Productivity and writing – getting started, and sticking to it

As part of a workshop I’m facilitating next week I’m collecting some thoughts around being more productive and tops for starting (and continuing!) writing.

Being more productive

Here’s some guidelines I wrote for myself when I first started my own business:

  • Create lists – and lots of them!
  • Tasks committed to paper (feels good to tick them off too!)
  • Schedule small blocks of time to attend to emails
  • Do big jobs earlier in the day
  • Take short breaks, even if just to the letterbox (or the chickens!)
  • Assess when you’re most productive, work with it
  • Ditch social media and other distractions, or turn off notifications
  • Set regular phone reminders for stretching and change of scenery (20 minutes – see below)
  • Add a fun activity to daily list, as a reward
  • Regular exercise for clarity of mind
  • Playlists queued up for motivation

The Pomodoro Technique

I discovered this thanks to Courtney Johnson and have found it incredibly useful for focussing on tasks to hand (including writing). According to Wikipedia, the Pomodoro Technique:

“is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a kitchen timer to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a university student.”

And, all in an easy seven steps:

  1. Decide on the task to be done
  2. Set the Pomodoro timer (typically for 25 minutes)
  3. Work on the task
  4. End work when the timer rings and take a short break (typically 5–10 minutes)
  5. Do this three times (or three pomodoros)
  6. Then do the fourth pomodoro and take a long break (typically 20 to 30 minutes)
  7. Once the long break is finished, return to step 2.
Real pomodoro!

Writing – some links and tips

How to Begin Writing – a useful article from wikiHow on getting started and keeping going!

The Psychology of Writer’s Block (And How to Overcome It) – a good article from Open Colleges, explaining why we get writer’s block and suggesting nine ways to combat it:

  • Exercise
  • Switch tasks
  • Change your scenery
  • Try free-writing – just write something!
  • Do not disturb – switch off notifications and put a sign on your office/home door/desk
  • Change your (circadian) rhythm – that is, if you’re a morning person try writing in the afternoon/evening and vice versa, because psychologically our circadian rhythms are not set (despite what we think)
  • Don’t binge-write, try chunking
  • Try doing nothing for awhile (i.e., be bored)
  • Look to progress, not perfection

There seems to be some common threads here. We’ll be generating our own tips at the workshop so will share here.


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