November 25

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Is productivity something you crave for? For me, productivity is about the feeling I get when I am in flow and the stuff on my to-do list is done. Because when it is done, I can reward myself with something that feeds my soul. Naturally, with three dogs that something is often a rejuvenating walk to clear my head, which also increases productivity and is indeed one of my tips.

For writers, bloggers and authors, some of the biggest fears or challenges that comes up is around productivity, or at least I hear are:-

  • Either the book project seems overwhelming, and you keep putting it off – “someday I’ll write a book”…
  • Or you start with enthusiasm, and then it just grows and grows, and because there is no real plan or support it stalls part way through (this is VERY common)
  • Or you “can’t find the time” which is often a symptom of feeling overwhelmed by how much writing there is to do.

Here are some of my top tips for overcoming that feeling of overwhelm. Let’s get your book written – and in a way that doesn’t take over your life and makes the process fast and enjoyable.

A few productivity questions

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to getting things done?

  • What is one thing you could do differently today to become more productive?
  • Describe your current to-do system and how effective is it?
  • What tasks do you outsource and what would you love to outsource?
  • What do you do and how do you feel when you don’t complete all of your to-do’s?
  • What areas of your life that hinder your productivity need more attention (sleep, health etc.)?

Kill perfectionism

“Have no fear of perfection. You will never reach it.” Salvadore Dali

Firstly it’s ok to not reach others ideas of perfect. What is perfect anyway? Think of this, when you create a perfect piece of writing and go off to reflect, what happens? If you are anything like me, you will have discovered more things to add or a different way to say something.

Better done – perfect at the time – than striving for perfect forever (there is no such thing).

Strive to do the best you can know that in the moment that it is perfect and you can come back and smarten up later. At some point, you have to accept done and move on. If not you may procrastinate.

Turn procrastination into productivity

Perfectionism creates procrastination. At least it is one of the things that does create procrastination. Here is a simple productivity tip that works for me – the procrastination list. I make a list of all of my excuses and then reframe them. Then I write one action I can take to move them off the I can’t do list. Try it.

Making time to write – Set boundaries

I hear this a lot – I have no time to write… If you want to create a book, you need to create time to write. It starts with putting boundaries around your writing time so here’s a process you can work through.

  1. Get rid of something. Maybe look at what else you are doing – social media, television? Can you find an hour a day? Can you take a week off work or from the family where you can go away and write?
  2. Decide and commit to your writing process. Create a commitment statement and set an end date on the book – your publication and launch. Something to work towards.
  3. Set very clear boundaries, e.g., 8-10 every day and 8-2 on Saturdays. 6.00 to 6.30am every weekday.
  4. Put these in your diary! Use software like wunderlist, or recurring appointments in your calendar.
  5. Stopping is just as important as starting. So when you reach the end of your writing time – STOP. If you find you can commit more time then re-word your commitment. It’s better to achieve what you set out to achieve and feel great about it than over-commit and feel bad.

Set people boundaries to increase your productivity

As much as you love the people in your life, they may not support your writing and may for whatever reason, hinder your productivity.

You may think I am joking, but let me share a little tale. I once had a partner who would go out of his way to disturb me. Tired of his constant interruptions, I would take him my I am writing note, show it to him and explain the door would be closed, the note up and I would come out when I had finished the task at hand. He would deliberately ignore this. In the end, I put a lock on the door. I also went and worked elsewhere if he was home.

Not everyone will be as determined as him, most of the people in your life will understand your request and a simple system likethe note on the door will work.

Once you have completed what you needed to do, you can spend time with your important people. The most important thing is that you do not lock yourself away and get annoyed, explain, create a system and encourage them to be a part of the after party.

Get rid of distractions

This is sooooooo critical! Get rid of all of your distractions.

  1. Turn off your internet, turn off your phone and anything else that vies for your attention
  2. Createa distraction-free environment. Have a place that is just for you and your writing and really own it (see below)
  3. Tell people around you that it is your writing or quiet time and you don’t want to be disturbed unless the house is burning down – put your poster up (see above)
  4. Start with a clear head before a lot of “reactive” junk has got in there. That’s why I like to write in the mornings before doing anything else. Not always a fit but try it
  5. Write after a morning walk or meditation, again so that you have a clear head

Time yourself for greater productivity

This may sound very rigid, and most creative people will find some resistance to doing this, but I really urge you to give it a try. I find it freeing. It means I am not checking my watch or the clock on the computer, and I have the security of knowing that I will be reminded automatically when the time is up. Plus when you know that you can write let’s say 1000 words in 50 minutes, you will know how long it will take you to get to your first draft.

  1. Pick a time – set your alarm – write for a 50-minute block
  2. Because you have a clear structure (your outline and chapter framework), it’s easier to do this. You don’t have to write in the order of your chapters, go with what inspires you that day
  3. Pick a section of your book – not a whole chapter, but a small section that you know you want to write and it feels good to put pen to paper
  4. Write until you have it down, or as much as you can in the 50-minute block
  5. Don’t edit, don’t stop, don’t “research”. Just write and keep writing until you get to the end of your time block
  6. Takea break, change state (i.e. get up and do something else) and repeat

Create your right environment

Some people can block out their environment, and some people are very affected by what is around them. Either way creating the right environment will help you write more and will set you up in the right frame of mind. I like to write in silence in bed. If I am in the office, I will often wear headphones and listen to Focus@Will.

  1. Make it free of distractions
  2. Choose somewhere that is calming and right for you – in bed, in a cafe, at your desk…
  3. Music or no music? Music to get you into a frame of mind – calming or rocking?
  4. Smells – oils, herbs, flowers…
  5. What are your visual stimuli? A view, light, airy, natural light, flowers, pictures, vision board, your cover, your reader, your book title…
  6. Declutter your desk and space
  7. What is YOUR right environment and what can you do to create that today? (no excuses)

When I am in bed, I am usually joined by my three dogs, who certainly know when they think it’s time for me to get up, but before that, it is quite soothing having them sleeping around me as I write.

Compiling or creating?

Different activity / task if you are compiling or creating. When you’re writing from scratch I suggest you DON’T edit, you just pick a piece and write. But when you are compiling, e.g., from training materials, or a blog then it’s a different process, and you will want to be critical as you go through.

  • Work from your knowledge audit and make the decision (or follow your intuition) about what you will work on that day
  • Mentally prepare yourself for writing in a particular way
  • Use the same process if you are editing – chunk your work and edit in blocks
  • Creativity is personal, BUT the reality is that you just need to get it down and then let it flow

The knowledge audit is a document in chapter order that tells you if you need to write from scratch or what you already have that you can repurpose. We also use it to create a research list for each chapter.

How long is my book?

A very common question! How long does my book have to be? How many pages? How many words? There is no good answer other than “as long as it needs to be”.

Typically a non-fiction book for kindle might be between 10,000 and 20,000 words. For print around 30,000 to 50,000. You have already looked at your timings in your action plan log (if you have one) and will have a good idea of how many words and how long it will take you to write. Now we want to focus on getting them written.

Let’s break this down into words and hours.

How much can you write in an hour – 500? 1,000? TIME YOURSELF! 

So, 500 words per hour, 20,000 words = 40 hours.

If you are writing five hours per week, this is eight weeks. You might need to speed up or allocate more time.

Now imagine if you are writing three hours a day…

Go back to your action plan log (if you have one) and put some concrete dates in. Decide on your weekly “word target.”

By working out how much you can write, knowing how much and what your deadline is you will become more productive.

Outsource

If you really cannot do a particular task and hate it with a vengeance, outsource if you can. Ways to outsource your writing are:-

  • Record your book with Dragon Naturally Speaking (ok you are talking your book)
  • Work with a ghostwriter
  • Transcribe it from other recorded content

Perhaps there are other tasks that get in the way of your writing, make a list and find someone else to do them.

Model other productive people

Modelling is a way of adopting other peoples ‘ways of getting things done’. Make a list with three columns one with people who succeed do this, one with people who fail do this and one with what I will do differently.

Understand how you like to do things

The biggest productivity tip is to understand you and to accept that what got you here may not get you there or maybe it will.

We often forget just how great we are at getting things done and how we have completed tasks in the past. When our lives become cluttered, we tend to compromise. Go back and look at other things you have completed, what were the success ingredients? How can you model you in that state again?

Also when you understand you, you will see common things that you do to avoid jobs you don’t like, perhaps these need to go onto your outsource list?

For example, if you love lists and steps, you may be more of a logical thinker, and if you love brainstorming and creating by the seat of your pants, you may be more creative.

You can combine both of these…

  • Create a plan in whatever way works for you – creatively or logicall
  • Pick a chunk to write and write it your way

Knowing your preferences is a big part of becoming a more productive writer.

Don’t fight the process, everything, even chaotic creativity is a process. Celebrate and make it work for you. Flex your style, stop resisting and go with your flow.

That’s it for today; I will be back with more tips another day. Until then happy writing.

If writing a book is

  1. Something you think you want to do, and then consider this 7-day plan your book challenge.
  2. A burning desire and you know you need support, then please message me – a chat costs nothing, and we can check out if we are a good working fit
  3. Definitely on the table, and you’d like to work in a group, then get on the waiting list for write a book, create a business you love
  4. You can grab a copy of my book Plan your non-fiction book in a weekend on Amazon

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