You want to be a productive writer. But, just like all of us, you have laundry to do; the dishes are piling up; there’s a great show on TV that you just can’t bear to miss; all while your computer is blinking that frustrating text cursor on a blank screen.
You have writing to do.
You know it. The universe knows it. Even your cat knows it. (And yes, he is judging you.) But for some unknown reason, you keep finding yourself doing other things besides writing. If you find you aren’t getting work done in a fast and efficient manner, you may need a productivity reboot.
Below, I have 5 proven tips that will help you get yourself back on track and develop your productive writing skills.
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Productive Writing Tips:
1. Create a distraction-free work environment
Distractions are the enemy of productive writing. And they often show up unannounced and uninvited just when you sit yourself down to get something important accomplished.
If distraction is a common problem for you, it’s time to take control of your work environment.
Stop expecting the world to let you focus. It won’t.
Instead, take the time to create an environment for yourself that cultivates focus and productivity. Find a comfortable (but not too comfortable) area in your house or office and make sure it has good lighting.
Then, turn off your phone, get the kids a babysitter, put on headphones that play the type of music that helps you concentrate, block the internet, and restrict anything else that may pull your focus away from your work.
Remember, you are in charge of your own mind. Set yourself up to succeed by staying in control of what you focus on.
If you still catch yourself drifting off task, stop and take stock of why this is happening. Is there more that you can prepare for? Do you need a snack or a coffee? Set these things up for yourself ahead of time so you have no excuse to get up and avoid the task at hand.
There is a great book that may help you set yourself up for better focus. It’s Indistractable by Nir Eyal.
2. Block and schedule your time
The most productive writers schedule time specifically for writing. It goes on their calendar like an appointment they have set with themselves, and they always make their appointments.
If you want to produce more writing in a shorter amount of time, then you must write regularly. This means you must make time for your writing, just like you would a regular job.
Stephen Pressfield writes about this in his book The War of Art, which happens to be one of my favorite books of all time!
Pressfield refers to the act of setting your schedule and showing up every day to write as “Turning Pro.” If you want to be a productive writer, you must turn pro.
Time Blocking for Productive Writing
Another important practice productive individuals engage in is called “time blocking.” Time blocking means you set up your schedule so you complete similar tasks together. This keeps your brain engaged on one type of activity at a time and reduces the focus lag that happens when your brain has to switch from task to task.
It’s the opposite of multitasking. Studies have proven that those who Time Block rather than multitask actually get more done in the same amount of time.
Writers can do this too and increase the chances of achieving a “flow” state.
To start time blocking, group like-tasks together and mark them on your calendar. Set aside a specific time for research, a separate time for brainstorming new ideas, a specific time for actual writing and a separate time for editing what you have written.
Then stick to that schedule at all costs.
Even if you feel you don’t have enough information to get started, when it’s time to move to the writing time block, do it anyway. You will go back later to edit your work, and you can smooth out issues then.
If you would like to delve deeper into time management strategies, check out this post:
3. Stop editing as you write
This used to be one of my worst habits. Before I learned to time block my writing, I used to constantly switch between writing and editing my work. And unsurprisingly, I didn’t get much writing done.
I wish I knew back then how terrible with was for my writing and productivity. Your brain cannot effectively switch between creating new work and editing the work you have written. These tasks MUST be separated.
As tempting as it is to reread your work and edit as you go, just don’t do it!
Write the entire book, article, story, or draft and then go back and edit what you have written during the “Editing” time block you have already set aside. You will thank yourself when you have an actual finished product rather than a carefully edited fraction of a project.
Plus, finishing the piece will give you a better idea of the bigger picture and show you which edits you should actually focus on and which ones you should let go of.
4. Always have a way to record your ideas
Ideas come during all hours of the day and night. I come up with some of my best ideas while running errands or in the middle of a workout. As a creative, you should be ready for these ideas to show up at any time. You never know what everyday detail or interaction might inspire you.
I have met many creative individuals who complain that they spend hours trying to come up with new ideas or recall ideas that slipped away. Don’t let this happen to you. Write your ideas down immediately.
I recommend you keep a notebook or other note-taking tool with you at all times to capture these ideas when they show up. Then you can refer to them later when you are actually ready to write.
We live in a great age where we have mini computers with us all day in our pockets. Our phones are excellent tools for note-taking. I recommend using Evernote for taking notes or an app like Otter to record and dictate your thoughts.
Find the method that works best for you and take time to record your ideas when they happen. Future you will thank you.
5. Prioritize your mental and physical health
You cannot be at your best in writing or any other endeavor when your mind and body are suffering. You will be at your creative best when you take care of your health. Prioritize your well-being and your will find you are more productive in everything you do.
You can get started by incorporating exercise into your day and drinking plenty of water. Take breaks when you need them, eat foods that nourish you, and prioritize sleep.
Deeper self care may involve meditation and journaling. If you would like more tips on taking care of your mind and body so you can be at your creative best, check out this post:
Take some time to discover what actions will help you stay in good health and then make those activities a routine. Once you find the actions that leave you feeling energized, schedule those activities into your life so it can become a daily or weekly habit.
Being a productive writer is all about making the right choices that promote good habits in your writing career.
Take control of your environment and eliminate distractions from your workday. Schedule and block your time effectively so you can get more done in the time that you have. Prepare to record new ideas as they come. And, most importantly, prioritize your health so you can sustain your writing career for many years to come.
Do you have more tips and ideas on how to be a more productive writer? Let’s discuss them in the comments!
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