When it comes to writing a book, we need three things; time, imagination, and a system to be productive during our peak moments of the day. But to get more done in less time, you have to know what is getting in the way of your most productive blocks of time. Are you trying to work in an environment that is cluttered, noisy, and constantly screaming for your attention? Do you set daily word goals and fail to meet them? Is writing an activity you do when everything else is finished?
If yes, then you need to read the rest of this post. I’ll show you how to get your book written without giving up large amounts of time and leaving you stressed with nothing to show for it.
If you are one of those writers that wants more time to be creative, get more written, and create a productivity funnel that gets the work done on time, you are in the right place.
Identify Your Best Hours of Writing Productivity
Your productive hours should be protected. You MUST know when you are operating at your best and then, schedule your writing into this time. You have to schedule it in every day, just like you would an important meeting that you can’t miss.
This comes down to your personal schedule, and for many, a preference. Many people wake up early and are most productive in the day. This won’t work if you have odd working hours [meaning anything out of the 9-5], so determine the time of day that you are most alert, energetic and creative. This is the time you will block off for writing. This is your peak moment of writing productivity.
Remember: “What gets scheduled gets done.”
In other words, if you schedule your writing time for one hour a day targeting 1000 words each session, you get your book finished in 30 days or less.
Writing productivity isn’t difficult. The problem isn’t that we don’t have the time to write; the issue lies in our inability to make writing a priority. To do this, we have to schedule it in like anything else. Being a productive writer is about protecting your time. That can be hard to do when you have so many time villains knocking on your door wanting to come in and play.
Now, here is a question for you: “How committed are you to writing a book?” on a scale of one to ten, ask yourself if you are all in for getting this done. If the answer is yes, then read on and you will have the strategies needed to be a productive writer that gets those words written.
In this post, I’ll share with you the strategies you can implement to get your book written without forcing yourself to give up the things you love. Yes, you can still enjoy Netflix and surf on Facebook, but before that, we have to set ourselves up for success.
The Struggle With Distractions
You can probably relate to this scenario.
You have scheduled the ideal writing time to start on your book. It could be early in the morning or late at night when everyone in your home has gone to bed. You show up at your keyboard, outline in hand, ready to get those words out of your head and down on paper.
But then something happens. Bing. Notification. You just got an email.
You decide to take a moment to check it out. What could that hurt? Seeing that it is an urgent message, you decide to reply. That takes ten minutes. Back to your writing. You are ready to get started again.
Facebook notification. Quick check. No harm done. Someone liked your recent post. Comments were made. You feel your heart quickening. Someone likes what you wrote. Now twenty minutes is gone.
You now have less then 30 minutes for getting your writing done.
Ping. Again. Check. 30 Minutes gone.
Game over. Your one hour writing window just closed.
If this drama sounds like you, your case is not unusual. In the age of social media, email, notifications, and every other form of digital media that is wrapped up in shiny armor to attract users, we all fall into the trap of instant urgency. When it comes to time management, that is right out the window when it comes to our need to feed the instant gratification addiction.
But dealing with the online digital warfare is not the only obstacle. Many writers, either just starting out or who write for a living, have to navigate around family obligations, work schedules, and the multiple barrage of ‘life events’ that hold us back from working on our writing.
I know what it is like to waste time drifting down the river of endless distractions, feeling as if your limited time to write is being stolen from you every time you sit down to get to work. If you follow the strategies and key suggestion in this post, not only will you get your book written in 30 days but, you will create the productive habit of daily writing. But this isn’t just about being a productive typist. We will look at the tools to simplify and organize your work. You will be able to cancel out the time thieves coming for your valuable time over and over again.
Distractions are everywhere. We can’t avoid them, but we can limit the amount of influence they have in our lives. The good news is, you can control most of the devices and systems set up to pull you into a time-suck oblivion.
Let’s start with one of my favorite [and simple] strategies for getting writing done…
The ‘Block Your Time’ Strategy for Writing Productivity
“When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time.”
— Stephen King
You can only be productive if you are committed to a course of action for finishing your project. When asked, “How do you write so many books?” Stephen King replied: “One word at a time.” Sounds too simple but, when we narrow it down, there is no other way.
Here is what you do: Block in your time.
Set up a 30-minute block of time to write. I would recommend not using your phone for this. I used to do that and what happened is, I continuously checked it for messages. If I had one, I got sucked into responding. So the first thing is, phone off. Non-negotiable. You might think you need it for using some fancy app but actually, people have been writing and publishing books for thousands of years. They had nothing but basic tools. We can do the same.
Buy an alarm clock. Use your watch. Whatever it takes, but use something not connected to the Net. isolate your writing time at all costs. Now, you might not be using the Wordstar 4.0 like George R.R. Martin, and that is okay, you don’t have to.
So the next step is to disengage from the internet. Turn off the wifi. Pull out the hardline. Disconnect from that monster. You can still write your book offline. Later I’ll introduce you to my favorite distraction free apps.
You might be asking, “But what if I need to research or check something while I am writing?”
There will be no research while writing. You are writing one word at a time until you hit 1000 words. Research comes later. Make a notation in your book that you have to check something. Then, when you have several items that need to be researched, block in a time for that.
I know what you are thinking. This system is too easy, it can’t work. There must be a trick. The only trick is to isolate yourself for a very limited time from the world that is robbing you of your one precious resource: Time. Yes, it is being taken from you, and now, you are claiming it back. That’s it.
Don’t allow anything to dictate your schedule during this valuable block of time. Treat it like real estate. Mark it into your calendar. Be diligent with this habit and you will stop the excuses for why you didn’t get your work done today.
The Best Strategies of 2 Influential Writers: Wordstar 4.0 vs. Don’t Break the Chain
in the mega-popular fantasy series Game of Thrones, bestselling author George R.R. Martin has sold over 60 million books published in 47 languages. His latest book A Dance With Dragons averages around 1040 pages. In fact, all of his books combined are nearly two million words in length. How does he write so much material?
George R.R. Martin and Wordstar 4.0
First of all, George doesn’t use the same computer for writing that he does for checking email or web surfing. He isn’t using Scrivener or Google Docs, either. How did one of the best selling authors of the past two decades manage to write 5 mega-bestselling books with a word count close to two million words?
For writing, George R.R. Martin is using an ancient system known as Wordstar 4.0, an old DOS machine that, for all intensive purposes is good for just one thing: writing. George isn’t connected to social media, he doesn’t use distraction free apps, and he works on a machine that doesn’t send email.
George R.R. Martin has created an environment that, instead of trying to manage his writing productivity and work around the various distractions that are pulling many off course, simply set himself up with a system that eliminates the need to worry about pings and notifications. He writes in isolation an he gets the work done.
So, this brings us to the question: How much technology do I need to write? How many apps must I download? What is the best environment I need to create to stay focused and get the work done?
But first of all, let’s be honest with ourselves. Most people will not be buying a Wordstar 4.0 even if it is the ultimate solution to writing massive amount of material. So, how do we manage our day to day productivity without isolating ourselves totally from the internet?
The Best Apps for Distraction Free Writing
We know that George R.R. Martin uses an old system for isolating his writing time, and while that works for him, it isn’t something most people can do. So, we need to work from a platform that can help us to isolate from the distractions that threaten to steal our time and focus.
Here are 7 of the best productivity tools you can use to boost your word count and stay focused on the work. These apps, by stripping down the word processor to its bare essentials, puts your eyes on the screen and focus on the words, instead of chasing ‘digital rabbits’ leading nowhere.
3 Distraction-Free Writing Apps
The Hemingway Editor is a simple word processor that is ideal with a distraction-free place to compose. Conveniently placed at the top of the screen are the formatting tools for HTML. The real advantage to this app is the editor function displayed on the right side of the program. It provides you with a readability score and a breakdown of the grammar structures in the composition.
Byword for Mac is a markdown app for writing in plain text. It works best for writing blog posts, writing a short story or daily journaling. The easy-to-use format menu has options for lists, quote level, and paragraph indents. Another solid feature is you can preview your documents in app, export to HTML, PDF, rich text, or publish directly to Medium, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr and Evernote.
Trello is a cork-board like structure that is excellent at organizing ideas and outlining your book. Its main function isn’t for writing a book but rather, plan out the chapters or scenes of your novel.
Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” Strategy
Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most successful comedians of all time. The Seinfeld show that ran from 1989 to 1998 has earned a whopping 3.1 billion dollars to date. There is no arguing that the show was one of the most watched shows on television. In fact, it was so popular in its final season that Seinfeld was offered $110 million for a tenth season. Seinfeld turned it down.
One of the key strategies to Jerry Seinfeld’s success can be niched down to a simple productivity habit. By repeating this habit consistently he was able to come up with the material that made him one of the top comedians in the industry. Seinfeld called it the “Don’t Break the Chain” strategy.
Jerry used a calendar system to write his jokes everyday. He said that the best way to be a better comic was to write every day. Well, the best way for you to become a better writer [and publish books] is to write every day.
This is how it works. Buy a big wall calendar with the whole year on it. If you can’t find one, buy a large monthly calendar. Anything is better than nothing. Get a big red marker. Hang the calendar up in a place where you will see it.
Schedule your writing blocks and, for every day that you meet your daily word count, with your marker put an X on the calendar for that day. The idea is to not break the chain. This builds the daily writing habit and, if you continue this for thirty days without breaking the chain, you have just completed your book.
If you skip a day, be sure to take action the next day. Too many misses feeds into procrastination. By building this habit consistently over the long-term, how many words could you write in a week? A month? How about the year?
Creating a Clutter Free Writing Environment
How about the environment you are working in? If you are surrounded by clutter — loose papers, stationery supplies scattered about, or clothes laying around — you are working in an environment that is begging for your attention. Your writing environment has a big impact on how your emotional state. If you are living in a clutter free zone, you have less to focus on. Surround yourself with stuff and every time you look at it, you feel stressed.
Part of being a productive writer is identifying the areas in our mental and physical spaces that is pulling our attention away from the habit of writing. How do we take care of the clutter that has piled its way into our lives? Here are 4 simple strategies to get working on right away.
Within a week you’ll have a clutter free space, or, at the very least, you won’t be fighting for space with the things that belong filed away, either in a box or a closet.
Decide what to keep. When it comes to decluttering, the difficulty lies in what to keep and what to throw away. For this you will need two boxes. Then, go through the room and, when you come to an object, make a decision: keep it or toss it. Mark one box “Keepers” and the other “Toss it.” You either need it or you don’t.
Then, with the box of keepers, go through your stuff again and decide if you need it now or later? If the answer is later, it gets boxed up and put away. Don’t leave it hanging around where it becomes a distraction.
This could be for notebooks you aren’t using now, DVDs that you don’t plan to watch anytime soon, or things that you consider valuable but can be stored away safely for when you need it.
For items that are old, broken, or simply are no longer being used, you can consider the best way to remove them from your space.
Living clutter free will not only make you feel better mentally but, you’ll have a stronger sense of focus and be less anxious surrounded by non-essentials.
5 Daily Practical Productivity Tips
It is the little habits that steal away our time. These are so natural to our routine that most of them go unnoticed. By working to eliminate these mini habits from our system, we can give back the time that is taken from else.
It is time to stop giving up your time to lesser habits.
- Check email after writing. One of the worst habits that I struggled to break was checking email first thing in the morning, just before I was committed to start writing. This trapped me into spending the morning responding right away to people who could have waited a couple hours for a response. Action: schedule your email time, like you do your writing time. Responding to mail is a massive time waster in many cases. Keep your responses short and to the point when you can.
- Internet Off. This is simple. You either turn off your Wifi, or you unplug from the hard line. There is nothing to negotiate here.
- Set your word count and schedule accordingly. If you are targeting 1000 words a day, set up your time block to cover the amount of time needed to hit your target. If you can write 500 words in 30 minutes, do two time blocks of 30 minutes each with a short 5 minute break in between if needed.
- Boost your energy. There is more to writing than just showing up and sitting down at a computer. If you are tired, fatigued, or lacking mental stimulus, you’ll struggle to start the words flowing. Before you write, spend ten minutes: 1. Reading a passage from a good book. Reading stimulates your mind and gets you thinking about your topic. 2. Brief exercise session. This can be 5 minutes stretching, push ups, or jump rope. There are a lot of at-home exercises you can do without a gym. Boost your energy by stimulating your mind and body before writing.
- Visualize the completed draft of your book. Visual imagery is a powerful tool that you can implement to achieve any goal and turn a dream into reality. When it comes to book writing, you can put yourself into a positive, productive state by visualizing yourself actually sitting down and writing. Take it a step further and imagine what it would be like showing up at a book fair or a signing of your latest book. Then, start to work backwards and create all of the steps needed to take you there.
Wrapping It Up
Let’s quickly recap the action plan for becoming a productive writer.
- Declutter your working environment. This reduces stress and increases focus. You will get more writing done and increase your creative energy.
- Schedule in your writing time with time blocking. Set a timer for 30 minutes and for this time, focus only on your writing.
- Turn off the internet and all digital distractions during this time. Protect your time block.
- Challenge the Don’t Break the Chain strategy. Buy a wall calendar and for every day you hit your word count, mark it down.
- Write with a distraction free app. These apps are designed to get you focused on one thing: Writing. Try out one of the apps and increase your writing output right away.
- Follow the daily productivity habits and visualize the action steps for getting your book done.