If you know me at all, I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. When I have down time at work, I’m running through my list of things to do in my head and determining the most efficient way to get them done. And I love lists! Here are some of the things I do to stay on target and up to par. Do I stick to them like a religion? No. I’m always trying new things but I do hope to one day become a creature of habit. A lean, mean to-do list knocking out machine! So without much further ado, here are my top 9 ways (sorry I don’t have a top 10…deal with it) to increase productivity and stay productive!
1. Have a Plan
In general, having a mode of attack is a good idea. Have a plan. Be organized and take notes. It is so important to know what you’re doing before you start doing it. I get it. Sometimes it’s nice to just get in the car and drive wherever the road takes you but nine times out of ten, you’ve got a destination in mind or a route planned.
A lot of us are pantsers and if you’re like me you’re kind of in between a pantser and a plotter. But when I sit down to write I always have an idea in mind as to what I’m going to write about. This makes my writing so much easier and less painful. On days when I have no plan and I just sit in front of the computer staring at an empty space (or an empty MS Word document) it’s very heartbreaking.
It’s discouraging. It’s depressing. I think that’s part of what gets a lot of writers down. I’ve read that the key to being prolific and producing more in a smaller amount of time, you’re going to need to have some idea- some game plan- laid out. I’m still working on the prolific part myself, don’t worry! We’ll get there one day.
You don’t have to know all the details but it definitely helps.
2. Take Breaks
This may sound counterproductive but it’s true. Take breaks. Sitting for 8 hours in front of a computer without any breaks is like suicide. It can put a strain on your eyes (think of the amount of time the average human being spends looking at a screen every day in 2017), and it’s not ergonomically smart. Use the bathroom, get a snack, get fresh air, stretch… do anything just don’t start playing a video game because then a 10-minute break will turn into the rest of the day and you won’t get any work done.
3. Write by Timer
Simple. Set a timer. This really helps for me. There are many different ways in which you can implement this one.
There’s a program called Write or Die where you set a timer and a punishment. Yes, you read that correctly. The punishment maybe an annoying sound or your words may get deleted if you stop writing. It’s actually pretty cool. I highly recommend Write or Die (know known as Write or Die 2). It’s free and you can also use “reward” mode or “stimulus” mode now, instead of setting punishments. There is a desktop version available for $20. You can find it here.
There are also sites like Write Monkey or Written? Kitten!
Written? Kitten! will show you a picture of a kitten when you reach your word goal and Write Monkey takes away all distractions so all you have is a screen to write on.
Lastly, there’s the Pomodoro method. This is one of my personal favorites. It’s called “Pomodoro” because the man who came up with this method had a kitchen timer that was in the shape of a tomato and Pomodoro means “tomato” in Italian. The man would set the timer for 20 minutes and do whatever he had to do. Then you can set the timer for ten minutes and take a break. Once the buzzer goes off again you know it’s time to get back to work for another 15 or 20 minutes. This is especially useful is you’re participating in the NaNo Word Sprints during November, April or July. It’s a great way to boost your word count during the write-a-thons.
4. Get Some Sleep
It’s very important if you want to be in your best mental and creative state, to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t deprive yourself of your health just to get your book done. Yes, there will be sacrifices. You may have to give up a social life but don’t sacrifice your health.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. If I’m exercising, I can’t be writing. How is that productive? But it’s true. Exercise is a form of meditation. It can help clear your mind and get all of that excess and mental clutter out of the way. Have you ever worked out and found that an issue you were thinking about all day long suddenly became clear- a problem suddenly had a solution and everything seemed easy? That’s what exercise and meditation does and I highly recommend it.
6. Get Rid of Distractions
I wrote a whole post on this and I’ll provide a link to it here. Don’t set yourself up for failure by creating a workspace that has a ton of distractions. Set yourself up for success by limiting the things that can take up your time when you’re supposed to be writing. Point in fact, this is why I became a minimalist. I was spending valuable writing time cleaning and organizing. When I simply owned less stuff, I had more time and less distractions. Win.
Check out my blog post on Staying Focused and Eliminating Distractions.
7. Tell Other People
Tell other people. Now if you’re anything like me, you hate talking about your writing. I don’t like talking about whether I think it’s good or not. I don’t know why. I love my writing. I love my stories and characters but I hate talking about it. My man and I have had heated discussions and yes, even fights over my writing. However, he holds me highly accountable and promises me things like trips to London…
Also, sharing on social media that I’m writing a novel or editing a novel or writing a short story creates accountability. Depending on how many friends or followers you have, that many people are going to hold you accountable.
8. Get Up Early
I know, I know. I just told you to exercise and now I’m telling you to wake up earlier…after I told you to get sleep which means going to bed sooner. Did I mention that writing requires sacrifice? I’m not a morning person either. But I will say that lately I have found myself waking up earlier and earlier, inspired to get to work and be productive.
They say that there is a huge difference in the mental states of a rich person and a poor person. Wealthy and successful people wake up 3 hours before work starts. Oh my goodness! Right now I’m working from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. so I’m already having trouble rolling out of bed early. Waking up at 3 in the morning just seems ludicrous.
I’m so used to waking up early during the week that my weekends tend to start no later than 6 a.m. and that makes for at least two productive days if I slipped up during the week.
9. Don’t Multitask!
I have so many writing ideas. I don’t mean to brag. Some writers struggle with where to find ideas but I have so many that I want to write about- so many that I’m in love with. The problem? I tried to divide my energy and focus across all of the projects and that slows me down. (Sometimes I am still guilty of this!)
You want to set one specific goal and stick to it. Put all of your energy and focus on that goal because when your energy is divided and scattered you’re not on top of your game. So if you’re trying to work on five books, or three books and a short story and a novella… STOP. At times, it’s preferable when you get tired of one project, to have the option of spending some time with another one. This I can stand behind but please save yourself the struggle and don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Having 5+ projects going on at one time can be a huge mistake. It doesn’t work for me at all because I lose sight of focus, storyline, theme, and character motivation. Everything becomes jumbled and it makes the editing process more grueling.
For further reading, I highly recommend David Allen’s book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. There are hundreds of books out there on productivity. I’ve read quite a few but nothing got to me quite like David’s. If you read anything on productivity, please give this one a try!
I hope this helped at least one person and if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please leave them in the comment box below. Happy writing.
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Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She also has a degree in Funeral Services. As an avid minimalist and traveler, she enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores and early morning matinees.