In the past three weeks, this website has published 15 different posts on the subject of productivity. Although many of those posts have included relevant links and tips for writers, sometimes a whole heap of different techniques and tips just gets lost in the noise.
Today here’s a very brief recommendation for minimal impact, on how a writer might process some of these tools into their own writing routines, and benefit for it. For newer writers of larger projects like a novel, non-fiction ebook, or series of blog posts (like this one).
I’ve Got this BIG Project, How do I Tackle It?
So, you’ve got a new blog to get up and running, or there’s a novel or ebook bouncing around in there. You’re learning your writing craft – taking courses, joining groups, reading books, but you really want to get working on it.
Step One – Look at YOUR Bigger Picture
- Decide on your big goal or goals ultimately, in the long range. This may be your big project (novel, ebook, blog, short story collection) or you may find there are other big goals to consider.
- Also, decide – if you haven’t grasped this as yet – what is your ultimate writing career goals. It may be that you just have the one book in mind at the moment. That may be perfectly fine for you. Or there may be more.
Post 2 of this series contains tips on writing mission and vision statements, which might be brought down into a simple slogan or writer’s manifesto.
Step Two – Create your Strategy and Plans
- Choose your one target goal (if you haven’t already) to work on over a longer term (a year, six months, two months perhaps). This must be a goal you are passionate for. Passion maintains motivation and productivity.
- Break that goal down into chunks – milestones are larger pieces of work derived from a series of smaller tasks. Tasks can be made specific with SMART methodology, should you wish.
- Write out a plan or strategy for the goal – define rough timeframes, how you will know when you’ve completed each,what tasks are reliant on completing other tasks beforehand, who will help etc. List your tasks in logical order via some kind of strategy or planning document, or an action plan.
Post 3 contains ideas about passionate goals, and links to several templates and articles on creating writing plans for large goals. Post 4 contains information on setting SMART goals and breaking down larger goals into chunks. There are more task methods in Post 5 also. Post 7 talks about action plans.
Step Three – Take a Clear View, and Create Effective Working Habits
At this point, after all this planning (which can be kept quite minimal – you can scrawl it onto a piece of paper, if you wish) you may well be tempted to just plough in and start working on the tasks in the order you threw onto the page. But wait, take a step back to clarify.
- Take a step back and ensure you are working on the right tasks, with the correct focus. Chosen one task? Good. Multi-tasking seldom works. Able to focus on that task, or at a higher level for what that task leads to? Good,switching task to goal focus works well at certain times.
- Set powerful working writing habits or routines into your day. You may like to look at habit tracking apps, or systems to help you set working habits.
- Consider on your best available writing time. Is this early morning, late evening, what time boxes are available to you. You may want to do an initial time audit to find this.
- Setup writing tracking methods – it’s been found that setting habits in tracking your progression – like achieving a certain wordcount or time spent writing per day – allows you to see and reward your own progression – this is the best motivator of all.
- Set routines to deal with your mindset also – what do you do with all those spare thoughts every day? What about all the extraneous work each day brings? Systems like GTD and other productivity methodologies provide useful tools applicable to this.
- Recheck you’re going to work on the most important profitable tasks for you – the real ones you are passionate about. Consider Pareto’s Principle 80/20.
- Start thinking about reviewing, rewarding and rejigging your efforts as you begin to work on tasks.
- Consider the many productivity tools and time management systems available to you. Will you use concepts like “The 2 Minute Rule”, Power Hour or 1 Minute Trick, or timeboxing tasks to rid yourself of niggling tasks before entering more focussed writing time? Will you time your writing time, or set limits?
Post 6 looks at different focus levels. Post 7 discusses habit tracking apps, the Tiny Habits system for starting off small, and The 2 Minute Rule from GTD. Post 8 has a helpful concept of Zero Inbox which will allow you to get on with the more important tasks in the day, and discusses the 1 Minute Trick. Post 11 discusses Pareto’s Principle or 80/20 rule. Post 12, on GTD and related productivity concepts, looks at Open Loops (those early day thoughts) and provides tools to deal with them first thing. Post 13 considers many time management tools applicable to finding your best writing time – such as time audits and timeboxing.
Step Four – Prioritise and Schedule out your Task Batches for the Week
- Decide on the first few tasks you will tackle for the project.
- Prioritise these tasks,and schedule out for your working week, a few per day.
- How will you put these into action each day? Many choices can be applied here – you could go with the biggest task first (big rocks first) or tackle the least appealing important task firstly (eat that frog) or simply run with MITs (most important tasks) only, or some permutations.
- Batch similar tasks with the same context (where they are done, same focus level, same tools) together.
Post 5 discusses Eat That Frog. Post 8 profiles the Big Rocks First task choice. Post 9 deals with batching tasks. Post 10 has a whole heap of different decision making and prioritisation methods to use, some with context as factors. Post 11 discusses Parkinson’s Law.
Step Five – Enough Planning, Get to Work and Action Your Writing
- You’ve decided on a small amount of important prioritised tasks to action daily for your one project.
- You’ve decided on how these tasks will be worked on or batched together as a group.
- Now, Define your time – if you’ve not already done so. This is really important – to timebox and secure your writing or task-focus time, to drive out distractions and allow that creative focus. Also, if you do not do this, you risk the tasks taking over all and more time – ala Parkinson’s Law. Will you try out some time boxing or time recording systems? Will you work in cyclic writing to break routines?
- Setup your office or workplace setting. Get yourself whatever sustenance you require (for me, it’s one cup of coffee), and get rid of distractions.
- List your weekly / daily to do’s or actions – in some form.
- And get to work – start actioning your daily tasks. Write away.
Post 11 discusses the Pomodoro timer method. Post 13 deals with many time management tools. Post 14 discusses all sorts of to-do lists or task lists.
Post 14 – Lists, To-Do’s and Reviews
Step Six – Log and Celebrate Progress, and Regularly Review your Process
- Each day, as you action your writing, log and track your progress. This log could take form of daily log journal entries, or spreadsheets or checklists of tasks done.
- Provide motivational rewards for progress – these may be very small, but provide more impetus to continue on.
- Regularly review your writing progress to plan what next needs to be done. (A weekly review works quite well for me).
- Regularly review your working processes to introduce and implement different productivity tools or methods, to look at your progress, and change things up if you need to. (Monthly to six monthly).
- Call on other productivity hacks to keep progressing. Events like Word Sprints or Marathons are great implements of time-boxing and very motivational for many writers. Find a productivity partner or buddy to keep you honest with your goals and working towards them.
- Use tech (apps and programs) where appropriate – there are many good calendar and task list / reminder apps available.
Post 13 deals with many time management tools including the specific writer-focussed timeboxing techniques like word sprints. Post 14 deals with reviews. Post 15 rounds up the series with several links to other productivity posts, discusses productivity partners, and lists many helpful apps. You will also find many other apps and tech tools listed throughout the series.
Post 14 – Lists, To-Do’s and Reviews
Post 15 – Productivity Roundup with Apps
Continue and Repeat. Write On.
Quick Summary – Writing Productively: