You start your day hoping to get your quota of writing tasks done. You had it all planned out for a productive writing day.
At the end of the day, for some reason, you don’t produce the results you’ve aimed for.
You had all the time. You had the energy. You could handle the tasks. Still nothing much to show for it.
It happens pretty much every time you sit down to work. You wonder how you can fix this loss of productivity.
If this is the scenario you’re often confronted with, here’s a three-step strategy that will help you write more every day without fussing or breaking sweat.
Before we get started, there’s a little reminder. The steps outlined below requires you to be a little ruthless with yourself. You may suffer a little pain but it’s only momentary as some forms of pain go.
Many of us know what we should we doing at any particular time but the trouble is we do all the planning in our heads.
If you plan everything in your head and can produce impressive results, good for you.
But my take on this is why waste mental energy recalling, sifting and reviewing what you should be doing when you can get it all down on paper and reduce mental load?
To many of us (including me) putting things down on paper is a little painful.
We’re all creative people who carry everything between our ears. That’s good at times.
But if we can’t produce results and achieve targets using this happy-go-lucky system why don’t we give up our stubbornness and swallow the bitter pill for our own good?
Put Everything on Paper
If you don’t do it, this strategy might not work for you or you’ll only get minimal results out of it.
Yes, I hear you. Planning on paper can sometimes be more painful than the doing part, but we’ve got to do it.
You know every initial pain becomes a habit which is painless and effortless. You can make putting things down on paper one of them, too.
Let’s get started.
Specific Action Steps
Think of your writing tasks as specific action steps that can be broken down into multiple parts and even sub-parts.,
Instead of saying ‘write an article on writer’s block, say, outline a 500-word article on writer’s Block.
Now this is a particular action that’s clear. When you sit down at your writing table, you know what to do.
You don’t have to sit at the table and then spend time and energy thinking about what to do with ‘write an article on writer’s block’.
Take out a sheet of paper or create a spreadsheet and jot down down all your action steps.
I like to break down my writing tasks into four main tasks:
Notice that I only do research after writing. I look for only what I need. It’s a huge time saver.
Each of these tasks would have at least one action step which needs to be completed in a typical writing day.
For example, if I’m to write an article on writer’s block
I’ll write down the following action step – ‘outline the writer’s block article – write headline – and include three main points to cover’.
If it’s a writing task, it could go like this: ‘write Introduction and 3 middle paragraphs’.
If it’s a tough article, it could be ‘write on the first point and three sub points’.
If pressed for time it could be ‘write conclusion of article
and sum up 3 points covered’.
For research I would write action steps like this –
read three articles (include links to articles) to fill in the gaps in the draft article.
Have a Cut-Off Point
Action steps like the above are meaningless if each step doesn’t have a start time and an end time.
There are two ways to go about this.
Fix the time – ‘8.00- 8.30 am – read three articles on writer’s block, jot down points not included in draft article’.
Or you could assign the number of minutes to be alloted for the task – ‘write article introduction and 3 middle paragraphs’ – 30 minutes.
This is a flexible action enforcement plan – you can start at any time of the day, but you have to complete the task in 30 minutes.
Get into the ‘Your Time Begins Now’ Mode
You must have watched those TV game shows where a contestant has to complete a certain task or do as much as possible within a certain period of time.
To make this system work you’ll have to get into the ‘Your Time Begins Now’ mode.
There’s one big advantage entering this mode – you’ve no time to think. Your mind is 100% percent focused on the action. You want to win the game. You want to do as much as possible before time is up.
What happens if you can’t complete the task within the time you allotted for it?
You can’t extend the time. Once time’s up, game’s over.
You’ll have to return at another time to finish it.
It might sound ruthless but it will force you into a focused mode to produce a certain result within a stipulated period of time.
At the end of the day making some progress in your task is better than making no progress at all.
If you’ve not timed a writing task before and set a cut-off point for it, it might be strenuous and uncomfortable for you, but then nobody becomes productive or hits a target by basking in his comfort zone.
If you’ve found the courage to try out this system, you’ll find yourself suffering from withdrawal symptoms from leaving the unplanned, unproductive writing life you’ve had.
You may feel fatigue, nausea, bitter and hopeless. Don’t pay heed. Shift your attention to results. Focus only on gains.
Productivity is not about feeling pleasant or anything like it. It’s only about producing results.
Be result-driven and you’ll find the discomfort that comes with this system nothing more than an ant-bite or a natural body ache you can tolerate.