If you’re like me, you sometimes start writing something, but get distracted partway through it. I’m trying an exercise in Theo Pauline Nestor’s Writing Is My Drink to break that habit. Well, maybe I can’t break that habit. However, I believe that I can improve my writing productivity with the help of her exercise.
Writing productivity assessment exercise
Here’s the exercise:
Start noticing the times when you stop working. Is it when you get stuck on something? When the writing starts to feel “too hard”? Is it when you get thrown off your routine because something unexpected comes up? Is it when you’re on the verge of taking your story to a deeper level? Keep track of your sticking points. You might even want to take a few notes about these stopping points.
I like the idea of doing research like this to help solve the problem. I tested this exercise by doing it myself. I discovered some patterns of when I stop writing. Here are some examples.
PROBLEM 1: I discover something that I want to research. For example, perhaps I have a usage question about whether I should use “each” or “both,” so I leave the page to research it. When I open my browser, I see tabs I’ve left open earlier in the day. I figure it’ll only take a minute to check Twitter or LinkedIn, but then I see something I want to share or reply to. I get distracted.
PROBLEM 2: Something that I write reminds me of something I need to do for a purpose other than the piece I’m writing. I figure it’ll only take me a minute or two, so I abandon my writing.
PROBLEM 3: A Microsoft Outlook reminder makes a noise. I go to check it out.
Writing productivity solutions
I am trying to manage my productivity challenges better by:
- Reminding myself to stay focused
- Keeping my “to do” list handy so I can jot down tasks to perform later, instead of abandoning my work to perform them
- Clicking to delay reminders until after I’ve completed my writing work
- Promising myself a reward, like a half-hour with a mystery novel that I’m enjoying
What writing productivity solutions help you? I know some people use apps like RescueTime to track their productivity and even block distracting websites. Nestor is a fan of using a timer, a technique that I discuss in “15 minutes to busting your writer’s block.” Nestor also recommends reading Virginia Valian’s essay “Learning to Work,” which you can download on Nestor’s blog. It’s a long—almost 15 pages—essay, so I downloaded it, but didn’t read it while I was drafting this blog post. I knew it was more important for me to finish this draft than to read the essay.
I discuss more productivity techniques in “‘Deep Work’ rules to help you write more.”
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