Hi my name is Nick Brodd and what I am about to share with you are seven productivity slips I know even the most experienced writers make. You see, once you are able to recognize each one of them and can set your writing habits straight, you will be seven steps closer to the privilege of being a productive writer.
- No Sense of Urgency. We all know how powerful deadlines are. However, most authors don’t work for anybody but themselves and no one else sets clear enough deadlines for their output. For me, the turn came when I started using a timer. It simply creates the sense of urgency needed to get the work done. Set it to an hour then resolve to finish a certain number of words or pages when the alarm rings. Now it’s you against time. The challenge is on.
- Not Using Time Blocks. Most authors just sit down on their butt and write continuously until they are worn out. Dr. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University has, however, found that top-performing athletes, artists and executives follow a very clear pattern and so can everyone else. For a certain amount of time, focus on doing one thing, and that one thing only. Break down your days into time blocks equaling 60 to 90 minutes. During that time, do nothing except for the task you have set out to do. Then refresh yourself with a break between each time block to regain your strength and ability to focus. Then when the break is over, start a new time block.
- Not Killing Distractions at the Gate. Winston Churchill said it best, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Unfortunately, very few writers have a plan for not getting distracted. We dive into the writing process and, then after a few minutes, we decide to take a little peek at Facebook. In what seems like two minutes, we realize we’ve lost 30 minutes doing nothing but checking out our notifications! After much failure on planning for distractions, I today use Get Cold Turkey to prevent myself from reading emails, fiddling with social media, and reading my favorite blogs while writing. On top of that I always have my phone off when I write.
- Tragic Disturbances. We all want rapid success, but if we jump directly into writing, we might not be prepared to handle what comes at us. So instead of firing away unprepared, get yourself ready for 5 to 10 minutes. Get whatever you need to write. Have it ready and in front of you before you start writing. Go to the restroom, bring water and coffee or tea or whatever you drink when you’re writing so that you don’t feel tempted to go and do that when working. Fire up the computer, get your notebook and your pen and get any relevant research in front of you. Then when it comes to writing time, you don’t need to do anything but write. When you have all you need in front of you, you will have zero excuse to entertain a disturbance.
- Framework, Never. Writing is a creative process. However, using your 60 or 90-minute time block to just write and consistently come up with new ideas about what you are supposed to write about is a catastrophe for your productivity. You may or may not come up with something good, but don’t leave your productivity to chance. So if you haven’t already prepared an outline before you start writing, that’s where you need to start. In my case, I simply spend the first 10 minutes making a mind map for what I will write about, what core ideas I will cover and what questions I will answer. This way, I don’t go about scrambling for ideas when I write.
- Little or No Focus At All. Never, ever write and edit at the same time. Every time you jump from a creative state to an analytical mindset, you are slaughtering time. Your brain needs clean focus to stay effective instead of forcing it to switch between mindsets all the time. When you write, write without thinking about grammar or spelling. There is a time and place to be critical about your work much later. If you simply can’t control yourself, take out the delete and backspace key from your keyboard!
- No Allies. We love our Writers Rise editors, but whether you use them or not is not the point here. Not using an editor is probably the biggest time fiasco in our industry. So if you are not broke, get a top notch editor on your team—someone who can do the work of polishing up your manuscript for you, so you can stay more productive and get more objective viewpoints on the quality of your work.
Ever since the first book was written, time has been of the essence. However I didn’t spring into existence as a brilliant productivity professional. I started out just like you, taking it just one step at a time. I learned a little more and started doing things a little bit differently and, step by step, I started enjoying the privilege of productivity.
Here is what I encourage you to do next. First, review the list above a second time. Maybe even print it out so that you have it in front of you when you start writing next time. Secondly, restrain yourself from the temtation to change many habits at once and focus instead on replacing just the worst one. So focus on the one good habit that you think will increase your productivity the most and you will see a new positive habit developing very soon. And then when you feel certaint that you have reached a level of sustainable success, move on and improve your second worst productivity habit.
Question: What’s your biggest productivity mistake and what will you do today to set yourself up for a more productive day starting tomorrow? Please leave a comment below.
Image courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net