5 Productivity Tips for 2017
Yes, it’s February already. So what? Productivity never goes out of style.
Writing is such a laborious process that we often want to find a quick fix or a writing hack that lets us tap into our previously unexplored levels of productivity.
Ultimately, we all want to be more productive on a daily basis, don’t we? When we get to the end of our day or week and can’t think of what we’ve done that entire day/week, it’s frustrating.
This daily frustration was something I often faced when I had an infant in the house. I got to the end of my day, looked at my to-do list and realized none of it had been done. All I had done was keep the baby alive and relatively happy. Maybe, if I was lucky, I’d managed to throw in a load of laundry–but only because the child (or I) had nothing else to wear. And said laundry sat in the washer until I remembered that I was still wearing puked upon pajamas. Maybe, if I was super lucky, I’d managed to boil water to make spaghetti for dinner. Forget actually making the spaghetti, that was like icing on the cake. And the cake wasn’t even done–the ingredients had only managed to get onto the countertop.
We’ve all had days and weeks like this, right? But I digress.
The point is that you get to the end of a busy day, a busy week, and realize your to-do list hasn’t gotten shorter–it’s just grown. And you think, there must be a way to be more productive. And so you sit down and Google it. And you stumble over here, hoping for answers.
Well, I’m going to try and help. But be forewarned–the only one who can truly help is you. Let’s get started, shall we?
1. get rid of distractions
This one seems rather obvious, but it’s really the crux of the matter. Some people claim they can multitask (like yours truly), but science has shown us that those who multitask do a poor job in both areas they are trying to multitask.
In other words, your job performance goes down when you attempt to do two jobs at once.
It makes sense, really, but science has suggested that dividing your attention has detrimental effects upon your job at hand. This means turn off the TV, turn off the phone (or put it away), turn off the music, go someplace quiet where you can concentrate–if at all possible. Even if it’s just five minutes–those five minutes of uninterrupted, focused time can be magical for productivity.
2. plan ahead and/or write it down
If you want to avoid the dreaded “writer’s block,” then you need to have a plan to do so.
What gets you blocked?
Usually it’s one of two things: 1. not being excited about the scene you have to write, or 2. not knowing what to write next.
In order to avoid this dreaded “block” of not knowing what to write or not being excited about what you’re writing, try these tactics:
- skip the boring scenes! Yes, that means that scene that just connects the dots and is mostly exposition or getting you from point A to point B . . . blah blah blah. Just skip it! If you really really really need to write it, then when you get into revisions, you’ll realize that you’re missing something. More often than not, you may realize you don’t need that scene and any missing (and vital) information can be added into another scene with much less effort than dragging yourself through a scene that will bore both reader and writer.
- brainstorm your scene ahead of time! I stumbled upon this last NaNoWriMo, as I had pretty extensively outlined my NaNo novel, and so to remind myself of what I was writing next and how it would play out, I would finish one day’s scene and then do a quick jot down of what the next scene or chapter or whatnot was for me to write. This was done in my novel journal, and simply kept me focused on the plot I’d already planned out.
Find some tricks that work for you. While the above tricks work for me, they might not be your solution. But regardless, it’s always helpful to have a plan and to know where you’re going, even if you’re a “pantser.”
If you are a pantser, I encourage you to try keeping a to-do list anyway. Write down the scenes you have to write for your story and check them off as you write them. You’ll feel hugely productive crossing them off, and at the end of the week, you can go back and see exactly how much you’ve accomplished.
3. do your research–before writing.
Don’t wait until you sit down to write to consider what kind of research you need to do. Instead, research ahead of time. This piggybacks on #1 & #2, but don’t let research be a distraction for you. Instead, do as much of it ahead of time as you possibly can.
Say you’re writing about World War II and need to know what model airplanes were used. Don’t wait until you’re writing the scene that requires that knowledge, but research ahead of time. If you have to, do it while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office and you’re on your phone, or else while you’re watching TV and commercials come on (does anyone not fast forward through commercials now though?), but you get the idea. Take 5 minutes when it’s NOT your writing time to research your book before you start writing it.
And if you get into a scene and realize you need to research some information, just make a note and write on. You can fix it and add the information later. If you have to, skip ahead to an entirely different scene. When it’s your writing time, try to just write.
4. take regular writing breaks
It’s easier to stay focused for a short amount of time than a long period of time. So instead of writing for 60 minutes straight, write for 10 minutes without stopping. Then take a 2 minute break, and write for another 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, turn off all distractions (Internet, I’m looking at you!).
5. exercise daily
Okay, so this seems odd. But we writers have a butt-in-chair or stand-at-standing-desk job. It’s very difficult to write while you’re moving (although possible), and so we spend a lot of time sedentary. And let’s face it, that’s not healthy! We need to get out and about. We need to see other people. And we need to take care of ourselves. We’ll live longer and be healthier if we do.
It’s well known that exercise has a positive effect on people. It helps you lose weight, tones your body, gives you stronger bones, improves your mood.
Not only that, but exercise improves blood flow to your brain–making it easier to come up with those words you’re trying to get on the page. It can help stave off colds, and keep your immune system healthy as well. (source)
So please don’t sit at your desk and eat M&Ms all day long. (Although that sounds awfully tempting.) How we perceive our body and how we treat it make a difference in all parts of our lives. The worse you feel about your habits and your body, the more your writing life and rest of your life will suffer.
Don’t let a sedentary lifestyle sneak up on you. Get out there and take 30 minutes to walk around the neighborhood. Make it a daily ritual. Not only is it good for you, but it will help you clear your head and perhaps even inspire you.
What motivates you?
I find that if I have the 5 things above in order, I’ve turned off the distractions, I’ve planned ahead, I’ve done my research, I’ve been taking breaks, and I’ve been staying healthy, everything in my life flows a lot better. I sleep better, wake up easier, and write better.
What’s holding you back? Go achieve today.