I'm Tom and welcome to my site.

Want to learn how I went from writing nearly nothing to writing thousands of words a month?

($37 value). Read more here.

Enter your email address here for free updates and your free eBook. (Guaranteed 100% privacy.)

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz
E-Book Testimonials

"Thomas Clifford has made something useful here. This report will give you some really catchy, useful ideas.

It made me reconsider how I do what I do, so you might give it a look-see, too!" 

Chris Brogan, President, Human Business Works 

"Tom Clifford is by trade a filmmaker. For most of his life, he rarely wrote anything longer than a brief comment in the margin of a script. 

Now, though, he's producing tens of thousands of words a year, first as a Fast Company "Expert Blogger," and then as a writer for the Content Marketing Institute. 

How did Tom go from a non-writer to a prolific and much-read one? His eBook, '5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways . . . , ' holds some of his secrets."

Mark Levy, Author of "Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content"

“Tom is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet—if you have the privilege to meet him. And he does sterling work as well. But don’t just take my word for it.

Read this free report and you’ll not just love its tone and content, but learn a lot as well.”

Sean D’Souza, Psychotactics.com

“Anyone who wants to improve their writing needs this e-book. A lot of ebooks are short because they just don’t have much substance to offer. They’re not worth your time (and so are many of the long ones, too, for that matter). Tom’s is short because he’s so good at giving you only what you need to know. 

‘5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier’ lives up to its promise by example as well as in the words themselves. Tom used the very same techniques he teaches you to write this book. 

And what’s in here is not just a rehash of the same tired ideas you find coming from people who have suddenly fancied themselves as writing gurus. There are tricks in here I never heard of (like the Writing Funnel) and some I had forgotten about and was glad to be reminded of (like Sporadic Writing).” 

Michael Martine, Blog Alchemist, Remarkablogger.com 

« How to Let Your Articles Breathe | Main | How the Whack-a-Mole Factor Keeps You from Writing »

How the 10-20-30 Principle Cures Chaotic Writing Schedules

Ever get a song stuck in your head?
Sure you have.

Ah, yes, but have you ever tried to stop it?
And you can’t?

What makes that song so memorable?
The song’s got rhythm, my friend, rhythm!

But wait a minute.

Is your writing schedule as infectious as that rhythm in the song?

If not, then how do you throw some of that good ol’ rhythm into your writing day?

Actually, it’s pretty darn easy.

Just use the 10-20-30 Principle.

What is the 10-20-30 Principle?
The 10-20-30 Principle is a simple schedule to help build up your writing discipline. If you struggle with a disciplined writing schedule, 10-20-30 is flexible and easy to remember.

What are the three components to 10-20-30?
10-20-30 has only three components:
1. 10 minutes of writing
2. 20 minutes break
3. 30 minutes of writing

How does the 10-20-30 Principle work?
10-20-30 is ridiculously easy to master and use. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say you’ve got this idea buzzing around your head. Getting this “buzzing idea” out of your head and onto paper is simple with 10-20-30.

10: Outline for 10 minutes
First, outline your idea. This is where, in 10 minutes or less, you outline your idea so you’ll have some direction for your article. Sculpt your idea into something that has structure and bones. Now you know where the article is headed.

20: Break for 20 minutes
Go grab some coffee, check your email, Twitter or whatever. Create some space before plunging into your article.

30: Write for 30 minutes
Now take 30 minutes and start writing your article. Or blog post. Or whatever.

That’s all there is to it.

What if you don’t finish your outline in 10 minutes?
Do you give up? Change subjects?

If your outline isn’t flowing easily, try doing two things:
1. Ask a friend to ask you questions about your topic. You’ll quickly discover an angle you can write about.
2. Change the topic and perspective. And change it drastically. Instead of writing about cars, write about volunteering. Getting unstuck in one topic requires leaving one world and entering another world.

What if you don’t finish your writing in 30 minutes?
Depending on your schedule, just go about your business and pick up later the same day. Or continue the following day.

But remember: write everyday!

Heck, if you can remember 10-20-30, then you can remember to write. And if you can remember to write for 30 minutes a day, in a few months you’ll feel like you moved mountains!

But moving mountains you're not
You’re moving ideas. And those ideas need a little structure. If you don’t have a foolproof way to keep your writing motivation moving forward, your progress will be slow at best.

The 10-20-30 Principle is like a mental hook your brain can easily remember: 10-20-30.

Pretty simple, huh? And you know what else is neat about the 10-20-30 trick? It keeps you in harmony with your motivation for writing. You feel like writing isn’t a chore; it’s something you’ll want to do.

Why does the 10-20-30 Principle work? What’s the secret behind it?
The secret to successful writing is to write every day. Writing every day is one of the biggest problems facing new writers. It’s darn hard committing yourself to write every single day.

You need a way to break down the large idea of “writing” into tiny chunks of time. Using a rhythm like 10-20-30 breaks your projects down into bite-size chunks.

How flexible is 10-20-30?
It’s super-duper flexible! You can modify it to your liking in a couple of ways:
1. Outline in 10 minutes, take a break for 20 minutes, then write your article for 30 minutes.
2. Outline 10 minutes in the morning. Break during the day. 30 minutes at night.
3. Write 30 minutes in the morning. Break during the day. Outline 10 minutes at night.

Isn’t it kinda crazy to think a rhythm like this can help you?
Sure, you may hate timers and sticking to a schedule. I know– you like to create at your own pace. Here’s the thing. If your work isn’t progressing and you’re struggling with writing every day, then change your rhythm.

Change your rhythm and you will change your output
So yeah, changing your output can be as easy as 10-20-30.

• There’s rhythm everywhere in life.
• Your writing schedule is no exception: it needs rhythm, too.
• Establishing a rhythm is as easy as 10-20-30.
• 10 minutes to outline.
• 20 minutes break (or longer).
• 30 minutes writing.

It’s easy to fall behind without rhythm. A simple solution is sticking to a disciplined, yet flexible schedule.

Writing is learning about structure
You time needs structure, too.

So the next time you fire up your computer to write, remember: 10. 20. 30.

Do you have a different schedule and rhythm? What works for you?

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (6)

Interesting take on the harmonious rhythm of writing. I believe this is a great tool for stimulating academic writing especially among college students. Because students are so easily distracted and only write their academic papers in paragraph segments, the 10-20-30 method could be advantageous. It can also help manage time when students feel multiple papers are too overwhelming. Being a drummer, I am especially interested when I can relate writing to a rhythmic tempo and pace. Great post!!
July 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTaylor Morken
Hi Taylor,

Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for sharing an interesting spin on this. I never thought how useful it could be for students struggling to get through assignments; interesting take. =)

Like you, the rhythm thing comes from my earlier days of playing rock n roll guitar. Rhythm is everywhere; it's just a matter of slowing down and seeing or feeling it in places we otherwise would miss.

I used to think, "Now I'll write for two hours straight then stop." That didn't work so I changed it up. We all have different rhythms so finding what works best for us the the key.

July 20, 2010 | Registered CommenterThomas Clifford
Tom, this is great advice. I know it works, because I've been doing it without realizing it for years. I capture the essence of my idea and then go off and play a bit (obviously incubating the story). When I come back, the rest flows much more readily.

I have to say, though, that the first sentences of your article stimulated a different idea for me. To make our writings more memorable, in certain settings it's good to listen to the rhythm of the words. This can help us avoid clusters of multi-syllabic words and lengthy sentences. It can help our audiences remember what they've read.

Thank you for helping me see both of these points.
July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Stoppelman
Hi Susan,

Glad you found this riff helpful.

In addition to the rhythm of the words, I've been starting to see the visual rhythm of articles, as well. This is probably more true than ever before in our "three-second decision-making" world.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

July 21, 2010 | Registered CommenterThomas Clifford

Wonderful article. I really like the breakdown into small nuggets of easily digestible actions. Doesn't seem like such a big mountain.
July 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Morawski
Thanks, Mike! Good to see you 'round these parts. =)

July 24, 2010 | Registered CommenterThomas Clifford

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.