We all have the same 24 hours in a day. What we do with that time makes the difference between getting our words onto the page…and not. Freelance writer Tiffany Joy shares six tips for making the most of whatever time you have set aside for your writing.
[Note from Joanna: This article has been scheduled in advance for a while, but in current circumstances, it might help make the most of your time sheltering in place/in lockdown/quarantine. It's tough to concentrate right now, but let's try to make the most of it.]
Good news: You’re about to increase your writing productivity.
If you’re like me, you’d be writing and doing at least three other different things. Doing the laundry, thinking about what to eat for lunch, and scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed. The list goes on.
And for this reason, I’d like to share with you an important topic. It’s about productivity.
As professional writers, we ought to pay more attention to how we’re spending our time. Because if we spend our time poorly, we’re likely to end up not getting any work done. Plain and simple.
If we can write as fast as we can, wonderful things happen. We’ll be able to train ourselves to get the best words out of our heads and onto paper in less time. The earlier we finish, the sooner we can proofread and edit our book.
Most importantly, being productive transforms us as persons. We learn the value of doing our best to reach our goals.
Within four years of writing for a living, I’ve learned these six secrets to managing my time with efficiency:
1. Do a time audit
The first thing you should do is to become more aware of where your time goes. Of course, you know that you’re writing. But what else happens while you’re doing it?
Auditing your time is simple. Put a pen and a blank piece of paper beside you. Whenever you catch yourself doing something else, write it down. At the end of your workday, review the items you wrote.
The idea for this tip is to become more self-aware.
2. Declutter your writing space
Did you know that your surroundings affect your thoughts and feelings? You could be overwhelmed by your work, but what you may not realize is this: Your messy desk is the problem.
Mess is distracting. Whether these are sticky notes, crumpled paper, or even books, these things demand your attention. The only things that need to be on your table are the items you’re going to use at work.
In my case, that would be my laptop and nothing else.
3. Set a timer
This tip may sound too simple, but it works wonders – especially if you’re the type who easily gets distracted.
Here’s what a timer does: It forces you to focus on your writing task. You can use any timer. It doesn’t matter if it’s analog or digital as long as you’re comfortable with it.
If you prefer an online timer, Tomato Timer is a good choice. This simple timer uses the Pomodoro Technique, a time management strategy where you need to focus for 25 minutes straight. After 25 minutes of writing, you’re going to take a short break – for example, 5 to 10 minutes.
[Note from Joanna: For more on writing productivity, check out my book Productivity for Authors.]
4. Write as if you’re blindfolded
One of the reasons why many writers don’t get work done is that they tend to be self-conscious. As they type words, they edit at the same time! They look for misspellings, grammatical errors, and more.
Are you guilty of this?
If so, do this: Imagine that you’re blindfolded. Since you can’t see the words you’ve written so far, there’s no way you can edit them. The only time you should edit is when you’re done and you’ve rested your mind.
This productivity technique helps you keep your momentum.
5. Take care of your body
A low energy level is a huge hindrance to your writing productivity. Of course, you’ll experience days when you’re feeling sluggish. If you don’t have a clue why, you might want to check how you’ve been taking care of yourself!
You need to make sure that you’re giving your body what it needs. These include:
Proper hydration – Being dehydrated hinders your ability to focus. It decreases your mood. The easiest way to stay hydrated is to keep a bottle of water with you at work.
Nourishing food – Eat to boost your productivity. Choose brain-healthy foods. Examples are fatty fish, berries, eggs, and dark chocolate.
Quality sleep – Have you ever lost sleep and still felt your best? That’s impossible. Being sleep-deprived prevents you from recovering from distractions, according to Sleep.org.
Regular exercise – You were never meant to sit all day to write. The body craves movement! Famous author Charles Dickens was an avid fan of walking.
[Note from Joanna: You'll find more about taking care of yourself as a writer in my book The Healthy Writer.]
6. Stop waiting for the right moment
Those who aspire to become writers often picture a writer staring at a blank piece of paper, waiting for inspiration. The most productive writers succeed by writing even if they don’t feel like it.
Something magical happens when you start writing. Creative thoughts come flowing in. A word or sentence could give birth to great ideas. The next thing you know, you’ve almost finished one chapter of your book.
As a writer, you already know how valuable your time is. You don’t have much to waste because you also have a life outside of work. Moms, dads, and everybody else can relate.
That said, commit to becoming more productive starting today. These tips may take practice at first, but believe me, they improve your writing career and life.
Are you comfortable with how productive you are as a writer? Please leave your thoughts in the comments and join the conversation.