Last month I experimented with a few different approaches to help increase my writing productivity, and during the process discovered I could free up far more writing time by making a few simple changes. Want to do the same? Keep reading!
You know that feeling when you know you could be getting more done, but you just can't focus? Or you look up from your device and realize you have no idea how long you spent scouring Twitter or Facebook?
Eek. Who's been there?
Time is absolutely precious, especially to writers. We all want to write more, but are often juggling writing and platform-building with family, health, and day jobs. How do you do it? How do you juggle it all and still have time to get into the writing zone?
How do you juggle it all and still have time to get into the writing zone?
First, let me say that I've been there, my friend! At the end of the year my creative well was running on empty. I was frustrated by my lack of progress on my manuscript, but couldn't figure out how to give myself the distraction-free quiet I needed to focus and get things done. Part of my struggle was that I wanted to have time to both blog and write books, but I already felt as though there were too few hours in the day.
After some reflection, I realized that I had to make better use of my time if I wanted to reach my writing and blogging goals.
So I decided to use the month to experiment with a digital detox of sorts. My goal was to free up more time for writing without cutting into the time I spend with my family or taking care of my health. I also wanted to finally take the time to track exactly how I spend my time. I've heard other writers recommend time-tracking, but I never took the time to do it.
Friends, my experiment paid off. Big time.
I met both my writing and blogging goals, without seeing a big drop in my site traffic or social media accounts. More importantly, I felt better. I found it easier to focus, and I had more energy for doing non work-related tasks. I ended the month with a feeling of confidence. Even though I got a lot done, I felt full of creative energy and enthusiasm.
Feeling overwhelmed by your writing goals? Here are 9 Ways to Be a More Productive Writer
Today I'm sharing the biggest takeaways from my January experiment because I want you to be able to have that same refreshed, energized feeling. Take a look at the list below. You don't have to do it all right now, you can pick and choose which item to try, or you can use my results to craft your own digital detox.
Are you ready to learn how to streamline your life and focus on what you want to accomplish?
(I'll pretend you're saying, "Yes!")
9 Ways to Be a More Productive Writer
1. Start with purpose.
Write down your goal -- for the week, the month, the day -- and use it as your touchstone. When your mind starts to wander, return to your purpose. Why are you here? Why is this important to you? Why do you want to make more time for writing? After you write down your goal, jot down how you want to feel at the end of the day/week/month. Use that feeling to help you visualize your end point.
This might sound out there or too fuzzy for you, but visualization can be a powerful part of goal setting. For me, I started January with the goal of taking a social media hiatus and finishing my current round of revisions. I wanted to feel less pressed for time, and less scatter-brained. I wanted to feel full of creative energy. By clarifying my goals, I found it far easier to stay on task when things got hard.
2. Make a dedicated workspace.
Create a writing space where you can focus, a place to help send your brain the message that it's time to get to work. An office or room with a door is ideal, but any space that helps you focus and clear distractions works. As long as it's your official writing space, it can look like whatever you want. Avoid choosing a space where you relax or unwind (like your bed or the couch). The goal is to train your mind to know it should be in work mode when you're in your workspace.
Train your mind to know it should be in work mode when you're in your workspace.
Related: 5 Tricks for Getting into the Writing Zone
3. Cut out distractions.
Start by closing your Internet browser and turning off notifications on your phone or mobile device while you write. Those little pings and notifications can distract you, and writing requires deep focus. It's worth disconnecting, my friend! If you want to take this a step further, try removing all social media apps from your device.
4. Consume less.
Skip the television or movies, and be choosy about what you read. You don't have to do this all the time, but when you're struggling to focus or need to meet a deadline, skipping the entertainment will give you more time to write.
You might also find that it helps you think more deeply about your stories. Last month I cut out most of the entertainment I was consuming, and simply reducing made me feel far less distracted. I had more energy and ideas for my stories, and as a bonus the extra time helped me get more done.
5. Create incentive.
Even during short writing sessions, having a set goal can be a powerful incentive. Whether you want to write 100 words or 2,000 words, that goal can motivate you to write, and meeting it will give you positive reinforcement.
Even during short writing sessions, having a set goal can be a powerful incentive.
Incentive doesn't have to be anything complicated. What works for me is to have a special mark or sticker I can add to my calendar if I earn it. Last month I was revising, so I "earned" a highlighter mark on my calendar if I made significant progress. It doesn't sound like much, but it did help motivate me. I loved earning those little tic marks!
Related: 5 Tips for Setting Reasonable Writing Goals and Making Them Happen
6. Track your time.
Track the time you spend doing writing-related activities, including social media. Even if you can only do it for a week or a month, the exercise of tracking your time will give you valuable insights. Why? It's hard to know how to make better use of your time when you're not sure how you're spending it. How much time are you really spending on Twitter and Facebook? How much time are you actively writing? Sometimes seeing the stark reality ("I spent how much time on Twitter?!") can be all the incentive you need to make some changes.
Part of why I deleted the social media apps on my mobile device in January was to make sure I tracked the time I spent using them. The side benefit was that I realized just how of a time suck social media can be for me. That time adds up, and it's precious!
7. Work in batches.
Group tasks into batches and work on them for blocks of time instead of multitasking. It will help you focus, and you will very likely be far more productive. Even if you're not sure - try it! You might be surprised.
Group tasks into batches and work on them for blocks of time instead of multitasking.
Since I wanted to gain accurate information about exactly how my time was spent, I used Toggl (a free time-tracking app) and divided my work into different categories (i.e. blogging, writing, social media). As soon as I started the timer, I only worked on one task. Suddenly, I realized it was easier to focus, and I was getting exponentially more done than I usually do.
Tip: Have a notebook on hand in your workspace. It comes in handy when you're working in batches, because you can jot down those, "Oops, I forgot to ..." items or ideas without distracting you from your current task.
8. Know when to quit.
There are times when focusing on writing or on the task on hand just won't happen. The sooner you can stop and move to a new task (or stop working entirely), the better. Not only will it help you avoid burnout, but it will also give you a chance to break out of the rut and hopefully give your mind a break.
If you can, leave your workspace. Your brain is telling you to take a break, so use the time to move around, go outside, or do something away from the computer. Breaks like this can you relax, and might also give your mind the space it needs to overcome blocks and fill in those pesky plot holes.
9. Schedule when possible.
Schedule social media and blog posts in advance, and -- if you are checking in on social media -- schedule set times for being online. Give yourself 30 minutes a day, for example, to tweet, post on Facebook, share Instagram photos. Although you might not stick to this forever, try it for at least a week. You might be surprised how much time you can free up by limiting your social media -- without hurting your online platform.
Tip: I use BoardBooster to schedule pins, and it's helped me free up SO much time while still giving me a way to build my presence on Pinterest (which brings me most of my traffic). Use my BoardBooster referral link, and you can try it for free -- you get 100+ pins to start and it gives you more than enough time to see if the app is a good fit for you. Try BoardBooster free!
I share exactly how I schedule blog posts and use social media in my free Build a Better Blog Challenge for writers. Click the image below to join!
I hope these tips help you free up more time and increase your productivity. If you found this post valuable, I would appreciate it if you used the links below to share it!
Now it's your turn: Do you have productivity tips to share?