Productivity and Time Management skills from the best content writers around
Over the last six years I have committed to making a regular writing routine work around a hectic work and family schedule. The skills I honed to keep producing content, can be transferred across all different areas of my life with great benefits.
We all know the siren song of procrastination; a cappella harmonies that prevent us from reaching our goals, and pull us into the jagged rocks of internet surfing, obsessive snacking and self-doubt. And while writing might be a labour of love for some people, it’s certainly a task that many people dread – but still need to be able to do.
You might need to write copy, create blog content, draft reports or tick off another goal. Nothing makes you feel worse than looking back at the hours wasted almost completing a task. Forcing myself into a regular writing routine has taught me these definite lessons:
Ignore the voice of procrastination
Procrastination is the biggest battle I have with myself. Every. Damn. Day. But sitting my butt in the chair without waiting for inspiration to hit, has taught me that if you can start writing (or taking action), everything will begin to flow from there. Sydney-based copywriter, Angela Denly agrees. Her tip? “Just start. If not knowing where to start is the problem, just start anywhere. Write a random middle paragraph, or a rough outline, just anything. Do it when you can, as you never know when a sick kid/life drama is going to take over the time when you’d planned to do it in the future.”
Focus on the task at hand
Novelists of all sorts talk about the ‘shiny new idea syndrome’ that beckons when you reach the middle of your book. On the other hand, I seem to get ‘shiny new task syndrome’ when I sit down to write for a client. As soon as the cursor starts blinking at me from the blank page my brain says – ‘Ooh, you’ve been meaning to email that person back’, or, ‘I think you need to pee again (for the zillionth time)’, or ‘Is that your stomach rumbling? Weren’t you hungry?’
It’s easy to listen to that little voice inside your head and put off writing that report or that blog, but I know in order to make money I need to be putting words on the page.
Setting a regular routines teaches your brain to ignore those impulses. It does take practice, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Prioritise what’s important (to get past perfectionism)
Sitting your butt in that chair and committing to the task at hand is what being productive is all about, right?! Learning to turn off that voice of procrastination is arguably easier than learning to turn off the inner voice of self-doubt and perfectionism. Ernest Hemmingway understood this too. I have no doubt that’s what he was referring to when he wrote, “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
Every task begins with an action, and like writing, that action (or verb) is what propels us forward. Editing is about refining the content you’ve already created but the voice of perfectionism and self-doubt urges us to agonise over every detail until eventually, you lose steam and give up. Pushing through to get that draft finished is better than not having written anything, just like doing something to reach your goal (even if you made mistakes) is better than not doing anything at all.
Copywriter & Word Coach, Sandra Muller uses a great tactic to keep her moving forward. She says, “If I struggle coming up with a word for something I’ll write purple bananas or yak burger… It helps keep the flow going. Otherwise I can procrastinate over word choices for decades.”
Be honest about the time you require to get stuff done
After many years working on my novel, I’ve learned the hard way that I need to be honest with my family (and myself) about how much time I need to work on it. A large project like this can take many months or years to complete, and I’ve found having someone else who understands the time commitment, keeps me accountable to that time.
This really has been my biggest hurdle. I don’t think either my husband or I understood how much this would impact our lives when I started to take my own writing seriously a little over six years ago now. I thought that drawing up a timetable and putting it in front of me would be enough. It wasn’t. Making time is a learnt skill.
And it is something that takes time to perfect. I still go through periods where I feel so incredibly guilty because I have found myself flooded with jobs and responsibilities. My stress levels go up, I feel like I’m not achieving much and so I begin to procrastinate again because I’m afraid of making the time again. The only way I get out of this downward spiral is to open up and ask for a kick up the bum.
It is so easy for all of us to default to the “when I have time” way of thinking but with a little preparation we can all overcome it. If you find yourself struggling with your productivity, these tools might help with managing your time:
Rescue Time – a time tracking app that runs in the background on your computer and helps you become more aware of what you are spending your time on
Pomodoro App – A handy planning and task tracking tool to improve productivity using the Pomodoro Technique
Freedom – an app blocking platform to help you stay on task
Over to you
What techniques do you use to keep you accountable to your goals?