We’ve all gotten behind on deadlines. We’ve all allowed life to get in the way of our writing, whether we write fiction or non-fiction. Getting back on track is the hard part, but with a few simple adjustments, you can not only get back to work, but also increase your productivity while you’re at it.
Step One: Making Time
We’ve all heard–or even made–the good old excuse of, “I’d write if only I had the time.”
Nobody has the time. While some of us have busier lives than others, the real truth is that we have to make the time.
We must give up other activities and replace them with writing, carve out time that is solely for writing, and make sure the rest of the world can’t disturb us while we write.
Find the times of day when you work best–keeping track of hourly word counts can help with this–and plan your writing sessions accordingly.
Step Two: Planning Ahead
Staring at a blank page or screen isn’t going to produce much, so to prevent that mind-numbing block, plan ahead.
Take some time before you start writing to outline what you need to write next.
Use bullet points, make short lists, and refer to these pointers whenever you feel stuck.
Spend a short time researching in one solid block of time rather than interrupting a good streak of writing.
When you start writing, keep writing, and it will become a habit that’s hard to break, and a skill you improve on with every day you write.
Step Three: Preparing for Failure
It’s easier to edit a rough first draft after the fact than it is to fill up a blank page, so don’t let your mind trick you into self-editing as you go. It will only slow you down.
Writing and editing are different functions–switching between both won’t enhance productivity.
If the thought of making mistakes in a first draft makes you cringe, fear not, because you will be editing all of those mistakes after you’ve finished writing.
Your first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect, but when the hardest part is done, you can apply the gloss.
Step Four: Know When to Relax
It’s easy to get burned out, so the time will come when you must take a step back to refill your bank of knowledge and creativity.
When you feel overworked and blocked, and are struggling for new ideas, then it’s probably time to take a break. Leave your work behind and do something else.
Read books, comics, or news articles, watch TV, get some fresh air, spend time on a hobby, learn something new, or even play games for inspiration.
Sometimes you need a break, but use that time well so you can return to your work full of new ideas.
Step Five: Focus on Technology
If you find yourself browsing social media pages whenever your ideas slow down, it’s time to focus.
However, with so many distractions that can be tough.
Luckily, there are plenty of apps out there that can help. You could find an app that blocks certain websites or stops you from using the internet for an extended period of time, for a start.
Go one better with the Pomodoro Technique (https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique) and get into the habit of using a timer to help you concentrate for focused blocks of time, earning yourself a short break in between.
Use this time as a brief reward–an alarm will let you know when it’s time to get back to work again.
To really shock your system into working harder, think of installing an app that tracks all of your activities, enabling you to see how many minutes or hours a day you’ve spent wasting time versus working productively.
The numbers might surprise you.
Stay hydrated and keep yourself topped up with healthy snacks to help your brain work better for longer.
Avoid sugary snacks that will make you crash before you’ve finished your writing session.
Make sure you take some snacks and drinks with you before you start work to avoid the temptation of wandering away from your writing area to find food.
In short, make time for writing, plan your work in advance, don’t expect perfection, and accurately judge when to take breaks and when to focus.
The habit of writing will increase speed, which in turn will help productivity, so with time and a few good routines, anyone can increase their word count and workflow.