Monetize Your Garbage Time by Writing On Medium
Reclaim--and profit from--idle moments in your day
Too many people romanticize the process of writing content. You have to be in the correct flow state, drink chamomile tea, complete your yoga practice, and wear your good-luck pants in order to produce compelling content, right?
Certainly, ritual can be important. But if you feel that you have to perform a certain ritual or be in a certain state to write great content, I invite you to challenge that assumption.
In particular, I encourage you to try writing on Medium as a way to monetize your garbage time.
No one is productive 24 hours per day. It’s important to take time for productive work, and time for rest and relaxation.
But what about the time in the middle, where you’re not doing something productive, but you’re also not doing something fun, fulfilling, or relaxing?
I call this in-between time “garbage time.”
Normally, this time goes to waste. It’s the time you probably spend refreshing Instagram for the umpteenth time, or doomscrolling political news on Twitter.
If you produce content on Medium, though, try this instead:
When you find yourself with some garbage time on your hands, shut down social media, open a blank story in the Medium app on your phone, and create a chunk of content.
Medium’s user interface is often prized for its simplicity. The platform is designed to mimic a blank page of paper, and words are the primary currency on the platform.
That same design extends to the content creation functions in Medium’s mobile app. Writing a new story in the mobile app is incredibly simple. You’re presented with a blank screen, you type your story and make basic edits (like creating headings or inserting a link) and that’s it.
This simplicity makes Medium a great platform for mobile content creation. It’s super easy to write a Medium article on your phone. It’s also a kind of creation that’s not disturbing to those around you. Try making a YouTube video on a train, or even taking photos in a public place, and you’re likely to get nasty looks. Tap out a Medium article on the go, and no one even knows you’re working on something.
This mobile-friendly creation process makes Medium a perfect tool to monetize your garbage time. You can open the app, type away, and create something of value, even if you only have a few minutes to spend.
Here are a few places where I’ve written Medium articles during garbage time:
- In the back of an Uber
- In line at the bank
- Waiting for the dentist
- On hold with customer service
- Waiting for food at a McDonald’s on the I5
- In a car wash
Why Monetize Garbage Time?
In short, because you probably have a lot of it. Even if you add 15 minutes of time per day of content writing by writing during garbage time— perhaps on top of your normal writing routine — that’s an extra 7.5 hours of writing time per month, or 90 hours per year.
How many great stories could you write in 90 hours? How much extra revenue would the stories earn you?
Wouldn’t having those extra stories in your portfolio be better than playing a few more minutes of Clash of Clans, or stressing out about Covid headlines?
If you answered “yes”, then you’re likely starting to see the value of monetizing garbage time.
Monetizing this time is valuable in other ways, too. It forces you to demystify the content development and writing process, and to ask yourself if you really need a complex routine to feel inspired. This is a helpful lesson I learned early on from Tim Denning.
If you can learn to write something useful during a five minute wait in a grocery store line, then how much more productive will you be when you sit down at a real computer at home, with no distractions, and dig into a longer-form story?
What to Write?
Some stories are easy to write on mobile. Others are not.
I’ve gotten very good at writing stories in the Medium mobile app — even complex ones. I wrote the first half of my story on the Covid-19 bradykinin hypothesis using the Medium mobile app. It got 11.2 million views and was #1 on Medium for 7 days. Writing hugely popular, complex stories on mobile is possible.
But it’s much easier to write certain kinds of stories on mobile during garbage time than others. You’re looking for stories that are easy to break down into chunks — topics where you can write a bit, walk away for a few days, and return without having lost your train of thought.
Here’ s a great example — my story on ten places to sell your stock photography and videos. I wrote this over the course of about 1 month, in multiple 5–10 minute chunks of idle time. Each time I had a few moments, I’d write up a section on one specific stock imagery marketplace. Then I’d stop for a few days.
Since each section (each marketplace I covered) stands alone, it was easy to pick the story up, write for a few minutes, and put it back down again. It’s gotten 31,000 views, so the strategy clearly worked.
I wrote most of this article on mobile, too.
Here are a few kinds of stories that lend themselves to mobile writing during garbage time:
- Lists, like my list of stock photo agencies
- Opinion pieces, where you need to do limited research
- Narratives that follow a linear progression through time, i.e. “My First Year as a Freelancer". It’s easy to write a chunk that covers one time period (“My First Month"), put the story down, come back, and write up the next time period in your narrative.
- Short-form pieces answering a specific question
- Explainers about topics you know well — again, you don’t need to do much research, which is hard on mobile
These pieces don’t work well:
- Pieces requiring lots of external research, adding lots of links, etc.
- Product reviews. There are too many product details to look up and confirm.
Write on Mobile, Publish on Desktop
Writing on the Medium mobile app is great. I’m at the point where I can write stories one-handed, typing with one thumb. In fact, I’m doing that right now.
Editing and publishing, though, is best done on a real computer. Your phone’s autocorrect can easily butcher words in non-obvious ways. And adding images, tagging your stories, and submitting to publications is best done on the full Medium website, which you can’t access on a phone.
Write on mobile, queue up your drafts, and then edit and publish/submit on a real computer. Publishing a story you wrote on mobile during garbage time shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.
How much extra value can you eke out of your own garbage time by writing on Medium? Challenge yourself to find out.