Get Your Info Out of Your Head

You’re very smart, but you can’t rely on your brain to keep track of all the things you need or want to do. To stay organize and on track, you must get ideas out of your head and into writing. Your brain is full of creative ideas, and some of them could get lost in there. Get them out here where you can keep track of them.

This is what David Allen calls “the mind sweep.” I call it brain dump. There are two ways to do it.

You can write down everything as you think of it. This is great for those of us with short attention spans. The very act of writing the thing down—make appointment with optometrist—relieves you of the burden of thinking about it and frees your head space for your creative work.

brainstorm

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Alternatively, or maybe in combination, take a few minutes before you start on your creative work to just brainstorm all the things that are floating around in your head. Continue reading

How to minimize distractions

Remember the “distractions” quadrant of the Urgent/Important grid?

priority grid urgent importantDistractions are the grains of sand in our rock jar. Usually they’re small, and they take time we’re unaware of. A time and motion study can help you identify them.

Allowing other things to impinge on your writing time may seem practical in the moment, but Laura Vanderkam warns us that it’s the “little mistake that kills your productivity,” and it is way too easy to make. We must guard those blocks of creative working time jealously. Continue reading

Celebrate Your Small Wins

It’s good to have big hairy audacious goals. And writing a book certainly is one of those. The problem is, it takes a very long time to accomplish. If you only focus on the end goal and not on the incremental achievements, you’ll feel like you’re hiking up a mountain forever without taking a breather to look at the view.

Incremental achievements, like your weekly or monthly writing goals, will help prevent that feeling. Knowing you’ve achieved your goal is a boost.

celebrate

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Researchers Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer found that “What motivates people on a day-to-day basis is the sense that they are making progress.” Here are a couple of articles about their research:

Small Wins and Feeling Good
The Power of Small Wins

So mark your milestones. Continue reading

Decide How Much Time to Allocate for Writing

Francesco Cirillo, inventor of the Pomodoro technique, says break tasks into 25-minute increments.

Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, says you need a 90-minute working session to do great work on a high-intensity task.

So which is it? How much time do you really need?

It depends on the task, and it depends on you. Continue reading

What Flow Is and How to Find It

Flow is the state where you are so totally immersed in and concentrated on your work that you don’t notice the passage of time. You’re aware of what you’re doing, but less aware of your surroundings and even your body, which is why although flow can be good for your creativity, it can be bad for your back. This state is described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi* in his book Flow. Other terms for it are being on a roll or in the zone.

Flow Creativity Time

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I know last time I said write in the gaps. This isn’t either/or. Do both. Continue reading

Write into the gaps

One important obstacle many of us face is the feeling that we can only do creative work in big blocks. We think “oh, I can’t do anything now, I only have twenty minutes.”

For a long time, I let this belief hamper my productivity.

The objection is that in small chunks you can’t get into the zone. You don’t achieve Flow. That’s true, but we can’t let the unavailability of a big block of time prevent us from making incremental progress. For example, you don’t need flow to proofread. Continue reading

Set Realistic Writing Goals

An important step in organizing your time is to set goals. Your goal could be time-based, e.g., spend an hour writing every day. Or it could be productivity based, e.g., edit 250 pages per week.

Set goals not only for your writing, but for other aspects of life also, like how much time to spend with your kids, on volunteer work, or on home improvement projects.

You’ve probably heard this before, but goals need to be SMART:

setting smart goals

“I want to write a novel” is not specific enough, and it’s only measurable in that you can tell when it’s done. It’s not time-sensitive because you haven’t given a deadline. Continue reading