it’s already in 3rd or 4th draft. Some kind off momentum kicks in…instead of turning dormant, the desire to write the next piece gives me the energy to do it, even when I’m tired.

    The energy that gets released when I could put it down play off the tiredness for then I’ve done more than just writing, there was some planning and that makes me feel I’ve given better work.

    Often it is not just the missing time that’s the problem. Often, when the opportunity arises, the energy for writing is not there. This helps me to captilize on those few available hours that could’ve slipped by if I didn’t use those other moments when I can think clearly, but cannot write yet…

  2. The best gift for me was being able to pick up my grandchildren. It was so wonderful to hold them close and rock them in my arms. I haven’t been able to do this since my unfortunate experience with back surgery last year.

      1. Thanks Jeff. You missed your opportunity though. This is where you gasp and say, “You have grandkids?”

  3. This December I achieved the gift of retirement after 26 years in law enforcement, and the last nine as Chief of Police. I intentionally retired early in order to write and create art full time. Having more time for family and my passions (next to good health) is the greatest gift of all!

  4. How true it is that the one thing we never own or can borrow or can steal, is time. We have all been given the same 24 hours in a day and yet, for most of us, those 24 hours never seem to be enough, mainly because we choose, consciously or otherwise, to waste it. Now, where did I put my toothbrush? 😉

  5. It may not seem like much, but the best gift I received this year was grits. Not just any old grits – genuine Jim Dandy Quick Cooking Grits. I couldn’t wait until today to cook up a bowl for brunch and add a little butter and grated cheddar cheese. Mmmmm. After all the other great gifts I received for Christmas and the multitude of things to be thankful for this year, why would I choose grits as the best? The number one reason would be that my daughter Max gave them to me. She knows how much me and her Mom love grits. Next would be that it is almost impossible to find grits on any grocery shelf up here in Canada where we live. I don’t know why. Southern food is popular here and, with our frigid winters, you’d certainly think another choice of a hot tasty meal to warm up would sell like hotcakes. Besides, grits go just as well with maple syrup as hotcakes (maybe better). Still, I almost can’t remember the last time I had grits. There’s another reason – the last time I did have grits was in 2006 in New Orleans. I lived in New Orleans for almost 9 months while I volunteered for relief and recovery work after Katrina’s devastation. It’s there I fell in love with grits and southern style cooking, along with road trips to Mississippi and Texas. While I lived in New Orleans I was writing much more than now. Mostly blogs, newsletters and email campaigns to encourage more volunteers to join in and help. I wrote every day. A far cry from the present. So when Jeff asked us to tell him what we thought our best Christmas present was, it sparked this reflection. I need to get back to writing. Thanks Jeff. Thanks Jim Dandy. Thanks Max for the grits and all the love that went into your gift.

  6. Hi Jeff!

    Love this post. Time is truly a gift we all need. It’s interesting that you cite your friend Shaunta for teaching you to set tiny goals. I just quoted you in one of my posts for teaching me to set tiny writing goals.

    Thanks for sharing, Ilka

  7. This is perfect timing for me. My goal for 2017 is to write one blog post per week and my biggest fear is how I’ll fit it into my schedule with a full time job. This advice is just what I need. Thanks!

  8. Jef, you have no idea how much of a souperpower you’ve given away. I mean, we’re only going to have 24 hours. Today, tomorrow and 23 july 2020. What we can do is to cut down unnecesary things that we do, learn to work faster and take out time for what matters to us, even if it is for as small duration as 10 minutes a day.

    Thanks for this amazingly insightful post. I’ve truely got this fresh perspective about how to plan my year 2017.

  9. One of the best gifts I received this year was you, Jeff! You and several other writers/publishers/coaches have shared so much great information with me, much of it I didn’t even realize I needed! I have been a professional writer and editor since 1998, but still have so much I want to do and so much still to learn, so thank you for your many blogs, articles, and webinars. They have truly helped. Wishing you a productive and prosperous new year!

  10. I always love a fresh perspective on time. It’s true, we’re as busy as we want to be, we always have a choice. My Dad would never let us say “I have to..” do this or that thing, he always reminded us that we ‘choose to’ because we’ve considered the consequences. He said there were only 3 ‘have to’s’ in life: die, decide, and suffer the consequences of our decisions. He was a wise man.

    Thanks for your choices, Jeff. You’ve helped a lot of people.

  11. I love #3. It reminds me of an former supervisor that would always say, don’t work harder, work smarter, which would cause you to produce more at a faster rate. I have seen this through out life. Just hoping it will translate in my writing.
    Enjoyed this post. Thank you.

  12. #2 is so true!!! I’ve successfully written every day for over two weeks now, and I’m so excited about it!!! I don’t stress about it, just focus on writing several paragraphs a day. Taking off the pressure has made it so much less daunting to make myself sit down and write, while before, I just talked about it while shaking in my boots at the thought of doing it!

  13. Oh how I wish I had more time! Time to slow down and have my mind free of worries and my to do list. That’s what I’ve been waiting for, that elusive and magical timewhere I can completely focus on writing. The only place I find that is in the middle of a stay-cation, like I have right now. I like the idea of the 10 minute bursts, I feel I can accomplish that.

  14. The best Christmas gift that I had this year was the fact that I was still alive. After several heart attacks, and wondering if I could ever go and do anything again specially if I could even be a writer I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a writer and I’ve been following Jeff for a long time and I’m glad I still have more time to do that this download is so true it’s not too late ever.

  15. Many thanks for this nice gift. I enjoyed and liked most of it…
    But, don’t you think there is a conflict in starting an article by saying “Time is the one thing we never have” and ending it by saying “What we have is time. And what we do with it is waste it.”?
    What about “gaining some time”?

  16. My parents gave me a $100 bill for X-mas. I promptly hit the after-Xmas sales with it. I look for useful tins with cookies or candy in them (I’ve discovered that not only are half-price Wrigley tins cheaper than buying gum in regular packs, but the tins are perfect for holding pens and pencils, flash drives, and kumihimo bobbins), gift sets with interesting things (last year I landed a six-tin pack of flavored green teas, but this year things aren’t appealing even at 50% off), and interesting-shaped dishes that I can mold ceramics on (I just landed a Xmas-tree serving plate marked down to $0.50). As I write this, I’m chomping on “Washburn’s Since 1856” Filled Candies and remembering the oblong candy dish Mom used to put these in back at our old house (she got tired of it, I guess, and put it into a round-robin pick for us girls one year–I took the dish, even though it’s only plastic).

    Ah, its’ getting me in the mood for some nostalgic writing, but I’ve got too many other irons in my writing fire right now. At least I’ve got something to keep my mouth occupied while I type. And I did get some more tea, even if it wasn’t in pretty gift tins. A writer needs something to slurp when she pauses to contemplate her next paragraph.

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