Like many of you, I started writing while I had a day job, doing something other than writing during the day to pay the bills, and pursuing my writing dreams in my own time. Naturally, I became interested in being as productive as I could.
Productivity is an issue we all have to deal with, so here are a few insights that might help you avoid burning yourself out – either at work or at your computer late at night or in the early hours of the morning when you write.
Whenever we seek to increase our productivity, to produce more within the span of hours we devote to work, the temptation is simply to do more. Unfortunately, that makes you busy but not necessarily more productive.
The trick to being more productive is to become aware of what you’re doing and that often requires that you slow down and do less.
When you take a close look at what you’re doing day to day, you often discover that you’re doing a lot of things that are not contributing to your productivity.
For example, some of you may believe in multi-tasking.
If you think you’re being super productive typing out an email on one topic while participating in a teleconference on another, for example, you’re kidding yourself. Invariably, you end up having to rework the email and missing out on the point of the conference call.
An example of this type of behavior in your writing life is participating in social media while you’re writing.
The human brain is simply not designed for multi-tasking. It works best when you give your undivided attention to whatever it is you are doing.
Align your activity with your purpose
If you want to be productive, align your activity with your purpose and focus on that activity.
If the purpose of your writing time is to write your book, make writing the only activity you do during your writing time.
Yeah, I know, there is more to the success of a book than writing it. There’s the marketing side, for example. The productive option is to set aside dedicated time for marketing activities, like social media. So, even if you see yourself more as a creative person than a business person, you’ll be more productive if you plan how you’re going to use that time you call your writing time, and then stick to your plan.
The secret for that is self-discipline, which is where a lot of us fall down.
Remember to take a break
Putting your butt in the seat and typing away on a regular basis is important but so is having a regular break every fifty minutes or so. It seems counter-intuitive but you will actually get more done if you have that break then if you don’t. Put it to the test. Get up from your computer and stretch. Go get a coffee or a glass of water. Step outside for a breath of fresh air. Both your mind and your body will thank you.
Get enough sleep
Another trap to watch for, especially when you’re writing on top of a hectic day job, is sleep deprivation. You might think you’re being more productive staying up that extra hour or so writing but you might not be, especially if you are not getting enough sleep. Being sleep deprived is like being under the influence of alcohol or other recreational drugs. That’s where all that gibberish comes from that you have to delete the next time you sit down to write.
The impact of lifestyle choices on your productivity.
Some of your lifestyle choices actually slow you down and make you less productive. Things like not looking after yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Things like relationship issues and financial stress.
We have a tendency to hide from the things not going smoothly in our lives. It’s easier to sit in your room writing than addressing tensions in your relationships. It’s easy to spend money but it’s stressful when you can’t pay your bills. It’s easy to put on weight but it takes dedication to change your diet and increase the amount of exercise you do.
Interestingly, we’re all more productive when we’re happy, so you’d think it would be a no brainer to address those things that generate stress in our lives. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
Sorting things out in your life might be a little painful while you’re doing it – but, in the long run, it will make it easier to get your book written.
One last thought
When was the last time you gave yourself some downtime or took a vacation?
We’re smart enough to know that we have to recharge the batteries of our devices but we often forget to recharge our own battery.
Take a break away from your work, away from your book.
That’s another of those counter-intuitive ones that doesn’t seem to make sense – until you do it and come back refreshed.
Peter Mulraney worked in education, banking, and government before devoting himself to writing full-time. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic, The New Girlfriend and Everyday Project Management. You can read his blog at https://petermulraney.com and peruse details of his books on http://www.petermulraney.org.