1) Don’t multitask.
When you’re writing, that’s what you need to be doing. Not watching TV, checking Twitter, email, doing laundry, talking to someone on the phone. Do whatever it takes in order to focus on your work. If that means going to a coffeeshop, do that. If it means going in your bedroom and shutting everything else out, make it happen. You’ll find that with distractions reduced, you can get a lot more done. And don’t allow yourself to feel guilty over it, either. This is your writing time; you deserve it, and you’ll get a lot more done when you dedicate yourself to it 100%.
2) Know your next scene.
I recommend stopping the previous day when you already know what comes next. That way, there’s no blank staring time. You can jump right back into the action because you’ve got the scene set up in your mind already.
3) Understand that writers block usually means there’s a problem.
If you’re stuck in a book or story, in my experience, it means your brain is telling you there’s something askew with what you’ve already written. If you can’t figure out what, then maybe it’s time to step away from this project and let it rest until you do know. Otherwise, you’ll just spend hours banging your head on a wall. I don’t recommend not working at all, however. I find the best cure is to write something else. It could be a poem, a short story, a project you’ve been dreaming about. The point is to rediscover the fun and passion. Most times, once you relax, and you’re enjoying your work again, your brain will then sneakily puzzle out what’s wrong with the other WiP, which you can return to when you feel like it.
4) Set goals for yourself and be accountable.
They can be daily goals. Weekly goals. Monthly. Whatever makes sense for your life and schedule. The point is, you must set and meet them. If you want to edit forty pages in a month, you need to work out what days / hours you work to get that done. If you would like to write 1,000 words a day, likewise. I don’t advocate a hair shirt if you fail, but I find that a reward system works well for me. If I meet my page / word goal, I get to do X fun thing. If I don’t, then no diversion for me. It can work with a new purse or a new game you wanted, whatever motivates you to work harder. But setting goals only works if you care if you fall short. Otherwise, there is no impetus to try harder next time. Some people prefer monthly goals because that has more leeway. If you don’t write one day, you can make it up over time. I do daily goals, generally, and it’s the best system for me.
5) Turn off the internet.
This relates to number one, but it deserves its own explanation. Turn off your Smart Phone, Ipad, Tablet, laptop, desktop, everything. No contact with the outside world for you while you’re working. If you can only dedicate an hour in this way, then do it. If working with other people helps you, then get on Twitter, just before you turn everything off, and ask for writer pals to join you for a writing sprint. The hashtag is #1k1hr. That’s the goal. Then you shut everything down except your word processor and you go for it. Turn off your mental editor. Just type as fast as you can on the book you’re writing. I think you might be surprised how many words you can produce.
Using these tips, I’ve learned to get a lot done. What strategies do you use to maximize your productivity?
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Neal.