I know what you’re thinking.
Double your writing productivity…
It sounds like a scam, doesn’t it?
Before rushing to judgment, however, ask yourself whether you’ve ever doubled anything?
I’m sure you have.
I know I have.
And while the methods and strategies vary for each endeavor, it’s possible with a little planning, practice, and creativity.
Doubling is possible!
It often boils down to becoming conscious of your habits, of the typical ways you spend time. And don’t worry, you don’t have to spend twice the amount of time to become twice as productive. You simply need to figure out what works, and more importantly–what works for you.
Like most people, you spend your days on autopilot, doing things the same way, telling yourself, “it’s the way it is.”
You feel good about it, too, patting yourself on the back for embracing reality.
When it comes to writing, you’ve come to accept frustration as a necessary evil. You write for an hour, and you delete the entire session because it’s awful. Afterward, you wear the frustration like a badge of honor, telling yourself you must suffer for your art.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can become more effective, more productive with your time.
It comes down to accepting a new reality. You must be willing to change to meet your goals.
Are you willing to try new things, to test and evaluate new strategies?
If so, keep reading to uncover nine ways to double your writing productivity.
Work with an Outline
Drew Goddard, filmmaker, producer, and screenwriter for Lost, Alias, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, understands the importance of outlining before sitting down to write:
“The more work you put in on your outline and getting the skeleton of your story right, the easier the process is later.”
There’s no better way to save time, energy, and frustration than knowing your exact destination and your strategy for getting there.
You wouldn’t plan a cross-country trip without consulting a road map or your GPS, right? Your writing deserves the same respect and consideration.
Outlines provide considerable benefits:
Know in advance whether your narrative makes sense, whether your transition from point a to b leads the reader to part c, your goal or destination.
Having a structure provides a big-picture view, helping you think in terms of beginnings, middles, and endings, helping you analyze your plot for strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing where you’re going allows you to write without pausing to figure out what comes next, freeing you to complete your draft faster and easier.
Contrary to the pantser’s mantra of going wherever the moment leads you, adding a constraint like an outline enhances creativity. If you’re working with a quality outline, you can move backward or forward in time, writing out of sequence, allowing yourself the freedom to immerse yourself in the ending or a critical scene before developing your opening.
Working with an outline enables you to see what your readers see, enabling you to dispense information in the correct order and quantity to generate the intended impact.
Write Every Day at the Same Time
Once you develop a writing habit, it becomes easier and automatic.
It’s important to start with a modest, achievable practice, perhaps fifteen or thirty minutes daily. As your routine takes hold, you can adjust the duration to suit your needs and goals.
When you show up each day at the same time, your mind becomes accustomed to the activity.
Think about it: each day upon waking, without any mental gymnastics, you open the same cupboard to find the filter and the measuring cup to brew your first pot of morning coffee.
After a few weeks of scheduled writing time, anxiety decreases, writer’s block dissolves, and your brain takes less time to click into gear.After a few weeks of scheduled writing time, anxiety decreases, writer’s block dissolves, and your brain takes less time to click into gear. Click To Tweet
Over time, it will become more like a meditative practice than a forced effort. You’ll find yourself looking forward to the ritual, associating it with pleasure.
Surround yourself with sensory accessories: aromatic candles, your favorite coffee or tea, instrumental music, fuzzy slippers, a light snack.
For more information on the science of habits, read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.
Decide on a Word Count Ahead of Time
Establishing a minimum word count keeps you focused and accountable. Just make sure your goal is plausible. Knowing your goal is possible removes any resistance to the process.
Without this tangible tool, you could easily become distracted while writing. There’s no time for criticizing your ideas and the ways you convey them when that counter’s staring back at you. Once you hit triple digits, you know you’re on your way. The word count box rewards your progress, and there’s nothing like watching it rise in front of you.
Writing is solitary work, and your word counter acts as a mentor, urging you forward toward your daily goal. Committing to this number keeps your eye on the prize, and you’ll find yourself racing forward toward completion. When you meet your quota, you’ll often find yourself hanging on to the process. Once the source is turned on, you won’t want to stop the flow.
If your word processor doesn’t display your word count, here’s an online option.
Work with a Deadline
Writers love to procrastinate. Netflix, anyone?
According to the Association for Psychological Science, procrastination is downright harmful:
In research settings, people who procrastinate have higher levels of stress and lower well-being. In the real world, undesired delay is often associated with inadequate retirement savings and missed medical visits.
Past surveys by H&R Block found that people cost themselves hundreds of dollars by rushing to prepare income taxes near the April 15 deadline (Jaffe).
Few of us like to admit it, but deadlines motivate us. The latest research suggests that our work time expands or contracts to fit the amount of time we have available. It’s human nature.
Increased productivity requires specific deadlines. If you want to achieve more than your current output, tighten your timelines. Divide your writing project into daily, weekly, and monthly deadlines.
Once you begin meeting your deadlines, you’ll crave the rewards you receive from staying on track.
Without clear, specific deadlines, human nature will override your good intentions, so keep a calendar, and draw an X on the days when you meet your goals. You’ll train your mind to avoid those blank spaces, those disappointing days when you came up short on your promise.
Make Yourself Accountable by Setting a Timer
There’s nothing like a ticking clock to keep you alert and active. Try Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique:
Set your timer for 25-minute intervals, and take short breaks in between.
The system increases writing output by chunking tasks into manageable bites, maximizing creative time and reinforcing the flow state with short breaks. This on/off method keeps you fresh and energized throughout the process, providing a built-in reward system for focused activity.
The system works in concert with our natural rhythms, reducing burnout as well as our tendency to indulge distractions when we’re stressed.
Lower Your Expectations
Remember that writing time means writing time, not brainstorming, editing, researching, or evaluating time. Don’t waste precious energy suffering over the perfect word or phrase.
You scheduled this time, so take full advantage. Ignore the inner critic, and you’ll experience the freedom and fun of writing without anxiety, without concerns about perfection.
While you’re at it, give yourself permission to write shitty first drafts. Remove all barriers to progress by embracing imperfection. Expect it, and revel in it. Allow yourself to write without stopping, without correcting a single word or idea. You’ll discover new levels of creativity. You’ll never go back to writing, editing, worrying, and criticizing yourself in the same sitting.
Take a Typing Course to Increase Speed
If you weren’t lucky enough to take typing lessons in high school, this tip is for you.
I can remember the first time I sat down at a computer keyboard, hunting and pecking my way to twenty words per minute. Over time, my speed and accuracy improved; however, this took some time.
Imagine what we could achieve with the right training!
Today, we have scores of viable options, and we don’t even have to leave the house.
To assess your current level, take a free online typing test.
After knowing where you stand, consider the following free typing courses:
If you’d rather use software, check out Mavis Beacon’s typing instruction software.
Here’s an instructional video with tips for increasing your typing speed on your own:
Try Dictation Software
Dictation software has come a long way in the past few years. In fact, writers in all genres use the medium to increase writing speed and output. Ten years ago, I remember popular bloggers discussing the possibilities.
I recently stumbled upon a few self-publishing courses for authors. The courses relied heavily on dictation. After purchasing dictation software, authors can structure their non-fiction books in a simple Q & A format, reading the questions out loud and responding with answers.
Imagine transcending your typing limitations, focusing entirely on content. It’s worth exploring.
For more information, check out the best voice recognition software for 2019.
Let the Writing Flow
Everyone craves the flow state, those connected sessions when everything synchronizes: relaxation, inspiration, creativity, and productivity. Your mind and body become one. You know just what to say and how to say it. Pages fill without effort. Time flies.
Everyone wants it, but it remains elusive. So how can you increase your chances? How can you increase the probability of reaching the flow state?
Develop a ritual
Turn your writing time into flow time by minimizing distractions and coming to the page prepared at the same time each day.
Create the right environment
Fill your writing environment with pleasing colors, sounds, and scents, elements that encourage relaxation and creativity. Like meditation, you need the perfect balance of relaxation and stimulation, or you’ll become drowsy and unfocused without gaining the benefits.
Try classical or world music in the 50-80 BPM range.
Make sure your task is achievable
You can’t create a flow state if you’re pushing yourself significantly beyond your current level of expertise.
Imagine a seasoned swimmer finding the perfect rhythm in the water, a perfectly-balanced equation of breathing and movement.
Now imagine a beginner flailing around, trying to stay afloat. Flow is impossible.
Make sure you’re feeling connected to the work
To encourage flow state, your mind needs to value the work you’re doing.
If you don’t believe in it, your mind and body may sabotage this time, sending you errant thoughts and impulses to derail your work.
Your conscious and unconscious mind must be in agreement.
Finding the right combination of elements will take some time, some trial and error; however, if you commit to the process, you’ll find you can achieve and maintain this accelerated pace going forward.
I’ve experimented myself, and I discovered I could double my productivity by combining the outline, the deadline, dictation software, and choosing the right topic.
What’s you favorite hack for increasing writing productivity?
Tell us your story. Leave a comment below.