Last month, I shared my own productivity tips and a whole stack from my email list as well.
It was a hugely popular post so we are back on the productivity topic today with Nikolas Baron from Grammarly.
Back in 2010, one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, shared eight rules of writing with readers of The Guardian.
His top tip? “Write.” His next tip was to “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.”
Simple words that ring so true, yet, in this age of digital distraction, easier said than done.
An aspiring author’s most precious possessions are his or her ideas and imagination.
Just as important though, is time.
Without that, you simply wouldn’t be able to put pen to paper, finger to keypad, and translate what’s in your head to your readers.
And of course, in this current economic climate, unless you’re one of the lucky ones with a steady stream of passive income, then chances are, the time you spend writing, is time that could otherwise be spent earning a livelihood. Not to mention time that could be spent with your family or pursuing your interests.
As part of my work at automated online proofreader Grammarly, I spend a significant chunk of my time researching – both offline and online – how people write. And one of the main trends I’m noticing is that for writers, productivity – or put simply, how efficiently you write – continues to be a major issue.
From the plethora of online tools and resources available to help writers write better, here are a few of my top picks:
Tools that keep you focused
- For Mac users, Anti-Social is a great little tool that turns off the social parts of the internet. When you run Anti-Social, you’ll be blocked from social media distractions like Facebook and Twitter and other sites you specify. I used it to get this 600-word blog written in under 60 minutes, without being tempted to check-up on what my friends on Facebook were eating for lunch, or what my Twitter feed was saying about the latest Glee episode. In fact, the only way I could get back into my social networks was by rebooting my computer. Not something I like doing mid-blog.
- Another app that you may find useful is PomodoroApp, an online tool that utilises the Pomodoro Technique to manage time, and improve productivity. It is based on the principle that frequent breaks help you stay mentally agile. Though it may not be for everyone, for those who need a breather to recharge in between writing, this may just be the boost you need.
- And for those of you yearning for the spartan word processors of the 80s, where writing was just you and the screen, with absolutely no embellishments or distraction, then perhaps WriteRoom could be your writing sanctuary, your zen space away from the daily clutter of your laptop.
Apps that keep you creative
- When the dreaded blank page stares back at you, and the words don’t come one after the other, then maybe you could do with some help from the people at writing.com. They’ve come up with several apps including Writing Prompts, an app for iPhone and Android that uses “sketches, words, colors, genres and different types of writing to create random bits of creative inspiration.” They’ve also included a database of 600 creative writing prompts to nudge you along whenever you need it.
- In the same vein is Character Prompts, which gives you 19 different profile characteristics filled with randomly generated information. The app includes 150 thought-provoking questions to help develop a character.
- Then there’s Writer’s Block Buster, which has a “muse and scenario generator/storage engine that allows you to create and keep track of all of the people, places, and things in your story as well as generate and keep track of the scenarios that cause the interactions between those objects that drive your plot forward.”
Apps that make an author’s work easier
- If you haven’t used any of the online note management tools widely available, like Evernote, then now is the time. Much like an ideas book, you can jot down thoughts from any compatible device, including your phone, and it synchronises with your account in the cloud. This would come in pretty handy if you, like me, often have brainwave moments while crossing the street or waiting in line for a coffee.
- And of course, there’s Grammarly, which acts like your personal grammar coach and can help you find and correct up to 10 times more mistakes than your regular word processor. Grammarly can also help you avoid plagiarism by checking your writing against more than 8 billion documents.
So there you have it, a few tools that I hope will help you in your quest to – borrowing a phrase from Neil Gaiman – finish what you’re writing.
Do you have any specific tools for productivity? Please do let us know in the comments below.
Nikolas works at Grammarly, a natural language processing startup in San Francisco. He spends most of his time researching how people are writing in an attempt to extrapolate valuable insights for Grammarly's product strategy. Beyond the occasional sports injury incurred while skiing or playing basketball, Nikolas enjoys reading, writing about and discussing the future of our beautiful language.