Productivity – Important factor of a pro writer in 2017

How productive are you?

Being busy is not the same as being productive. Many writers get to the end of the day and say they haven’t stopped, even for lunch. Yet when asked to list that they have achieved all they can do is explain that they were working on a very difficult section and have now perfected the 200 words they wrote yesterday.

What do you currently spend your writing time doing? Do you check email or social media several times a day? Do you look at your phone every few minutes? You may believe you sit down for a two hour writing stint but how much time do you actually spend increasing your word count? In reality most people only spend 25% of their working time being productive. Imagine that – just by focusing on your writing task you could immediately increase your output fourfold. I11 order to achieve this you need to identify what you really do during your working time.

Record all activities

Start by keeping a daily record of everything you do, how long you spend doing it and what you achieve during that time. You are looking to account for every minute of the day, even the few seconds it takes to look at your phone, because those small interruptions not only eat into your time they also distract you, it then takes a few
minutes to re-engage with your wilting. The purpose of doing this is not to make you feel bad about how you currently work or to make you stop doing those activities, wilting related or otherwise, that you enjoy doing, but to b

oth identify where you can and want to improve your productivity and which techniques and actions could support improvements.This exercise not only helps you identify where you can improve but also which non-writing activities and timeslots are important or essential to you and are not available for your writing, at least not directly. Such activities might include work (although you need to record commuting time and breaks as separate activities), bedtime reading to your children or going to the gym.

Acquire a page per day diary, preferably one with the time written down one side (you may have to add additional times for early morning and late evening). Draw a line down the middle, top to bottom. On the right-hand side write down everything you do, how long you take doing it and what you achieve. Include all the small tasks such as making a coffee, time on the phone and that quick check of social media. Add a little detail -who were you on the phone to and why? What did you watch on television? When recording your writing also add the detail, note how many words you wrote, which chapter you edited or what you researched. If you are at your desk writing your book and undertake, or are distracted by, other tasks, for example email, checking your phone or a knock on the door, note these as well.

You may feel that you are spending considerable time recording what you are doing rather than actually improving your productivity. Be patient, this is about being honest with yourself. You need to know exactly what you do with your time and how much of your writing time you really spend on writing, or any other relevant writing related task. If you don’t you will continue believing you’ve been busy all day and can’t understand why you’ve only written 500 words that will still need considerable editing.

The left-hand side of the page wall be used to plan your days. This plan will include timeslots, what you intend to do, deadlines and your productivity targets. In summary, your daily plan will include everything you are going to do that day, when you are going to do it, how long for and what you intend to achieve. Your plan will also include non-writing activities although these may not require any detail. This might sound a regimented approach that leaves little opportunity for creativity however the idea is to develop good habits that support productivity, prevent procrastination and reduce the time spent on activities that are not essential, you do not choose to do for pleasure or do not support your writing business.

Once you are free from distractions you are free to become creative. Write in your diary throughout the day recording all your activities, if you leave it until the end of the day you will forget what prevented you from getting your wilting done. If you are unable to take your diary with you then make accurate notes that you can transfer into your diary as soon as you return to your desk or arrive home. Always note when you change activities or focus, or are distracted -switching from writing in Word to searching the Internet, even for a moment, is a change of activity and focus. Be disciplined about this, you will get annoyed with yourself even’ time you pick up your phone and have to spend time writing this down (this in itself might make you think twice about picking up the phone), in the long-term it will be worth it.

The left-hand side of the page wall be used to plan your days. This plan will include timeslots, what you intend to do, deadlines and your productivity targets. In summary, your daily plan will include everything you are going to do that day, when you are going to do it, how long for and what you intend to achieve. Your plan will also include non-writing activities although these may not require any detail. This might sound a regimented approach that leaves little opportunity for creativity however the idea is to develop good habits that support productivity, prevent procrastination and reduce the time spent on activities that are not essential, you do not choose to do for pleasure or do not support your writing business. Once you are free from distractions you are free to become creative.

Write in your diary throughout the day recording all your activities, if you leave it until the end of the day you will forget what prevented you from getting your wilting done. If you are unable to take your diary with you then make accurate notes that you can transfer into your diary as soon as you return to your desk or arrive home. Always note when you change activities or focus, or are distracted -switching from writing in Word to searching the Internet, even for a moment, is a change of activity and focus. Be disciplined about this, you will get annoyed with yourself even’ time you pick up your phone and have to spend time writing this down (this in itself might make you think twice about picking up the phone), in the long-term it will be worth it.

Identify essential and enjoyable tasks

At the end of each week go through your diary and identify those activities that are not writing related but are either essential or you enjoy and want to keep doing. For both of these identify those that cannot be moved, eg work, and those that you still need or want to do but have some flexibility, eg, doing the weekly shop, or watching a TV programme that you could record. A simple way is to use four different coloured highlighters.
Red – essential can’t move Orange – essential can move Blue – enjoy can’t move Yellow – enjoy can move.

This is an ongoing activity, you need to commit to doing this for several months even as your productivity increases. Once you have fully embedded your new habits you will continue to use your diary to plan your tasks and it is still worthwhile completing this activity every six months to help you identify any changes to your priorities or slippage back into old habits. This information is extremely useful when planning your future writing activities and to identify opportunities to grow your writing business.

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