In this episode, I share the main method I preach, teach, and use to write more in less time. The main method that took me from writing and publishing a book in TWELVE YEARS to writing and publishing a book in NINE MONTHS. Boo-yah.
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Hey, Toucan! Welcome to the first meat and potatoes episode of the You Can, Toucan! Podcast. I am so excited to finally get to the nitty gritty and share with you the main method I teach and preach and use when I write. This episode used to be a mini email course you could sign up for on my website, but I found that some people thought the emails were too long and it was over six or seven days or something like that.
So I decided to condense everything down into the quick start guide to writing more and less time. Which might be even how you found this podcast to begin with. If not, you can grab the guide for free at youcantoucan.com/guide. I will link to it in the show notes. The purpose of the mini email course was to help writers find time in their busy schedule to actually write, as well as to bestow upon them some tools to make it even easier.
In this episode, I’m going to share with you a brief history of the main method I use to write more and less time, as well as what that method actually is. Then I’ll talk about six reasons why this method works. I’ll wrap up with some data that supports the method and send you on your way with some tools you can use to get started.
Ready? Let’s get into it. I already talked about the origin of the You Can Toucan methodology that I teach in episode one when I talked all about myself and… Hopefully you enjoyed that. So if you haven’t listened to that one, go back. I will have in the show notes where you can actually hear that part. So I want to jump right in with what the method actually is.
It is, Hold on tight. Here we go. The Toucan20 method. Now this method is what will help you find and harness time in your life to do important things like start, finish, or otherwise work on your novel, Though it can also be used for other things. The way that I teach it is specifically focused on writers in writing and authors in authoring.
Toucan20 is so simple and it’s not revolutionary by any means. And in fact, there are already books about similar methods and techniques out in the world. However, Those books don’t have the adorable toucan that I designed and drew myself, nor do they have my shining and charismatic personality.
Here’s how it works.
Step one, set a timer for 20 minutes.
Step two, right until the timer goes off.
Step three, rinse/repeat as time allows.
That’s it. Yes, it’s that simple. But here’s the thing, my friend, it works, and now I’m going to tell you why it works.
Less time means more pressure to get to work, which means more time actually doing focused work.
This is the main reason Toucan20 works. If you have a small amount of time, you’re more inclined to get to work instead of just jack around. And the key words in this reason are focused work, and those are in air quotes, which you can’t even see that I’m doing because it’s a podcast, but quote unquote focused.
Short focused periods of work are less mentally taxing than prolonged bouts of multitasking because what we consider multitasking is actually a myth. That’s right, and you probably heard this before, multitasking is a myth. It doesn’t exist. Now I am a person who has had multiple concussions and I’ve used various brain therapies to heal from them and to heal my brain from them.
I have learned from my experience and from speaking with the people who have made it their life’s career to work with neuroscience and brains that multitasking is not real. Plus, you know, you can just search it up on the internet and find a bunch of articles about it. What we believe is multitasking is actually the ability to switch from one task to another very quickly, it’s called serial tasking.
Your brain, however, is still only doing one thing at a time. And being able to switch back and forth between tasks quickly doesn’t make a person more productive or efficient or proficient. It’ll still take you three minutes to write a carefully worded email to that company that screwed you over or whatever.
It’ll still take you two hours to compare the content of a draft of your manuscript that you thought was the right one with a draft that you think might also be the right one. But you know, you made changes and you can’t find which ones you, where you save those changes. It’ll still take you approximately an hour to field dress a goat for the sacrifice tomorrow night.
You get the point. It’s better for you, your brain, and your sanity to focus. Another thing that I recently learned that is not, that was not included in the email course, but is included in the quick start guide to writing more and less time is multitasking, actually decreases your IQ for a period of time, more than smoking weed.
Now just let that sink in. That’s pretty crazy. So back to the point, if you focus on one thing for 20 minutes, your brain will be less fatigued than you have, than if you have an hour to try and do 50 things at once or even just two things. And also, it’s better to focus for 20 minutes on one thing to keep your IQ at a level that makes you an intelligent human being.
All right. Reason number two,
Less time makes it quicker to get into the zone and be productive.
This second reason is tied to the first one, but also has really strong roots in creating habit. So a quick note, and I did mention this also in episode one when I talked all about myself. I used to write on my 60 minute lunch break.
So lunchtime would roll around and I’d sneak off to a little hidey-hole corner at work that has no windows because rider do not deserve windows. And here I am in my office, my writing room, and I have windows. I have two windows, actually one on the other side of. I actually don’t even write in here anyway.
I write on the couch with my beautiful little pittie mix. Kira cuddled next to me, usually trying to push my computer off my lap. So I would go to this little hidey-hole and I would sit down and think, Wow, 60 minutes. That’s a long time. So what would I do? Did I open my manuscript? Did I get to work right away?
Heck no people. I would check Facebook repeatedly. I would check my personal emails compulsively. I would go down rabbit holes through click bait photos and headlines. You get the idea, I’d look at the clock and what? 20 minutes left. Well, that’s certainly not enough time to get anything done, so I’d continue to waste time and there goes my 60 minute lunch break.
Squandered away on useless activities. Back then, my lunch break was my only writing time. No wonder it took me 12 years to write and publish my first novel . That was before Toucan20 came to be. Now 20 minutes is my bread and butter baby. There was a time when I had a lasagna in the oven, and at first I was gonna grab my iPad and play a jigsaw puzzle app that my twin sister got me hooked on.
But then I thought, Wait, I have 45 minutes until my lasagna is done. I have enough time to complete two. Toucan20s in a row with a little time spare. And because I’ve been doing Toucan20 sessions for so long now, once I start my timer, I almost immediately get into the zone. This is because I have trained myself to show up and write as soon as the timer goes off, or as soon as I start the timer.
Because when it goes off, you’re supposed to stop. Duh. I have conditioned my brain and body to sit and write for 20 minute increments. I have made writing a habit, and because of this, I can write more in 20 minutes now than I could when I first started this. If you track your time and words, you will see the same results.
Keep track of how much you write in 20 minutes for a week or a month. A month is even better. But a week is a really great starting point because seeing the word count rack up will inspire you to keep going. It’ll help you show up every day or nearly every day if you aren’t a daily writer and create that writing habit.
Before I get into the next reasons why and how Toucan20 works, let’s talk about awareness of activities. This is a phrase I came up with to define the phenomenon that comes about when tracking damn near anything. Here’s some examples. Food journals, expense logs, and how you spend your time. Awareness of activities comes about the moment you start tracking things, for example, With a food journal, you don’t wanna put junk food on your log, so you think twice about eating a whole bag of chips.
That’s awareness of activities for an expense log. The same phenomenon. You’ll be more inclined to not buy that gold plated snorkeling gear than if you weren’t tracking everything you spend your money on. The same goes for how you spend your time. This is a critical step, especially if you’re a busy writer who cannot seem to find time to write as often as you would like or ever.
For example, if you find yourself saying, Oh, I wish I could write today. Keeping track of how you spend your time will help you find you gotta, It will help you find at least one 20 minute period of time in your day that you can open up your manuscript or your notebook, or get your stone drag, your stone tablet to your stone table, and chisel and hammer your way to the end of your novel or other writing project.
So the next two reasons, Toucan20 works rely heavily upon awareness of activities
Less time makes it easier to fit one or more sessions into your busy day.
Track how much time you spend on social media, playing games on your phone or other device, or doing other unnecessary things. Obviously, if you’re the person who takes care of the people in your family and keeps them fed watered cloth bathed and contributing members of society, those are necessary tasks.
Your day job is probably unnecessary chunk of your time as well. Identify the time wasters and you will identify the scraps of time on your day in which you can throw in a Toucan20 session or. If you have more than 20 minutes, you can use the Pomodoro technique with Toucan20. I’m sure you know what the Pomodoro technique is, but just really quick.
It was founded by Francisco Cirillo. I think that’s how you say his name. Cirilo. Maybe if he’s Italian Cirillo, if he’s Spanish or Latin or whatever. It’s, uh, where you set, you have like a, a short period of time of work and then you have a short little break period of time, of work, break period and then so on, so forth.
I’ll get into it a little more here. So here’s how you use Toucan20 with the Pomodoro technique. Okay? So you complete your Toucan20 session. Set your timer for 20 minutes, write your little buns off timer goes off. You take a five minute break, which is the perfect amount of time, in my opinion, for a quick bathroom break or a beverage refill.
If you’re having a beverage, I mean a beverage obviously could just be water, but whatever. And then you rinse and repeat that three times. So after your third round of this, you reward yourself with a 15 minute break or some other reward of your choosing. That is the reason the Pomodoro method works is the reward with a capital R.
This is a big deal. Friends. Think of it this way. When you train a dog or other animal, there are various methods of rewarding the most successful, founded by the father of conditioning. BF Skinner, who side note is also my favorite psychologist I know. Nerd Alert. The most successful method of rewarding is the variable reward.
Now if you don’t know what the variable reward is, it’s when the reward, Or in the case of a dog or other animal, the treat is randomly given after the completion of a task. Rats in the lab were more likely to learn a behavior. If the reward was on a variable schedule, the rat might have to do the behavior three times to get a reward in one round, twice in another, and five times in yet a third.
Varying the reward schedule conditions, the trainee to always do the behavior in anticipation of possibly getting the reward. Now, as humans, it’s difficult to follow a variable reward schedule, since we know when we decide to reward ourselves. A way to make the reward variable, however, is to roll a dye or a dice.
I never know how to say one dice. Die, whatever, even numbers, you get a reward. Odd numbers, you get nothing. The reward keeps us motivated, so find a great reward. Like if you write for 20 minutes, you can watch an episode of the show you’re currently binge watching or have a piece of chocolate or read a chapter of your favorite book or check your social media notifications.
But, Be mindful of the time and when your break is over, Stop. Scrolling. and put your device face down. Better yet, put it in a different room altogether. Silence it. Put do not disturb on if you get notifications on a smart watch or something and get back to work. Other rewards, you could be playing around a fetch with your dog taking a break just to pet your dog because that will release endorphins in both of your little brains and you’ll both be so much happier for.
Now a side note, if you don’t have a dog, dog can be replaced with any pet, cat, hamster, ferret, lizard, tarantula, whatever pet you have, even if it is a beloved fishy who comes to the glass when you approach and begs for tasty wormy or flaky snacks. Whatever motivates you, reward yourself with it. Okay?
Less time makes it easier to find time in your busy.
Toucan20 is for any writer out there, but it’s especially useful for the busy writer. I can’t stress this enough and I will beat it to death. Honestly. The writer who like me has a full-time job and writes on her lunch break, or in the chair at the salon with my thumbs on my phone or during any other spare moment.
Look at your current schedule or just be more mindful of your time wasting habits, and instead, harness those scraps of time to do the things you’ve been putting off because you, quote unquote, don’t have time. Even if you watch 20 minutes less of TV in the morning or woke up 20 minutes earlier or went to bed 20 minutes later, you get it right.
Again, track how you spend your time For at least two days, I recommend one weekday and one weekend day. From there, you’ll have the information you need to upcycle any time wasting moments into Toucan20 sessions.
Less time tricks your brain into motivated mode.
This one is so exciting to me. You guys, there will be days, weeks, months, years, who’s counting right in which you won’t feel like writing.
I know 2020 was especially challenging for a lot of creative people, and it just pains me to hear their stories, their lack of motivation to create their depression, their loneliness, how their art suffered. Toucan20 saw me through the first and second years of the pandemic and is still carrying me through the third and will carry me through to the end.
There’s a way to trick your brain into working for you even on your most unmotivated days. You ready for this? It’s called. Toucan20 . You probably thought I was gonna say something else, right? Trixy little thing, aren’t I? The concept is simple. If you tell yourself, I only have to write for 20 minutes, you’ll be more inclined to sit down and try on the tail of reason Number two, less time makes it quicker to get into the zone and be productive.
The more you do this, the more your brain will kick into gear and know the timer means business. And if you reward yourself after a single Toucan20 session, your brain will love you even more. Yes, we’re talking about rewards again, and I’m not talking about buying yourself a new car or a bottle of dom.
I’m talking about using a sticker chart or a fun habit tracker or a stamp to mark that you completed your 20 minutes. Even a piece of chocolate, a glass of wine, stepping out side into the light of day. Don’t his at the sun. The sun is our friend. Small things that bring you joy and delight your brain.
Now if you have a stubborn brain and all you do is sit at the computer or notebook or fancy journal, you are too afraid to write in with a fancy pen. You don’t want to write with because. It will run out of ink someday. The Toucan20 method will still work for you. Just stare at that blank page screen or stone tablet.
Your brain will not like it and it will send something your way. I guarantee it. I almost guarantee it. Brains can really be stubborn, so if it doesn’t send you a single word in that 20 minutes, I would love to know because maybe there’s something else causing the blockage that I might be able to help with.
Or stay tuned, and I might have an episode of the podcast that has things that will help you with it, . All right,
Less time means sprinting, which means writing more words faster to beat the clock.
For those thriller lovers out there, what makes a really great thriller? A ticking time bomb. Of course, nothing gives the reader or watcher of a thrilling movie or show or book the sense of doom and anticipation and anxiety as the threat of a bomb going off, and the constant reminder of how much time remains.
Toucan20 is your ticking time bomb. Our brains love this stuff, okay? Our competitive streak, no matter how faint loves it. Writing sprints are as simple as Toucan20 set a timer and write fast and furiously. The next time you have time, do it again and see if you can beat your own record better. Sprint with a friend and see who gets the most words.
Your inner competitor will thank you. Your inner critic will be gas ban splattering trying to keep up, and therefore unable to tell you how awful your writing is. It isn’t awful. Trust me, and your manuscript will be that many more words closer to the end, and you will feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Okay, my friend. The proof is in the pudding, right? And by putting I mean cold hard, unfeeling chocolate or maybe vanilla or maybe even banana cream data. That sounds kind of weird. I’m just talking about data. All the, all the data that I’ve collected over a few manuscripts that I’ve worked on using Toucan20.
So buckle up. This is a little bit into data nerd zone, but I think you’ll like it in the show notes. I will link to the data page of my website. So if you don’t wanna listen to the rest of this part of the podcast, you can just jump right over there. It’s you can toocan.com/data and you can check out all the data that I have collected over the past couple of years.
It’s not all there, but there’s enough there to show that yes, this actually works. Okay. Why is tracking your Toucan20 sessions important? Because then you will know how long things take so profound. Knowing how long you take to write a book is vital. If you ever want a multi-book deal with a traditional publisher, it’s also vital If you are an independent author like me, and want to be able to accurately let your adoring fans know when the next book in your series will be out, because they will want to.
Now, you don’t have to do this forever and ever. And quite frankly, if tracking your writing sessions gets in the way of actually writing, then don’t do it. But if you track for just one book start to finish, you’ll have a quote unquote, good enough idea of how quickly you can produce. Now the data. Here we go.
Shut up Claire, and get to the nitty gritty. All right. The first set of data is from November, 2018 when I set out to write for at least 20 minutes a. Now, more often than not, the Toucan20. The 20 minutes was the jump start to my writing session. I used Toucan20 as the motivational trick to get my brain into gear quickly, but I usually wrote for more than the 20 minutes if I had time.
So the results between November 1st and 30th, I wrote. 23,277 words. That is about 775 words per writing session. And remember back in 2018 before, in the before times, I only wrote on my hour long lunch break, so that’s not too shabby. In January, 2019, I wanted to see exactly how much I could write in only 20 minutes a day.
Now I type pretty fast. Okay. I, I type around 90 words per minute, especially if I’m on a roll. So, and you know, some days are better than others, as always. We’re allowed to have. This is a quick side. A quick side note here. You are allowed to have a bad writing day if you sit down to write and all you can get is like 50 words or even less than that.
If you write just a a sentence, that’s still forward progress. Okay? So stick with me here. So, in January, 2019, I wrote 20 minutes per day for the entire month, and at the end of the month I had accumulated 13,348 words. That is about 430 words per Toucan20 session. Okay. Do you see how, kind of how cool this is though, if you track an entire month of Toucan20 sessions, you can basically see improvements, You can see good days, you can see bad days, you can see all kinds of data that that could be important down the road.
So in August, 2021, in the thick of the pandemic, I tracked the time it took me to write the first draft of the first. You can Toucan book. Yeah, there is a book. So if you wanna check that out, I’ll link to it in the show notes. The first draft of this book was 15,740 words. It’s a pretty short book. It’s very direct and to the point.
I wrote all of those words in 22, 20 minute sessions equaling 420 minutes. I know four 20, right? . Let’s laugh like Bevis and Butthead and make a weed joke, . That means I wrote the first draft of this book in seven hours and I averaged approximately 2,250 words per hour, or 787 words per Toucan20. Plus by sticking to my plan and using the Toucan20 method, I finished the first draft of this book, two days ahead of self-imposed deadline, A deadline I was able to estimate. Estimate based on previous Toucan20 data.
See how cool this is. Oh my gosh, I’m such a data nerd. I know. . I really hope that this data though has proven to you that this technique works, but keep in mind, 20 minute increments will only get you so far. You also need perseverance, resilience, and a you can toucan-do attitude.
I know I’m such a dork, right? So here’s a fun bag. So this one time I had a dream in which I was a race car driver. Okay? I have really weird dreams, but this was one that I will never forget because I just thought it was so funny. My car in the race, however, was a GoCart and all of the other cars, or maybe it was like a Mario Cart car, like I feel like in the dream when I was actually racing, I was, it was like playing Mario Cart, okay?
All the other cars though were Formula One. And at the end of the dream, Will Ferrell, who won first place, got out of his car and said to me, “You need more than heart and skill to win a race kid. You also need a fast car.”
So there you have it my friend. The Toucan20 method changed my life. I use it pretty much daily for writing as well as doing boring and tedious tasks at my day job.
It really truly works. Give a try, and if you want some tools to help you out, go download the Quick Start Guide to writing More in Less Time. I have some free printables in there that you can use to track your time.
It’s youcantoucan.com/guide and in next week’s episode, you’ll discover that you are not alone… In how you write and the writing habits you have or don’t have. That sounds weird, but you’ll get it when you hear the episode.
Thank you so much for hanging out with me today. I really hope you learned a ton of stuff from this episode. Don’t forget to subscribe or follow the podcast on your favorite podcast app so you never miss a thing.
Set your timer. Go write!
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Claire L. Fishback
Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!
Youcan the Toucan