“Truth be told, it turns out timing and planning are everything!”
I had a list of articles that needed to be written, a book draft to complete, and I’d been sitting at my desk for what felt like an eternity, barely making a dent in my list. So I got up to stretch my legs, thinking a walk sounded good…until I looked at the time. It was four o’clock in the afternoon! Where had the time gone?
The day had completely gotten away from me.
I’d like to say it was because I was so engrossed in my writing that I got thousands of words down, but…no such luck. In fact, barely a paragraph stared back at me. I had nothing to show for the hours I’d spent in front of my computer that day.
That was six months ago…
In this article, I’ll show you how I banished unproductive days like the one above and built an efficient writing routine using brain-based principles.
Writers face many obstacles, and time management is one of them.
How many times, for example, does the phone ring only to be the start of an hour-long conversation? Or an email come in that you feel compelled to spend twenty minutes responding to? Probably more often than you realize.
There are many things that compete for our writing time, some of them are necessary and important, but others…not so much.
And this got me to wondering how many of the obstacles we face are actually self-induced and what we can do about it.
I love brain-based learning, and I believe that anything we set out to do can be done more efficiently and effectively if we apply brain-based principles.
When I looked back on my day, then week, and finally the entire month, I realized I was, in fact, my own biggest obstacle. Between time-sucks like checking Facebook (just for a minute, I’d promise!), and Twitter (another hour gone!), and “researching” (likely excuse as I bounced from site to site, article to article, reading about…nothing really!), I was losing hours of time that could be better spent. Without a solid plan in place — a routine — time was drifting away.
Jodi Picoult gives excellent advice on the subject:
“…If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page.”
I’m one of those people who prefers to remain flexible, and in most cases it works well in my life, but not when it comes to writing. Instead, a structured and workable routine is absolutely necessary; otherwise, I just end up working against myself.
Did you know?…A structured routine generates a “brain boost,” helping us to be more productive.
The brain loves patterns and a structured routine becomes a familiar pattern. This familiar pattern then leads to a feeling of satisfaction (because we’re making progress), which produces a positive loop of repeated success and progress in our brains. Therefore, productivity begets productivity, similar to a “runner’s high” from endorphins. (Imagine how much writing you could get done with a routine and a treadmill desk!)
So how can we apply brain-based principles and build an effective writing routine?
- SCHEDULE BLOCKS OF TIME: Break your writing time into blocks devoted to specific tasks. Be sure to schedule blocks of time where there will be minimal distractions. Start with small blocks of time, building as appropriate, and be sure to take a break after each block to move around, take a walk, or sneak in a little yoga!
- MAKE A TASK-SPECIFIC CHECKLIST: Write every task out so you can check each one off as you complete them. Seeing the progress will actually motivate you to do more!
- ACCOUNT FOR RESEARCH TIME: Research is part of the writing process. Dedicate time specifically for research. Be specific about what you’ll be researching and then decide how you’ll track your progress.
- SET WORD/PAGE COUNT GOALS: Set word count or page count goals and calculate how many words you’ll have to write at each sitting to meet your deadlines. Just remember to leave a buffer for unforeseen obstacles. 😉
- TRACK YOUR PROGRESS: Notice a trend here?!
Seeing progress motivates us to be more productive!
As Amanda VanDeWege said:
“If so many articles can be written on the need to write using a time sensitive, prioritized routine, then who am I to think that I can or will be the only one to whom this reality doesn’t apply? Time is not on your side unless it is scheduled and has a workable, number quantifier attached to it!”
Time tends to drift away quite easily without a routine or schedule to anchor it in a writer’s life. By creating a structured writing routine using the above brain-based principles and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to being the most productive writer you can possibly be!